Wednesday, May 05, 2010

Portland Design Works RADBOT 1000: A Review


With a name like the RADBOT 1000 you might think this device has been sent from the future to wipe out mankind's best hope in our upcoming battle with the machines. In fact, the RADBOT 1000 is actually designed to protect humans, specifically bicycle-riding humans, from rear-end collisions. Yes, it's a tail light. It's the brightest damn tail light I've seen to date. Yes, it's brighter than the previous holder of the brightest damn tail light title, the Planet Bike Super Flash.


The RADBOT 1000 has both an EU conforming reflector and a 1.0 Watt LED. Like most modern tail lights, the RADBOT 1000 has a couple of blinking modes plus a solid option. The modes are described as "zZz" and "zZzPOP!" and "rock steady" and those are pretty good approximations of the light. The "zZzPOP!" is by far the most attention grabbing and the most obnoxious for those of us who do group rides after dark. Randonneurs will opt to keep the light running in "rock steady" mode and will want to make sure the light is pointed straight back and not into the eyes of your riding companions. In the photo above the light looks yellow, but that's just because it's very close to overwhelming my camera. In real life, it's very bright red. Dazzling. If you look straight at it, you'll be seeing spots.

The RADBOT 1000 comes with a seat post clamp, several sizes of rubber shims, a seat stay clamp and a rack clamp. It also comes complete with two alkaline AAA batteries. The packaging assures me the batteries will power the light for 50 hours, but I haven't owned it long enough to test that out.


Some lights have the annoying habit of turning on or off when they get jostled on bumpy roads or trails (or in a pack) but the folks who designed the RADBOT 1000 have solved that problem in a clever way. You have to hold the switch for two seconds to turn the light on or off or change its mode. Random jarrings are quicker than that, so they shouldn't affect the light.

So far, I've had no water issues with the light. One problem with the otherwise excellent Planet Bike Super Flash was the bottom-mounted switch and a few randonneurs had problems with water shorting out the switch. The RADBOT 1000 has the interior electronics and switch mounted fairly high in the light so even if water does seep in, the chances of a short are lessened.

If you've read this far, you can probably tell I like this light. Now here's where I put in my disclaimer. We sell these lights at the shop where I work, the Bicycle Center of Issaquah. We sell 'em 'cause we like 'em. I liked one of 'em well enough to buy it (yes, I get a shop-worker discount). If you buy one at my shop or via an Amazon link here, some of the money goes to me.

It's a good light, it's bright as heck and I think it's a good deal.

Keep 'em rolling,

Kent


19 comments:

Jason T. Nunemaker said...

Kent -- from your photo, it looks like the Radbot might use the same mounting clip as the Planet Bike Superflash.

Can you confirm/deny that the 'bot interfaces with PB hardware? The cross-platform compatibility would be nice for those of us with a jillion Superflashes scattered around our fleets.

Might we be entering a new age of open-source bicycle lighting? ;-)

Kent Peterson said...

Jason,

I can confirm that the RADBOT plugs right into a Planet Bike mounting bracket. Right now I have the RADBOT in the PB bracket on my Flight.

Kent

jgrant said...

Kent,

In which country is the RADBOT manufactured, please?

Thanks!
Jon Grant

Kent Peterson said...

Hi Jon,

There are no markings on the light, but I just dug the packaging out of my recycle bin. The LED is from Japan, & I think the optics were designed in Germany, but the whole thing is made in Taiwan.

Kent

Jon said...

Kent,

Could you describe the process of accessing/changing the batteries? Are there any screws involved, or is it a tool-less process?

Thanks

bikelovejones said...

This light is so bright that it begs the question: How bright is too bright?
Even in "rock-steady" mode it seems rather bright for most urban applications. Lately I've taken to using the steady mode on all my lights, suspecting that most road users prefer it to an "obnoxious" flashing blinky.

Kent Peterson said...

Jon,

A single philips head screw on the back holds the light together. The philips head on my Swiss Army knife fits perfectly.

Kent

Mile High Mark said...

Nice write up. I, too, like the Radbot a lot. I have the 500 model (which I ordered by mistake), and although I was going to return it and get the 1000, I've decided that the 500 is plenty bright for what I want/need.

My 500 was one of the few that had a problem with the contacts, and PDW is replacing it (no questions asked). Great service, and timely responses to my e-mails.

Lastly, PDW's rack mounting hardware is compatible with the EU 50mm/80mm rack mounting holes (e.g., Tubus), which makes attaching the Radbot much more secure.

RatherBeBiking said...

I've owned one for a few months. I think the 50 hour claim is dubious - after a month or two of use it would start shutting off when I went over a bump, but a new set of batteries fixed the problem.

Anonymous said...

Kent,

The shape of the back of the light looks like it could be mounted (or cobbled to mount) on a rear fender. Any thoughts on that?

Rich F.

Brawny said...

Kent - the light looks impressive. I've ordered two (one for the wife as well) via your Amazon link.

Good luck with your training!

Kent Peterson said...

Rich F.,

After I posted this review, I got an email from the guys at Portland Design Works. It turns out they have both fenders and a fender-specific light in the works!

Kent

raresparky said...

RBB,

PDW has a short video on their site titled, "RADBOT on low batteries" and they show that if the LED doesn't stay on, it's a low battery indicator. Sounds like the problem you experienced is actually designed in (or at least not unexpected).

Michael

RatherBeBiking said...

That was my suspicion, but I had the feeling I hadn't gotten the full 50 hours (or whatever the amount is) out of them.

Anonymous said...

I will also confirm that the Radbot 1000 is PBSF mount compatible. The PBSF is now relegated to the role as "helper" and "trail only".

At night this WILL blind anyone drafting you. It is clearly visible in the day and clearly makes the venerable PBSF look anemic by comparison. I compared them today with the Radbot on the post and the PBSF on the chainstay ... not even remotely a contest.

The cost ... it goes through batteries faster and shuts down when the batteries are low. I personally would prefer a low power blink pattern when the batteries are low.

In any case, I'll probably just get another for the chainstay and bump the PBSF completely off the bike.

Personally, I can't wait to see what Planet Bike cooks up to compete!!!

JamiMaria said...

I'm definitely going to buy this. I do a lot of street riding and want to make sure that I'm seen. Thanks for the write up.

stevep33 said...

My eyeballs burn. Radbot is bright like the sun.

Tyler said...

I concur with all the posts. The Radbot 1000 blows my previous favorite, the Planet Bike SuperFlasher Blinkie out of the water. I am buying 3 Radbot 1000's as gifts for all my cycling co-workers.

ksteinhoff said...

Thanks for the review and the note on the phreds. I ordered two through your link.

I'm constantly searching for the best way to be visible at night.

I'm curious to see how well they compare with some of the other solutions I've tried.