After a couple of years of riding his bike home after work in Seattle’s dark, rainy weather, engineer Pete Clyde started to drive more often. As a cyclist, he realized he just wasn’t visible enough at night, even with the brightest bike lights. So Clyde designed a light of his own.
The new LED lights, called Orfos Flares, make a bicycle as bright as the cars around it. “As I rode at night, I realized that cars normally scan for other cars,” Clyde says. “If you think about what a car looks like from the side, you can see it from many angles. Bikes don’t have that. By designing bike lights with 360 degree visibility, you get that same aspect of the wraparound objects.”
The lights use ultra-efficient LEDs glowing at 500 lumens, the same brightness as taillights on a modern car. A clear silicone shell lets the beam shine out in every direction, surrounding the cyclist with a circle of light. The lights are bright enough to be used even in the daytime. Unlike car lights, they can also flash, to make it clear to drivers that you’re on a bike.
In the past, the lights wouldn’t have been possible to make. “When LEDs first came out, they weren’t efficient enough to provide a wide beam with a portable battery source,” Clyde explains. “With the newest LED technology, you can get a lot more light out, and it will be bright from any angle.”
Extra-bright bike lights aren’t new, but others haven’t worked well. “A lot of the cheaper products don’t have as much power, and they’re not as efficient,” says Clyde. “They focus all the way straight back or straight forward, and what ends up happening is you blind the driver if they get stuck in that beam–and no one else sees it outside of that beam. Modern LED technology is now going to allow for better visibility.”
The lights, which can be attached to a bike frame, helmet, or backpack, aren’t cheap. On Kickstarter, where they’re currently crowdfunding, a single light is $119, and a set of front and back lights goes for $229. But the startup believes that there’s a market for high-end lights (and they quickly passed their goal on Kickstarter).
“Now that consumers are appreciating better design, and they’re demanding innovation, higher durability and quality, it’s really a turning point in the industry,” Clyde says.
Clyde is now back on the roads at night. “Once I started riding with these lights, I pretty much felt like a car on the road, though everyone would notice I was on a bike,” he says. “I actually started feeling safer riding at night than I do during the day.”