This review was put in play by Luna Cycles in Lenior, NC. I am very grateful for their time and assistance, and commuter knowledge!
Visibility is the bane of cyclists everywhere. As a daily commuter, I find myself riding in the worst visibility conditions: early morning light, evening dusk, rain, fog, and nighttime darkness. I wear high-visibility yellow, I strap a riot of blinking lights to the front and back of my bike – I’d get a head-to-toe glow in the dark tattoo if I thought it would help – all in a quest to be noticed by drivers. It was with this quest in mind that I jumped at the opportunity to try out the Fireball Mark II light from Bike After Dark.
It’s difficult to get worked up about a bike light. “Brighter!”, “Longer burn time!”, “5 quintillion LED’s working in concert to blind errant mammals that cross your path!” These are just a few of the tag lines that companies use to attract us to their products, which are essentially white or red flashlights that we strap to our bikes.
But right out of the box, the Fireball Mark II was waaaaay different
Two slender, foot long strips of circuit board with an embedded phalanx of 20 small, rectangular LED’s on each side and a ribbon cable attaching them together, stared up at me from their box, along with a USB to microUSB cable, a two USB port wall plug adapter and several small zip ties, which were included for installation purposes. A small manual directed me to the Bike After Dark website for installation instructions.
Installing the Bike After Dark Fireball Mark II
To say that a set of video instructions for installing these lights is overkill, is really only applicable in hindsight. As I wanted to be very PROfessional about this review, I did not launch into my usual figure-it-out-on-the-fly installation method and dutifully watched the instructional video. To be succinct, installation is dead simple. Fit one circuit board between two spokes, secure it with three zip ties through the three predrilled slots on the board, wrap the ribbon cable that connects it to the other light around the hub a couple of times and then zip tie the other board to two neighboring spokes. Done.
Using the Bike After Dark Fireball Mark II
The lights came pre-charged, so I got to try them out on that evening’s commute home. I turned on my two, small handlebar-type front lights which I have mounted midway down my fork and then hunted for the little ON switch for the Fireball lights. An immediately blinding white light emanated from my front wheel. It actually took me by surprise, evoking a Keanu Reeves-style “Whoa”. I headed out towards home and noticed car drivers slowing down and staring directly at me, that’s how attention getting the white plasma-ball of light emanating from my front wheel was. A curious stroboscopic pulsing of the light occurs when viewed from the front or the rear of the bike as it rolls down the street, while Persistence Of Vision (POV) gives the impression of twenty unbroken circles of light revolving around the wheel when the bike is viewed from the side. Patrons in window seats of restaurants took notice as I rode through downtown, pointing with wide-eyed wonder at the lights.
These lights score high in terms of giving you dramatic visibility, but I would not rely on them for seeing the road ahead when riding after dark. They provide the rider with some immediate forward visibility (10 to 15 feet), but not enough to routinely rely on for my taste. They burn astoundingly brightly for approximately two hours per charge, and are still functional albeit noticeably dimmer for several hours of use after that. They have suffered through fog, snow, and rain with great aplomb despite being little more than two circuit boards with a bunch of LED’s soldered to it. After six weeks of daily commuting (about 300 miles of riding and 15-20 hours of use) they look no worse for wear. Charging them is a simple matter of plugging the micro USB cord into the slim battery mounted on the board and then plugging it into the wall. A red indicator LED let’s you know that the battery is charging and the LED turns off to indicate a full charge.
These lights made me feel much more secure in my visibility in difficult conditions. I will be making a full front and rear set of these a permanent addition to my commuter bike in the very near future.
If you are looking for a different style of lights, and want to be seen from all sides – visit Bike After Dark for more details. This product was provided for free for review. I was not bribed or paid for this review.