Mile 19311: Revolights

 

Revolights Skyline

Have you ever heard about something incredible? When the concept of some insanely awesome device comes along and redefines the way you look at a concept, you can’t help but want to buy it? To invest in the IP, see it through to fruition, to watch it blossom into reality?

That is exactly what Revolights happen to do.

It started off as a strange conceptual device. I heard about these lights a few years back and a few thousand miles ago. Frankly, the idea seemed to ride the line between genius and foolishness. I wanted a set since they came out, however I wasn’t sure for some reason. It begged a lot of questions. In someway, too many questions. Or rather too many due to the price tag of the initial concept was about 200 bucks.

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via revolights.com

Not to say it was a foolish concept. In fact, the design was ingenious. A light ring of LED lights that mounted to a set of rims that clip onto the spokes. The battery pack mounted onto the central hub. It was removable and rechargeable. The system was supposedly weatherproof. It was also was an early concept launched via Kickstarter.com. At the time, it would have made me nervous about investing in the product. It seemed cool, but 200 bucks for a product I couldn’t be guaranteed to receive was far too much. Not to mention I had an okay set of lights and it was only a hundred bucks or so to go with a set of standard, high quality lights.

The burden of proof wasn’t met to justify the expense.

It is also fair to note, I really didn’t have the money to float on a project like this. Also, at that time my main means of transportation was my father’s tri-bike (I rode into the grave.) It had 650cc wheels. That is practically an archaic wheel size that you never see outside of older tri bikes.  I loved the idea, I just couldn’t see a definable, practical use for the wheels.

The other issue that had come up multiple times, was a lack of reviews. The product was not widely available in stores and retailers, it would be a project you would prefer to see in person. The videos and images do not do the lights justice, still… Why were there no reviews?

I checked around for reviews for quite a while. I would see interesting pieces of press on them, or cool snipets concerning them. Yet there wasn’t a hard review. Nothing to say to get a set or to just spend your money else where. The closest I got was a couple of useless ones. “Oh, they look like a pain in the ass to get on, so get ready to spend a couple of hours doing it.” or “The design of the center hub would negatively affect the ride quality. I haven’t tested it, but it is simple physics.”

Reading statements to those affects really did nothing to help me want to pick up a set. I think one of the only ones I found that was halfway useful was a review posted on a cycling blog (much like this one,) but the guy was talking about mounting a set on a 29er and had set the rims off to be custom mounted. He had no pictures of the finished wheels or what the effect was. Instead all he did was post the negative. “If anything, I now hate it when I stop. I don’t like the attention I get thanks to the wheels.”

Obviously, that is pretty far from helpful.

I went ahead and finally said fuck it. I ordered a whole new wheel kit from them. A rear wheel with a flip flop hub. I had it configured for freewheel (because I am not ready for fixed and there be hills. Fuck hills.) It was under 200 for the wheel and light which was pretty good. The rim was a velocity deep v rim, that was like sixty bucks, the light was close to eighty so I knew the hub wouldn’t be great and the spokes might have been cheap. Yet it would work and it would give me the ability to use the lights included.

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Via Revolights.com

That had been a big point to it because I had been hit by a car the night before. I had been clipped by a wing mirror which struck me about in the kidney on my right side. The guy claimed he hadn’t seen the light on my bag and surprisingly admitted that it was his mistake, yet somehow maintained he hadn’t seen me at all.  I was okay, just sore and uncomfortable for the rest of the week. Gwen enjoyed cuddling me right there.

Anyways, Fast forwarding to now…

I wrecked my rear wheel to the point where it was coming apart. I had three spokes come loose as I was riding my way back home the night the new wheel came in. I had broken a dozen spokes on the old one and rebuilt the wheel once. It had a nice hub, a black 32 spoke All City Sheriff. That hub alone is amazing. Yet the rim was neither true nor round. Which is the cycling way to say it didn’t travel in a straight line and it would buck because the rim was a circle anymore.

It took a trip out to Grove City to pick up the wheel because Fedex had completely fucked the order. Honestly, I was looking at riding about twenty four miles on the bike just to go pick up the wheel that day because they had screwed things up that bad. It isn’t part of my review about the wheel per say. Revolights got my wheel out and shipping in 3 business days, 7 business days faster than normal because this was an emergency and I made it clear it was. Fedex was just trying to fuck with it and yeah…

That’s all I have to say on the shipping.

Anyways, I picked up the wheel. I got back, open up the box (which was massive,) and there is the new wheel. The battery pack had shipped with a charge which proved it worked prior to shipping. The wheel was pristine. It came with a track gear (16 tooth,) and a freewheel (16 tooth,) premounted. This is what I had been running on the bike before.

Now a quick note, I haven’t used the track gear, but I would imagine its garbage. So is the initial freewheel. It came with a Tri Diamond. I couldn’t find much on them, except that they were practically being given away online. I had a Shimano freewheel on the bike and it is such an improvement in ride it is unreal (I will probably do a review on it shortly.) Also, the hub in made by a company out of china and so are the spokes.  I’m not sure on the company, but the parts seem solid thus far. The rim is a USA made Velocity Deep V 36 spoke wheel. That is actually what sold me on the wheel. I have heard such amazing things on the Deep Vs and that Velocity makes a mean rim. So far, it is the truth.

