Sydney based industrial designer Bruce Hanlee launched TwoWheelCool (TWC) in 2012 with his first cycling accessory called airhead, a spikey looking silicon liner for your helmet to give you more ‘air in your hair’, or rather to eliminate helmet hair. Spurred on by local importer Eureka (who also look after Nutcase helmets), TwoWheelCool have been expanding its lineup of bike accessories, such as the TWC silicon toecaps, and now reaches an international market.
When I heard the announcement and saw the first pictures of their new bike light, I was excited because their helmet mounted light looked, quite simply, perfect. For many years I commuted by bike with an old style cateye red flasher attached to the helmet. These were a real DIY solution as I had to resort to cable-ties because the ‘clip’ mounts always broke, and when corrosion became an issue I would try to waterproof with silicon and superglue to keep the rudimentary lights in action.
The DIY lights served a practical purpose; mounted high on my helmet, I felt that they made me more noticeable on the roads and they were convenient because they were attached to my helmet and there is less change of having my bike lights stolen (I tend to take my helmet with me).
The TWC Pilot Light in detail
At first glance, the Pilot Light is a clever solution; quite flat so that it is unobtrusive on the helmet, it is flexible so it can suit different helmet forms, plus it also includes a front light – brilliant.
The Pilot Light is USB chargeable. This seems to be the standard with electonic bike accessories. I have resorted to running an external USB hub from my computer to charge all of the devices. The USB port on the light is behind a hidden flap which gives it secure ‘water resistant’ protection. I had a few damp rides (but escaped tropical downpours) and can’t report any problems with water entering the unit.
To mount the light, two long, thin velcro straps are provided. Passing through the light, the straps feed through air vents in your helmet and, through the power of velcro, it is quite easy to setup. You may need to temporarily remove helmet padding and, while the light is easy to remove, it is convenient to leave it on the helmet permanently. Excess velcro can be trimmed, though if you are sharing the light between different helmets, check the required velcro lengths first before trimming.
So far so good, but….. and it is a BIG BUT – the Pilot Light wont suit all helmets; some hardshell helmets don’t have vents, or don’t have vents which accommodate the velcro straps. Some helmets have bug nets and wont let the strap pass through. And some helmets have vents or a form which simply doesn’t work well with the Pilot Light.
For a lightweight Limar road cycling helmet I wear, I had to mount the light relatively far back. With my ‘bent over, head down’ road cycling riding position, the light was infact well positioned and angled while I rode. On a Kali MTB helmet which I use, bug nets also meant mounting further back and the air vent placement was not perfectly suited, but still worked reasonably. The light has a number of slots for the velcro which provides a little more flexibility.
Turning the light on and off is straight forward; the button is above the red lights at the thick end. Press down and hold to turn it on or off. A quick press cycles through the four modes:
1. front = blinking & back = blinking
2. front = steady & back = steady
2. front = steady & back = blinking
3. front = blinking & back = steady
It is best to turn on the light and chose the preferred setting before putting your helmet on; while riding the on/off/mode button is fiddly to locate and, to be certain that you have the required mode selected, it really is best to ‘see’ rather than rely on the dexterity of your digits.
This was an issue for me on early morning rides when it was still dark. I generally prefer a blinking front and back light, but when it is too dark, the flashing front light is extremely distraction, so a steady is better. I would begin my ride with the steady white light up front and the flashing red at the back. When there was enough light to be able to switch to a flashing front (without the ill effects of the strobe), I would have to stop safely, remove my helmet, select the flashing/flashing mode and then continue. While this will not be an issue for everyone, a two button approach (one for the front, one for the back) is a potential solution.
For interest, the flashing mode will give you a much longer run-time and, for busier riding locations, will give you a better chance of being noticed by other road users. The flip side is that with a flashing light it is harder for other road users to judge your speed and distance in comparison with a steady light.
The lights are bright at 40 lumens; they are definitely ‘to be seen’ rather that ‘to see’ and I was quite satisfied with the brightness. These are not suited (nor intended) for very dark riding conditions, but are an excellent secondary and backup light.
So how effective is the Pilot Light? This is a question I need to answer based on my perception. I found that vehicles on the road were generally more cautious when overtaking or waiting to pull out of side streets. This is the same effect as when I have bright bike lights (i.e. 1000 lumens, pointed down of course and not to dazzle). In dim or dark conditions, the Pilot Light was always used in addition to bike mounted lights and I used a variety up front and back. Vehicles become more cautious when they think a Christmas tree is approaching. Although, because I am riding in Sydney traffic, no matter how visible I am on a bicycle, there are always a few drivers who remain oblivious to safe driving.
The Two Wheel Dork
This is a cool light, it looks good and is functional. It is a great accessory for the super bike commuter. The super commuter is someone who knows the best bike routes into work, they know all about wet weather riding, and they chose their equipment for functionality. It means that bike commuters are, in a way, bike nerds. For bike nerds the Pilot Light is an excellent additional light.
But on the road bike, whether you are a weekend warrior or have competitive aspirations, bike accessories need to be compact, lightweight and aero. The Pilot Light ‘kind of’ looks aero, but it is still bulky enough that it will probably slow you down. And coming in at 52 grams on the scales, it will make a road rider feel as though they are shackled to the tarmac.
For a road cyclist, it is a little bit dorky and doesn’t satisfy the Official Euro Cyclist Code of Conduct.
Do you or don’t you?
The Pilot Light works well as a ‘to be seen’ bike light and for urban cyclists is conveniently positioned on the helmet for good visibility in traffic. Commuter and touring cyclists may want to consider the Pilot Light as a second light for increased visibility.
The TwoWheelCool Pilot Light retails for $39.95 and, while you will find it at some retailers, the
TwoWheelCool online shop can fit you out with one in lots of colours; black, white, mint, fluro, orange, red and pink. [edit – broken hyperlink removed]
Omni wearable light
This is a review about the Pilot Light however the distributor, Eureka brands, also sell an Omni wearable light. The concept is that the Omni is a versatile light which you can put on your bike or a bag or around your arm or ankle while riding.
I didn’t warm up to this light however and I tried and failed to mount it on properly my bike; it always seemed dangle or hang precariously. Around my ankle it felt rigid and constricting. Perhaps it is a nice way to keep your trousers from flapping around, and there are riders out there for whom the omni is a perfect light, but it is not for me.
If it tickles your fancy, the Omni lights are currently on sale in Australia for $20, down from $39.95 [edit – hyperlink broken, sale no longer applicable]