Thursday, February 18, 2016

WW4M: Planet Bike Grateful Red

Clever name- Bang for the buck
WW4M stands for "What Works For Me". This is a review of a product I found extremely useful, that lives up to its billing, and provides a good value. Your mileage may vary.

 The cycling world is full of red blinky devices that are designed to warn of your presence on bike paths, roads, and on trails whether it is dark or not. So, when another light hits the market, it gets a "ho-hum" response. I many different models of blinky tail lights do we really need? 

The red blinker market has some pretty heavy hitters that have the latest in LED emitters, high Lumen out put, and recharge via USB ports, since, ya know, everybody lives and rides near a computer, right? You'd think so anyway.

The Planet Bike company doesn't seem to think so, and felt that maybe not everybody would pony up for $25.00-$60.00 rear blinkies. So, they introduced the "Grateful Red" tail light. Planet Bike has always had some pretty decent rear blinkies all along, so I had big expectations for this cleverly named light. Here's the spew from their site:

  • PB power array™ and reflector provide visibility for up to 1 mile
  • Steady, Superflash™ and Courtesy™ flash modes
  • Ultra compact case is weatherproof, lightweight, and durable
  • Rear rack and seat post mounts included
  • Up to 150 hours of run time on 2 AAA batteries (included)
  • 85 grams 
Okay, so what are these three trademarked "modes" all about? Steady is self explanatory, and may seem useless, but here's something I've found that may make you think twice about that. I have found that at night, many times if I use a steady light, vehicles coming from behind give you a wider berth, because they don't know if you are a vehicle with a tail light out, a motorcycle, or a cyclist until they get closer to you. By then, they've committed to giving me more room. Try it out....

The Grateful Red comes with a nice mount, or you can clip it on a strap
The "Superflash" mode is a blinkie on meth, crazy pattern, that makes me go nuts just looking at it. Want to tick off your riding buddies? This is your mode. I'm not into it, but it may be just what you are looking for.

The "Courtesy Mode" is what I ended up using almost all the time. It is a mode that melds a steady light with an "on-off", slow, soft glowing that I found pleasant, and resulted in much more courteous passing by motorists during my Winter commutes. It was definitely a noticeable thing, as I found out if I left it off, the cars were passing me much closer, as usual without a light, than if I had the light on Courtesy Mode".

Okay, so what else? It's a replaceable battery powered light, isn't that a bad thing? I don't it? Get some rechargeable AAA's and go with that then. My take is that if the light goes dim or quits, I probably will not be around a computer, or I won't have time to sit and wait for however many minutes or hours that an LED light that recharges via USB would take to recharge. Batteries? A few minutes or less, swap out two batteries, done for another 150 hours of use. Sounds good to me. Plus, if you ride any all-nighters or do lots of long distance, "out there" type of stuff, packing two triple "A"'s isn't  a big deal, and you don't have to try to find a computer to recharge your "device light".

UPDATE: A friend gently reminded me about rechargeable power packs and that those could be used as a way to extend a USB rechargeable blinky's battery in a pinch. Okay, but that's really not much different than swapping batteries, only batteries work right away. Plus, batteries, and the Grateful Red light, cost a lot less. Still, that's a great point and a viable way to go.

My only quibble is that the clip, like so many LED blinky light clips, isn't very "clampy", and I ended up losing my Grateful Red just yesterday somewhere. The thing is, the MSRP is $19.99, so I'm not out a lot for replacing it.

And trust me, I am replacing this one. It's a good little blinky for not a lot of cabbage.

Planet Bike provided the Grateful Red used in this review at no charge. I was not paid nor bribed for this review, and I really am going to buy another one to replace the one I lost. So there!


Doug Mayer said...

Regarding steady mode, the bicycle lighting laws in Germany actually forbid blinking rear lights(!). That's why almost zero dynamo rear lights have a blinky mode. Also easier on the eyes of fellow cyclists. I'm a steady/calm blinky convert.

Rannier Wolfcastle said...

When running a taillight on my backpack I put a little piece of gorilla tape on the tab to hold it on better.

Peter Rhodes said...

Biggest downside to battery lights is that while initially they usually cost less, in the long run it gets annoying. I have several lights that take a pair of CR2032 batteries and at around $1.25 each, that's $2.50 every time I change them up. My Knog lights only cost $9.99, but change out batteries 10 times and now we're talking $35 total cost. I tend to go through about 3 sets on each light a year. My Bontrager USB light was $39 and I just carry the simple USB charger in my backpack and charge it while at work.

Guitar Ted said...

@Peter Rhodes: Well, in terms of what I reviewed here, the Grateful Red runs a claimed 150 hours on a set of AAA's. One Hundred Fifty Hours.

That's a hell of a lot of night riding, which is mostly when I would use this after Winter. Okay, let's say that doesn't impress you.

Get AAA rechargeables.

Like I say, WW$M stands for what works for me, and your mileage may vary.

timm said...

I use a taillight year-round, day and night. Motorcycles do, why shouldn't we? 30 hrs a month. It's not hard to have a power strip where i park my bike. Charge it once a week. Rechargeable batteries are a pain when it comes to taillights

Guitar Ted said...

@timm: Ya know, this is a review of what works for me in a cheap tail light that really does a great job for under 20 bucks. Like I said in the review and in a comment above, your mileage may vary. Batteries are convenient for me, and there aren't any USB cords to add to my already overstuffed box of them. ( I would assume most of these LED USB rechargeables come with a cable, no?)

So, while rechargeable AAA's may be a pain to you, more cables, more expense, and having to "plug in" my light and wait are a pain, in my opinion. Different strokes......

Tim said...

In the cold of winter nothing beats battery powered lighting for me. I use AAA or AA lithium batteries. I buy bulk on Amazon and have had great success, both at Tuscobia (-20) for night and at Actif Epica (-17) at start. I can't get USBs to last in extreme cold.

MG said...

I agree with Tim. I typically do use a USB rechargeable Planet Bike light, but for events and very cold rides, I switch over to a Lithium AAA-powered Bontrager light. I've had USB rechargeable lights go dead on very cold nights. That's not cool...