A while back, the folks at Portland Design Works sent over a couple bike lights, a set containing the Spaceship and the Radbot. After opening them up and almost blinding myself, I set out to test them, with the intent of killing them. Read on to find out if they survived.
The kit consists the Radbot 500, a 0.5-watt red LED powered by a pair of AAA batteries, and the Spaceship, running on two AAs, which shines its white LED through a “German-engineered lens” and will “withstand rain showers and meteor showers,” (according to the blurb).
I started out the test in Barcelona, but it quickly became clear that the hot temperatures, lack of rain and smooth roads weren’t going to tax these lamps. Worse, Barcelona is so well lit at night that you really don’t need lights on your bike (although the law says otherwise). So I took the pair to a rather more difficult terrain: Berlin, Germany.
Berlin is almost bankrupt, which means long stretches of unlit road and teeth-rattling cobbled streets. It is also in the North of Europe, which gives it hot, dry days (up to 40-degrees, or 100Âº F) punctuated by cold nights and day-long thunderstorms. It is, in short, a very tough place for bikes and bike accessories.
The lamps do their most important job admirably. They’re ridiculously bright: the red Radbot alone can illuminate a whole room at night, and that’s when its still strapped on my rucksack, pointing in the wrong direction. The Spaceship’s tight beam, a mere curiosity in Barcelona, was essential when cycling through the pitch-black Mauerpark at night, picking out a glowing ellipse on the ground in front to illuminate a safe path between the potholes and broken beer-bottles.
The lights are removable. The Spaceship clamps onto the handlebars with a wraparound collar and a finger-operated screw to tighten it. It stays in place, even over the cobbles. The Radbot comes with a few different fixings. I clip it to the Brooks tool-bag hanging from my saddle, but you can screw an adapter to the light-mount on a rack, the seat-stay or the seat-post.
Despite hanging on tight, I managed to drop both lights plenty of times (usually while trying to drunkenly fix them onto the bike, post-beer-garden). They bounced, and neither of them has even a crack (yet. I’m still trying). Both lamps have also sat outside in Berlin rainstorms: They’re waterproof.
Problems? Very few. While the Radbot needs a long, 1.5-second press on the power switch to turn it on and off (to stop it lighting up in a bag), the Spaceship doesn’t, and actually switched itself on in my bike-bag on its air-trip here. Also, to change the batteries, you need to unscrew the lights to open them. A minor pain, as the screw-shut cases are what keeps the rain out. Otherwise, they come highly recommended (especially the Radbot’s cool pulsing flash-mode). The Spaceship even doubles as a handy weapon with which to blind rival bike-polo players (I have tested this).
Available now in a set for $45.
Spaceship/Radbot 500 [PDW. Thanks, Dan!]
Photo: Charlie Sorrel
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