Author Topic: Blinkers - bike indicators that are decently engineered  (Read 1278 times)

Kim

  • Timelord
Blinkers - bike indicators that are decently engineered
« on: January 11, 2019, 01:50:53 pm »
Yes, yes, I know.  Bicycle indicators get invented every couple of years by some design student hoping to revolutionise road safety, and they're usually a badly made solution to a non-problem.  Personally, I only think indicators are worthwhile on a velomobile or large cargo cycle where traditional hand indications are impractical.  But a dyspraxic friend (who struggles to ride one-handed, and won't do so in traffic) funded these on Kickstarter against my advice.  Shockingly, they went into production, and turned out to be a half-decent product.  So, instant review by proxy:

https://www.blinkers.bike/



It's a set of USB-rechargeable battery lights with integrated turn signals.  The genuinely innovative magnetic mounting brackets (which are made of Not Cheese) are quick-release, hold the units firmly[1] and power up the lights automagically.  This is less of a gimmick than it sounds - it means there's no external switch to waterproof (and the charging port is on the end of the light that's enclosed by the bracket when attached to the bike), and makes them immune to accidental activation while rattling around in your bag.  Control is by a wireless[2] (CR2032-powered) handlebar-mounted switch unit, held in place by an o-ring.  It appears to be reasonably glove-friendly, but it's a little on the large side (I'd have preferred something like a DI2 shifter for more versatile mounting options).

As lights, the front is a fairly middle-of-the-road conical beam affair, with static and obnoxious strobe-o-vision mode.  Fine for city riding.  The rear's pretty decent.  The mounting brackets attach firmly, and do a good job of keeping the light in alignment.  Unfortunately, there's not much scope for adjustment of that alignment: My friend's bike has swept-back Dutch handlebars, which cause the front light to point slightly off to one side.  They've got both the saddle rail mount (works perfectly) and the rear rack mount fitted to the mesh of a rack-top basket, which blocks the view of the saddle-mounted light when in place.  Unfortunately the taper of the basket leads to the rear light pointing downwards, but the bike already has a separate, correctly aligned, dynamo taillight and the effect on the indicators isn't sufficient to warrant us mucking about with shims.

There's an accelerometer-based brake light function (the rear light brightens as you slow down).  Like the B&M dynamo lights with a similar feature, this works well under braking, but sometimes flickers when pedalling hard at low cadences.  Pedal cycles just don't accelerate smoothly.  It also seems to function as a pothole detector.  The general impression to a naive road user is of a loose connection, rather than a traffic signal, but it may be useful when riding in a group that are aware, if only as a pothole warning!

Having ridden together in various lighting conditions, and done some ride-round-the-corner experiments in a car park, I'd say that the turn signals are about as visible as you could manage in the space available on a conventional bicycle (cargo trikes etc would likely be better off with a less integrated solution to get more horizontal separation).  They're bright, and the progressive illumination of the LEDs goes a long way towards making up for the lack of width.  The turn signal is reasonably visible over the glare of the front light, assuming it's pointed down at the road and not straight into your eyes.  Basically, I've seen a *lot* worse on small motorcycles.

Of course, there's the argument of whether other road users will make sense of a bicycle with indicators.  It seems to me that they're better than the absence of a hand signal when you reach for the brakes or negotiate a rough surface, but I don't think I'd use them in preference to traditional signalling.  Obviously for a disabled person who might otherwise not be confident to cycle in traffic, the benefits are much greater.

My friend's been using them for non-commuting urban utility riding for over a year now (plenty of potholes, some drenchings, but only maybe 30 minutes at a time), and other than receiving a faulty unit (rear light which wouldn't reliably pick up the control signal, which they replaced without a fuss), they've been reliable.  They claim to provide a 10 year warranty.


So yeah.  Decent enough, if you think it would be useful.  I'm not rushing out to buy them, though.



[1] Sceptical, I tested this by holding one by its bracket, pointing straight downwards, and giving it the etch-a-sketch treatment and several vigorous slaps.  No problems.
[2] I hate this.  Wireless means batteries and pairing and worrying about interference and never really knowing if the rear has actually done what you've told it to.  But it does appear to work, and we tested the range at several metres.
Careful, Kim. Your sarcasm's showing...

