Monday, November 17, 2008

Product Review: Blackburn X4

With the loss of light associated with this time of year my evening bike commute home needed some illumination. Drew at Jack & Adam's set me up with the Blackburn X4 for this task. He wanted to know how the inventory at J+A’s performed. Here’s what I think about it...

First, I would never mountain bike with this light. Though it throws a fairly strong forward beam there isn’t a lot of peripheral light being projected. So it wouldn’t be safe for say the greenbelt or other really technical trails. I also don’t think it would be safe to count on it to light the way for speeds of 17+ mph. Just not enough forward illumination for that.

But alas I am a commuter riding a mix of the Hike and Bike trail and residential streets. For these conditions - I like the light. The beam is rather focused, as I mentioned, and does a nice job of giving me thirty / forty yards or so of visibility on a dark Hike and Bike trail. Once I am in neighborhoods I find it to perform equally well. The button which controls beam brightness is on top of the handlebar mounted light (you can also helmet mount the light). The light has the following brightness options / features: 4 hour burn time at 100% intensity, 6 hour burn time at 30% intensity and a flashing feature. I like the flashing feature at dusk to increase my visibility to motorists. Generally I run the high beam in all other scenarios. I have yet to see the low battery indicator light flash at me.

The light and battery pack mount neatly to the bike. (see attached photos). They are snug and do not rattle which I appreciate. I used some velcro closures to mount the cable that runs from the light to the battery pack. These won’t rub paint from the frame or slip. These weren’t included but are something you can pick up from the shop.

As for battery life and charging - I like that you can leave it plugged in and it will shut itself down once fully charged. So you can basically charge it anytime you aren’t riding it. The bummer is, due to the placement of the charging socket, you need to remove the battery from the bike to charge it. Minor inconvenience in the grand scheme of things. It’s not like you’re having to walk both ways uphill in the snow for a crust or bread and a sip of water or something.

Overall I like the design and performance. You might be able to get more light at a comparable price but I’m not one to know. You would need to factor in that this product has a lifetime guarantee, which is worth something. I have no fear of sending a product I’ve beat the hell out of back to the manufacturer and saying, “new one please.” So if you are a commuter or a roadie / triathlete (that needs something to start or finish your ride with) this light is a good choice. If you are a mountain biker or someone that wants to hammer first thing in the AM or late into the evening I would go with something brighter and beefier – read more expensive.

Adam Butler – crash test dummy and full time bike commuter.


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