BRIGHTSIDE BRIGHT, AMBER & SIDEWAYS
The Brightside Bright, Amber & Sideways is designed to provide additional 180 degrees of presence at junctions and roundabouts. It’s user-friendly, highly effective, well-made, unobtrusive and may be a particularly good bet for tagalongs and trailers (which can be overlooked, even if the bike is lit up like the proverbial Christmas tree).
Pros: Effective, unobtrusive and very user friendly.
Cons: Charge cable a little short.
Inside the rugged composite housing (which meets IPX65 standard for waterproofing, which means it will resist “heavy jets of water” but not full-on immersion). A snug fitting micro-USB charge port cover inspires confidence, and this specification is great news for a low-slung touring trailer and only likely to be an issue, if your commute involves river crossings.
Behind the wide, “fish-eye” lens designed to cast a broad beam of light lie two Cree LEDs fuelled by a lithium ion 650MaH 3.7V cell, reckoned good for 1500 charge cycles before run-times start tapering off slightly.
Keeping batteries charged to 70% of full power is the best way of ensuring long and productive lives. Brightside tell me they’ll recover from complete discharges, but it takes them a little while before they’ll spring from hibernation and begin registering charge.
Charge times are cited as 3hours but from the mains, ours has gone from flat to fully charged in 2hrs 30 and using an aftermarket micro-USB cable. Supping from the K-lite Bikepacker Ultra USB charger, I’ve had ours fully juiced in 3.5 hours, with the lamp off and at a steady 20mph.
This is a rubberised, centre-mounted affair, with a dome shaped profile for easy operation, even mid ride and wearing full-finger, winter weight gloves. Like many others, it incorporates a “traffic light” style charge/battery life indicator. Similarly easy to spot read, and greatly reducing the likelihood of unwanted power downs. Talking of which, the switch is also very positive, requiring a definite .5 second press before powering up/down. Unlikely to be illuminating luggage, or pockets when off the bike. There are several modes - flashing and steady, depending on your environment and preference.
This leads me nicely to the mount. In common with its Toplight cousin, it employs a rugged, curved nylon bracket that secures to the bike, via a choice of rubberised straps, catering for different tubing diameters.
This seems secure and paint friendly, although I had to rummage through the bodge box for a fat O-ring type to achieve rock-steady tenure on thinner, road bike tubing.
Hardly a deal-breaker, but something to consider, if your winter/working bike hails from the late 80’s/early 90s. It can be mounted beneath, or atop the top tube, down, or head tube, depending on preference, frame style and size.
It pumps out a maximum of 30 lumens in the highest flashing modes. Hardly retina tickling on paper perhaps, but in recent years, thanks to improvements in lens and reflector technology, very credible for unlit roads, while still striking the right side of assertive round town. Brightside reckon visibility is 500metres.
Possibly on crystal-clear, starry nights but consensus suggests closer to 400 metres along the unlit winding back doubles and 280 metres in the flashing modes through the concrete jungle. The lower 15 lumens are closer to 250 metres along the backroads and 180 metres in built up areas. Steady is closer to 150 and 100 metres respectively. Nit-picking aside, this is still impressive and gives no scope for a SMIDSY (Sorry Mate, I Didn’t See You). This seems consistent in day and night modes.
Aside from the fact that side lights aren’t overly common, the choice of flashing tempo and easy mode switching greatly reduces the likelihood of being drowned out by competing illuminations, and equally significant, being mistaken for turn signals. Cars and crucially, bigger vehicles were palpably more cautious when I was passing junctions and gave way more readily when entering the flow of traffic.
Though never complacent, switched to my low-slung Yak homage trailer, the beast of burden was also more conspicuous - drivers have been known spot the solo and rider but not expect the tagalong/trailer, pulling out too quickly and colliding with them. In these contexts, 150, maybe 180 metres in flashing seemed to be the point at which most cottoned on, which is plenty of time to react. The song remained broadly similar in the daylight flashing settings and on overcast days.
Run Times 4/5
Brightside cite a maximum run time of 34 hours from the 15 lumen flashing modes. Credit where its due, it has come within a few minutes of this, from a full charge. The 30-lumen fast flash has delivered 16hrs 54, easily good enough for a fortnight’s middle-distance commuting or training and the steady 2hrs 10minutes.
I was surprised by the speed our charge indicator slipped to amber on a couple of occasions, especially given temperatures were around 13-14 degrees. Nonetheless, they’ve met their promised run times. The steady also kicked down to flashing when reserves bombed, buying 35 minutes before powering down completely.
Despite weighing a feathery 79g, its reassuringly solid. Passed my garden hose test with flying colours and without missing a beat. Same when attached to my trailer and subjected to a tsunami of standing water, attached to my trailer. I’ve not felt any inclination to add a lick of silicone grease to the port cover (although you could, as a precaution, riding in very harsh conditions).
Ours has bounced from my pocket and onto a hard concrete floor (from a metre, or so) with no battle scars and again, no issues operationally. Brightside have even driven over one without killing it. They have also been frozen in ice and left in a river, and still come back to life!
£29.99 is excellent value, whichever way we cut and dice things. There is very little to draw direct comparison. Both Cat Eye and Blackburn used to offer side illumination systems, but these are no longer current products.
Ok, so it’s not essential. Nonetheless, I’ve been impressed by the Brightside Bright, Amber & Sideways. It's bright and captivating in all, although particularly the flashing modes. It’s also very well made and user friendly, which is a great combination, especially given the modest price. My one minor gripe is the very short OEM charge cable.