Best Tail Light on the Planet?

Our friends at Planet Bike have every reason to be proud of their quiver of blinkie lights. Their 1/2 watt Superflash is pretty much the industry benchmark by which all other battery-powered tail lights are judged.  I have Superflash tail lights on all our family bikes that don’t have dynamo powered lighting. So, clearly I like their lights, but is the Superflash Turbo “the best tail light on the planet” as their website claims?

Planet Bike Superflash Turbo. You can see my older regular Superflash out of focus in the upper left. I had it mounted to my seat bag for easy comparison.

I know some of the guys at Planet Bike, which is based in Madison, so I figure their head marketing may have had his tongue in cheek when he wrote that.  The Superflash Turbo looks very similar to the regular Superflash.  The only difference visually is the lens on the Turbo is clear, while the lens on the Superflash is red.  Both are small and come with a handy quick release mounting system that allows you to remove the light so bike bums don’t steal it, or clip it to a bag or belt as an alternative to the rack and seatpost mount included. Here are the full specs on the Turbo with the regular Superflash specs in parenthesis:

  • One Watt Power LED (1/2 Watt) plus 2 red LEDs for visibility up to 1 mile (same)
  • New attention-grabbing Turbo flash pattern (different attention-grabbing flash pattern)
  • Turbo flash mode is highly visible, even in daylight (so is the regular Superflash)
  • Ultra compact vertical design is weatherproof, lightweight and durable (same)
  • Includes bike mounts and clip mount for multiple mounting options (same)
  • Soft-touch power switch accesses flashing or steady mode for up to 100 hours of run time on two AAA batteries (same)
  • weighs 75 grams with batteries (same)
  • 180 degree visibility (same)
  • $33.99 retail (28.99)

As you can see, the biggest difference between the two versions is power. The Turbo version has an LED that is twice as bright as the regular Superfash.  Now I thought the original version was WAY bright.  You really can see it in daylight. But I have to say, the new light is even brighter.  I didn’t pull out the Lux meter to check if the Turbo emits twice the lumens as the non-turbo version, but I can say that the Turbo is noticeably brighter.

The 1 Watt Superflash Turbo on the bottom and the 1/2 Watt Superflash on the top set to constant on mode in which the two lower LEDs are not on..

So, is it the best battery powered light in the world?  If it’s not, it comes pretty close. The closest competitor is probably the Portland Design Works Radbot 1000, another 1 Watt battery powered light. I don’t own one, but I have read some other reviews and while it seems like a nice light, based on other reviews I have read, I thing the Superflash Turbo wins out.  The one feature I really like on the Radbot is the built in reflector as some European countries require both. Knog makes some very cool looking tail lights and their website makes some claims about 60 lumen output at a price of $34.95.

The Knog silicone lights are definitely interesting looking.

I am pretty loyal to Planet Bike because they have great; proven products; they are a local company, and because they donate 25% of their profits to bicycle advocacy, That said, I must admit to liking the looks of the Knog lights. I think Knog swags my buddies over at COG magazine, so if one of their lights drops in my lap, I’ll test it out and let you know how it compares (hint).

There are certainly other brighter battery powered tail lights out there.  The Dionette 300 R for instance, but at $199, I guess you get what you pay for. It is really in a different class of lighting.

All-in-all, you simply cannot go wrong with the Planet Bike 1 Watt Superflash Turbo, or the 1/2 Watt Superflash. They are the industry standard in blindingly bright tail lights with a long history of proven durability.  I think of them as the CSMO Pizza.  There are other kinds of pizza out there, but the standard is so good, why try anything else?

 

About Dave Schlabowske, Deputy Director

Dave was the first full-time staff member hired to open the Bike Fed's Milwaukee office 15 years ago. A former professional photographer and life-long Milwaukee resident, Dave likes wool, long rides, sour beer, and a good polar vortex once in a while.

11 thoughts on “Best Tail Light on the Planet?

  1. I like the Light and Motion Vis 180 for its 180-degree visibility, brightness, the no-tools mount, and the integral rechargeable battery, which is chargeable via a USB port. It’s $100 list, though- not something I’m comfortable leaving on the unattended bike. I’m not a fan of throw-away batteries. The lithium battery in this holds its charge and is capacious.

    • I like the L&M lights too. In fact we reviewed their Vis 360 on this blog a while ago. That said, the price point puts them in a different class than the PB lights. As for the batteries, I use rechargeable batteries in mine and recycle them when they eventually (as all batteries do) give up the ghost.

  2. I’ve done a lot of testing of the Superflash Turbo against the regular superflash, as well as two different PDW lights, and I’d pick the regular Superflash on the basis of much better runtime. For a little more daytime visibility, you are giving up a factor of three in runtime. Also, I’ve had some intermittent shut off problems with the Turbo that the regular superflash doesn’t appear to have.

    http://jnyyz.wordpress.com/2012/01/03/taillight-runtimes-in-blink-mode/
    http://jnyyz.wordpress.com/2011/12/05/bike-taillight-runtime-comparison/
    http://jnyyz.wordpress.com/2011/02/02/taillights-pdw-radbot-1000-vs-pb-superflash-runtime/

  3. I love my Vis 360 and use it for a helmet light in the Fall and Winter months but switch back to the Superflash when the days get longer. It’s really hard to beat the Superflash.

    • I try not to buy more than what I need. Right now I use my dyno hub light (great for foggy morn commutes to work on Fern Ridge Path), in cojutcnion with my Planet Bike Blaze and I always use my Black Diamond headlamp on my helmet (need a non-fixed light for cornering and spotting potholes). rear light came with bike powered/recharged/wired to dymohub thru frame/fender. I usually keep rear light on all the time. I frequently use a little freebie blinky on back of helmet or clothing.

  4. I love the lights but I have had 2 Planet Bike lights now and both have bounced off the back rack of my bike and broke beyond hope. I’d like to see a mount that can be screwed to the back of a rack and not have a clip that opens up and flings the light on a bumpy road.

    • Actually in looking I see the Blinky Rack light…I’ll have to get one to solve my problem. And like I said, I love the lights!

      • Ralph,

        Yes, this bike has a light or reflector mount on the rack. The Planet Bike lights come with a mount that fits these racks. If your rack does not have one, stop by your local bike shop. I bet they have a drawer full and you can buy one for a few bucks or even have them mount your light.

        • Tim: I’ve never seen a light with a V-shaped mount.One of the lights that use secttrh silicone and mount on the side of the seatpost should work. Get one of the newer/better/bigger/brighter models than what nhinkle reviewed. There’sOr get one of those small under-the-seat bags with a loop on the back. I clip my Cygolite HotShot to one of those all the time. Those clips can also work on a waistband, center jersey pocket, etc

  5. I have one Planet Bike Blinky 5 and two Planet Bike Blinky 3′s on the rear of my bike and a regular Planet Bike headlight up front on my fork.

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