Quality Bike Corridor: more parking on the way

Proposals are being made to ‘invest’ the council’s cycling budget in allowing more parking on the Edinburgh Quality Bike Corridor…

Traffic orders will be consulted on… maybe

Thanks to Kim Harding for passing on details of proposed modifications to Edinburgh’s “Quality” Bike Corridor, the notoriously expensive on-and-off painted lanes that “run” (when not completely blocked by parked cars) for a couple of miles to the south of the city centre.

Although there are other serious problems with the route, anyone who’s attempted to cycle on the QBC more than once will be familiar with a few ‘hot spots’ where cycling on the painted lanes is prevented almost 24/7 by parked vehicles, leaving the most vulnerable of road users, well… especially vulnerable.

It now looks like the council are going to invest some extra time and money in the QBC to attempt to tackle two of these locations.

Ratcliffe Terrace:

The “paint-out” around parked vehicles at the bottom of Ratcliffe Terrace promised to help address safety at a critical point, and in fairness the current layout is much better than the pre-QBC configuration. Unfortunately at either end of the block of shops, the same old vehicles completely block safe use of the road.

Amusingly, even Google Streetview has caught Hua Xing red handed on the double yellows:

ratcliffe_streetview

Both ends of the parking will be extended to legalise two extra vehicles under the proposals. That is, parking will not be permitted on top of the cycle lane, but reflecting the council’s inability to keep businesses from ignoring the double yellows, the cycle lane will be moved out to protect cyclists forced into the road.

See the rollover for details:

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Hover overlay: [Existing layout] [New layout]

Informal surveys have shown that there are often several times as many vehicles parked on the QBC (legally or otherwise) compared with the number of citizens brave enough to cycle along it. On the face of it, in the absence of camera enforcement, building around some of this parking activity can only be seen as a positive step.

Mayfield Road

The second location to be modified is on Mayfield Road, where there’s another paint-out around parking spaces in front of a row of shops (just before the road splits into two lanes for the junction with West Saville Terrace):

mayfield

Unfortunately the plans for this location don’t involve any improvement for cyclists. Instead, the council are merely going to legalise parking on top of the QBC, making it even more useless than it already is.

See the rollover for details:

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Hover overlay: [Existing layout] [New layout]

This is particularly galling since money is being taken from the council’s very limited cycling budget to realise these changes, so money ring-fenced for improving cycle provision is literally being used to create parking on top of a main cycle route. Only in Edinburgh…

Next steps

According to the attached report (see below), there has been no consultation with any cycling body on these alterations. While the changes at Ratcliffe Terrace represent a welcome improvement, allowing vehicles to obstruct the QBC right at the critical few metres before the West Saville Terrace junction is a serious retrograde step.

There does not seem to have been any risk assessment made regarding cyclist safety at this busy junction.

There is not, as yet, any update from Spokes on these proposals (to be updated?). In the meantime it would seem safe to highlight your concerns with your local councillors, and ask them to pass this on.

Ultimately, a statutory consultation on the TROs will be carried out, but it would be nice to think that safety concerns could be addressed beforehand…

Original documents

Signed Del Pow Report – Ratcliffe Terrace
Appendix 1
Appendix 2

Cyclists: blinding tail lights make you less safe

You need to be visible – you don’t need to be obnoxious.

Why are we obsessed with the idea that brighter is better?

First, forgive me – put your driving hat on! Do you think the safety of your car could be improved if you drove around town at night with your high beam headlights?

Probably you’d agree that this would be counterproductive (and nobody does it).

So let’s think about the back of your car. Would you drive around town at night with your rear foglight on because you felt it made you safer? No (and again, nobody does this).

blind_3

What about traffic lights? Making them twice, five times or ten times brighter than they are? (Maybe we could recycle the bulbs from car foglights when they’re scrapped to make traffic lights really hard to miss?)

News flash, people who shoot red lights already know they’re red…

You’ve probably figured out that I’m asking why we don’t seem to apply the same logic to the back of our bikes. There, “the brighter the better” seems to be the rule of the day, and it’s interesting to wonder why.

Rise of the dynamo

From 80’s “never-readies” to the current age of laser death beams, I’d always gone with the flow and bought successively brighter and badder lights for my bikes.

