earlier this week i was disappointed to bring news that the number of folks making use of a bicycle to get themselves to and from work, though increasing in number, as a percentage of the population had remained the same over the last decade. there could be many a perfectly good reason for such a state of affairs, but one of the most obvious is the perceived danger of riding on increasingly congested city and urban roads. unlike denmark, holland and portland, britain has very few practical cycle lanes, and where it has, they're often every bit as dangerous as riding in recognised car lanes.
though the advent of british summertime last sunday has offered a few more hours of daylight in the evenings when it probably matters most for cycle commuters, there are still those who have need of travelling at the hours of dawn or dusk and thus a decent means of making themselves as visible as possible. dressing like a paramedic may not be everyone's idea of sartorial elegance, but there's little denying that the colour chartreuse has much going for it in this respect. add to that various reflective panels or additions to one's apparel, coupled with as many lights as the frame will bear and many must fervently hope that this agglomerated brightness will make them less of an unseen target in the midst of busy traffic.
though there have been one or two instances of tyres fitted with reflective strips around the sidewall, i'm unaware of anyone who has actually fitted lights to a pair of bicycle wheels. and though i had my suspicions as to the effectiveness of the idea, in practice it's one that has been very cleverly thought out.
revolights wheels feature two abs plastic hoops bolted to 'v' brackets rivetted to an alloy wheel rim, sandwiching the latter circumferentially between these hoops, sited just below the rim's braking surface. fitted at frequent points along the outer edge of each is a light emitting diode (led), white at the front and red on the rear. each side contains twelve leds, making two-dozen per wheel. in order to power these tiny lights, each hub features a removable battery clipped to a plastic bracket zip-tied to the hub shell. the batteries each have a connector linking to twisted cabling reaching the lighting hoops.
the batteries can be relatively easily removed and replaced by sliding them from their brackets for charging purposes. the wheels arrive with two usb cables allowing each battery to be plugged into the ports on a computer. it took around two to three hours to fully charge a completely drained battery, providing on average, about six hours of lighting.
fitting straight to the bicycle (i opted to use my chris king cielo for review purposes) was as simple as any other set of wheels, though if replacing the batteries before riding, i'd make sure you access the rear from the non-drive side. the alternative is often a slightly mucky process.
the instruction manual comfortingly points out that, in order to have the revolights form a red arc on the rearmost half of the back wheel and a white arc at the front wheel, magnets require to be fitted on a front fork leg and a rear chainstay. without these magnets, once up and rolling, every light on each wheel will light simultaneously. though i thought this rather cool, simon bever of uk importers pedal pedal pointed out that when riding in the dark, the rotating front lights would likely dazzle as they passed the brake caliper. cleverly, those strategically placed magnets manage to impose their will upon the lights, to illuminate only front and back.
there's no denying the effectiveness of those rotating lights even in bright sunlight (the mighty dave t claimed that he was being blinded when following my wheel on the sunday (morning) ride). in the dark, they are quite stunning. however, bicycle wheels have a far more important job to do than simply offering heightened visibility to surrounding motorists and pedestrians; negotiating britain's less than pristine road surfaces. in order to verify this part of the equation, i took the cielo along the abattoirenberg forest road and over several cattle grids, apparently without any untoward behaviour.
however, over one of the exploratory rides, the battery on the rear wheel fell off after cycling for 22km, apparently displaced by islay's crap roads. i'm willing to accept at least a part of the blame, because i've a notion i maybe didn't secure it to the hub as well as i ought. in which case, it's something worth checking before setting off; i was in the middle of the countryside in daylight, and it was easy to walk back along the road to pick it up. losing it in the rain, at night and followed by motorised traffic would make for a more onerous recovery task, if it hadn't already been run over by a car, bus or taxi.
the only truly negative feature i could pinpoint would be that of weight, and to make matters worse, rotating weight. my regular wheels consist of chris king r45 hubs married to dt swiss rims, both of which weigh pretty much the same as the revolight rear wheel alone. though this proved little problem on the flat even into a gale force headwind, as soon as the road headed upwards, that rotating weight proved a bit of a handicap. however, it's worth bearing in mind that unadulterated speed is rarely a concern of the city or urban commuter. the flat depth of the carrier hoops on each side of each wheel were also surprisingly affected by strong crosswinds. not as badly as has been the case with several deep-rimmed carbon wheels, but noticeably enough on wide-open roads. again, however, that's relatively unlikely to be something experienced by the commuting cyclist, unless you live in the hebrides.
if these are the very wheels for you, it might also be an idea to stock up on one or two long valved inner tubes, i suffered a couple of punctures during the review period but had only standard 42mm valves. the lighting hoops prevent standard direct-on pumps from accessing the smaller valves (and also make it very difficult to true any recalcitrant spokes), though are easily accessed by cycle pumps using screw-on hoses or chucks.
it's a well thought out idea that elicited several complimentary remarks from passing motorists and truck drivers of my acquaint. coupled with high visibility clothing and properly fitted lights, i really can't see how these could fail. though they may not be the sort of wheels that cavendish would choose for an attack on the green jersey or by froome for yellow, there's no denying that the revolights offer a highly competent, if heavy set of wheels that could conceivably save you from hearing the phrase "sorry mate, i didn't see you."
revolights are sold by pedal pedal via their website and come in three distinct flavours: fixed wheel, single speed or cassette (reviewed), all of which retail at £399.
friday 04 april 2014..........................................................................................................................................................................................................