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,



bmike said...

Looks like a Spanninga SPXb...

Jason T. Nunemaker said...

Kent -- you say the Fenderbot isn't as bright as the Radbot, which you described as brighter than a Planet Bike Superflash. Can you comment on the relative brightness of the Fenderbot vs. the Superflash?

Props to PDW for using AA batteries, though... paired with a Planet Bike Blaze up front, this could make a very effective set that runs on just four AAs... common size for rechargeables and a common multiple for chargers. Nice!

Kent Peterson said...


The Fenderbot isn't as bright as the PB Superflash. Maybe 1/2 as bright as that? Still plenty bright.

As for the batteries, my fumble fingers missed an A. I've corrected the review to now correctly state that the Fenderbot, like the RADBOT uses two AAA batteries. While AAs would be nice from a "one battery type to rule them all sense", I think most tail light makers go with AAA cells since tail lights don't draw much power and AAA cells make for a lighter light.

Rick @ Bicycle Fixation said...

Yes. looks an AWFUL LOT like a Spanninga SPXb--one of which I use on my bike. The Spanninga quite wisely has no blink mode--steady lights locate you better--but is otherwise almost identical in conformation, with the button slightly different.

Mine has served me very well; it's bright, light, and easy to see even on dark rainy nights, and has been rock-solid reliable--though sometimes a really deep sharp pothole will knock a battery loose (has happened twice in four years). Around 20,000 miles since I put it on.

If the Fenderbot is as good it will be an excellent taillight.

William said...


Great story. I actually live in Portland, but had not heard of either of these fender lights. I'll have to check them out.

I also wanted to share this story about biking in Portland that I found on another blog:

It's a pretty cool local Portland blog.

Thanks for the great posts.

hs3mib said...

Nice post, great pic, thanks

jht said...

I just picked up a custom steel bike with this mounted on the fender. The light output is so feeble that is it useless. The reflector is nice, required in some states, but it does lack the "DOT" approval, if that is important. I regret specifying this. Even with new Lithium cells, the single LED is just far too weak.

Martin Hartley said...

Based on your review I've just bought one on ebay. I usually like to mount a couple of different red tail lights just to be 100% sure that I have something shining out back, but since I stopped leaving my saddlebag on my bike I've not had a second red light. I plan to install this one and then have a removable tail-light on the rear rack. hopefully this will mean one less thing to take off the bicycle when I park it!