That is until I decided to go for a dynamo when I got into audax a few years ago.

Instead of packing multiple 1W LEDs, in dynamo tail lights you have a design which burns a mere ~50mW (0.05W) and has some clever focusing or diffusing technology. I admit I was unsure – my commuter at the time had three separate Smart Superflash LEDs on the back.

But after countless thousands of miles in all weather and all conditions, from urban streets in rush hour and pub closing time to deserted glens, I’m more or less convinced that drivers can see dynamo tail lights.

In case this is starting to sound like a dynamo commercial… there are lots of great reasons not to use a dynamo!

It’s just that the visibility of the nice steady tail light simply isn’t one of them.

dscn08472
Official product shot of a 500 lumen tail light “in a country lane at 20 metres”. Good luck judging anything as you overtake…

Obnoxious tail-lights are counterproductive for safe cycling

Despite all the obvious counterexamples, people definitely seem to think that brighter tail lights are safer.

A quick Google and you’ll find such gems as “SAVE YOUR Life, Ride Ultra BRIGHT, DAY And night” … followed up by “If you can look directly at the light, it’s not even close to being brite (sic) enough”.

Not only do I disagree, I think that running an epic tail light is actively reducing your safety on the road.

I was driving through Edinburgh recently at dusk when a rider joined the road up ahead. I was some way off, so he was perfectly safe jumping on, and he proceeded at a reasonable pace. Maybe it’s just been a while since last winter, but I found his rear light to be ferociously bright – just painful to drive behind.

Rather than wait behind as we came up towards a pinch point for a railway bridge, I found myself dropping a gear and accelerating hard to get past. I didn’t cut it too fine, but since this is my commute I know that I’d have been shaking my head.

Inevitably, I had to queue to turn right at the T-junction ahead and after maybe twenty seconds the rider had filtered past and I was being blasted by the red howitzer once more. I’m not sure of the brand – it had a regular flash going on but also an off-tempo nuclear strobe effect.

What happened to this rider with the ultra brite light on the next bit of open road?

Let’s just say that neither of the drivers in front of me wasted any time in ripping past him as he climbed the shallow gradient, even though it was tight with oncoming traffic. Neither did I, and neither did any of the cars I caught passing him in the rear-view. I’m probably the only one who felt guilty about it, too.

If this guy bought his light on the basis that it would make him safer, then he really ought to ask for his money back!

blind_2
A headlight. It is not a tail-light. There are big differences!

There is an optimum brightness for safe riding.

A tail light just needs to be bright enough that motorists notice you (and can account for your course and speed). You blatantly don’t need an atomic tail light to achieve this – just look at the huge number of cyclists who have either no lights at all or the bare minimum.

While I’d never advocate it, casualties from the practice are astonishingly low. If you pop out in your car, you’ll quickly reassure yourself at how easy it is to spot riders with even pretty pathetic tail lights.

After that you’re relying on goodwill, and who ever thought that brighter lights create goodwill?

There’s a strong argument for brighter headlights in safety terms, but tail lights aren’t headlights and there is a vital difference between them.

When you increase the power of your front light, you are incentivising other road users in a way which promotes your own safety – motorists in oncoming vehicles (and those at side streets) have to actively decide that you aren’t as big as you look, and to actively decide to put themselves into your glare when waiting for a couple of seconds puts you out of the way.

Uber tail lights also incentivise other road users, but they do not do so in a way which is beneficial for you. Drivers who find your light unpleasant are rewarded the faster they get past you, and it’s no secret that other cyclists don’t like riding behind Joe Death Star.

Conversely, do you really think that taxi drivers who cut past you in the city’s bus lanes would decide to be more responsible if only you had more photons at your disposal? They’re actually deciding based on a layman’s knowledge of bike lighting that you do or don’t deserve a legal amount of space? Really?

No, it’s simply faulty thinking to imagine that a brighter tail light will get more attention and more consideration from other road users.

You need to be visible – you don’t need to be obnoxious.

