Reelights Pedal Powered LEDs—KISSably good.

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by Dave R. on Oct 07, 2007 at 8:53 PM

reelight.jpg I’ve been meaning to review my Reelights for many months now, but the lights are so damn good I keep forgetting. The Reelights follow the K.I.S.S principal – keep it simple stupid, and this is where their genius lies. The appeal of the lights is so simple you’ve already figured it out –any time you’re moving you’re lit.

Reelights are a novel take on pedal powered lights – no ‘bottle generator’ like on your Mom’s old Schwinn, no expensive hub generator. Just two rare-earth magnets, a coil of wire, some LEDs and a fitting bracket. The light bracket fits on your wheel axel, and the magnets go on your spokes. Whenever your wheels turn, the magnets pass the wire coil in the light and power the LEDs. The high-end model has a capacitor to keep the lights blinking for a few minutes when you stop. Incredibly simple? Yes. Incredibly good? Yes. Foible free? Well…

My friend and I both ordered reelights at the same time late last year. Mine (the SL100s from Amazon) arrived quickly and intact. My friend’s (SL120s from Reelight headquarters in Denmark) arrived broken.

The mounting brackets for Reelight are pretty good. Using the simple screw fixed adjustments I can get the magnets and lights very close to each other without causing them to rub (a tricky thing actually). So the brackets are good, unless you have disc brakes – they’re too short. Reelight sells an extended bracket to accommodate 160mm rotors, but I run 185s on my xtracycle and I haven’t ordered the 160 extension for my rain bike. So, I run my front reelight on the drive side of my bike, away from traffic. Less than ideal.

The lights are down low (axle height). This is OK for traffic far away, but the scary scenario is when an automobile pulls up along side in right hand lane and wants to make a right. Reeligts aren’t going to alert the driver that you’re sitting along side them before they pull right out on top of you.

Lastly, reelights are light weight by most standards, but heavy rotational weight. For you weight weenies out there this might make the difference for you. The heaviest part of the lights are the magnets, which go right on your wheel (spokes), so you’re pushing the magnets around when you’re pushing your wheels and tires.

All things considered, these lights are a fantastic addition to any commuting bike. Incredibly reliable, always on, never out of batteries, what’s to loose? Not much if you run these as backup lights. I feel safer with a higher mounted rear flasher and helmet mounted light as well.

Folks who plan on finishing first might consider a different set of non-rotational-weight-adding lights.

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Comments: 12

Thanks for the review…I’ve been wanting to try these on my xtracycle but figured there would be some install issues. Maybe I’ll just stick with normal blinkies there and try these on a less-complicated commuter.

The biggest problem with Reelights on a xtracycle is that the rear light is on the axel between the two Freeloaders (huge xtracycle panniers). This effectively limits the light to straight back only, OK for cars far away but I’d definitely use at least one more blinky…

I’ve been gonna make a headlight like this.  It’ll have 9 magnets so that I get more steady light.  Planned on having it done for PBP, now I am aiming for daylight savings switchover weekend instead. 
The Velib bikes in Paris have front and rear lights like this.

How do the Reelights hold up in the rain? Are they rain proof or do I need to protect them? I have been looking at them, but wondered how they held up in the elements.

Good question Dan! I’ve never had a spot of trouble with them in the rain. Most of the things that would caused a problem when wet don’t exist on reelights—no battery to short out, same for high powered circuitry. I’m not sure they would work submerged, but I don’t think anything short of a trip into the lake would hurt them.

My panniers partially obscure my rear Reelight light, but other than that they work as advertised. I haven’t had them long enough to use them in rain just yet.

Hi Guys

Good to see some great comments about our Reelights. Most of the stuff couldn’t have been said better in our own marketing material. I would add that to really try our products personally gives the best experience of why they are so KISSably good.

Regarding the rotational weight I would like to add that the weight of one magnet is only 25 g. This creates a very small extra rotational weight which is barely comparable to the resistance of dynamos or hub generators. 

In addition to the questions asked I would like to underline that our products of course have been made to resist all weather conditions…and normally also shipment to customers. I hope your friend had his broken SL120s replaced with some new Reelights by our excellent customer service - they are happy to help.

We are continuously working on developing our light system and to come up with more innovative products. Your comments and suggestions in blogs like this are much appreciated!

We’ve been selling these lights for nearly two years at my shop, Hiawatha Cyclery. in that time, probably 200 sets have passed through my hands to customers. We haven’t yet had a set returned because they didn’t hold up to the weather. We are in Minnesota, and many of our customers ride these year-round. One guy has about 15,000+ miles on a set including two winters, with no complaints.

Just bought these lights. Tried fitting them on my bike. The lights fit fine,the problem is placement of the magnets. I have a Giant FCR hybrid bike and it seems impossible to align the magnets with the light due to a lack of spokes. Any suggestions? Ive tried bending / flattening the bracket without joy.

D: here, my bike blog proposes modifying Reelights to point sideways with amber covers as running lights. Also, today’s entry proposes a very cheap and DIY way to make helmet mounted lights.

Just put mine on my commuter - excited to try them out, though reading your review made me realise I put the front one on the away-from-traffic side and as this wheel is also fitted with a Pitlock I’m not inclined to fix it tonight. I wish the directions were a little clearer, though.

We’ve also found that the standard SL-120 model fits on the Brompton folding bike. In fact with a bit of er, bending, they’ll fit on most bikes we’ve seen. Buy the Reelight SL-120 at our site. They’re the capacitor model which means that they stay flashing for up to 2 minutes when you’re stationary. They’re really good, everyone in our office has some!

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