Tuesday, February 4, 2014

BLAZE Laser Bike Light: First Impressions

Finally, I have received the long-awaited Blaze Laser bike light! This Blaze light is a Kickstarter project that was started back in November 2012. I came across it and contributed to it in December 2012, and the estimated shipping date was actually April 2013. Of course, Kickstarter projects are often (mostly!) unable to ship on time, due to many unforeseen delays along the way.

That said, this particular Kickstarter project has been really well run, despite it being many months late for delivery. There was constant communication between the project backers and the project team, and I have received at least 25 updates from the Blaze project team since I signed up. That means an average of 2 emails per month, updating the project backers on the project and the reasons for delay. At no point in time was I worried that I would not receive the Blaze light, the only question was when.

Blaze Laser Bike Light in its nice packaging! Waited for more than a year before finally receiving the product. So exciting!

So what is this Blaze bike light all about? First and foremost, it is a really good front bicycle light. I have compared it to my other powerful front lights, the Lezyne Super Drive XL and the NiteRider Mako 200, and this Blaze light is on par with their performance. More details will be seen below.

The feature that really makes it stand out from other bicycle front lights is that the Blaze front light has a laser that projects an image of a bicycle in front of the rider. To quote from the Blaze website directly:

"BLAZE is a front light with super-bright LEDs, but it also projects the symbol of a bike down onto the road ahead of the cyclist. It’s adjustable, but ideally about 5m in front. It alerts road users ahead of the cyclist of their presence, helping to prevent them turning across their path (especially the big ones like buses and trucks!).  Making the cyclist more visible and increasing their footprint on the road."

This means that the Blaze bike light has both a white front light and also a green front laser. They can be operated independently to give you multiple mode combinations.

Time to unbox the Blaze laser bike light!

The rear of the box, showing the different modes and the estimated runtimes.

Lovely packaging! The light is presented to the user in a really eye-catching manner, not unlike unboxing an iPhone. Lovely casing!

The accessories and parts that come with the Blaze light

3 different sized rubber shims, a clamp, a special charging cable and even an Allen key for installing and adjusting the clamp.

Nickel plated top plate gives a mirror-like finish to the buttons. The 2 buttons operate the laser and the front light independently. The 2 pins in the middle are for charging and also displaying the battery status.

Lots of warning stickers, due to the laser in the light

Front window of the light. The laser lens can be seen at the top corner of the window.

Fixture for fixing the light onto the clamp. Can be operated with one hand, just by pulling the lever and lifting out the light.

Clamp for fixing the light to the handlebar. Made of sintered steel for strength.

3 different rubber shim thicknesses to fit different handlebar diameters. Nice green colour!

Top of the clamp. Note the hexagonal shaped hole which connects to the light, and the little circle which houses the magnet.

The special charging cable! It has 2 metal contacts at the side for charging and a magnet in the middle for alignment.

Just stick it to the top of the light (with the 2 metal pins) and it will start charging! No need to remove any rubber cover and plug in any USB plugs.

Blue light means that the light is fully charged!

 Weight of the light alone, 169 grams
Weight of the light plus clamp and rubber shim, 210 grams

The Blaze light comes locked, so it has to be unlocked first before it can be used.

The estimated runtime for different modes, made more complex by the independently controlled front light and laser that uses the same battery.

The more detailed battery runtime chart showing the estimated durations for various modes.

There are some unique features of the Blaze light that sets itself apart from other lights:
1) Magnetic sensor that prevents the laser from being activated when it is off the clamp, to help prevent shining the laser accidentally at other people.

2) Special charging contact system that can charge the light without needing to insert any plugs into the light. This means that the light can be made waterproof without needing any rubber plugs to cover up the charging ports, since there is none.

3) Independent laser and front light buttons, to provide total control over the mode combination desired.

4) Low battery modes that virtually prevents the light going dead while still on the way home. As can be seen from the picture above, the light starts to go into energy saving mode when the battery level drops below 20%. At 5%, it enters another energy saving mode. At the very minimum, 5% of battery life will ensure that the light will stay lighted at 30 lumens for 1.5 hours. It is very unlikely that the battery will go completely flat before you reach home, with all these features built in.

The various energy saving modes that ensures that you can get home safely with a light even if the battery level drops below 20% or 5%!

I also compared the new Blaze light with my other powerful front lights, the Lezyne Super Drive XL and the NiteRider Mako 200, to see where it stands compared to those.

Comparing the sizes

Looking at the front lens. The Blaze light has a pretty slim and long shape.

Comparing the light beams of the NiteRider Mako 200 (left side, 100 lumens) with the Blaze (right side, 100 lumens). The Blaze light is whiter and more diffused.

Comparing the light beams of the Lezyne Super Drive XL (left side, 350 lumens) with the Blaze (right side, 300 lumens). The Blaze has a more diffused pattern, a smaller beam and a whiter light.

As for the clamp mounting and the actual usage of the light on the road, it will be described in the next post, as I have yet to try it out on the road yet. However, you can take a look at the laser pattern first!

As seen in the two pictures above, the green bicycle symbol is generated by the laser of the front light. Note that it is visible even in the day! At night on darker streets, this laser image will really glow and stand out.

Right now it looks small, as the horizontal distance from the light to the spot on the ground is less than 2 metres. The recommended distance is 5 to 6 metres, so the bicycle symbol will be at least 3 times larger when mounted properly on the handlebar.

Part 2 of the Blaze Laser Bike Light! An in-depth review is now up.

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