The question remains, what do I think of the lights?

If somebody asked me what I thought of it, I would say “Go out and invest in a set. It is worth it.” That is the simplest version I could state.

It is important to note that I do an assload of nighttime cycling. I did a half century over the weekend at 1 in the morning for no real reason. I just wanted to ride. I forgot to bring my camera again, so I don’t have any in action shots of the bike from that. But I know I was far more visible because of the new wheel.

Positively fantastic design meets form.

The design is so simple and took less than a couple of minutes to set up. Total installation on one of these is something like an hour or so if you have to put the kit on the wheel. Considering that would be something you are only really doing once, I would take the hour to have that much better of a light kit.

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via revolights

There is a couple of magnets that have to be put on the bike frame in order to help the system know what direction it is spinning. The cool thing about that system happens to be you are never worried about the light facing the wrong direction. Also, there is a slight accelerometer inside the assembly. This allows the wheel to blink the lights when you are slowing down and to stay constant when the speed is even.

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via revolights

The lights are clearly visible and the battery seems to last the definite 4 hours that they said it would. I mean, its tough to judge when you are on the bike but I have set it up and watched it. Somebody would have to be lying to say they didn’t see the wheel. Also, the fact that the lights are red (and conversely, the front one is white,) helps you feel more like a car. In fact, I would imagine that people feel more like they are dealing with a car or actual vehicle when they see lights in that configuration.

I have had more than a few people ask me about the wheel and I seem to get constant comments. I’ve seen more than a few people looking over at what I had running on the bike. It definitely grabs the eye more than my little bag light. It isn’t all positive. I had some guy in an Escalade follow me for like 3 blocks until I told him where I got the light.  Of course, I have also had people tell me they hadn’t been expecting to see the light where it was at or to keep an eye out for a cyclist with a light system like this.

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I guess until it has wider implementation, that will be the way it is.

Now, I can only talk about what I have seen and not about what I have experienced with the front wheel. The white light system on that looks less like a designated head lamp like the one I have on the bike, rather it looks like a short distance throw to cover from the wheel to where your light typically starts. Also, it looks like it is really designed to boost your visibility which it does fantastically.

This doesn’t mean it is without some issues.

I have had the kit less than three weeks thus far and I already seem to have a little split on the cable line to the battery. It should be easy to fix, but I don’t like having to fix it so soon. I will be contacting Revolights and asking them about it.

A big issue I found a little tough to deal with and get used to, was again with the battery pack. It does charge via USB mini, which lets face it everything does now a days. However, because I don’t bring the bike inside I have to disengage the battery pack. This is a harder thing to do than I would like.

The problem is, this is a two step process. You have to reach in between the spokes and separate the wire connector for the battery pack to the lights. They made the fit incredibly tight. I understand the reasoning. It has to be near weatherproof. However, it is very tough to actually decouple. It is also nearly as difficult to couple them when you put the pack back in. The orientation on it is fantastic, so unlike USB drives (or anything USB) you never have to worry about doing it the wrong way. You just have to apply a lot of force.

The bigger issue is the process to remove the battery pack from the clip on the hub. The way this was done is also ingenious, but is a pain in the ass. It is just a simple lever clip. You pinch up on the lever to release the pack. The reason why this is tough is due to the fact that it isn’t in the instructions. There was no guide as to whether you pinched or pulled. Ultimately, I just wrenched on it a bit until I could get it to clip out.

This has cost me some time. I forgot the way it clipped. Again, the spacing due to you reaching between spokes made it a challenge to get enough leverage on the pack clip. The best (only) solution I have found is to push the pack as far into the guide as you can and then pinch on the lever. This releases the pack without issue, it is just a challenge in dexterity. I mean, I have giant stupid sausages for fingers.

Luckily, Revolights listens to the people.

The big thing to note, it looks like Revolights understands that this was an issue and have chosen to rethink this set up. They decided on going back to the drawing board for the Eclipse and now the battery pack clips onto the wheel. That eliminates wires and cleans up the overall build on the wheel.

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via revolights

Also, the Eclipse + is promising bluetooth control. It will have some nifty (not really useful) features. Features like remote start up, or the ability to communicate with your phone. They are developing an app for it as well (what company isn’t…) The only reason why I bring it up, the new model is looking at turn signals. Some form of bluetooth controller on the handlebars. That would give you the ability to finally signal in a way drivers expect and honestly, that is worth the investment and upgrade.

The send off.

In short, the lights are definitely worth it. I would offer to anyone who does hard core cycling in city or even just casual cycling in any area where there might be cars, you should own a set. The system is amazingly simple and the future looks bright (haha, I know lights, bright. Shut up.) What they have planned for the future is awesome. I would say for the moment, feel free to invest. It is definitely expensive, but it is an investment you make once. Just hold onto your previous lights.

Anyways, Im stepping off my soap box on this. I hope you all have a lovely day, and ride safe.

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