Cateye TL-LD1100 rear light review

A big light with ten(!) LEDs, the Cateye LD1100 has great battery life and a variety of modes, some more gimmicky than others…

Bulky but long-running 10 LED lightfest

The Cateye TL-LD1100 is the brand’s top-of-range rear LED light. It makes use of a whopping ten LEDs (some rear, some side-facing) and takes full-fat AA batteries to give outstanding runtimes.

Currently Chain-Reaction are doing 14% off while Wiggle have it on a 10% discount.

I’ve been commuting using dynamo lights for some time now, but my better half has made do with a few different battery rear LEDs since we own so many rear lights of various ages!

As it’s quite a costly option, the TL-LD1100 has stayed on as a backup light for longer than you might expect, and before that served as primary light for a year on our shared 12 mile commute.

cateye_ld1100

Mounting

The Cateye TL-LD1100 is not a clip-on style light – you must use one of the Cateye mounts (although you can get hold of a belt clip adapter mount if you want to use it this way).

The TL-LD1100 does not come with Cateye’s newer flex tight brackets – probably because it’s just too heavy. You will need to keep coming back to check your mount as there have been numerous reports of lights dropping off.

Ours uses the rack mount adapter, working around this problem.

The physical size of the TL-LD1100 may seem intimidating but in fairness it is fat in every dimension, so at least you avoid the difficulties presented by the TL-LD600 strip light.

Beam quality and strength

The Cateye TL-LD1100 has two buttons and a total of 24 modes – four modes per button, the buttons being independent in operation.

In much the same way that you don’t worry about how many modes your car lights have, I’m a bit “meh” about anything other than plain old “on then off”…

The side-facing LEDs are a nice touch. While there are limited situations in which a driver is likely to be targeted by them, it’s certainly reassuring to know that you’re spraying red light in every direction!

One of the biggest annoyances with this light is that if you just want all the LEDs to flash, each “half” of the TL-LD1100 operates at a slightly different speed, so it slowly changes from all flashing at the same time to perfect counterpoint (i.e. effectively non-flashing at half-strength) and then back again.

This will drive you mad if you’re riding behind!

The LEDs are not ‘power LEDs’ (as found on, say, the Smart Superflash and similar lights). However, there are so many of them that, combined with the use of full-size AA batteries, the Cateye TL-LD1100 remains a very bright light indeed.

Depending on the mode you use, the TL-LD1100 is a borderline mega dazzler. Making it unpleasant for people to drive behind can definitely encourage them into a rushed overtake. It’s not as bad as many of its competitors, however.

The TL-LD1100 does allow you to run only half the light at a time, reducing glare (although then, why aren’t you just running a cheaper light?).

It’s important to mount the light completely level, as designers depend on this when working out off-angle visibility and other factors. Do not point it at the ground by mounting vertically on the seatpost!

Because the Cateye TL-LD1100 hasn’t passed the relevant tests it isn’t road legal when used on its own (in any mode).

I’ll write more about this separately, but unless you go for a dynamo (all dynamo lights are genuinely road legal), it’s true of pretty much anything a bike shop will sell you.

Useability

The Cateye TL-LD1100 has two small rubber buttons to one side of the case.

You have to count many different presses to take the light from ‘off’ to your chosen modes, and a different number of presses to turn it off again. I actually found this surprisingly frustrating!

Battery life

Unlike a great many of its rivals, the Cateye TL-LD1100 runs on two full-size AA batteries.

This gives it fantastic battery life despite the large number of LEDs – 50 hours steady and 100 hours flashing. Remember that the temperature at which you use the light and the type of battery used both influence that figure.

A word on true brightness

Unlike many ‘power LED’ lights, the Cateye uses full-size AA batteries. It delivers 50 hours on solid from 2x2850mAh cells – (2 x 2850 / 50) = 114mA. The power is thus (0.114 x 1.25) = 0.143W

This is actually more than the real wattage of both the RSP Astrum and Smart Lunar R2 lights!

Durability / waterproofing

The Cateye TL-LD1100 has solid weather sealing (based on all weather mileage), but I have had repeated trouble with the little rubber buttons on the end being dislodged if brushed across the light (say in a pocket or bag, or just a badly-aimed finger).

Trying to get the rubber bit back in to re-seal the button is an exercise in exquisite frustration!

As with all lights, mounting under the seat (combined with a mudguard) virtually guarantees trouble-free operation.

