The Power of Versatility: knog PWR Trail Bike Light in Review

knog power offroad light

Innovation is the calling-card for the young and iconic bike brand knog. Bike lights, bike locks and bells have all been ‘re-imagined’ and today the brand has a legion of fans who appreciate the cheekiness and the contrast to the masses of mundane accessories. This year, knog released their new PWR range which features mid and high-powered bike lights. The twist is that the batteries double as a power banks, a backup power supply that can be used to charge your other electronic devices.

Worldwide sales kicked off in September and I had my first hands-on at Eurobike in Germany where knog co-founder Hugo Davies and one of the leading industrial designers of PWR, Anton von Maanen, discussed the ins-and-outs. The PWR range is a significant step beyond the ‘fun’ silicon induced designs which have epitomised the knog brand, The new designs are sleek and minimalistic so would be right at home in a sci-fi film or advert for men’s after shave.

hugo knog
Hugo Davies of knog

For the review on Bicycles Network Australia I received the PWR Trail, a robust, high-powered bike light. The PWR Trail is part of the new knog PWR series, lets explore the range first and then take a closer look at the Trail.

 

Mix and Match your PWR

PWR comes in two main versions, the ‘Charger’ with 2 lights and ‘Modular’ with 3 lights. Charger is the little brother, both are 450 lumen lights which also work as a power bank, the USB connection lets you can charge your cycle computer, action cam or other electronic device.

The PWR Commuter model is shorter and lighter with 40 minutes run-time on maximum power while the longer and slightly heavier PWR Rider lasts for 2 hours.

The big brother is the ‘Modular’ series of with interchangeable light heads and battery units. Most riders would purchase a light head and battery as a combo and there are three main sizes, lights heads or additional batteries can be also purchased individually. Like the smaller units, the batteries can also charge and power electronic devices as well as knog’s own camping lamp and bluetooth speaker. The difference is that the light head on the higher powered ‘Modular’ lights needs to be removed before it can be used for charging or powering other devices.

knog detatchable bike light

lumens lights

pwr lighthead 600 1000 lumen
The PWR Mountain with attached and detatched battery units

As the batteries for the ‘Modular’ are completely now removable, it presents a solution for the inevitable battery degradation. Instead of replacing an entire bike light, just the battery alone is replaced and this saves money and resources. With so many electronic units being fully-enclosed, when the battery is degraded the entire unit is effectively useless so replaceable batteries are a step in the right direction.

In the PWR modular range, you get 800 lumens for the PWR Road, 1000 Lumens for the PWR Trail and a whopping 1800 lumens on the PWR Mountain, each of these have a minimum runtime on full power of 2 hours.

The lower powered charger range has only just become available to order though a few of the accessories  and top powered 1800 PWR Mountain are first available in 2018. Likewise the ModeMaker app to ‘design’ your flashing sequences was originally due this year and now billed for 2018.

 

The PWR Trail in detail

It is easy to get a high power 1000 Lumen light these days but using them on public roads in Australia is tricky. At full-power, the extra illumination from these bike lights allows you to see the road ahead much better, but they also more easily blind on-comers. The PWR Trail in its highest light setting is (as the name suggests) at home off-road but it brings enough versatility to be a light for every occasion.

bike light knog

To turn the light on, twist the head and after a few seconds it turns on. When you release the head it returns to the original position, if you twist again briefly it changes to the next light mode. The 3 powerful LEDs can be programmed with the ModeMaker app (due in 2018) so you can customise it to suit your requirements.

The PWR Trail has a broad and even beam and will light up obstacles immediately ahead. It throws enough light ahead and into the surrounding environment to help you orientate and choose a good line. For the sake of detail orientated readers, there is no hot-spot and the light appears balanced and gentle. Tourers and adventurers will get the performance and illumination they need though to tackle the terrain.

If you were to use this as a helmet mounted spotlight, the balanced beam doesn’t give you the distance and intensity that many riders prefer to shine far ahead on fast fire-trails and single-track.

For commuters and road cyclists the PWR Trail is overkill if you choose the brightest light setting. But tone it down a little to the medium light and works well, other traffic will notice you and tend to be more cautious.

pwr trail bike light

On-road, the PWR trail does two things particularly well. Firstly, the light-head is designed to spill a little light to the sides which increases your visibility. However it is also designed to prevent the bright light from seeping into your eyes which is a common issue among bike lights that try and provide 180 degree visibility.

