Monday, September 26, 2011

Night Riders: Bookman Bike Headlight and Taillight Initial Review

As our sun hours minimize here in the northern hemisphere, it's easy to get caught off guard somewhere on our bicycles, and not have lights available. For those with dynamo or other lighting permanently affixed to their ride, lights are generally not something we spend a lot of time thinking about, but for those of us who don't, we begin to realize around this time of year that lights are quickly becoming a necessity.
Bookman headlight mounted on handlebar
*Image from Bookman
Bike lights seem to be an interesting and surprisingly debated subject, and while I'm not here to argue for or against a specific lighting system, I recently stumbled upon a set of bike lights from Bookman. Quite frankly, I'd never heard of them prior to seeing these lights last week, but they were so small and seemingly easy to operate and install, that I was fascinated to learn more about them. As I picked up the package, I was surprised at how small they are. I half laughed to myself and thought, "What in the world would these be good for? They cannot possibly emit a descent amount of light."
Bookman's head and tail light for bikes
*Please note that none of the photos posted show the color as it actually is. It is more of an apple green color*
Before I get into my personal opinion, let me first provide a bit of information about the lights. First, the company that makes these is based out of Stockholm, and just had their first release of bike lights during the summer of 2011. The lights, per their website, are a first release edition, so I don't know what sort of changes may be in store for future iterations. They currently come in four color choices: blue, green, black or yellow, and they are purchased as a set, not individually (I find this both good and bad, but will detail that out in a moment). The headlight is a 1 LED white light, and the rear is a 1 LED red light. Each light has three modes of operation: slow flashing, fast flashing, and steady, and they each require 2-CR2032 batteries to operate. No information is provided on length of battery operation life.
These are the actual instructions found on the packaging for installation
*Image from Bookman
The above image is a duplicate of the instructions provided with the lights on the exterior packaging, and admittedly, it really is that simple to install the lights. Not being at all mechanically inclined, I often struggle with my current light set from another manufacturer because I never seem to be able to find the on/off button, and sometimes struggle even removing the lights from their permanently affixed connection bracket. These lights caused me no problem at all. What I enjoy most is that if you need to adjust the angle, you simply tilt to the proper location and reattach. Easy-peazy. I, personally, struggled a bit more with the taillight because I have a saddle bag on the back of my bike. Since this design is more appropriate for installation on a handlebar or seat post, it was challenging to find a spot to put the light. I ended up wrapping the light around a loop on my saddle bag, which wasn't the most effective place for the light.
As you can see, this caused the light to be pointed downward, though it was still visible from the rear. I decided not to ride with this light alone, even though we were only traveling a few blocks to return a movie, and instead opted to throw an additional taillight on the back.
Doubled up on taillight action
While my riding partner said he was definitely blinded every time he looked at the back of the bike, he believes it had more to do with the other taillight than the Bookman, but because we didn't try it out alone, it's difficult to say how well the Bookman taillight would actually work on its own. Personally, I didn't feel comfortable riding with that light alone because I had no place to attach it so that it was affixed properly to be seen.
Bookman headlight mounted to handlebars
As for the Bookman headlight, it seems to provide as much illumination on the quite dark roads as my other headlight of much more substantial size. I wouldn't say that it "lit up the night" necessarily, but it was certainly functional to do what I needed it to do. Of course, I do recommend slowing down on very dark roads simply because it is much more difficult to see potential hazards. As with the taillight, the front light also has the three speed options: slow flashing, fast flashing, or steady.
These lights really are small!
Of course,one of my favorite parts about these lights is their size. They are so small that there really is no excuse for not having them along with you. They stow away easily anywhere, even in the smallest of saddle bags. Both headlight and taillight turn on/off with the push of that large button in the center of the light. I see a potential problem with this if you carry these in a bag in which they roll around a lot. There isn't any sort of mechanism to prevent the lights from turning on in your bag, and then potentially having no juice left to light your dark ride home. I will say that I did ride around with them in my saddlebag during several day rides, and they have not accidentally popped on, but I still believe it's a minor design flaw. I think I'd prefer that the user have to depress the button for 3 seconds steady in order to get them on.

One of the things that I find a little different about these Bookman lights is that they are sold as a packaged set. While it's certainly nice to be able to purchase both headlight and taillight together, what happens if one breaks, or if you happen to be an individual who needs only one piece of the set (I know people who ride only with taillights, for example, or they prefer a different kind of head/taillight)? I paid $30 + tax retail for these lights, and I wouldn't want to have to pay that for just one. Perhaps this is something that Bookman is working out and in the future they will have individual availability.

I would also like to see other color options. Personally, I would've liked just a plain white color, but that was not available, and I'm sure there are others who would like to see brighter colors, or maybe even fun designs on the light covers. I don't mind the solid block look, as these are not permanently affixed to my bike, but are rather taken on and off easily when they are needed. The ease of putting them on and taking them off means that there's no reason for them to ever be stolen when your bike is locked up outside. The block design is also a little different from most of what you see saturating the market, so I think it definitely distinguishes Bookman from other lights.

One other minor item that bothers me about these lights is that they are not marked as headlight and taillight respectively, so it is very easy to confuse which one is which if you aren't careful when attaching them. I suppose the light could simply be turned on to make that determination, but a simple marking would make it much easier.

Overall, I would recommend these lights if you need a small design that still works well to be seen in the dark, and you appreciate or even require the ease of attachment and removal of your bike lights. If you're looking for the absolute brightest of the bright, this probably isn't your answer, but for a clumsy gal like myself, I found my way home safe and sound, so I'm sure these could work well for anyone.

{Edited in October to add} I received a press release from Bookman stating that these head and tail lights are now coming in white and red, so if buyers are looking for one of these color options, they should soon be available in your local bike shops.

7 comments:

  1. I really thought those lights were impressively bright for how small they are, and easy to stow. I think they would be great for quick night trips, and maybe even night commuting. I would agree though, that the color could be different, white, something plain..

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  2. Thanks for posting this review, I've been wondering how these work in the "real world" ever since I saw them on Adeline Adeline's website. I'd have the same saddle bag issue with the taillight, but these look like they could be a nice supplement to the lights I'm already using. More visibility is always a plus!

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  3. Heather, I think they'd make perfect supplemental lights. Of course, I always think you can never be too lit up at night. :o)

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  4. I've had my eye on these lights, but I was worried that they wouldn't be bright enough and the price seems kind of expensive for a set of single LEDs. But I absolutely love the compact size and the design of them. Thanks for the review!

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  5. I completely agree... it's a little scary not to know how bright a single LED will be in the dark of night, but they seem to work pretty well - far better than I expected.

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  6. Even lights such as these tend to be a safety device for bikes. The lighting should be well lit and the power source should never go low.

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  7. if you put your rear light on the hub between your spokes on the back tire and keep it on steady light when you pedal and it rotates it will look like a flashing rear! check it out and tell me what you think!

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