You Get What You Pay For

Let me start out by saying that I consider myself to be a fairly thrifty person. So it came as a surprise to me when my 1977 Yama 10-speed started developing issues last Spring, I shelled out for a pretty nice bike (Trek 7.5 disk – swapped out the 7.3 frame because I liked the color better”). My wife encouraged me to go ahead with the purchase since I pretty much commute by bike full time now.

When it started to get dark for my ride home towards the end of October, I popped in to a local discount store and plopped down 20 bucks for the Bell Dark Flyer Bicycle Light Set.


In retrospect, it was kind of like buying a Brooks Brothers suit and then buying a one dollar tie to go with it. (Okay, the tie was actually 98 cents and, coincidentally, also purchased in 1977).


Last week the back light started developing some issues. In order to get the light to come on I would have to open it up and mess around with the switch. Friday night’s ride was a misty, nasty ride home and I found out that the rear light had died somewhere along the route home. It lasted just over two months.

Now, I consider myself to be pretty good at internet searches but for the life of me I couldn’t come up with a support contact for the Bell accessories, like this light. Thus, I didn’t even get the satisfaction of having someone say “Dude, it’s a ten dollar light, just go buy another one.”

So, should I go buy another disposable rear blinky, or should I spend more for something that will last me a few seasons? Any suggestions?

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0 thoughts on “You Get What You Pay For”

  1. Don says:

    My wife and I have both had Cateye TL-LD1000 taillights for 2 years now and love them. We commute every single day and in the darker months use them both going in and coming home. They are super bright, I mean at least a mile visibility.

    I always shake my head when I see people with these little dinky blinky taillights. I mean seriously folks, getting hit form behind by a car cannot be a pleasant experience!

    They are $30 at so it is a little more than the Bell you got, but like you said “you get what you pay for…”

    Good luck!

  2. Fritz says:

    Ditto Don — anything big and bright from Cateye or (maybe) Planet Bike. The cheap tiny blinkies are not visible.

    While you’re at it, get rechargable batteries and a charger.

    I *love* the portrait, especially with the comment about the 98 cent tie. Made me laugh!

  3. Richard Lotz says:

    I have the CatEye LD1000 and I bought my wife the PlanetBike superblinky for the holidays. I’d recommend the Planet Bike superblinky over the CatEye if you are price conscious. The overall light output is brighter than the CatEye, but the CatEye has some additional blink modes that some might find handy.

    I did have my first LD1000 fail on me (would go very dim), but CatEye’s service was excellent and shipped me a replacement right away. I do not have experience with Planet Bike’s service.

  4. Tarek says:

    I’m personally a big fan of taillights with reflectors built in, like the Cateye TL-LD500.

    I like them for two reasons:

    a) the reflected light from headlights is often brighter than the leds, and

    b) your failure mode (just the reflector) is still half-decent.

    On the other hand, it’s only 3 normalish leds, so I supplement mine with a helmet-mounted taillight as well.

  5. russ says:

    i would either get a planet bike superflash blinky or if you have the extra scratch, a dinotte tail light. the dinotte is literally blindingly bright….if someone hits you from behind there is no way they can claim they didn’t see you…

  6. Amy says:

    I bought a VistaLite at my local bike shop about four years ago. Don’t remember how much I paid, but it couldn’t have been more than ten or fifteen bucks. It’s got five LEDs, a nice big 3×5 inch face, takes two AA batteries (that last for a good few months of daily use before needing to be replaced) and is still working and super-bright (as long as I’ve got good batteries in it). I’ve had other cyclists on my route comment on the brightness. Quick search on Amazon yeilds a set of front and back lights for $9.95 clearance…or got to your LBC and check it out your own self. Quality tail lights don’t cost that much.

    um, if that doesn’t work, just search Amazon for Vistalite.

    About the comment in favor of rechargable batteries…I use rechargeables in many instances (camera, calculator, etc), but not fond of them for my bike lights…they drain on their own much faster than non-rechargeables, and the result it that my lights get dimmer faster since LED power consumption just isn’t very high…also, since bike lights are easily nicked and rechargeable batteries are more expensive, I like to use them in more…secure instances.

