The Bike List

Blackburn Flea 2.0 4 LED front light + USB Solar panel £40

Tested by Jon Adams, tester for The Bike List

The Flea 2 is a great idea for commuters: a tiny, bright 4 LED light that attaches to your bars by a Velcro strap and charges through any computer's USB port. What's more, you have a switch that doubles as a battery status indicator, so you know when you need a charge, and even better, the unit charges to full in just 90 minutes. On top of these positives, it weighs next to nothing at just 17g, and on a warm night, it'll run for about 3 hours in constant mode, and will flash away merrily for 5 hours. There's even a boost mode called Overdrive that pushes extra output through the LEDs, but this will only last for an hour at 20ºC, so you need to choose your moments and use it wisely. If push came to shove and everything else failed, the Flea's Overdrive mode would just about illuminate enough road to get you home on an unlit lane, though you'd need to go pretty slowly to stay safe.

So far so good, and with the above in mind, there's a lot to like about the Flea 2. What isn't so great though is the charging system. The Flea 2 has a tiny USB charger that attaches via two magnetic contacts. While the idea is very neat, getting a good contact on our sample involved jiggling the unit about in the USB port until the charging light was displayed, and it's all too easy to plug it in and discover a couple of hours later that it hasn't been charging at all. Another downside is that you have to unthread the mounting strap to charge the light, as it's in the way of the contacts, but we did find that if you attach the light to the charger and then wrap the mounting strap around the pair to clamp them together and form a really good contact, there are no problems with USB charging. This isn't really part of the plan, but it does work very successfully and completely solves any charging problems. It also ensures you don't mislay the strap, so it's actually quite a smart move!

A red light pulses every 3 seconds or so over the charging process, and when it's done, it pulses green to let you know. This process only takes about 1.5 hours, so it's easy to charge up in the office before the ride home. The USB plug itself is just a piece of circuit board with two contact strips, though, and we'd prefer to see a proper metal plug, especially given the asking price of £25 (or £40 if you go for the solar option). The charger is incredibly small and light, and it makes sense to make use of the attachment point on the casing, so you can thread some cord through it and clip it to your keys or phone (or something equally vital) so you don't misplace it. 

The mounting strap works well enough on oversize bars, but on accessory brackets and regular MTB bars, there's not a great deal of hook-to-loop contact left on the velcro attachment. It's adequate though, and we haven't had any problems with several month's use on a Minoura Spacegrip accessory bracket.

The solar charger supplied with our sample looks the business, but it needs direct sun for about 7 hours to give a full charge to the Flea, and we found ourselves scratching our heads trying to think of when it would be genuinely useful, and worth the extra £15 on top of the standard option. Those in sunny climes who aren't inconvenienced by electricity will rate it highly, but for the rest of us, a mains- or battery-based back-up charger would make more sense.

Away from the £40 solar option, the standard £25 unit with a USB charger is better value but is still a bit expensive for the output you get. Once you get round the charging niggles though, it is a useful 'be seen' commuting light that's very light, small and easy to use. Never having to worry about batteries is reassuring, but the charging system needs to be a bit more robust in its delivery.

Buy from www.chainreactioncycles.com

Blackburn says:

FLEA 2.0

Blackburn's lightest, brightest rechargeable cycling light just got better. New for 2011, the FLEA 2.0 features a clear power button that houses an LED battery fuel gauge/charging indicator. Now there is no longer a need to guess how much battery life is left, just follow the simple color code.

Mounts Anywhere

Flea lights are smaller than cookies, and with a versatile hook/loop strap mounting system (and belt clip for the rear) they'll mount almost anywhere.

Charge off Anything

Well, almost. Fleas are available with USB Smart Chargers and SOLAR Smart Chargers (which also include USB chargers). No other rechargeable light offers this kind of charging versatility.

You're Covered for Life

Like everything we do, 
Blackburn Flea lights are covered by our Lifetime Warranty. 

Helpful Hint: All 2011 Fleas ship in a DEMO mode that automatically turns the light off after a few seconds. To take the light out of DEMO mode, press and hold the power button for 20 seconds. When the light turns off, you're set

Specifications

  • Ultra compact rechargeable Li-Ion headlight
  • Uses four super-bright White Nichia® LEDs
  • 40 Lumen output
  • Includes USB charger AND solar charger
  • Flexible and compact mounting system
  • Standard, Overdrive and Flash modes
  • Superlight at 17 grams
  • 3 hour runtime steady, 5 hour runtime flash
  • LED fuel gauge/charge indicator

Find out more www.blackburndesign.com

At a glance

Verdict Small, rechargeable, 'be seen' light that charges quickly via a USB port or slowly via a solar panel. The light is very effective, but the charging system could be much better.
Value
Performance