Overall

The Cateye TL-LD1100 rear LED light is a comparative giant – both in size, weight, long runtime and cost.

It is not outrageously bright, especially if you moderate the modes – which is a great advantage if you are a social rider and especially if you don’t subscribe to the simplistic “more watts = more safety” bandwagon. It is reliable but operation can be frustrating due to the millions of different modes, and the fact that each half of the light seems to run to a different rhythm.

The apparent dodgyness of the seatpost mount is a worry. At twice the price of many rivals, this is not a light you would be happy to lose.

Again, Chain-Reaction are doing 14% off while Wiggle currently have it on a 10% discount.

Cateye TL-LD600 rear light review

An older design, the LD600 is reliable and easy to operate, while having the advantage of not being offensively bright.

Distinctive strip LEDs: cheap and effective, awkward to mount

The Cateye TL-LD600 is a distinctive rear light consisting of a single strip of five low power LEDs. An older design, they’re still a common sight all over the country.

Although Cateye have produced a replacement in the LD610, you can still buy the older version of the light for a song. Currently Wiggle have it on a 17% discount, while Chain-Reaction are doing 12% off.

I’ve been commuting using dynamo lights for some time now, but my LD600 is still doing sterling service as an extra rear LED on my Carry Freedom trailer. Since I’ve often lent the trailer out, I’ve been able to check its performance in different circumstances, and it’s still a very effective rear light.

cateye_ld600

Mounting

The Cateye TL-LD600 is not a clip-on style light – you must use one of the Cateye mounts (although you can get hold of a belt clip adapter mount if you want to use it this way).

Rather than a nice jubilee-clip style mount, the Cateye TL-LD600 has a more primitive fixed-size band, tightened by a small metal screw.

Say hello to packing out the mount with tape if it’s not just the right size, and don’t strip that screw head!

(Depending on packaging, you may find that the TL-LD600 comes with one of Cateye’s newer flex tight brackets – a step in the right direction).

Because the light is a long strip, it’s quite easy to use zip-ties or rubber o-rings in a figure of eight to clamp it onto any tube or flat surface (this is how I’ve fitted mine to the Carry Freedom – no risk of loss or theft).

The long strip format does work against the TL-LD600 however, in that you can’t really mount it on a seat stay (it goes into the spokes) or vertically (it’s too long and hits the seatpost or seat stay – forcing you to point it at a crazy angle).

Beam quality and strength

The Cateye TL-LD600 has four modes – three flashing patterns as well as solid mode. In much the same way that you don’t worry about how many modes your car lights have, I’m a bit “meh” about anything other than plain old “on then off”…

The “chasing” LED mode is particularly weak – why would you reduce your light to just 20% brightness *and* let it flash? Crikey!

The LEDs are not ‘power LEDs’ (as found on, say, the Smart Superflash and similar lights). Visibility is OK from behind but the light doesn’t excel at off-axis visibility – another area in which it shows its age a little.

One advantage of not being an insanely bright mega flasher is that it’s much less unpleasant to ride or drive behind someone using it. Making it unpleasant for people to drive behind can definitely encourage them into a rushed overtake. As a driver, I can vouch that sitting at light behind someone with a mega LED flasher definitely focuses my mind on getting past!

The TL-LD600 definitely doesn’t have that problem. Few will want to buck the trend and deliberately opt for a less dazzling light, but it’s certainly an option.

It’s important to mount the light completely level, as designers depend on this when working out off-angle visibility and other factors. Do not point it at the ground by mounting vertically on the seatpost!

Because the Cateye TL-LD600 hasn’t passed the relevant tests it isn’t road legal when used on its own (in any mode).

I’ll write more about this separately, but unless you go for a dynamo (all dynamo lights are genuinely road legal), it’s true of pretty much anything a bike shop will sell you.

Useability

The Cateye TL-LD600 has a small rear button to one side of the case.

One nice touch is that the light is switched on and off with a long press, so you can cycle through modes while riding without going dark. Unfortunately there’s only really one mode worth using..

Battery life

The Cateye TL-LD600 runs on two AAA batteries.

I seem to get much more than the stated battery life (15h steady, 30h flashing) but neither is much to write home about. Remember that the temperature at which you use the light and the type of battery used both influence that figure.

