RealLite giant bicycle lights review

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Tuesday, December 02, 2008
By Alison Chaiken




On some blog or other, I heard about the RealLite giant bicycle lights and knew I had to try them.



Pluses: very bright; reasonably priced (for bicycle lights); easy mounting; standard AA batteries; conversation starter!

Minuses: battery change requires a screwdriver; somewhat fragile in racks due to large size.

These are wonderful "to be seen" lights but need to be paired with a focused pothole-spotting light for optimal safety.


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Comments:
i'm sorry, but there's no way i would ever put these on my bike. call me shallow, but they look really stupid and cheap, and i don't like my bikes looking stupid and cheap.

I'll stick with Planetbike/Cateye thank you.
 
I have seen these giant bike lights going up and down the road. I don't know if I would call them cheap looking, but they are kind of corny. If you're going to put something that big on your bike, why not just go all the way and put an LED sign on it, and sell ads?
Also, the light on the front isn't helpful at night. But I have found that to be of any benefit at night, you have to spend more money.
I like my DiNotte lights. Expensive, yes. But I've had drivers roll down their windows in traffic, and thank me for having them on board. They can see me from blocks away.
 
I thought they were really cool (and I especially liked the guarantee :)).
I foudn the same light without the bike mounting for less than half the price, and since the Xtra doesn't lend itself to standard mounting I improvised... and broke a few of 'em. Then I found a stronger one with a few more LEDs at http://www.ledsafetylights.com/safety_lites.asp?catid=6 . You do *not* need a screwdriver to change the batteries, it's available in amber or red, and the magnets are strong enough to stay on my steel plate mounting that the version the Reallight is made from would fall off of on RR tracks or Main Street's concrete chasms. Oh, and it's cheaper. They promise to have the bike mount version out in January (but last month it said December ;) )...
 
I've had a red one for years as a rear blinkie. It's currently mounted to the rear rack of my winter Dutch City bike.
 
I wonder if it was just because the guy I've seen has low batteries, but his RealLite actually wasn't very bright in my opinion. I know I'm probably somewhat accustomed to Dinotte's being as thats what I use, but I've used a lot of other lights and seen many other lights.

It was big, which I suppose at night has to count for something with respect to visibility, but bright, is not an adjective I would have chosen.
 
On Alison's bike, integrated with her other creative and innovative accompaniments, this is a tasteful and well implemented arrangement, fitting in well with her commuter bike's overall theme.
Stupid, cheap, and corny are all relative views, and to quote Marshall McLuahn, the medium is the message.
Until one finds out first hand, its never a good idea to make invalidating assumptions.

The Reallights website itself says, "The light is too diffused to use as a light to see by, but is extremely hard to miss by oncoming drivers."

Riding alongside a guy with one of these, he said essentially the same comment, and I could see why.

Bright they aren't exactly but in a larger light field the 4"x6" size provides, it gets drivers' attention at least as well as a Dinotte's eye piercing beam, without irritating the driver.

That said, This is an awesome see me light to have on the bike, going a long way toward keeping Alison, or any rider using them, alive and safe in her commutes. It is a reselling of a less expensive safety flasher intended for construction and safety equipment, supplied with a common bracket that comes with the OEM reflectors that new bicycles are sold with. The bracket isn't intended for that much mass or side loads, and will likely break over time.
That bracket can easily be replaced and or reinforced with silicone rubber sealer on the edges and along the next.
Or a shorter necked Planet Bike or Cateye standard replacement bracket can be silicone rubber bonded to the light's body for a stronger, more adaptable mounting that doesn't protrude so far outward, making the light less prone to be knocked around or shifting position due to shock and vibration.

The Reallight is also a great platform to modify into a superior front headlight/ see me light that can be used to see you way as well as for others to see you coming.

One way to up the brightness considerably is by replacing the LEDs with much brighter ones such as the 27000mcd narrow angle sold by
http://www.ledsupply.com/l1-1-w5th15-1.php

This will change the character of the white front version into well more than the adjective
Bright
would suitably describe.

A further mod is to drill a hole ~2mm in diameter in the bezel directly above each LED. Same idea as where the collimators of high flux LED lights have a deep open recess in the middle, to project more light straight ahead while keeping the overall beam pattern still intact.

Added to that, aluminized reflective mylar then can be spread on the inside base along the LED mounting area to further gather and send out an ambient light field of light that would otherwise be wasted against the inside of the housing.