  7. Amy says:

    Uh…that’s 3×2 inch face, not 3×5…sorry!

  8. Paul Of N.W. GA says:

    My bike lights aren’t cheap, but I do love them.

    I have a Schmidt Dynamo hub from Peter White cycles. It powers my Busch&Mer LED head light (w/ stand light and auto on), Halogen (secondary) and fender taillight (with stand light). I also have a battery B&M light on my rack. All lights of them have reflectors too. If my battery runs down on a dark ride, I still have the fender light that is pretty bright. Some times I also wear my helmet that has a light on it.
    The Dynamo is great, never dies, needs charging and works in single digit temps (or lower) and I use it more often because I of it.
    They may not be the brightest, but I have had people tell me that they see me way off even with city lights and 45mph limits.
    There have been times I rode with other cyclist at night because they have no lights or reflectors to get them home safely. I have also have people follow me to ask about my lights because they said they have never seen any as bright. Mind you I live where SUV and big pick-ups are the norm.

  9. Mike in Florida says:

    I have a 36 mile round trip commute, an hour of which is in pitch darkness this time of year. More light is better, and I have to agree with the posters who recommened the Planet Bike Superflash. It’s ridiculously bright. I think I picked mine up on sale from Nashbar for twenty bucks. I also wear a reflective vest with flashing LEDs, and have a cheap blinkie on my Bell Metro helmet. As for forward lighting, I use the DiNotte Ultralight 5W and have a Knog Frog white LED mounted on my helmet, set to flash. You do indeed get what you pay for, but the only expensive item I use is the DiNotte.

  10. Mark in Green Bay says:

    I’ll agree with what’s been said above. I’ve wasted too much money on “cheap” LED blinkies, that either fall apart, or stop working mid-ride. (Incidentally, I’ve heard that soldering a capacitor across the battery terminals will prevent the light from switching off accidentally due to the battery losing contact momentarily from a bump.)

    Another option for DIY’ers, which I’m considering, is one of these… …quite an attention getter, from the comments, it seems popular for bike commuters.

  11. PdxRunner says:

    There is nothing like the 3W LED rear tail light. Cars that would pass me by 1 foot will now move over to the next lane. It is like a cars brake light. It’s very visible in daytime. Small light & easy to take on & off, abvout 30 seconds. Okay, it’s $129 , but how much is your life worth?

  12. I’ll third the suggestion for the PB superflash. I picked up two of them from Amazon, and they’re crazy bright. Well, worth the $20, and batteries are even included.

  13. JiMCi says:

    Last summer, I heard something hitting the pavement behind me. It was my little cheapo no name $3.75 taillight. Before I had a chance to turn around to pick it up, a SUV ran over it. I picked the crushed pieces, put them back together, pressed the switch and “voila”, that thing was still working. That’s how it lokked before the SUV encounter

    As for Planet Bike stuff, I had a 5 DEL front beamer. It died on the 1st rainy day: water got inside the swith contacts and the light could not be turned off…

  14. Steve says:

    I have the Planet Bike Superflash blinky on my bike too, and it works well. I also have two other LED based lights (each with 5 LEDs), two LED micro-lights, plus another two lights on my backpack. Plus a red reflector on the bike. Plus reflective material on my backpack and reflective tape on my bike and helmet. Redundancy being a good thing, I figure that there’s no way any driver can claim they didn’t see me…

  15. Steve (#2) says:

    I sport an eyeball boiling helmet mounted JetLite rechargeable that was very expensive but a good piece of gear. I also have a Planet Bike white blinkie in the front, a Planet Bike rear helmet mounting tail light (BRT 3H), and a no name LED blinkie that is similar to what Ann posted above that has been bomb proof for two years. Much like Steve above, I have zillions of reflective stickers all over my bike, gear and helmet. Despite all that I still nearly got smashed this morning.

  16. Trevor says:

    NiteRider tail light is the only thing you want. Get a NiteRider head light to go with it, if you like, or give it its own battery.

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