Revolights sent me a set of their City v2.0 Wheels a few weeks ago. These are wheels with Revolights light rings riveted to the rims. The v2.0 City Wheels come available with a fixed gear hub, a singlespeed hub, or a Shimano 9/10 speed compatible freehub with 36 spoke 2 cross. I am testing the freehub version on a Specialized Roubaix road bicycle.
I normally like to include action photos and video with my product reviews, but taking night shots with bike lights is notoriously difficult. Those will have to wait for another day, but in the meantime I’ll tell you the photos and video posted by Revolights to YouTube and Instagram accurately depict what you and those around you can expect to see with these amazing lights.
Before I deep dive on the lights, however, let me tell you about Mountain Charlie Road. This single lane road up the Santa Cruz Mountains has a 5% grade over five miles, with short segments ranging from 12% to 22%. We call riding up Mountain Charlie “Up Chuck” because you might feel the urge to do just that.
Revolights City Wheels are not weight weenie wheels, but look what at the elevation profile of last weekend’s ride using these wheels. For those outside of the USA, 2000 feet is about 600 meters. The top of that elevation profile at 1900 feet marks the top of Mountain Charlie Road.
Revolights “rings” — the nylon piece with embedded lights, associated electronics and mounting hardware — add about 700 grams to the weight of each wheel. These are not training wheels, but they are usable as such. You won’t win any KOMs with these wheels. You can expect to lose the stop sign sprint on group rides. The rings also create a noticeable amount of drag when riding fast downhill and into headwinds.
What the City Wheels excel at is looking absolutely outstanding as you ride around city streets. Timing magnets attached to the forks ensure only a quarter of the wheel remains lit, with forward facing white lights for the front wheel and rear facing red lights toward the wheel. Above about 5 MPH the effect is that of solid parallel lines of light emanating from the wheels.
The claimed 35 lumens from each LED bulb doesn’t sound like much, but a set of eight lights are always illuminated on each wheel. The front lights project enough light onto the pavement to see by up to moderate cycling speeds, while also creating an attention-grabbing illumination that doesn’t blind drivers, pedestrians, or other cyclists.
This is very handy when hitting my local mountain roads in pre-dawn darkness, now that Daylight Savings Time has shifted my morning commute to begin before the crack of dawn. I have about a zillion lumens worth of lights from Magic Shine, Light and Motion, Nite Rider and Portland Design Works mounted on my bike right now, but I’ve discovered that I don’t need these lights with the City Wheels unless I’m bombing downhill at 40 MPH.
City Lights speed limit
The Revolights manual warns against speeds over 30 MPH with their V2.0 City Wheels. They tell me they’ve tested the wheels to 60 MPH so they’ve included a big safety margin. You do need to ensure the battery cases are securely snapped into place when riding. Tuesday morning, I was zipping down Old Santa Cruz Highway at about 40 MPH after two hours of riding when I heard a *klunk klunk* somewhere in my front wheel before something unidentifiable shot past me to land clattering on the the road behind me. When I turned back to investigate, I found the front battery pack had come loose and shot out.
The battery pack happily survived the landing, but this brings me to the only real drawback to these wheels, which is the USB rechargeable batteries. After every four hours or so of use, you stick your hands through the spokes to unclip the connection wire and remove the battery pack. I have the dexterity of a sleestack from “Land of the Lost,” so this is not a fun process for me. Plug the charger into a micro-USB charging cable (cable provided, charger is not) for a couple of hours, and reverse the process with hands inside the spokes again. There should be solid “click” when the battery is properly inserted. If you don’t “click,” you just might lose a battery on the road. Revolights says that they’re working on a way to charge the batteries via wheel motion.
What else? The wheels and electronics are durable enough to survive me riding down stairs and hopping curbs. The wheels have also been inundated by riding through flooded bike paths with no apparent ill effects.
If you order a set of wheels, make absolutely sure your fork and chainstay clearance is greater than the 40 mm required. Use a set of calipers to measure. If the clearance is less then 40 mm, the rings will rub against the fork or stays and your wheels will not move. Since only somebody like me would mount these to a “racing” style bicycle, this should not be a problem for most people.
The lights seem a little spendy at $499 for a set, but remember the wheelset is a big chunk of that price. You can also buy the front wheel for $250 or the rear wheel for $265. More information and buy from Revolights.com. Congratulations to Revolights for winning a $300,000 investment on the Shark Tank reality show recently.
Speaking of RevoLights, you may want to post about their current Kickstarter. Looks like an awesome product.
$500 for some heavy see-me lights? That coin can get you a generator hub built into a quality wheel with a real headlight and taillight set, which would never need recharging and have no noticeable resistance. Have you tried a modern generator light set? It’s the bees knees.