Monday, July 06, 2009

Product Review: Blackburn Flea

I picked up a Blackburn Flea headlight last week. My halogen only lasts about an hour, and with some more night riding coming up soon, I felt like it'd be best to snag a "to be seen" light that has at least a 2 hour run time to supplement my big "to see with" light.

The lights themselves are lightweight and small. Unlike other smallish lights (such as the "hipster cyst" Knog Frog), they're also rechargeable. In the cycling world, that all adds up and usually means that MSRP is somewhere in the $ARMLEG range.

The Blackburn Flea can be purchased as just the headlight or tail light, with a slight discount offered for buying them both at once. I bought only the front light, as I really don't need the rear one. MSRP for each is $29.99. As you can see from the Amazon embed to the left, it's considerably cheaper to just buy it online for about $22. Strangely, it's also cheaper to buy the Flea Front and Rear separately -- About $44 total -- than it is to buy the Flea Combo which even via Amazon commands the full MSRP of $54.99

The Flea lights mount with velcro straps (included). The front light has a plastic track to hold it to the velcro, while the rear light uses a metal clip (which can be used to attach it to a belt, wedge pack or helmet strap. Either way, these lights attach easily to many places on a bicycle. I opted to be boring and put it on my handlebar.

Both front and rear offer 3 different light patterns. The headlight has low, high and strobe while the rear offers steady, flashing and sweeping modes. On high and flash modes, the headlight puts out about 40 lumens. This is enough to see a small patch in front of your wheel or enough to look down at your cyclo-computer. I feel it's better suited as an attention-grabber to alert motorists of your presence in low-light conditions. I don't think I'd want to depend on this light to see the road. Both lights have LEDs with both a narrow spot and a wide peripheral ring (as shown below). I won't bother much with a front-beam shot, as it would be mostly unimpressive. It throws light in front of you and will make your presence on the road known -- especially when you've got it strobing.

The unique part is the charger. Unfortunately, even if you get the combo, you only get one charger (as far as I could tell by looking at the package). This pretty much negates the $5 you save by buying them together at the local bike shop. The charger has wires wrapped around it and fits inside a small rubber case. The whole assembly easily fits on a keychain.

To charge, you un-wrap the wires and let the magnetic contacts adhere themselves to any 1.2-1.5V battery, while snapping the charger to the underside of the Flea light. A large D cell should yield more than a dozen charges. I just use rechargeable AA cells. The LEDs flash while charging and stop once the internal battery has fully charged.

Expect 3-6 hours of run-time from the headlight (Supposedly, flashing mode is the most efficient) and 6-12 out of the tail.

Overall impression: I wouldn't pay full retail for these, but for about $22, it's a handy supplemental light for those times you'll be riding under the streetlights and don't need help seeing the road, you just want to be seen. I'd rank it right up there among my favorite (relatively) inexpensive bike commuting gadgets. Its tiny size, modest run-time and clever charging mechanism won my geeky heart over. I'm just not sure I'd be willing to pay $30 each for them.

Product Reviews
Tricks of the Trade

1 comment:

Ken Harris said...

I had this light over the winter (and lost it). While I thought it seemed really cool, I encountered problems with it.

Some of these were probably user-error. And I was using it as my only light. As a supplemental be seen light, I think it would be fine.

I also had better luck charging with alkalines rather than NiMH... Most of the NiMH batteries are 1.2 volts rather than 1.5 which is what I attributed the difference to...

Privacy Policy

This site is driven by software that uses third-party cookies from Google (Blogger, AdSense, Feedburner and their associates.) Cookies are small pieces of non-executable data stored by your web browser, often for the purpose of storing preferences or data from previous visits to a site. No individual user is directly tracked by this or any other means, but I do use the aggregate data for statistics purposes.

By leaving a link or e-mail address in my comments (including your blogger profile or website URL), you acknowledge that the published comment and associated links will be available to the public and that they will likely be clicked on.