The bike light world is a very crowded place so the Blinkers by Velohub has decided to use a different approach, by billing primarily as indicators your bike. Might this bew a winning formulae?
Blinkers by Velohub Review: Big, Bright… Um Big
It’s that time of the year! The autumn nights are drawing in, and it’s time to dig out the bike lights. Or in my case time to start reviewing the latest smart bike lights. The first up on test are the Blinkers by Velohub.
Originally a Swiss crowd funded project on Kickstarter, and designed by the Swiss design consultancy Sapetti, I was genuinely amazed to see that the project only just crept past their €50,000 target by €850! Which I find utterly bizarre as the Blinkers comes with “frickin’ lasers” !!
The Blinkers is available in two forms, a front indicator system and 100 lumen white lights which fixes to your handlebars
Or a rear indicator system, with 30 lumen red lights. The rear lights are also available with the afore mentioned laser! Even though the units are basically the same externally, with internal components swapped, I do think that the rear system is obtrusive when not in use
As a quick summary, the lights are controlled via a wireless handlebar remote, to trigger the indication to the right or to the left. There is an internal accelerometer, which allows the red unit to act as a brake light, increasing in intensity to 100 lumen when the cyclist slows. The idea behind the lasers is that they given fellow drivers a better idea of where you are located on the road. I’m not entirely convinced with that, but hey, LASERS!!!
So let’s see how things turned out! ….
Oh come on, I’ve got to be allowed that one at least!
Blinkers by Velohub – Design
When you first encounter the Blinkers unit, you are struck with how large the system is, however, the company cannot be accused of hiding this, as there is a 1:1picture on the front of the box
Along with a clear window behind, so you know exactly what you are getting
But what else is in the box?
Well, not too much actually. We’ve the Blinkers unit, a magnetic seat mount (very cool, we’ll come to that later), wireless remote, manual, and a braided micro USB cable.
There is also a collection of little bolts and screws to secure the unit
I feel it is worth while mentioning I don’t think I’ve actually come across another company including braided cables in their boxes, and it’s actually a nice change
So looking around the Blinkers by Velohub after the unboxing, I do think it is worth reiterating a previous comment, this is not a small light, coming in at 17cm at the widest point. Aero this is not
In the middle of the unit are the two rear facing LED units and their lenses. Between them, in a small inverted v-shape is the laser module (obviously the beam is shining down at the road from under the lights).
Across the top of the unit are the two banks of 7 yellow LEDs which comprise the actual indicators
On the back of the unit is the micro USB port, behind it’s rubber flap,
I’m sure many of you will have clocked the odd boomerang shape to the Blinkers, but wondered about the box sticking off the back. This is the male portion of the magnetic dock for the bike mount and is, in my mind, one of the most ingenious design strokes in the whole product
Perhaps the easiest way to show the mounting is with the companies schematics. The light unit is help in place with REALLY strong magnets, some times I’m concerned that I’ll put too much force through the plastic, but that has never happened.
Another feature which I have fallen in love with, is that the magnetic mount also acts as an off switch. Simply pull out the Blinkers unit from the socket and the lights switch off. From the standpoint of a commuter light, this ease of use is EXCELLENT
The final bit of the design comes in the form of the wireless remote. I quite like the yellow base plate, as it makes the remote easier to see in your peripheral vision when riding, so no need to take your hands off the road.
Powered by a simple CR2032 battery, there are four buttons, which in a clockwise direction, power on the rear light, and toggle flash/solid. The RIGHT turn signal. The button to start the rear laser. Finally the LEFT turn signal. Well that is the overview, but what is the system like to use?