In this area the TL-LD600 does start to show its age compared with newer, high power LED lights that manage more than twice as much battery life (flashing mode) and 50% more on solid, despite being much brighter. See the Smart Lunar R2 or Smart Superflash amongst many others…

Durability / waterproofing

The Cateye TL-LD600 has solid weather sealing (based on all weather mileage on the back of my trailer, 6″ from the tarmac!).

As with all lights, mounting under the seat (combined with a mudguard) virtually guarantees trouble-free operation.

Overall

The Cateye TL-LD600 rear LED light is an older design that’s clearly long in the teeth in some respects, especially battery life vs output.

It is not offensively bright, which is a great advantage if you are a social rider and especially if you don’t subscribe to the simplistic “more watts = more safety” bandwagon. It is reliable and easy to operate.

The light is let down slightly by the awkwardness of mounting it, but at the same time the width of the TL-LD600 can make it more prominent than a single point source (and more useful for drivers trying to fix your position).

There are probably better options, but it’s certainly not one to avoid.

Again, Wiggle currently have it on a 17% discount, while Chain-Reaction are doing 12% off.

Smart Lunar R2 rear light review

Extremely bright and benefits from respectable runtime, the Lunar R2 is also fairly well built and not overly expensive. A good all-rounder.

Two 0.5W LEDs make this another blinder

The Smart Lunar R2 is a small (AAA) rear LED in the clip-on tradition. It benefits from superior construction quality relative to the infamous Smart Superflash 0.5W LED light, but at greater cost.

Currently Wiggle have it on a 10% discount, while Chain-Reaction are doing a respectable 20% off.

I’ve been commuting using dynamo lights for some time now, but my better half has made do with a few different battery rear LEDs since we own so many rear lights of various ages!

This has actually been pretty useful, since I’ve been able to check the performance of the Smart Lunar R2 in different circumstances while riding along behind, instead of so many bike light reviews which boil down to “it seems bright and nobody has run me over yet” 😉

smart_lunar_r2

Mounting

The Smart Lunar R2 has a clip on the rear which allows you to attach it to items of clothing, bags, and so on.

It is also supplied with a seatpost and seat stay mount that secures the light using the same clip. Rather than a nice jubilee-clip style mount, the Smart has a more primitive fixed-size band, tightened by a small metal screw.

Say hello to packing out the mount with tape if it’s not just the right size, and don’t strip that screw head!

It’s rare to see people riding with a light attached to bag or body that’s actually pointing in the right direction. I’ve tried this myself often… either the light points to the sky or ground or it waggles around spraying photons like a garden sprinkler!

The ability to mount on the seat stays means you should be able to find somewhere for the Smart Lunar R2, even if you have a short seatpost or use a seat bag. Don’t worry that the spokes will obscure the light from drivers on an inside lane – in reality they’ll have spent plenty of time being lasered getting into that position.

Beam quality and strength

The Smart Lunar R2 has five modes – a variety of flashing patterns as well as solid mode. In much the same way that you don’t worry about how many modes your car lights have, I’m a bit “meh” about anything other than plain old “on then off”…

Both LEDs have a plain lens (compare with the RSP Astrum’s diffuser lens). Visibility is still good from all angles and the Lunar R2 throws so much light downwind that you can be picked out minutes away on the open road…

The R2 is extremely bright – so bright that it’s unpleasant to ride or drive behind someone using it, especially in flash mode. While this may be great in some circumstances, making it unpleasant for people to drive behind you can definitely encourage them to overtake. As a driver, I can vouch that sitting at light behind someone with a mega LED flasher definitely focuses my mind on getting past!

It’s a difficult balance to strike. When driving I often find it quite difficult to work out the speed and course of a cyclist using a flashing light, so I recommend solid mode. (This is less of an issue under street lights.)

It’s important to mount the light completely level, as designers depend on this when working out off-angle visibility and other factors. Do not point it at the ground in lieu of just buying a less dazzling light!

That said, you can safely ignore anyone who says flashing lights aren’t road legal – this hasn’t been the case for about a decade.

Because the Smart Lunar R2 hasn’t passed the relevant tests it isn’t road legal when used on its own (in any mode).

