A couple of months ago I bought a pair of Cateye lights. They look ridiculously massive because they’re not USB-rechargeable. But who cares? They work. Of course, USB rechargeables are supposed to be better for the environment, but not in my experience. Because all the ones I owned have ended up in the bin.
In the past two years I’ve owned four sets of USB-rechargeable lights made by four different manufacturers, and all of them went a bit Tour Of Beijing. The first set was a tiny pair which I picked up for a tenner. After about a month, the red one refused to charge. Then I bought two Knog Blinders; straight out of the box, the front light refused to switch on, so the good people at Sigma Sport replaced it – but a few months later the thin rubber strap broke when I attached it to the steerer of my Glider. I replaced it with a Moon Comet, which seemed much brighter but it kept running out of juice after little more than an hour. I retired the white Moon and red Knog after upgrading to a pair of Lezyne Microdrives, which I had been using up until a couple of months ago when the front light decided it wasn’t going to turn off no matter how many times I pressed the button.
Well, so what? I’m just unlucky, right? These things happen. Well, they shouldn’t. Because unlike gloves, a bottle cage or most other optional extras, a pair of lights are supposed to save your life, and I expect them to be reliable because we’re legally required to use them at night. And even if I have been a victim of bad luck, it seems to me that the concept of basic, small USB-rechargeable lights is flawed anyway. Unlike the rechargeable batteries I use for my Cateyes which I only need to top up once a week, all of the small USB lights required constant charging due to relatively short burn times. If I forgot to plug them in when I got to my desk, then I faced the daunting prospect of a ride home in darkness. If they ran out of power while I was riding, they died suddenly rather than fading out gradually, and I didn’t have the emergency option of popping into a shop or service station to get new batteries.
I suppose I could get a mini-floodlight like the Exposure Race, which I borrowed for last year’s Dunwich Dynamo. I switched it on at 10pm and it cast a powerful beam across unlit country lanes at the lowest setting until I reached the beach at sunrise. It’s an amazing light but I won’t be getting one because, aside from the expense, I would be venturing into “Mr Nut, meet Mr Sledgehammer” territory: when commuting, I shouldn’t need such a powerful light to accompany me along a mere 12 miles of Tarmac, all of which are illuminated by streetlights.
These days you can mount lights on your wheels. There is even a light that projects a laser image of a bicycle on the road in front of you to alert motorists to your presence. Or you could, if you wanted to look like a malfunctioning robot, wear a flashing jacket. Yet none of these products seem to provide any evidence that they are actually safer. One day, maybe, these entrepreneurial types will give up on crummy gimmicks and come up with small, long-lasting, easily-mountable USB rechargeable lights. Until then, I’m going back to stick to my bulky, reliable, battery-powered Cateyes. I have seen the light.