Head-turner: knog PWR Commuter Bike Light in Review

My perfect bike light could be different to your perfect bike light. Mine is a rechargeable light that is easy and fast to mount on the handlebars. It shouldn’t move around too much on the bars, best is when I can mount under the handlebars to keep the top of the bars free. It needs to have adjustable light settings with a bright steady beam, a medium steady beam and a pulsing light sequence. It should be small, but also have a reasonable runtime a while on high beam. Overall, the bicycle light needs to be practical and good looking.

The knog PWR Commuter ticks many of the boxes. It is a far smaller light than the 1000 lumen knog PWR Trail which has been reviewed already on Bicycles Network Australia and in many ways, the PWR Commuter is far better suited to my everyday riding.

knog pwr review handlebar mount

The Commuter is the smallest light in the PWR range and operates both as a bike light and as a power bank so can recharge your portable electronic devices. The 450 lumen PWR Commuter and PWR Rider models belong to the ‘Charger’ range that have with integrated (non-removable) light heads while the higher powered ‘Modular’ range  have interchangeable lightheads that can detach completely from the battery.

The PWR Commuter, on review now is 24mm shorter than its bigger brother and has a 40 minute runtime on maximum power compared to 2 hours for the Rider. It also has a slightly different beam pattern and to wrap it up, there is only a $15 price difference so I suspect that the keener cyclists would tend towards the higher powered PWR Rider.

 

You’ve Got The Look

The PWR range represents a notable change in aesthetics and design for knog and if you wish to learn out more about the transition of knog, the PWR Trail Bike Light review provides a background on the knog PWR range. As the smallest sized and smallest capacity bike light in the knog PWR series, the Commuter maintains the elegant black styling which is accented with the very useful and futuristic style battery indicator lights.

knog led lumen

Whilst modern and minimalistic, the form and colour makes it neutral enough to compliment almost any bike type. This is a great looking light that is right at home on your nicest bicycle.

 

Unboxing

The packaging is compact and a bit of fun to explore. I prefer to keep the packaging intact but with this light, it wasn’t possible. Once you extract the charging cable and find the Allen key, you can then unscrew the light to release it from the packaging. The silicon handlebar mount, spacer and light screw together with the supplied screw and Allen key and your new light is ready to go. Put your reading glasses on if you need to a look out for the the hidden goodie “you can never overcook a sausage“… I won’t explain that any further but you will know if you have spotted it.

knog pwr unboxing

rip open box packaging

unboxing knog pwr commuter

knog pwr commuter mount

knog light mount

knog pwr light review

Out of the box, the light arrives with a bit of charge and the red status indicators provide a clear indication of remaining charge and also status while recharging. The on/off/mode button is easy to locate, just press and hold for a small moment to start it up. There are nine light sequences and the knog ModeMaker App (for iOS and Android) allows you to program the lights to suit your preferences, more on that later.

knog pwr status lights

To charge the light you need to remove end cap. The release button is visually similar to the on/off/mode button but is red, press down twist back and forth to remove the cap. A tight O-Ring seal of the end cap keeps it water-tight and means it fits snug. With the cap removed, there are 3 ports, one of them however is not really a port, just an hole to trick you. It looks just like a UBS port and it is inevitable that you will accidentally try and connect a USB cable at some stage.

knog usb micro charging

The other large hole is the actual USB port to which you can connect external electronic devices to recharge them. The smallest port allows you connect the supplied micro(B) USB cable to recharge the light. You can recharge from your computer or power adapter with the supplied USB connector.

 

Setup and functions

One of the best features is that it is fast and easy to mount and unmount the PWR Commuter on your handlebars. That is exactly what I want because I commute a lot by bike, the convenience and security of being able to easily take my bike light with me is important.

In the mounting strap there are two notches to accommodate different diameter handlebars and the silicon stretches to make up the rest. At first the mounting was fiddly but I quickly got the hang of it so can get it on and off in a breeze. This silicon mount beats the ‘buckle’ style mounting used on a host of older knog lights which (to phrase it diplomatically) were problematic.

knog light review silicon strap

knog light mount handlebars

Another plus point is the adjustable mount. The silicon strap makes it easy to angle the light up or down but the light can also be rotated left or right. I discovered this by accident and it was a pleasant surprise, there are notches so it can be twisted and stays in place. I could easily twist the light a few degrees left or right to properly center the beam ahead of me.