I’ll write more about this separately, but unless you go for a dynamo (all dynamo lights are genuinely road legal), it’s true of pretty much anything a bike shop will sell you.

Useability

The Smart Lunar R2 has a small end-on button that isn’t the easiest to operate. It works more like “press in part of the body” than the distinct, super-positive rubber button you’ll find on many Cateye and Raleigh RSP lights.

That said, it’s not rocket science to turn it on at the start of your ride and off at the end – just a bit of hassle if you want to change modes on the way, especially gloved up.

It has a simple “press for next mode” (including the “off mode”) which makes it straightforward to change on the fly whilst riding. The large number of modes makes it slightly more tricky to switch off as you need to count just the right number of clicks.

I bought two Lunar R2 lights from my LBS around two and a half years ago. One of them failed (bounced off on a pothole and run over) but the other is going strong.

Battery life

The Smart Lunar R2 runs on two AAA batteries.

We get around the stated battery life (50 hours flashing, 25 hours solid). Remember that the temperature at which you use the light and the type of battery used both influence that figure.

With rear LED lights it’s important to bear in mind that brightness and battery life are a direct trade-off. Almost all are manufactured using essentially the same mature technology and LEDs which are broadly equal in efficiency.

All you need to decide is whether you’d like twice as many photons for half as much battery life, or vice-versa.

The Smart Lunar R2 produces quite a lot of light and so is fairly battery-hungry.

A word on those 2×0.5W LEDs…

If you know battery life, you can work out the true power draw of your light using simple mathematics.

Two AAA batteries max out at around 1200mAh each, and so the 25 hour runtime of the Smart Lunar R2 points to a current draw of (1200 x 2 / 25) = 96mA. At 1.25V this is (0.096 x 1.25) = 0.12W

A genuine 0.5W LED current draw would give a battery life of just six hours on AAA. Two 0.5W LEDs would last just three hours!

Durability / waterproofing

The Smart Lunar R2 is reasonably sealed, given that it’s lasted three winters.

The internet is less sure, with quite a few reports of water ingress. While I agree that the sealing could be better, we’ve never had a problem with our lights in pretty foul weather (although we do use mudguards).

Overall

The Smart Lunar R2 2×0.5W rear LED light is a solid effort – it’s much better built than the cheaper Smart Superflash 0.5W LED, although perhaps not as well built as some competitors (especially the mount, which is competent but not outstanding).

It is extremely bright and benefits from respectable runtime for its power – 25% more than the RSP Astrum in solid mode (although less in flashing mode)

Again, Wiggle currently have it on a 10% discount, while Chain-Reaction are doing a respectable 20% off.

Smart Lunar R1 rear light review

Whatever its weaknesses, at the end of the day it’s useable, effective and economical… one of the best all-round battery tail lights.

Solo power LED tail light – the gold standard?

The Smart Lunar R1 is a small (AAA) rear LED in the clip-on tradition. It’s the direct descendant of the infamous Smart Superflash 0.5W LED light, but with a better quality of construction (and at greater cost).

Currently Chain-Reaction are doing a cracking 35% off.

Although more than half of our bikes are now dynamo equipped, I don’t actually own enough sets of dynamo head/tail lamps (!). The Lunar R1 is probably my go-to recommendation for a battery powered rear light, taking all things into consideration.

smart_lunar_r1

Mounting

The Smart Lunar R1 has a clip on the rear which allows you to attach it to items of clothing, bags, and so on.

It is also supplied with a seatpost and seat stay mount that secures the light using the same clip. Rather than a nice jubilee-clip style mount, the Smart has a more primitive fixed-size band, tightened by a small metal screw.

Say hello to packing out the mount with tape if it’s not just the right size, and don’t strip that screw head!

It’s rare to see people riding with a light attached to bag or body that’s actually pointing in the right direction. I’ve tried this myself often… either the light points to the sky or ground or it waggles around spraying photons like a garden sprinkler!

The ability to mount on the seat stays means you should be able to find somewhere for the Smart Lunar R1, even if you have a short seatpost or use a seat bag. Don’t worry that the spokes will obscure the light from drivers on an inside lane – in reality they’ll have spent plenty of time being lasered getting into that position.

