Blackburn Flea – nice lights!

I’ve been getting more and more into riding my road bike while battling my fear of riding some higher traffic streets. For the most part, it’s transitioned from fear to just being as safe and smart as possible. Some of the riskiest scenarios (in my opinion) are when you’re flying by cars that are crawling along in a traffic jam. It always feels like they’re not expecting a bike to pass them and the fear is that they’d turn right into a driveway or street just as you come up on their right and, well, that doesn’t sound like any fun at all.

Lately, while driving, I’ve noticed some cyclists behind me because they had flashing white LED lights. It was specifically the blinking that would get my attention on my rear view or side mirrors. I figured I had to get me some lights as it managed to make me notice riders and every little bit helps when it comes to staying in one piece. I headed over to my local bike shop and checked out their selection. At first, all I saw was the larger lights that are actually meant to illuminate the path ahead of you. That seemed like overkill for me as they’re pretty big, bulky, and heavy and I very rarely ride when it’s dark outside (come to think of it, I’ve never ridden at night yet and don’t really see a reason to change that). Luckily, when I was about to give up, my wife shows up with a tiny light called the Blackburn Flea. It turns out it was exactly what I was looking for.

I picked on up and have gone on a few rides with it since and am pretty happy with it. Here are some thoughts (if you’re considering getting one) and tips (if you already got one) that I’ve come up with along the way:

  • The fact that I can charge the light via USB rocks. I can commute to work, plug it in, and feel confident that I’ll have juice for the ride back home later. No batteries to deal with or charger units to lug around, etc.
  • When charging, the lights (it has 4 LEDs) will blink dimly to indicate that it’s in fact charging. Once it’s fully charged, the blinking gets a whole lot brighter (kind of hard to miss). If you leave it charging beyond the point where it’s fully charged, it’ll actually continue to blink even after you’ve removed it from the USB connection. This caught me off guard at first but then read somewhere that this was a result of logic built into the device to maximize its charge life.
  • The strap it comes with to mount on the bike is just a simple Velcro strap. The nice thing is that it’s super light. The downside is that it’s a strap that you need to strap and unstrap every time you want to charge the light (which I’m currently doing between every ride). Not a huge deal though.
  • If the light doesn’t start blinking after plugging it into a USB port to charge, try plugging it in the other direction. Most USB devices can only be plugged in one direction but not this one. It only charges in one direction though.
  • There are two other ways to charge these but I’ve only tried the USB method. There’s a solar charger which sounds useful and a seemingly tedious wire-up-to-a-battery approach that I’m going to probably avoid.
  • The light has three modes, solid, bright solid, and blinking. The latter is the one that I think has the most “look at me, I’m here!” effect.
  • You may wonder if the strap will actually slip on your bars but that hasn’t been a problem for me even though I’m mounting it on an untaped section of my bars.
  • It’s super light at just 17 grams. I strap it on to my bars but I imagine you could strap them on to your helmet and not feel the weight at all.
  • You can find the manual for it online here.
  • There’s a good review with even more interesting comments on bikemag.com.
  • Looks like they come with a lifetime warranty that at least one person on the review mentioned on the previous bullet seems to have used after his light stopped working due to riding in a downpour.

Happy (and safe) riding!

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