One thing that this light struggles with is mounting up-side-down. I prefer the upside down position for lights on the handlebars but brake and gear cables can get in the way. Even if you get a nice position, when you ride around corners, the cables move about and can knock against the light. The way the knog light is designed, the lens allows some light to spill out from the bottom half of the light. This helps make you more visible from the sides when riding at night and is a plus. But if you want to mount the bike light underneath the bars, now the light spills from the top and this extra light is in your field of vision as you ride. When the shine of a bike light is in my field of view I find it distracting, particularly on flashing or pulsing light modes.

knog commuter bike light review

The high powered ‘modular’ lights in the PWR range solve this by allowing light to spill just from the left and right side which provides more side visibility in traffic so I would love to see this light also use the same lens design.

 

Let’s talk about Power

Lights have come a long way over the last decade when you compare a modern rechargeable bike light with the old bike lights that demanded four (non-rechargeable) double-A batteries. I even remember the massive paperback sized bike lights with a heavy 4.5 volt battery that still struggled to power a feeble light bulb. Glad those days are over.

Now we are in an age of smart phones, electric cars and jet packs… ok, we were meant to get the jet packs and hover boards by now but are still waiting for those. What we do have is smaller and more powerful batteries along with an array of power hungry electronic devices. The knog PWR tries to satisfy this thirst by delivering light power and also providing backup power. On a bike this can be fairly handy, bike electronics are commonplace and cycle computers with full colour screens or action video camera’s recording at full-HD quality can be recharged on the fly.

Besides testing for the review, occasionally the PWR commuter was an emergency power supply to top up my mobile phone. In practice the battery pack was only  ‘just in case’ and for those moments it was good.

The PWR commuter promised 40 minutes of bright light at the highest setting of 450 Lumens and in my testing, this was spot-on except during really cold temperatures where it would run out sooner. When I first started using the light, I didn’t have the run-time in mind so was surprised how fast it ran out on the full power light mode. Knog explained that the average cycle commute time is less than 40 minutes and this is where the PWR Commute fits in… they are trying to keep it as light and compact as possible.

You can either do short commutes on full power or use a medium or low power setting to travel further. If want a longer runtime, the PWR Rider delivers 2 hours on the highest light setting.

I was happy with the brightness of the medium power (steady light) which is 190 Lumens. The cars notice this and it sufficient to illuminate the way ahead. With the medium power I get about 1.5 hours runtime. This is enough to get me there and back for commutes but on the road bike it is far too short.

knog side light

To keep it as confusing as possible, the high power setting is called ride and the medium power setting is called Commuter. Initially knog claimed 2.5 hours runtime on this setting however I couldn’t achieve this and reported it, later knog revised their charts and corrected it to 1.5 hours.

knog runtime

My favourite light mode for daytime riding is the pulse which has a steady beam and bright pulses every second or so. The pulses make you more noticeable to other road users and because it is quite different to regular bike lights and I feel that motorists show more caution when the see something unfamiliar.

The runtime for the Pulse mode is pitched at 2.5 hours however I simply couldn’t get more than 70 minutes, less than half the expected runtime. I ran a lot of tests (always completely charging) and was ready to publish this review in March… but wanted to get to the bottom of the runtime discrepancies and passed it over to knog. There was a bit more back and forth and testing on both sides before it was identified that although the light in review was not marked as a sample, it was assembled prior to the mass production and hence had a few anomalies which were rectified. In other words, you can expect to have the advertised battery runtime in all modes.

As expected, the flashing modes provide longer runtimes, reported up to 35 hours with the Eco-Flash although I find these distracting while cycling so avoid them when possible.

 

Knog ModeMaker – Program your lights

The ModeMaker software was due to be released in 2017 though the date was pushed back and the beta has been available since February. On the Mac, the installation is fairly easy (dmg file) and I installed version 1.9.8.

know modemaker app

When I first opened I saw a login screen though the app almost immediately started downloading an update and I was asked to restart. My updated version was 1.9.10.11 and was titled Blond Gorilla. Trust me, you will be disappointed if you search for that in Google. At the time of publishing (Septmeber 2018) this version is still current.

