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The Big Light, with No "Strings" Attached
on November 11, 2009
When I first heard various rumors about this light's pending appearance on the market, I was *really* worried someone was pulling my leg, because the specs read like a dream come true: a compact, self-contained, quick-release headlight that could throw a beam bright enough to truly see *by*, rivaling some batteries-go-somewhere-else units, using merely a pair of garden-variety AA alkalines (I have a *much* better alternative to those, which I'll get to shortly), and coming in at well under a hundred bucks. My local dealer not only confirmed the 2-watt light's existence, but said he could order one for me if I'd like. (*Would* I!)
I've been using the light a good deal for the better part of two weeks, and it does the business. It's the same size as the 1-watt version, save for its jet-black finish. Like all the Planet Bike lights I've bought, build quality is great, the now-renowned quick-release mounting system remains unchanged, which is a good thing, because (1) it's fantastic as it is, IMO, and (2) it allows quick interchange between two of my bikes, one using Planet Bike's Beamer 5 (itself an excellent urban light). You can purchase the quick-release mounts separately, allowing the moving of one light between several bikes quickly and easily.
Short of extreme, high-speed, off-road night-patrol rides, you're not likely to "over-drive" this headlight, allowing for safer road cycling on streets and roads. I don't have to try and remember the surface irregularities when rolling fairly quickly down a particular side street or path I don't often travel; the light offers a reliable heads-up, reducing the need for sudden evasive maneuvers (and pretty much eliminated the possibility of a snakebite flat, dented rim, or worse).
But perhaps the real surprise is the SuperFlash function: if you think PB's SuperFlash taillight is an amazing performer (and it is), you simply *need* to check this headlight out. When using the SuperFlash function at dusk (it's been recommended by some that you do *not* use this function after dark, where it might be potentially blinding), on more than one occasion I've actually had motorists *pull over* to the side. Never experienced that before. I'm definitely a believer in "safety in candlepower."
Battery life appears to be more or less as advertised. But here's a hot tip: forget loading this up with alkalines. Do your wallet (and, as a nice coincidence, the planet at large) a favor, and buy a Sanyo Eneloop battery-and-charger kit, which comes with four rechargeable AA batteries and battery charger. What makes these rechargeables different from other is that, once charged, Eneloop batteries retain 85% percent of their charge for upwards of a year. In other words, their discharge rate is about as good as typical store-bought alkalines. No more "surprises" when you reach to switch on your light which you haven't used in three weeks. You can trust these batteries the same way you trust alkalines, except that when these run down, you recharge them rather than chuck them. They make a great match with a headlight like this, which understandably uses up a pair of batteries somewhat faster than lower-powered lights.
So, we have a winner here: a true high-powered headlight that's as easy to live with as most any other self-contained bike light, and priced well within the means of many more cyclers than wildly-expensive, multi-piece lighting systems. If you're the sort for whom a high-speed downhill run in the woods is a big part of your "balanced" riding repertoire, you might need one of the pricier HID numbers for your ride (good luck with that!). Otherwise, the Blaze 2Watt is likely all the light you could ask for. (By the way, it obviously makes a killer flashlight when needed.)