The second great attribute is the ‘pulsing’ light setting, this is a steady beam is enhanced with a bright pulsing flash. It is my favourite light combination as it lets you see wile the flashing also helps get attention from traffic. Although this type of light setting has been included in many other knog lights before, there is a difference because on the PWR trail this stroboscopic light doesn’t distract the rider. The main beam which lights your way remains steady and the flashing is peripheral.

The quality of the construction and the light output try and do justice to the $159.95 price tag. Beyond the high quality finish with modernist aluminium casing, the power bank functionality really works. I used it a few times to recharge my mobile phone and with 30% charge on my iPhone 6s and it took just 90 minutes to reach full charge.

commuter bike light

This light also has a feature which should be standard for any battery powered device, a good ‘charge indicator’. On the PWR Trail there are four tiny red status lights, they are both pretty and informative. Most bike lights on the market struggle to deliver speedy and understandable feedback to the user; some lights use different coloured lights (green, amber, blue), different status light brightnesses or different status light flashing sequences. On this light it is straight forward and I really appreciated the simplicity.

 

PWR me up

The PWR range is part of a bigger concept with power-packs that can charge various outdoor devices. Knog have a few products due for release next year including a camping light and a Bluetooth speaker. In essence, the batteries are versatile power banks, they include a USB port to connect and charge electronic devices. I was able to use the 500mAh PWR Trail battery as a power bank to recharge my iPhone 6s with 30% up to 100% in 90 minutes.

knog handlebar mount

knog pwr trail connected

knog pwr power bank
Example of the Charger (and not Modular)

 

Not all that glitters is gold

Considering the work and attention to detail by the knog team in designing and bringing an entire range to market, it is very hard to be critical. At the other side of the spectrum are the bike riders who want a good product for the money, and want to read fair reviews.

In the case of the knog PWR Trail my criticisms are centred around the ‘side mount’ to fasten the light onto your handlebars. At a glance it looks good, it is light, compact and the provided rubber shim lets it fit handle bars of 22.2mm and 31.8mm in diameter.

knog bike light spacer

bike mount knog

side mount thumb

But… it is very fiddly, from attaching and fastening the mount to the bars, to sliding the light onto the mounting rail and then using a reverse thumb-screw with spring to fasten the light into place. As an everyday light you don’t get the same convenience as lights with simple plastic clips, o-rings or silicon straps which feature in many other knog lights. The elegance in design is overshadowed by complexity and practical use.

As I switch bikes frequently and have different diameter bars, I need patience to setup the light each time. If you are just using the mount on a single bike it is easier, but even so, sliding and fasting the light unit requires more steps than for other detachable lights.

For less common handlebar diameters or tapered bars, instead of the shim I suggest using a strip of old innertube. For larger 31.8mm diameter bars you may want to use a rubber strip anyway because the light can slip and move.

mounting knog light

knog pwr lights

Unfortunately I am not yet done with the PWR side mount. When I rode I had to mount the light above the bars as it was difficult to have it comfortably fit below the bars. The long tubular light is hard to position amongst brake and gear cables. A nice mounting position would be with the light set directly below the stem however the angle and length of the stem will impact the angle of the light.

handlebar mount

Finally, the plastic mount is prone to vibration. The plastic side-mount with the weighty light sends enough inertia through that even on moderate bitumen the flex is noticeable. The real problems start on the trails and as each shock or impact travels through the bike, the mount shakes. Unlike a helmet mounted light or a ‘solid’ bike mounted light, the extra movement of the projected light is distracting while riding. As it isn’t a generic mount, you can’t easily replace it with a solid third party aluminium mount (as for action camera such as GoPro).

 

The Knog PWR Trail in a nutshell

If you are after a single front bike light that provides the power to go off-road but also serve you for daily commuting, the PWR Trail can fit the bill as a versatile all-rounder. Cycle tourers will appreciate the elegant design and back-up power bank capabilities. However the over-complicated mount is annoying if you change bikes regularly and if you tackle challenging off-road terrain, look out for the cable extensions due out in 2018.

knog bright light

Pure road cyclists and commuters should look into the ‘Charger’ range, particularly the PWR Rider which has a silicon strap mount but still delivers a lot of light power.

visit: knog.com.au/pwr



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About The Author

Christopher Jones is a recreational cyclist and runs a professional design business, Signale. As the driving force behind Bicycles.net.au he has one of each 'types' of bicycles.

One response to “The Power of Versatility: knog PWR Trail Bike Light in Review”

  1. Travis Rich says:

    Great product and finally one you can do more with than just use it as head light. Hugo Davidson (Davies incorrect) and the guys at Knog are onto something.. and an nAussie company, Bonus!

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