Thursday, August 07, 2014

Orp: Light, Loud, and Louder


The Orp is a brilliant 89 gram combination light and horn that is designed to cut through the noise and clutter of the modern traffic-choked city street. The Orp was made for anyone who has ever had their polite but feeble bike bell ignored by cocooned, distracted drivers or been cut off by those who look but do not see.

I first mentioned the Orp back in 2012 when it was a Kickstarter project. In that post I looked at a couple of these super bike horn projects and asked if such things were a Safety Solution or Noise Pollution. Now that the Orp has successfully blown well past its Kickstarter goal and is a genuine product, Tory (the man behind Orp) sent me a couple to review. The Orp comes in several colors. I passed the blue one on to my friends at G and O Family Cyclery for their review and I mounted the orange one on my beloved KickPed to give it a thorough test.


The Orp's electronics are housed in a hard plastic shell surrounded by a colorful silicone skin that also forms the stretchy strap that secures the Orp to your handlebars. The end of the strap loops around a hook at the back  and also covers the USB charging port. It's the dry time of the year here so I haven't yet tested the Orp's weatherproofness, but the Orp folks are based out of Portland and have done a couple of wet winter's worth of testing. I was a bit concerned at the lack of a seal at the front of the Orp (you can see it in the picture) until I realized that the gap is intentional, it lets the loud sound out of the Orp. Behind the sound module, things are tightly sealed.


The Orp has two dazzling 70 Lumen LEDs that can be either off, on or set to strobe quickly or slowly. The Orp's internal Li-Ion battery can fully charge via a standard (included) USB cable in 3 hours.


The Orp's packaging is very nicely done. The box unfolds to be a simple, complete guide to the many functions of the device.

While the Orp strap is somewhat stretchy, if your handlebars are of a smaller diameter (like my scooter's are) you may need to use a rubber shim underneath the Orp to fatten the effective diameter of the bars. The Orp folks thoughtfully include such a shim. You want to make sure the Orp is secure on your bars because you activate the horn by pressing up or down on the tail section of the Orp and if the Orp is too loose it will just rotate on the bars.

Pressing and holding the top switch for 3 seconds wakes or sleeps the Orp. In sleep mode tapping the light button or brushing against the horn tail has no effect. You want to have the Orp asleep when you take it off for charging. You pretty much can't undo the strap without triggering the Orp's horn if it is awake, a feature that I realized is a good theft deterrent. The casual would-be Orp thief will be quite surprised when the light he's attempting to steal yells for help!

As a light, the Orp's beams are diffuse and eye-catching but this is much more a "be-seen" than a "see-by" light. In a city environment at scooter speeds I find it is all the light I need but the Orp is not a light for long rambles on dark country roads. According to the Orp documentation here's what to expect in terms of run time per charge:

Slow Strobe -- 15 hours
Fast Strobe   -- 8 hours
Constant On -- 3 hours
Anti-Dooring Mode -- 4 hours

I'll explain the anti-dooring mode in a minute, but first, let's talk about the horn functions. The Orp has two voices, a 76 dB tone designed to be a friendly "hey!" and a more hostile 96 dB "get the hell out of the way" tone. You can go to

http://www.orpland.com/

and hear samples of both sounds.

And this brings me to my main problem with the Orp. Both sounds are obnoxious. I find even the friendly sound too grating to use. These sounds are great for grabbing attention, which is their intended purpose, but I can't be the guy blasting pedestrians out of my way with a "Hey, I'm scooting here!" And I do find the Orp too in-your-face for my tastes.

But the Orp is perfectly designed to grab attention. Even if you don't have the lights flashing, triggering the horn (either tone) flashes the lights. That's smart. The tone makes folks look, the lights makes them see. The anti-dooring mode mentioned earlier combines the flashing light with the 96 dB sound in a constant display of obnoxiousness. You probably will not get doored if you use the Orp in this manner. You may, however, get shot.

The Orp is a beautifully integrated light and horn combination. As a be seen bike or scooter light, it's great. And the obnoxiousness of the horn may be a virtue. In extreme situations, like an oblivious dude in a BMW cutting across my lane, I won't hesitate to use it.  Loud and bright is what's needed there. In an ideal world, we'd move swift and silent through our days and nights. The Orp has a loud, obnoxious voice that's hard to ignore. It is a voice for times of danger. I hope such times are rare. 


3 comments:

To said...

Great Review. I like the idea of a light/horn combo. The Orp seems very bright to me and would be a great bike light even without the horn.

Tim said...

I kickstarted the OPR and have had it for awhile now. I rarely use it though. The problem I've had is with the "whale tail" switch... Up or down I seem to get the OBNOXIOUS loud tone all the time. It's a cool concept but I'm hoping they rework their switch a bit to make it more reliable in getting the tone you actually want.

Mike March said...

I have a simple electric horn and I find that annoying over a simple bell. Wouldn't it be nice if it had a simple, yet loud chime.