Re: Blinkers - bike indicators that are decently engineered
« Reply #1 on: January 11, 2019, 03:17:14 pm »
You won't make a fortune reviewing stuff if you're as even-handed as that about products.  ;)

Re: Blinkers - bike indicators that are decently engineered
« Reply #2 on: January 11, 2019, 03:24:26 pm »
The problem with bike indicators is that the angle between the indicators, subtended by a motorist's eye at any significant distance, isn't usually enough to clearly indicate left or right. Motorbikes are a bit wider.
Never tell me the odds.

Kim

  • Timelord
Re: Blinkers - bike indicators that are decently engineered
« Reply #3 on: January 11, 2019, 03:43:16 pm »
The problem with bike indicators is that the angle between the indicators, subtended by a motorist's eye at any significant distance, isn't usually enough to clearly indicate left or right. Motorbikes are a bit wider.

Indeed.  The progressive illumination helps, because you see a movement rather than having to differentiate the position of the source.  And a flashing yellow light with an 'indicator' cadence is probably sill somewhat useful as an "about to manoeuvre" warning, even if the direction isn't obvious.

I still think arm signals are better.
Careful, Kim. Your sarcasm's showing...

Re: Blinkers - bike indicators that are decently engineered
« Reply #4 on: January 11, 2019, 06:14:39 pm »
Bike indicators made it onto dragons den a few weeks ago.
Meaden enthused about compulsion being a driver of growth for the business, which brought her down in my esteem. She "invested" but later pulled out apparently citing not wanting to be seen to take too much of the business, but whether that's the whole reason I don't know.
It is what it is. It's not what it's not, so it must be what it is.

Re: Blinkers - bike indicators that are decently engineered
« Reply #5 on: January 12, 2019, 11:48:07 am »
I read this review and thought 'OK, that sounds about as non-pointless as you can probably make this', then idly clicked the link - HOWBLOODYMUCH? If you can sell them for close to £150 a set (F/R), no wonder this idea keeps popping up again and again...

Re: Blinkers - bike indicators that are decently engineered
« Reply #6 on: January 12, 2019, 02:46:14 pm »
Usual garbage trying to solve a problem that doesn't exist and trying to apply car solutions to bikes.
I opened the image of the light in flashing turn mode on my tablet and placed the tablet at the other end of a darkened room.
You cannot realistically tell what is being indicated when viewed from a distance.

Re: Blinkers - bike indicators that are decently engineered
« Reply #7 on: January 12, 2019, 03:33:49 pm »
I would have thought the actual indicator lights had to be as wide apart as possible for it to have much effect.

Re: Blinkers - bike indicators that are decently engineered
« Reply #8 on: January 12, 2019, 05:26:35 pm »
Usual garbage trying to solve a problem that doesn't exist and trying to apply car solutions to bikes.
I opened the image of the light in flashing turn mode on my tablet and placed the tablet at the other end of a darkened room.
You cannot realistically tell what is being indicated when viewed from a distance.
I carried out the same experiment and it just appeared to be a flashing amber light.

Kim

  • Timelord
Re: Blinkers - bike indicators that are decently engineered
« Reply #9 on: January 12, 2019, 06:34:53 pm »
I read this review and thought 'OK, that sounds about as non-pointless as you can probably make this', then idly clicked the link - HOWBLOODYMUCH? If you can sell them for close to £150 a set (F/R), no wonder this idea keeps popping up again and again...

I don't think it's possible to do a small volume run of a decent pair of rechargeable bike lights for much less, without serious corner cutting.  There's a lot of custom plastic mouldings there.


I haven't tried the tablet experiment to see how it compares.  In real life it's good enough to see which direction it's pointing in a congested mini roundabout type scenario, which is what my friend was most concerned about.  I certainly wouldn't rate it for right turns on fast roads, but tbh that's what road positioning is for.
Careful, Kim. Your sarcasm's showing...