I’ve previously written about the Knog Blinders that I use on my bikes. They are lights of the “be seen” variety, not lights of the “see what’s ahead” variety. They’ve been great. I’ve put them through 8 months of hard use, and they’ve been dunked, covered in mud, rained upon, ridden through salty slush, and otherwise abused. They’ve come through with flying colors. Particularly as Axletree takes a step towards ensuring visibility of cyclists by using lighting appropriately, I’ve loved my Blinders. They’re small, light, bright, easy to use, have remarkable runtimes, and super-easy to charge. They’re fantastic. I wouldn’t change a thing…or so I thought.
When I demo’d the Trek 520 a few days ago, it had a set of the new Blinders on it. The Knog Blinder 2 is a front light–a ‘see where you’re going’ light. The Blinder R is a new version of the Blinder for the rear, with a few updates. Let’s see ’em.
This is the Blinder 2:
It has 2 buttons, which control the various settings of the 2 bulbs. You can have one or both on, with varying intensity, and with or without flashing. I have not run these long enough to be informed about runtimes. Knog claims 1 hour on super-high-beam, 2 hours on low-beam, and 6+ hours on flash (‘be seen’ mode). Because of the varying settings and ease of adjustment, you can tailor your light to your conditions. Mounting is via the same, simple (effective) silicone strap that my Blinders use.
This is the Blinder R. See that clear line down the side? At night, it emits light from that clear line, increasing sideways visibility. Brilliant.
The top 3 LEDs are your standard, eye-searing LEDs, that are pointed straight out of the light. On a seatpost, that means they’re angled slightly down. As with my Blinders, there are multiple settings from steady red to eye-catching flash patterns to disco-dancing.
The bottom LED is a mega-LED which is super-bright, even in daylight. Amazingly visible.
And here’s the secret of that bottom LED: it’s angled.
Because it is slightly angled, it shines directly back towards traffic when mounted on a seatpost. This very tiny change in design pays huge dividends. From behind, there is a very noticeable difference in light intensity based on the angle of the light. It’s pretty amazing, and a noticeable improvement over the Blinder that I have. My next taillight will be a Blinder R.
That brings us to the Blinder 2 up front.
I ‘picked up’ the 520 at about 11 at night. (And by picked up, I mean that I snuck it out of someone’s garage). It had the Knogs on it. I was planning on riding during the day, so I didn’t really need them, but they were on the bike already, so I figured what the heck. I wheeled the bike out of the garage, and looked at the little Blinder 2. I figured that as small as it is, it really couldn’t be a useful headlight. I mean a tiny, waterproof, rechargeable headlight? For headlights to be useful, they must be huge, with wires and battery packs and velcro straps–perhaps a small gasoline engine powering a generator. The Knog Blinder 2 was self-contained. Tiny. Unnoticeable.
It was dark, so I flipped on the light, and was blown away. I took a quick spin around the block, and was amazed at the light output.
I was so amazed that when I got home, to my neighborhood with no lighting, I went back out for another, longer spin. In my neighborhood, it’s DARK at night. The Blinder 2 seriously impressed me. On the high-beam setting with both lights running, it’s easily bright enough for any kind of night-biking, including high-speed gravel rides. On that setting, it sports the estimated 1 hour run time, so it wouldn’t be terribly useful for gravel rides…but would be an AMAZING commuter light. It’s rated at 200 lumens. That’s either underrating the output, or the beam is incredibly well-focused. With 2 buttons, it is very easy to control the setting of each LED. I tried taking some night pictures, but the brightness of the LEDs overwhelmed my camera.
On low-beam, with an estimated 2 hour runtime, it was plenty bright for me to feel confident up to 20mph. I wouldn’t necessarily want to bomb down a steep hill at high-speed, but flat-land riding was no problem.
On combo low/flash, I had plenty of light to see at any reasonable speed, and the flashing pattern was very noticeable (when looking head-on), but not seizure inducing for me, the rider. That setting has longer battery life yet.
In the winter, we do a lot of gravel night rides that tend to be around the 2 hour mark. The Blinder 2 would likely work about perfect in that application. Heck, as small, inexpensive and light as it is, you could have 2, and run one until it’s dead (and then switch on the second). The price of 2 of these is still only about half of one of the massive bike headlights with a separate battery. For that matter, these are tiny enough that they’re a great pocket-light. When I’m riding solo, I sometimes worry about my headlight dying, or about needing some extra light to effect a roadside repair. A Blinder 2 would be a great insurance policy. Throw it in your jersey pocket or saddlebag, and it’s there if you need it. If you don’t need it, you won’t notice it.
All of that said, I think the best application for these is likely town-rides. When you want to be able to ride to the bar and need to both see and be seen…mounting the light takes all of 3 seconds. Ride to the bar with great visibility, and pull the light off and stick it in your pocket. (If you don’t go to the bar, substitute another location. Ride to the library. Ride to the Trader Joe’s. Ride to the local cooperative.) In between rides, use the integrated USB plug to recharge it just about anywhere.
The design of these lights is their greatest advantage. They’re tiny. They’re brilliant (and by that, I mean bright and amazing). They’re waterproof. They’re durable. They’re great. Their flexibility and ‘pocket-ability’ are huge assets. Very, very well done. Pick one up at your local bike shop. A shout-out to North Central Cyclery for letting me demo these.