Beam quality and strength

The Smart Lunar R1 has a low mode in addition to steady and flashing – when a light is as excessively bright as this one is, that’s a big advantage in terms of extra runtime for no loss of safety.

The main LED has a plain lens – there are also mini-LEDs to light up the housing itself, giving the light a slightly larger profile. Visibility is good from all angles – and plenty of light is flung out of the back for any situation…

The R1 may only have half as many power LEDs as the R2 (or RSP Astrum) but it’s still very bright – ten years ago it would have been revolutionary. Because it’s slightly less dazzling, there’s less of an issue of making it so unpleasant for people to drive behind that encourage them to rush an overtake.

As a driver, I can vouch that sitting at light behind someone with a mega LED flasher definitely focuses my mind on getting past!

It’s important to mount the light completely level, as designers depend on this when working out off-angle visibility and other factors. Do not point it at the ground (especially when you can just use low mode when riding socially)!

You can safely ignore anyone who says flashing lights aren’t road legal – this hasn’t been the case for about a decade.

Because the Smart Lunar R1 hasn’t passed the relevant tests it isn’t road legal when used on its own (in any mode).

I’ll write more about this separately, but unless you go for a dynamo (all dynamo lights are genuinely road legal), it’s true of pretty much anything a bike shop will sell you.

Useability

The Smart Lunar R1, like other Smart tail lights, has a small end-on button that isn’t the easiest to operate. It works more like “press in part of the body” than the distinct, super-positive rubber button you’ll find on many Cateye and Raleigh RSP lights.

That said, it’s not rocket science to turn it on at the start of your ride and off at the end – just a bit of hassle if you want to change modes on the way, especially gloved up.

Battery life

The Smart Lunar R1 runs on two AAA batteries.

We get around the stated battery life (100 hours low mode, 30 hours steady). Remember that the temperature at which you use the light and the type of battery used both influence that figure.

With rear LED lights it’s important to bear in mind that brightness and battery life are a direct trade-off. Almost all are manufactured using essentially the same mature technology and LEDs which are broadly equal in efficiency.

All you need to decide is whether you’d like twice as many photons for half as much battery life, or vice-versa.

The Smart Lunar R1 produces quite a lot of light and so is fairly battery-hungry.

A word on that 1W LED…

If you know battery life, you can work out the true power draw of your light using simple mathematics.

Two AAA batteries max out at around 1200mAh each, and so the 30 hour runtime of the Smart Lunar R2 points to a current draw of (1200 x 2 / 30) = 80mA. At 1.25V this is (0.096 x 1.25) = 0.1W

A genuine 1W LED current draw would give a battery life of just three hours on AAA. That’s the physics…

Durability / waterproofing

The Smart Lunar R1 doesn’t have the greatest weather sealing, but it is respectable enough, especially if you take care with the seals when you open and close the light. (Also: making sure you close it properly is a good way to avoid getting home to discover you’re just carrying the rear half of the light, the actual electronics part having bounced off!)

As with the Lunar R2 light, there are plenty of reports of water ingress online. I have on occasion had one of these lights short circuit (jam in flashing mode) but they’ve always been fine after drying out.

I’ve never had one fail to the off mode.

Overall

Over the years we’ve had a fair number of this type of light (from the original Smart 0.5W Superflash through to the present day). Whatever its weaknesses, at the end of the day it’s useable, effective and economical… one I just keep coming back to!

The Smart Lunar R1 0.5W rear LED light is probably my best recommendation for an all-round tail light, taking all factors into consideration.

Again, Chain-Reaction are doing a 35% discount at the time of writing.

Raleigh RSP Astrum rear light review

The RSP Astrum is a budget priced but well constructed rear LED in the clip-on tradition. This excellent twin-lens design is a step above many other lights.

Two 0.5W LEDs make this a dazzling contender

The RSP Astrum is a budget priced but well constructed rear LED in the clip-on tradition. Amazon are selling it for £15 delivered (25% off) at the time of writing (it’s not stocked by the usual mail-order companies).

I’ve been commuting using dynamo lights for some time now, but my better half has made do with a few different battery rear LEDs since we own so many rear lights of various ages!

