OXFORD COMMUTE X4 PERSONAL ILLUMINATION DEVICE
Oxford’s X4 Personal Illumination System fits to rider or backpack and so sits just at the right level for car drivers and closer to that of those in van and lorry. There’s no doubting its ability to deliver a strong presence through the light and the fibre optic straps. Some might doubt the concept, but few could argue that it does not do what it says very well. A very useful addition for the safety conscious commuter, especially when the daily drive is through the bright lights of town.
Pros: Gives a strong presence.
Cons: Some might find it fiddly.
Fundamentally, the X4 aims to place a light at a height where it will be in the eye-line of many drivers. In addition, the fibre optic straps give all round presence when mounted on the rider, or to back and sides when wrapped around a backpack.
On the one hand, every little counts – and the X4 is a lot – to keep other road-users on the ball. On the other, discussion initially focussed on whether a helmet light or blinkie on a backpack loop were not just as likely to do this with a good deal less fiddling round with straps. Fans retorted that the X4’s fibre optic straps gave more presence to each side …. and that, once on a rucsac was unlikely to need much adjustment. We’ll leave it there. Suffice to say, some loved the concept, others felt it was not for them.
Basically, you get a useful set of instructions, the X4 itself, and a charging cable. There are four fibre-optic straps which emerge from a plastic hub containing the USB rechargeable battery and the light. Then there are four adjustable straps with press studs offering a number of different ways to fix it to a rucsac or a rider.
Control buttons are easily operable and unlikely to be victims of mistaken engagement. They could be reached by very flexible folk – sans rucsac - on the fly, with practice and agility; best set them to what you want before you adorn yourself and get going.
IPX4 means “waterproof in normal weather conditions. Don’t submerge it. The USB slot seems to be sound against water, though a rubber bung might inspire more confidence.
One or two colleagues have commented on the build quality – saying that they think it could look better. I’m of the opinion, that a device like this is unlikely to be a thing of beauty and function is all. Certainly, I’ve found nothing to suggest that it is anything but robust and waterproof.
It should manage up to 35litres of rucsac, so swallows models such as Chrome’s Urban Ex18 Cycling Backpack, and should fit any commuting model. I’ve tried rigging it up over a messenger bag. Fiddly, but do-able, it’ll stay in place, but the straps and the bag’s back pads weren’t always a comfortable combination.
Charge and run times
A USB rechargeable battery powers both the 70 lumen light and the fibre optic straps. Give it a full charge to start with – I found it took around 3 and a half hours on the mains, a little longer, nearly four, via the laptop. Pretty much in-line with Oxford’s quoted four hours max..
There are multiple combinations from light only (with five modes), to fibre optics (with three modes), and, of course, both at the same time. Light and fibre optics claim to give, with the light at high constant is quoted as 3.5; seventy lumen flashing with fibre optics, 6 hours (the low constant says 7) and a sequential flash on fibre optics only could give 20 hours.
These are pretty much spot on with our test model – give or take a few minutes, so the burn time of different combinations can be estimated. Having said that, this can’t be your main lighting system anyway. The law states that cyclists must display a rear light mounted on the frame.
Getting the straps the right length for security on self or rucsac is rewarded with a nice tight fit. It should not need to adjusted too often – there’s a fair degree of stretch.
There’s no doubt that the full blast sits right in the eye-line of most car drivers. The domed shape offers some peripheral bleed, too, to enhance the side-on presence provided by the fibre optics. Even if these give out, reflective strips still provide some presence. Full blast draws attention in town centre traffic at some thirty or forty metes, I’m told. It can be seen significantly further off, but it is at close quarters that it seems to come into its own – multi-lane carriageways, junctions, traffic queues etc.
Personally, I found the flashing mode quite fierce at night, but better as a day-time runner, catching attention at around forty metres, I’m told, on dull days.
There’s plenty of juice, given sensitive use, for a week of general commuting per charge – working on the basis of around half-an-hour: three to four days. Mind you, it is not an easy surreptitious charge if your boss is not keen on you using the company’s electricity.
Whilst the concept has been a matter of debate, there’s no doubt that Oxford’s X4 really does a good job. Those suspicious of LED jackets – awkward to keep clean – may well take to it, whilst belt and braces safety-minded commuters will admire its impact. Others may be content with blinkies and reflectives.