Some Weeks with the Gotham Defender Bike Light

I received my light in mid-October and have been riding with it for some weeks now.

My impressions from first installing the light have been confirmed by regular use, though the brightness turns out to be more useful than I had initially thought. I have not been able to ask anyone that I have biked towards in the dark about visibility, but the beam is bright enough to ride by on the short stretch of my commute that doesn’t have street lights.

When I tweeted about my initial review, the folks at Gotham replied:

@JulianDierkes, very thoughtful review! Thank you. Indeed almost 1/2 the weight comes from 3xAA batteries for long life.

It seems to me like there’s still some potential in thinking about the weight. Yes, the three AAs will last, but even going to 2 AAs would knock the weight down. On the other hand, I had the light on every weekday for about 30 min in the morning and evening and the batteries lasted about 2 months which seems about right. Presumably, going to a 2 AA set-up would bring this down to 5 weeks or so which would suggest three battery changes or so per dark season…

Or what about a USB-rechargeable option? And if the batteries are half the weight, then there’s some potential in making the casing thinner, I imagine.

The other issue I raised in my initial impressions was the lack of visibility from the side.

To stay with the gun theme, what about adding a translucent sight with an LED to the top of the light. This would not be very large or bright, but it would give a little 360° or at least 150° or so visibility, wouldn’t it? Might be a design feature, too.

The other thing I’m thinking about is that the back of the casing (the rounded-off section facing the rider) is begging for something to be placed there. A compass isn’t really useful enough, but what else could go there?

Defender Bike Light

Some months ago, I got sucked into backing a kickstarter project for a bike light that would harder to steal and could therefore stay attached to handlebars for the duration of the darker seasons.

What sucked me in? First of all, the idea of kickstarter appeals in general. Inventors and tinkerers who can go straight to potential buyers for funding? That’s great!

I had only backed one project previously, “MUG: The Movie” with my brilliant actor godson Ian in one of the leading roles, so I was curious about other projects and came across the bike light.

What appealed specifically about the bike light? I have mostly been using cheap rubberized bike lights that go on and off the handle bars very easily recently so that I didn’t have to worry about the fancier removable ones. I hadn’t had my screw-on rear light stolen, but then Vancouver’s West side is not exactly the toughest neighbourhood in North America.

I also liked the gun-barrel design of this light and the clever marketing, with its “Gotham” reference and the “last bike light you’ll ever need” tag line.

So, I backed the project and my light finally arrived in the mail today.

First impression, nice box that continues the clever marketing and two small cloth baggies that contain the light. Second impression, quite heavy, in part, but not only because of the included batteries.

The light feels quite solid and does look good (I got the black model).

Installation is easy with a tiny screw-driver (a bit fidgety for my sausage fingers) to unlock the battery-barrel (really? people get their batteries stolen? ugh!), and the specialized key that unlocks and tightens the bracket which is really the core idea. Light installed it does look nice.

Now, let’s see how the light does this winter! How long will the batteries last? Will the rain get inside and mess with the wiring?

BUT…

– the lights (blinking or steady white) are only visible to the front, not from the side

– I’m waiting for some rainy night-riding to see how the brightness of the lights work out. In the day, they don’t look terribly bright and they also don’t cover much area. On the other hand, I look at some other bikes and think that light brightness has reached a point where it is a hazard to other riders and to drivers. Maybe we need high-beam/low-beam settings on bike lights.

– the button to turn the light on feels like it will not survive very long and is not easy to operate with gloves on, especially winter gloves as it doesn’t offer much resistance or a tactile feel to its setting

– the tiny screw driver to unlock the batter barrel immediately scratched the shiny blackness of the barrel

– weight: as everyone is trying to shave weight off bikes, this is too heavy for a single component

All in all: nice story, once central clever idea that is executed well, but in the end, not entirely convincing at a steepish price.

However, judging by the updates about the project along the way, the folks behind this light are real tinkerers and are probably thinking of improvements to the design already, so I wouldn’t be surprised at all if this light evolved to be very nice.

Gotham Bicycle Defense Industries

Defender Bike Light