NiteFlux Red Zone 4 and White Zone 5 - Review

Nite Flux are an Adelaide based company and manufacturer of high performance bicycle lighting. Their latest offerings are the Red Zone 4 and White Zone 5. I have been fortunate to have a pair of these lights for a long-term test and evaluation. Here are some initial thoughts.

It is hard to put these impressive little lights into a category, probably the best description I could give them is daylight visible safety lights – emphasis on ‘daylight’ – as this consideration is important when comparing the NiteFlux against most other ‘daylight visible lights’ on the market today.


LED technology has advanced so much in recent years – early LED were insipid things that dimmed quickly as the power, usually drawn from a AA battery, diminished – till they were little more than reflectors. I have an early front Vista Light that I use to wonder what the point of it was – the dull green glow of the front LEDs barely giving out any light.

As LEDs advanced, so did the power output and the designs possible. Today there is a vast array of LED lights on the market at many different price points, with some very powerful models available at very reasonable prices. However, if you use a light everyday, or have ever dropped one, you will quickly realise that the mounts and light bodies can be quite fragile and brittle – I have a shoe box full of failed lights, mounts and parts from cheap and not so cheap lights that have broken. I have even made my own lights, a particularly powerful 12volt head lamp – but that light required a 12v battery – not the best thing to carry around on a bike (total overkill)

From the outset, I think I can confidently say that the Red and White Zone lights are the most robust bicycle lights I have ever seen. They have obviously been designed to be used everyday and on every ride. They are designed to be easily moved between bikes using a very simple velcro and / or clip style mount that attaches to either the frame, clothing or a saddle bag, or in the case of the Red Zone, ones helmet (this is how I have mainly been using it).


The case of the lights is a resin-based material that apart from the charging socket (covered by its own sealed plug) totally seals the entire unit. The lights are USB rechargeable with an internal non-serviceable battery. The lifespan of this battery is anticipated at 5 years – considering that I would expect these lights to outlast pretty much any other light I have seen, and that LED technology will advance further within the lifespan of the product, I do not see an internal sealed battery as a problem – I would if the light felt like it would break, but not these lights. Standard the lights come with a 1-year warranty with additional extended warranty options available from the manufacturer.



Most bicycle lights, whether front or rear, are highly focused and directional. The narrow field of vision of a front head light is really good to see where you are going on a really dark street or mountain trail, but perhaps not so good in city traffic or on an overcast day where you want a wide angle spread of light offering maximum visibility and attention to the rider. The same goes for the rear light, but even more so. Focused rear lights get lost in all the background information that motorists have to process when driving. Distraction and situational awareness are two things that motorists have to constantly deal with. A bright, visible and wide-angle taillight that is ‘un-miss-able’ is a very desirable accessory for the cyclist. The Red Zone certainly meets these criteria.

Both lights have several power and flash intensity settings. They come shipped with 3 by default, and these can be adjusted and customised within a menu by user selection. The defaults are: a daylight visible intense strobe flash, a lesser nighttime flash (otherwise you are likely to dazzle oncoming traffic or cause your riding partner following behind to have a seizure) and a steady high-powered light (particularly handy if a main front head light fails – such as happened to me in McLaren Vale one moonless night).

So, first impressions are very good – the lights are very well made, robust and are very user friendly.

The main point about these lights, one that I feel really needs to be emphasised – is the visibility. I feel that they are like no other bicycle light on the market today. They have such an intense LED light source that is not focused, resulting in an incredible field of visible light. This light is visible from a wide angle of view, giving approaching traffic ample notice of your presence on the road.

I have been using the lights commuting almost 35 km every day and on long rides through the Adelaide Hills.  I have actually felt more visible using these lights; with motorist behaviour modified by the additional presence these lights seem to give me as a cyclist.

I look forward to continue the trial and report again at the end of summer and the cooler darker months of the year later in 2012.

See http://www.niteflux.com/Products.aspx for more information.

Views: 3050

Comment by David Bastians on December 9, 2011 at 14:11

Hi Jeremy,

thanks for the review.

One comment I would make about wide angle visibility and driver behaviour is that in order to be a useful aid in traffic, the projection of the light must be wide because when drivers are close to cyclists, the angles of view are never straight on, and are changing all the time.  Its not just ample notice (although this is always a plus, nobody ever got hit on the road from far away), but the ability to be noticeable up close that helps drivers give space to cyclists on the road I think.

We've got a LOT of feedback that driver "behaviour does change" when this light is in place.  Drivers are not getting their minds altered by this light.  I think that most drivers already want to give space to cyclists, and to any other responsible road users, and if we make it easy for them then it can happen.

