New KNOG Blinder LED lights with USB Charger
- by Christopher Jones
- Published: 18 June 2012
KNOG is one of Australia’s success stories. Initiated by Catalyst, a renowned Melbourne industrial design company, KNOG started releasing LED bike lights that utilised silicon as a key material. This meant that the lights could be easily mounted on and removed from almost any bar or tube on the bike. The young and cool urban cyclists identified immediately; KNOG lights were practical, new and trendy.
As KNOG expanded into locks and accessories, the design team always kept on the cutting edge. The new kid on that edge is the Blinder, a very bright 4 LED light with a front white light version with 80 Lumens and rear red light version with 44 Lumens. To put this into perspective, the KNOG Blinder GT stripe version I tested was uncomfortable to look at up close in daylight. On the roads at night or in difficult lighting conditions, it will be hard for other road users to miss you.
I like a product that is self-explanatory, where you can avoid reading a manual, but the KNOG Blinders took a little time to work out. The on/off switch needs to be pressed for a few seconds before the light turns on and, similarly, to turn it off the button needs to be pressed a few seconds. Compared with other lights where you press the button once, and then scroll through the light sequences with a click before the light turns off after reaching the last light sequence, this took a little more getting used to.
When the light is strapped on it is hard to reach the button to select the light sequence, but since the light is essentially set and go, this becomes a non-issue. One thing that got me about this light was the battery level indicator. The blinder lights provide (steady) bright light setting and rather than dimming over time (as the charge runs out) they simply turn off. I missed an indicator that would tell me more than the light has no charge or the light is fully charged, I would like to know that the light needs charging soon.
Let’s get it on!
Mounting the light is an interesting experience compared with other KNOG lights – with the Blinder the elastic silicone is paired with a metal clasp. Rather than just stretching a silicone strap onto a latch, the clasp is levered closed so the light sits tight. For round tubes with average diameters (e.g. seat tubes, handlebars), the lights mount well. A problem arises when the tubing is too small or oversized and when there are non-standard cross-sections.
On my race bike the handlebar diameter near the stem is oversized and it barely allows the Blinder to be mounted. My seat tube is aero and while I can fasten the light, the clasp will open itself immediately. Similarly, the seat stays on this bike too thin, so I couldn’t use the rear Blinder light at all. KNOG specify that the Blinder be mounted on bars/posts between 22 – 35mm in diameter, so it’s worth thinking about where you want to mount the lights so you’re certain they mount well.
The silicon in the mount became sticky with use and tended to attracted dust, though I am used to this and it doesn’t bother me.
The silicon and metal latch give it some flexibility to fit different tubes, though it attracts dust.
The rear light is slightly angled so it points back rather than towards the road.
Lights, Camera, Action
The KNOG Blinders are not lights for illuminating your path, rather they’re for allowing you to be seen on the road. In very dark places, the lights will light up a little bit of the road surface however, if you really need illumination, you need to look for a more serious light.
As a flashing LED, the Blinders will be brighter than most of the LEDs that you see and while I personally prefer a simply flashing sequence, there are four sequences to choose from plus a steady (non-flashing) light. For the constant (steady) light KNOG claims you will get 3 hours of battery life, while for the ‘eco-flash’ you will have up to 50 hours battery life on one charge. In the manual, a discharge function is described where the battery can be discharged for safe storage if the lights aren’t being used for a while.
There are different styles of Blinders, the ones I trialled were the GT stripes front and back and though they look great, I would steer away from the front light in this style. The transparent polycarbonate (lens) stripes wrap slight around the edge which means that while riding, the flashing light is in your field of vision which I found very distracting. The other Blinder styles are sexy so unless you really need the extra speed of the GT Stripes, opt for the Cross, Circle, Standard or Arrow Blinder lights instead.
And now for the cool bit…
It isn’t much fun shopping for ‘watch batteries’ when your light is going dim, and the rechargeable AA or AAA batteries many lights use need to be recharged with a dedicated charger. The Blinder, on the other hand, features a rechargeable battery that is recharged directly via a USB port, which means you can charge them up while you work (if you work with or near a computer) and they’re powered up for the next few commutes. This isn’t a new thing; KNOG already have USB recharging in their Boomer light, but the Blinder has four LEDs and is $40 cheaper per light.
The USB plug pops out easily and goes straight into the USB port of your computer. The plug is at the back of the light and is sealed when mounted which will protect the electronics from water. Though I didn’t go the whole way and see what happens when the lights take a bath, I asked about waterproofing and was told that this has been thoroughly tested.
For a full charge, KNOG suggest charging the Blinder for 5 hours, which is quite a bit of time to tie up a USB port for. On my MacBook Pro (laptop) a bit of juggling was required to make space and realistically, without a USB hub, I can charge only one light at a time. Obviously, you can however charge directly from a power point if you have a USB adapter and this will speed the recharge time . Like a mobile phone, you will probably find yourself charging the Blinder regularly rather than waiting for it to run out.
So should I get some Blinders?
The Blinders are brighter than most LED ‘flashing type’ bike lights and I love the confidence of knowing that I won’t be overlooked by other traffic on the road. Coupled with the USB recharging, the Blinders are fully integrated and are a very convenient option (plus a little friendlier to the environment compared with disposable batteries). These are stylish lights and probably the logical progression in terms of design. At $49.95 per light, there are cheaper lights available, though they probably won’t have the USB battery charging, brightness and style of the Blinders.
I personally would steer away from the GT stripes version for the front light which I found distracting and opt for one of the other Blinder styles. There are 5 colours/styles available and you can see the lights and specs online: knog.com.au/gear-blinder-lights/
Tip: checkout the 4V and 4V Pulse Blinder lights which are coming soon and are a stylish strip of four lights.