This has actually been pretty useful, since I’ve been able to check the performance of the Astrum in different circumstances while riding along behind, instead of so many bike light reviews which boil down to “it seems bright and nobody has run me over yet” 😉

astrum

Mounting

The RSP Astrum has a clip on the rear which allows you to attach it to items of clothing, bags, and so on.

It is also supplied with a sturdy seatpost mount that secures the light using the same clip. Unlike many rear light mounts, the Astrum has a big thumb-friendly screw-drive affair which makes it a dream to fit and adjust. Giant thumbs up from me!

It’s rare to see people riding with a light attached to bag or body that’s actually pointing in the right direction. I’ve tried this myself often… either the light points to the sky or ground or it waggles around spraying photons like a garden sprinkler!

Fortunately the Astrum’s seatpost mount is sturdy and easy to fit. I recommend this approach over the alternative, even if you want the Astrum as a backup light.

Beam quality and strength

The Astrum has two flashing modes (one on, one off and both flash together) and offers a solid mode too.

One LED has a plain lens while the other is fitted with a diffuser. This casts light out at a much wider angle – improving the light cast to the sides at point blank range.

The Astrum is extremely bright – so bright that it’s unpleasant to ride or drive behind someone using it, especially in flash mode. While this may be great in some circumstances, making it unpleasant for people to drive behind you can definitely encourage them to overtake. As a driver, I can vouch that sitting at night behind someone with a mega LED flasher definitely makes a quick pass more tempting.

It’s a difficult balance to strike. When driving I often find it quite difficult to work out the speed and course of a cyclist using a flashing light, so I recommend solid mode. (This is less of an issue under street lights.)

It’s important to mount the light completely level, as designers depend on this when working out off-angle visibility and other factors. Do not point it at the ground in lieu of just buying a less dazzling light!

That said, you can safely ignore anyone who says flashing lights aren’t road legal – this hasn’t been the case for about a decade.

Because the RSP Astrum hasn’t passed the relevant tests it isn’t road legal when used on its own (in any mode).

I’ll write more about this separately, but unless you go for a dynamo (all dynamo lights are genuinely road legal), it’s true of pretty much anything a bike shop will sell you.

Useability

The Astrum has a central and large rubber button which is a breeze to use, even with gloves. This is a much better solution than the end-on ‘soft body’ style buttons you can find on other lights (like the Smart Lunar R2).

It has a simple “press for next mode” (including the “off mode”) which makes it straightforward to change on the fly whilst riding. You don’t need to count half a dozen clicks as is often the case (Cateye! I’m looking at you…)

So far my Astrum is still going strong after two and a half years. A big part of this is the quality of construction of the ‘interface’.

Battery life

The Astrum runs on two AAA batteries.

We get around the stated battery life (80 hours flashing, 20 hours solid). Remember that the temperature at which you use the light and the type of battery used both influence that figure.

With rear LED lights it’s important to bear in mind that brightness and battery life are a direct trade-off. Almost all are manufactured using essentially the same mature technology and LEDs which are broadly equal in efficiency.

All you need to decide is whether you’d like twice as many photons for half as much battery life, or vice-versa.

The RSP Astrum produces quite a lot of light and so is fairly battery-hungry.

A word on those 2×0.5W LEDs…

If you know battery life, you can work out the true power draw of your light using simple mathematics.

Two AAA batteries max out at around 1200mAh each, and so the 20 hour runtime of the RSP Astrum points to a current draw of (1200 x 2 / 20) = 120mA. At 1.25V this is (0.12 x 1.25) = 0.15W

A genuine 0.5W LED current draw would give a battery life of just six hours on AAA, so 2×0.5W would give just three!

Durability / waterproofing

The Astrum is well sealed, as it would have to be to survive three winters unscathed.

The quality button construction (see above) plays a large part in this.

Assuming you run mudguards, you can improve the reliability of any rear light by mounting it under the saddle (fairly sheltered) instead of on your body or bag.

Overall

The RSP Astrum 2×0.5W rear LED light is a great little number – well built, easy to operate, extremely bright and with a mount that’s head and shoulders above some competitors.

Again, Amazon are selling it for £15 delivered (25% off) at the time of writing (it doesn’t seem to be stocked by the usual mail-order companies).