Comment by Jeremy Miller on April 4, 2012 at 22:27
Thanks for that A.V.O! I've been thinking about updating this post with the time change in mind. Always amazed by the number of cyclist who seem to think that they are visible when quite clearly they are not! As the season of dark commutes approaches I get a feeling these lights are going to be quite illuminating in the presence they afford me as a transport bicycle user. I also suspect that the road bike utility of these lights for training rides will prove invaluable. Update to come soon...
Comment by Paul on June 1, 2012 at 14:28

Having thought that I stood out like a christmas tree on the road, I was informed this morning by a motorist that I was "hard to see"; despite three individual flashing lights to my rear, and two to the front. I am therefore in the market for a replacement light set, would like to see and be seen, prefer rechargeable to avoid frequent battery disposal - USB if possible, and reduce likelihood of ever hearing a motorist tell me this again. I go to great length twice a day to stick out like a dog's proverbials, so when it doesn't work I feel more than just slightly miffed!

So very much looking forward to your update Jeremy!!!

Comment by Tim B on July 3, 2012 at 15:16

I'd be interested to hear if any of you folks have had issues with your lights? A few of us now in THIS thread have had a problem where the lights settings appear to get corrupted and the light either switches itself on or off at random. Mine started acting up yesterday after 2 months of service. At first I thought it was due to water ingress around the USB charger as when I removed the small black plug yesterday, there was water in there (I have my light attached to the rear of my saddle just above the tyre) but as others have had similar issues, may have been a coincidence, or not.

I had my light replaced through the LBS this morning under warranty. The red resin casing is now a clear-ish colour similar to the WZ5 (still has a red PCB inside) and the on/off button has a flatter profile which is more comfortable to use.

I really do like these lights, very wide angle of view and very bright. If the failures are due to water ingress, maybe shifting the USB charging port to the side "could" help, but either way, getting water in there probably wouldn't help the situation over the long term.?

Comment by David Bastians on July 3, 2012 at 16:07

Better still, if you have problems, please just email service@niteflux.com.  The product has a long warranty.

We have done a lot of work on the reliability of the switch.  We have changed materials that we use around it and generally this has made the switch easier to use.  In most cases, problems are resolved.

NB: this light generally holds up very well in water but it is sometimes the case that what comes up from the road in road spray is not just water.  There is a guy who we are working with who has had several failures of his RZ4.  Turns out he rides through an area where water from old landfill runs across the track.  Who knows what is coming up off the road.

But, anyway most warranty cases can be fixed with a simple swap for a new unit.

Comment by Tim B on July 3, 2012 at 16:39

Hi David, tried calling you yesterday, calls going straight to voicemail, left a message and haven't heard back (no need now as I have a new light) so ended up at the shop as I needed a new light for tomorrow morning

So is the problem we have been describing due to a faulty switch or at least the reliability of the switch rather than water damage? Is it a long term issue if water is getting into the USB charging plug at all, I imagine it would be regardless of what chemicals may be coming off of the road?

Just curious, what is the reasoning between the change of resin colour (from red to white)? Is there any difference in the output of the LEDs? It's still daytime, but they look brighter now for some reason.

cheers

Tim

Comment by David Bastians on July 3, 2012 at 17:13

Hi Tim,

some switches have been damaged (very, very, slowly) by some adhesives we used in initial production.  The majority are still OK after more than a year so far.  This problem masquerades as water damage but is not usually caused by water.  The adhesive is one that we have used for many years in similar applications with no problems at all, but not in this exact context (extremely closely encapsulated).  We changed this adhesive recently.

A little bit of water inside the USB connector should not be a problem.  The cover is really there to keep grit and road grime out.  Any water trapped under the cover will usually dry out during charging.  In the test units that I use on my bikes, I usually don't bother with the cover at all.   

Along the way we also removed additives from the main resin to simplify things (simpler is usually better).  With the new material being more translucent, the lighting effect will be a little better, but this is not really very significant.  The light output was already very good and is just slightly better.

Comment by Tim B on July 3, 2012 at 21:17

Thanks for the reply David.

Tim

Comment by Deborah d'Avigdor on July 3, 2012 at 22:01
Gosh, I'd be just utterly delighted to hear something from the company, ordered a rear light a week ago, hasn't turned up, sent two emails, no response, I call that b***** awful customer service, doesn't exactly inspire one with confidence, they've got my money including a two year extended warranty, if the company won't respond, what, I ask myself, is the use of that? after sales support, what about plain courtesy and respond to emails?? Listening David??
Comment by Tim B on October 1, 2012 at 18:51
Hi guys/ David, just thought I'd stop by and let you know my new light started exhibiting the same failure as my last one above. The new one is in the clearer resin. Got caught at Mount Lofty yesterday in rain and had a really wet ride home, similar to the last failure. This morning when I went out to the shed the light was switching on and off at random, blinking and had lost it's settings again. I've been on many rides where the roads have been damp, but on the two occasions my lights have failed it has been really wet. Assume water is being blasted into the USB port off the back tire (the black plug was in place on both lights).
I'll be off to the shop again tomorrow to have it replaced, but may I suggest if you ever redesign this light, perhaps locate the USB somewhere else?

Cheers
Tim

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