Following the update, again I am presented with a login screen that I would prefer to skip and just start using like the Garmin Virb Edit (video editing) and Cycliq applications. Why do I need to setup an account to simply change my light modes? Knog commented that they are still in beta and in this phase will work out the best approach and options.

Until then, the knog ModeMaker just needs an email address and password to complete setup. After providing my details, I get a confirmation email and info that software updates are automatic. Now I am ready to start adjusting the light modes… so I thought…

connect modemaker

The next prompt ask me to connect the light via the USB cable to the computer… oh no, mandatory product registration.

knog registration

The good news is that the application can automatically read in the serial number and details of the connected light although I had to reconnect a few times until it worked. On Apple mac, the light doesn’t ‘mount’ itself as an external hard drive but still passes the serial number and model details through to the software for the product registration. If it doesn’t work for you, unplug, wait a few seconds and plug it back in.

The product registration asks for an 8-digit batch number and a small graphic shows where it is printed on the ‘removable lighthead’. But this model doesn’t have the removable lighthead so strain my eyes try and deciphre all of the markings in small print in the hope of finding the batch number… nope. What about the packaging, is the batch number printed there…. nope. What about if I simply type in some random numbers like 12345678… Great success!

Now you are past the point of no-return in the ModeMaker app so when they then start the next phase of registration with name, gender, postcode, country, DOB… all this to change a few lights, you know you have already travelled too far to give up.

Entering these details is not difficult… but I would prefer to avoid entirely, the flipside is that your warranty registration is now complete. Now you can program your lights.

 

Take Two: Knog ModeMaker – Program your lights

Inside the software are a bunch of navigation items, most however link to the knog website. A pictogram represents my light which is connected via USB. When I click the button “program” it shows seven light modes that I can drag and drop to build my own preferred light settings. For light modes with flashing or pulsing, clicking on the ‘details’ allows the frequency of flashing or pulsing to be adjusted.

knog light

That’s it, click ‘Upload’ and there are two subsequent alerts on my computer letting me know that the update is complete and I can unplug the light. It is simple and straight forward so now my light has the modes and order which I want, By default, the light always switches on with the last used mode.

knog light lettings

One feature of the software is the ability to set light settings without the light connected. The next time you then connect the light and choose to save, the new settings are transferred over. Signing into the application each time with your email and password (that you have forgotten) is a drag and this is the only software on my computer that makes me sign in each and every time.

Considering that the ModeMaker software is still fairly hot-off-the-press and is the first foray for knog into this type of software for knog (which I am aware of), they have still done a good job with this and is is fairly easy to dramatically improve it.

 

Lighting up the roads

This light is called the Commuter and that is exactly the type of riding I used it for. As was noted, the runtime of 40 minutes on full power or 2.5 hours on the half-power mode is far too short for road cycling. For convenience I mounted above the handlebars for the short commutes rather than underneath.

knog pwr status lights red

The light illuminates the way ahead nicely, I can easy see obstacles ahead and avoid potholes so found it perfectly suitable. You can always throw more light ahead with a more powerful light but this is a balanced package that sets you well ahead of most other urban cyclists.

The bike light is also obnoxious enough to capture the attention of the driver at the next intersection and to motivate them to proceed with more caution.

Particularly with the pulse mode, this bike light projects proximity and urgency and I saw some drivers who would think-twice and decide wait until I passed rather than proceeding to cut across my path. With a low powered light such as a dynamo light or tiny blinker lights,  some drivers show less respect and are more likely to put your safety on the line.

 

Do you… or don’t you?

You need to consider how much light power you need and for how long. If you face a lot of dark or pitch black riding, the more powerful lights in the modular range are worth looking into. For dusk and daylight riding and particularly urban riding, this series with 450 lumens max could serve you well.

 

knog handlebar mount

The PWR Commuter is a very competent light for urban riders or short-distance commuters. If you want more, like me, I recommend investing the extra $15 for the slightly longer PWR Rider that delivers a longer batter life. The silicon strap and convenient mount make the knog PWR Commuter and Rider lights handy.

The PWR commuter is $74.95, but I am convinced that the knog PWR Rider is the perfect bike light for me. The Rider retails for $89.95 so it is not cheap, but is very fairly prices when considering the design, functionality and assumption of a nice lifetime for the battery.

See more: knog PWR range of Bike Lights



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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.

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