Blinkers by Velohub – Specification
The Laser Blinker as reviewed here:
- Directional turning indicators
100lm automatic brake light
- 30lm Rear red light
- Low or high flash
- weight: 180g
- Laser projection
- Wireless and adjustable remote control
- Rechargeable battery (20h of use)
- Saddle mount
- Emergency alert – all lights flash together like a cars hazard lights
Blinkers by Velohub – Manual
There is no online PDF for the company manual, however the team does have series of videos about using the Blinkers
Blinkers by Velohub – Using The Device
So specifications are all well and good, but how does the Blinkers by Velohub cope out on the road? Well first thing is to install the unit on your seat rails
There is a top plate which sits on the saddle side of the rails
Then with the Blinkers held in one hand, you screw the lights on from the bottom
The mount which has a rubber gasket between the rails and it’s plastic has been amazingly sturdy. Not a single creak or rattle, even from the connection between the light and the mount, which I attribute to the excellent magnet fastening.
That feeling of solidarity is felt across the unit – I’d confident if I did drop the Blinkers on a road there would be little if any damage. Speaking of solidity, you realise how big the Blinkers are, as the unit protrudes quite far away from your seat, extending over the back wheel
There is no display or easy way to see what your charge level. When you insert the lights into the mount, you’ll get an indicator from the LED’s as to the battery life remaining, but that is a little late if you have just got your bike out!
Now, this might be a personal thing, but I wished that the Blinkers was mounted the other way up, with the current configuration, it looks a little… sad. Where as if you flip things upside down the Blinkers becomes that happiest lights on the entire market!!
I think that the laser light integration is very well implemented in it’s beam, giving a bright green arc off the back of your bike.
When the laser is engaged, the green light permeates through the rest of the clear plastic increasing direct reward visibility as well, because don’t forget that the largest amount of the Blinkers light array will spend the majority of a commute dormant. For the extra €30 over the base Blinkers, I’m not sure this is actually that useful, so would probably not bother with the upgrade… and have a battery overall battery life
Blinkers quote a 20hr battery life, but I found that the laser system seemed to drain the battery faster, realistically getting about 10hrs of constant use before the need to recharge
Conversely, the coin cell in the unit remote will last for about 6 months. The radio frequency remote flashes to show which lights are active – so here the LEFT turn signal and the rear laser
When trigger the indicator will flash for 12 seconds or can be canceled by pressing that same button again. I think that the remote is actually the biggest weakness of the Blinkers – although perhaps I have just been spoilt by the remote on the Lumos Helmet. The point being the travel of the buttons is not very far, and there is no audio confirmation that the button has been pressed as you seen on the Lumos system. That might sound a touch annoying, but it does give great reassurance that the button has been pressed, and confirms the signal is still being sent (ie. not auto-cancelled) so you have a good idea what is hopefully going on behind you. Perhaps this is something which could be addressed in version 2?
Blinkers by Velohub – Conclusion
Beauty is always in the eye of the beholder. The Blinkers by Velohub are not particularly beautiful to my eyes, but for some products that does not matter greatly. For the vast majority of people, the aesthetics don’t really matter when it comes to their saddle as long as it is comfortable. Bike lights are very similar. If they don’t produce sufficient light, but look pretty, they are pretty useless.
The size of the Blinkers by Velohub means that you are in no doubt that people will know when you are going to turn. I only wish that the rear-facing red lights were a little bit brighter than their 30 lumens, as that would make the Blinkers by Velohub pretty much the standard by which all other commuter lights would need to be measured.
The Blinkers by VeloHub has a host of little details which really means they excel as commuter lights, my favorite as mentioned is the magnetic bike mount which also works to switch the light off when you’ve arrived at your destination. It’s features like this which can really make a product stand out above the rest.
I’m definitely happy to keep the Blinkers by Velohub on my trusty hack of a commuter bike, bedecked with its chunky tires and trouser friendly saddle, but, and I think this reflects more negatively on me than it does the Blinkers… I don’t think I’d put them on my road bike
Bottom line – Great indicators for commuting, but some might be turned off by the styling, landing a respectable TG 3/5. I’d have given a 5/5 if the red led’s were greater than say 50 lumens. As it stands, the Blinkers by Velohub are a great addition to a commuter bike, but I’ll also run a brighter rear light as well