When you're riding your bike at night, it would be nice to have a force field to protect you from oncoming bugs, kicked-up dust and the smell of car exhaust. Unfortunately, the technology to create such a cone of calm doesn't exist yet, but there is a set of bike lights called Orfos Flares blasting through its Kickstarter campaign at the moment that can create a different kind of force field around you -- one made of light.
That might not sound like much, but one of the most dangerous things about riding a bike at night is that motorists tend to have a hard time seeing you. By surrounding yourself in a pool of light, like that produced by the Orfos Flares, you stand a better chance of avoiding being hit by a car -- something a bit more important than keeping bugs out of your teeth, eh?
The Orfos Flares create their powerful glow, which the manufacturers claim can be seen for a full 360 degrees, in a unique way. They have nine half-watt LED bulbs embedded in clear silicone to create a powerful diffuse light that makes the red light equal to 300 lumens, or as much as a car's taillight, and the white light equal to 500 lumens, as much as a car's daytime running lights, according to the manufacturers. Speaking of running lights, the manufacturers of the Orfos Flares say they're powerful enough to be seen even in daylight, so they give you an extra chance of being spotted on a gloomy morning by drivers who might not have had their coffee yet.
The lights, which are weatherproof and have been taken 50 feet under the water with no signs of leakage, come in a two-part kit. A mount goes on the bike using cable ties, and then the lights snap into place thanks to the power of neodymium magnets. This lets you slip the lights off for charging inside -- or for simple theft avoidance. The lights promise to run for 24 hours on a 90-minute charge, which they get through a micro USB cable.
Right now you can get a white or red light for $119 (about £74, AU$136) or both for $229 (about £143, AU$262). The expected retail is $140 for one light and $270 for two. That all seemed kind of spendy to me, so I asked Peter Clyde, the inventor of the Flares, why the price tag was so high. Clyde said that other American-made lights, like his, are equally costly but that his lights lead the market in terms of innovation and quality.
"These lights are potted in silicone, which is a labor intensive, time-consuming process essentially only used by the military or aerospace industry," he said. "It is the most durable way of protecting electronics. The battery chemistry is more expensive than the low quality lithium-ion batteries often used in rechargeable consumer products. We chose this chemistry to give the product a significantly longer life span. Lastly, the custom magnets in the product and mount are N52-grade neodymium, which is a price premium over the lower grades of neodymium typically used in consumer products."
I next asked Clyde a bit more about the battery-life component of the lights. "Typical lithium-ion cell phone batteries retain full capacity for only about 300 to 500 charge cycles," he told me. "This is why after two years your phone battery dies so fast. In contrast, (our batteries) retain full capacity for a few thousand charge cycles." He says he expects that with daily use, the batteries will last about six years before their capacity is noticeably reduced. Less frequent use would allow them to last even longer.
Apparently, there are a lot of other backers out there who appreciate this degree of attention to quality details and don't mind the price one bit. His campaign is about half over and it's nearly quadrupled the initial $20,000 goal. If you want to get in on the light action, you still have some time, as the campaign ends on November 18. The Flares are expected to be delivered in early 2015.