Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Portland Design Works Fenderbot: A Review

Back in May I reviewed the Portland Design Works RADBOT 1000. I'm happy to report the RADBOT is still going strong and it's still my favorite tail light. At the time of that review an astute reader posted a comment noting that the shape of that light and wondered if it could be modified to mount onto a fender. It turns out the fellows at Portland Design Works were already thinking along those lines and they now make a light specifically designed to mount on a fender. It's called the Fenderbot.

As you can see by the pictures, the Fenderbot looks very similar to the RADBOT. Like the RADBOT, it has a built-in reflector and it is powered by 2 AAA batteries. Close inspection reveals that the Fenderbot isn't just a repackaged RADBOT, however. Instead of the RADBOT's myriad quick-release mounting options, the Fenderbot mounts permanently to your fender. You drill two holes in your fender and bolt the light in place. The holes in the package serve as a handy drill guide.

It took me a grand total of two minutes to mount the Fenderbot on Christine's bike. I didn't even need to dig out my drill, the reamer on my Swiss Army Knife did a fine job drilling the two necessary holes. An 8mm nut and lock washer hold the Fenderbot in place.

Like the RADBOT, the changing batteries in the Fenderbot involves loosening a single screw. This screw is right above the reflector, just below the power switch and you can change the batteries without having to unbolt the light from the fender.

The Fenderbot is bright, but not as bright as the dazzling RADBOT 1000. Still plenty visible even in daylight, but drawing less power. Based on the ratings on their respective packages (200 hours vs 50 hours) the Fenderbot draws 1/4 the power that the RADBOT requires. The Fenderbot can be set to either flash or steady but lacks the the RADBOT's fancy flash-flash-POW pattern.

The Fenderbot seems light enough that it shouldn't weigh down a fender too much. If your fenders run super close to your tires I suppose clearance for the mounting bolt could be tight but it clears fine on Christine's bike. Being bolted in place, the light looks nicely integrated with the bike and (at least in theory) a bolted down light is less likely to be stolen by some light-fingered scumbag.

You may have to hunt a bit to find a Fenderbot. It's a fairly new product and Dan at PDW tells me that at least one big bike shop supplier thought the Fenderbot was "too much of niche product" and decided not to stock it. By the way, it's disclaimer time. PDW sent me this light for review and I don't have to give it back, so make of that what you will. I've known Dan through the internet since the days back when he was at Planet Bike and I was with the Bike Alliance of Washington and he helped me get a great deal on lights for our Get Lit project. Dan and the crew at PDW are folks who ride bikes and care about the stuff they make. In my last email conversation with Dan, he was really excited about the "PDW company car" which is an Aherne Cycle Truck.

So that's the lowdown on the light. Good light, secure mounting, made by good people.

Keep 'em rolling,

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