Biking after dark should not be taken lightly. But with the right gear, meaning lights and reflective clothing, night rides are manageable and mostly safe.
From NiteRider, a new development promises “laser lanes” on the road. A pair of projected beams shoot from a taillight, creating a pulsing, red boarder and a virtual bike lane that moves with a rider rolling through the dark.
The Sentinel 40 is a small rechargeable unit that clips onto a seat bag and costs about $50. I reviewed it on several nocturnal rides this summer.
Review: NiteRider Sentinel 40
From the rider’s view, the lasers blink as straight, skinny red beams barely visible in your periphery. They are projected from a tiny taillight, which itself is alit via a strong LED for increased visibility from behind.
The result is a package of rear and side illumination to keep you more visible on the road. Drivers ostensibly see the “laser lane” and heed the buffer, giving more room and attention to the biker inside.
I rode through dense traffic in a city and on dark side streets. Under street lamps and intermixed with car headlights on busy roads the lasers compete with a lot of ambient, shifting light. The lasers are visible in this environment but shine weakly on a half-lit road.
In contrast, on unlit side streets the red beams cut clean lines and pop on black pavement. You get a true virtual lane when the lasers are not mixed with other light.
Rear Bike Light: Laser + Blinker
Beyond the laser beams, the Sentinel 40 works great as a rear blinking taillight. It has multiple modes and runs for hours between charges with its 2-watt LED. Its name comes from its cited brightness, at 40 lumens.
A clip on the back of the unit attaches the light to a bike bag. One caveat: The unit is made to place only on a seat post or under-the-saddle bag.
I wore it clipped to a backpack one night and the lasers beamed erratically; body movement as I pedaled, and the non-stationary placement on the pack, were not conducive to beaming straight lines on the street.
Overall, after a few weeks of use, I am happy with the NiteRider Sentinel 40. It offers increased visibility and is a cool upgrade to the common red blinker I’ve used for many years.
That said, the lasers are not bright enough in many environments. As noted, vehicles, storefronts, streetlights, and other light-producing infrastructure in busy parts of town tend to wash out the laser effect.
A similar product, the Blaze model from Laserlight projects a green image on the pavement in front of a biker. We reviewed the Laserlight last year.
In the end, I am all for overkill in the bike-light department. Get a bright front light (white) and a red blinker on back. From there, the upgrade to a laser option only keeps you more visible riding through the night.