Bontrager Flare 3 taillight review

I needed to replace a dead Planet Bike Super Flash (PBSF) but they didn't have any at the Bike Gallery I went to. Looking over the lights they had in stock, I found a Bontrager Flare 3 that looked like it would be an improvement.

I put it on the bike and was immediately impressed with the flash pattern. It uses two bright LEDs with directed reflectors as the main lights, compared to just one on the PBSF. There are an additional two LEDs in the middle used for side visibility. With a translucent cover, side visibility is excellent even though from that angle all you see are just the bare LEDs, there is no directed reflector pointing off to the side.

The on/off switch is covered in rubber and is on the bottom. This switch is much easier to activate compared to the PBSF which I always found hard to work with when wearing gloves. There are two modes, steady and flashing.

The Flare 3 uses 2 AAA batteries. The limited warranty is for 1 year and does not cover batteries (of course) or normal wear & tear. More details at http://bontrager.com/support/warranty.


Mounting hardware options are good.  There are two permanent mounts (seat-stay size and large tube size) as well as a temporary style mount that would be more suitable for handlebars. They also include a screw in case you have a rack and can attach the Flare directly to it. In summary, more mounting options available than the PBSF.

Another difference between the PBSF is that the Flare 3 slides on to the mount from the side. With the PBSF, if I mounted it high on the seat stay with the saddle bag directly above, I would have to remove the saddle bag in order to remove the PBSF (to change the batteries). Sliding the Flare in from the side works better for me.

I'm happy with the light but a little disappointed about the price. I understand profit & margin, tooling costs and minimum runs and all that, but I still look at it and say to myself "thirty bucks for this?" But the price didn't stop me from going out and buying two of them, it just made me a little grumpy about it…

Yes, I'm sporting two of these lights, one on the left seat stay about halfway up, the other up near the seatpost binder bolt. I've always had good luck with two rear flashing light, didn't see any need to change now.

Light & Motion Stella 300

These will be installed on a wheel-mount. The wheel-mount is a knob that replaces the nut on the front quick-release. I flipped the QR around so the knob is on the left side, this will provide better lighting. Last winter I ran the light on the left side, my thinking is that it would provide better visibility to on-coming traffic. This winter I'm going to try it on the right side, the thinking being that it will better illuminate the ragged right edge of the road.

I was not satisfied with the lighting when it was mounted on the helmet, it was not adequate for emphasizing road relief. But I really liked being able to move the light around my swiveling my head, it's great for pointing directly where I'm going in a turn and flashing in the eyes of drivers that look like they aren't going to stop. I wound up getting an additional Stella 300 that's used on my helmet.

For some reason, the first time I tried to connect the light to the battery, my feeble mind was unable to orient the plug correctly. There is an obvious keymark on the plug, but no obvious counterpoint on the battery itself. Due to the robust weather seal, it was difficult to determine if I had the plug in correctly. I wound up marring the inside of the jack, but fortunately I didn't damage the jack or the plug. This isn't a major issue since now that I know the right way I have it engraved in my brain, but it is a possible stumbling block for the first-time user.

It would be nice if the charger used a different, smaller-diameter plug. There's no reason for the charger to have a water-tight seal connection with the battery, and it makes it difficult to plug in.

My light came with the 2L battery. I also purchased a 3L battery for a backup. One minor nit with the 3L is that the velcro band used to secure the battery to the frame is too long.

From http://reviews.mtbr.com/light-motion-vis360-2012-mtbr-lights-shootout:

"Light & Motion performed extensive studies into accidents, and what helps you to be seen, and they found that 72% of bike accidents occur at intersections with the driver turning into the bike’s path. It turns out one of the most important things is having lights who are placed high, so they can be seen by a driver (consider tall SUV doors), especially as the vehicle goes by or turns in towards the biker, when they become invisible (into a blind spot) along the sides, and the addition of the side LED’s greatly aids visibility. The lights provide a 360 degree cushion of visibility, and draw attention to the motorist that a biker is next to them. The side LED’s are unique to this company’s Vis 180 and Vis 360 commuter lights, and the bright, blinking and very noticeable rear red, and amber side lights make you more obvious to the cager. With a flick of the head, the Vis 360 signals your intention for lane changes or turns, and the amber side emitters remind them you are there. You can refer to some additional information of safety at http://www.bikelights.com/safetyinfo.pdf"


"get out of my way daddy"

Wow. You raise and nurture a child, and this is the response you get.

I took the training wheels off my daughter's bike a few days ago.

The speed at which she learns is amazing. She's only been on the bike w/o training wheels five or six times but she's basically self-sufficient already. When I took the training wheel off I separated the lessons. We started with me helping her start and stop, just focusing on learning to balance. Then next ride I told her how to stop, and the ride after that was how to start on her own. I give her a little lesson and pointers and then she just goes, it's amazing how fast she picks it up.

I know she's at that age where the brain is plastic and is genetically designed to learn fast at that age, and I realize that she's within age-appropriate capabilities so it's not like she's an off-the-scale genius or anything. Yet I still get a nice feeling of parental pride watching her go.

It's interesting seeing her personality. She was riding on the track near our house a few evenings ago. It was the end of a warm day so there were a lot of families out walking and enjoying the relatively cool temperature. Sofia is riding around and she passes a little boy (a year or two younger than Sofia) who's sitting on a bike with training wheels.

The boy starts pedaling and catches up to her. The boy passes her. She proceeds to put the hammer down and passes the boy. Boy pedals like hell and closes to within a bike-length or two, but can't clinch the deal.

Those two little kids were moving! It was hilarious watching both of them, heads down and little legs spinning circles as fast as they can.

Next year she'll probably be ready to ride the Sunday Parkways so we'll give that a try. I'm enjoying it while I can. She'll be kicking my ass on the hills in a few years and I won't be able to keep up on the flats a few years after that.

Some rules for encouraging new riders (not mine, these are from Dave @ River City Bikes in Portland):

  1. Leave them wanting more! In regards to importance, this should be the first three points. There is no quicker way to discourage a new rider than to take them out on too long of a ride, when they aren't nearly ready for it. Their bottom will hurt, their legs will hurt, and they will not have fun, or want to go again.
  2. Stay away from hills. There will be time later when you can start teaching them how to do hills comfortably, but do as little as possible until they have built some fitness and confidence.
  3. Never, ever, say 'hurry up! or try to get them to draft, or imply in the least that it is much less of a ride than you are capable of. Have them in front, especially on any hills.
  4. Mix in ice cream stops, coffee shops, stop at any scenic spots you can, encourage them to drink and eat regularly.
  5. Try to find them someone who they can ride with who is at their own level. It is super important for people to experience all the levels and mini-triumphs of biking at the pace they are comfortable with. It's too easy for experienced riders to forget how much of an accomplishment a 25 mile ride can (and should) be.
  6. Introduce them to organized rides. Don't try a century first! (see #1) There should be shorter alternatives that are very social, plenty of food stops, and they will ride with a vast array of cyclists, some of who are likely slower than they are. It will be a big confidence booster.

This evening I got back from a ride, I was still sweaty in my bibs & jersey. I had promised her that we would go for a ride when I got back so she asked me if I wanted to ride with her. Heck yeah! So we had our first ride together.