Larger battery capacity and longer burn times can be accomplished by rewiring internally to an external 9V battery snap connector. That large housing allows for many possible implementations of an external jack. Also this can be wired, along with a STDP switch so a battery charger can be connected, allowing recharging the batteries without removing them.
 
I agree with jasonk that the RealLite is not sufficient by itself. I also have a Dinotte pothole-spotting light, as suggested in my original post. The RealLites are all about being seen. As far as the lights looking corny, of course they do, but corny and alive is so much better than stylish and flat. Besides, I'm usually wearing a yellow construction-worker vest already, so who are we kidding?

Regarding advertising on the bike, jasonk, I'm willing to talk if you're interested in sponsoring me. Why limit advertising to jerseys, anyway? For a sum large enough to permit my immediate retirement, I will consider getting a tattoo of your design!
 
Alison, didn't you do research in flexible displays? You could make lighted, flexible graphic displays with rolling advertising, get bought up by Google and retire in style!
 
The Yellow style is the real corny looking one, with superbright LEDs soldered in it would look like an oversized illuminated corn cob hanging from the handlebars. (-:
http://www.reallite.com/details.htm

The rolling advertising graphic display is available at
http://www.aerostich.com/catalog/US/Scrolling-LED-Message-Brake-Light-p-20259.html
Flexible LED display strips are also available, it would be a fun project to combine the two of these.
 
wow, those are cool! I've seen it recently on a guy that flew by me, and I thought I was just seeing everything bigger today. He had it on top of his messenger big bag.
Great visibility, I must say. I could see him for a block-2 in between traffic!
 
I cannot believe that I used the word "corny" to describe somebody else's bike lights. I beg your indulgence. Wearing spandex to work everyday, with a bike lit up like the fourth of July, little bitty tap shoes, and saddle bags, whose French name sounds like "panties" when you say it out loud, I have no right to call anyone corny.
 
One of the things that most cateye, etc., rear lights screw up is that they project a very narrow light cone. That makes it dimmer for most viewing angles and only bright straight on. To be most useful in complicated traffic, on curvy roads, etc., the rear light needs to spread the light reasonably broadly. To check this, aim the light at a wall in a dark room. I've done that with one of these and it's the best pattern I've seen--wide enough to be useful but not so wide as to waste light. The only other rear light I know of that has a good pattern is the Planet Bike Superflash.

I've had a driver pull up next to me at a light and compliment me on how visible my RealLite is, and had other drivers who passed me say the same thing. I think the large area really helps.
 
Hmmm... I don't know anybody who uses a taillight to see with - I don't quite see putting an amber one on the front myself, either.

Mine fell off the back of my gazelle yesterday (not its fault at all - I had it stuck in a handlebar map holder and velcro/ductaped on the back of the bike, and I was banging it up a flight of concrete stairs... but didn't realize that was the source of the sound of something dropping 'til I got home and spotted it missing). I like the foxfires enough better that that will be the replacement, tho' that's enough bigger that I'm not sure I can stuff it into the map holder pocket. Might have to resort to a bagel bag :)
 
... oh, and the warranty...

http://www.reallite.com/warranty.htm
 
That's the best lifetime product warranty ever.

"Your Real Lite is warranted against defects for as long as the original purchaser owns it. This includes but is not limited to warping, bending, mechanical failure of the switch and battery cover latches, bullet holes, damage due to attacks by killer bees, avalanche or ambush, destruction by spontaneous combustion, demolition by a runaway train, trolly or mass transit vehicle, ...." etc and so on and so forth.
 
While surfing around researching another bicycle geek project, I found a nice source for oversize very bright LED light heads that can be easily adapted for a bicycle tail or front marker light with any standard seatpost or handlebar bracket.
http://www.doranmfg.com/led_lights.htm
These are rated 12 volts, so will run off any existing 12V bike battery, or can be driven by three LI cells in series, with no added driver or regulator needed. The combo tail and brake light units are especially useful, since out of the box they have two brightness, and therefore battery life, options, just by using a SPDT (single pole double throw) switch. also, in that they DOT approved for truck taillights, they are so sufficiently bright, if driven at lower voltages down to 8V, they are still nicely bright, with burn times greatly extended by 50% or more.
 
I have commuted with the reallite for over 10 years outstanding product , very brite and wish that all bicycle products delivered this kind of performance
 
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