The Bike List

NiteRider Lightning Bug 3.0 & Stinger light set £30

Tested by Jon Adams, tester for The Bike List

On unlit country roads, you need lights to illuminate the way, but on the lit streets in towns and cities, it's more important to adorn your bike with a set of 'be seen' lights, so other road users know you're there. The Lightning Bug 3.0 and Stinger tail light set falls into the latter category, and are small, unobtrusive LEDs that won't take up too much room on your bars or seatpost. They're both very quick to fit and remove - you simply pull a stretchy silicon band around the mounting point and hook it over the unit under tension. Front and rear are pretty secure, and stay put - even when tackling nasty potholes - and the rear mount is offset to account for the angle of seatposts. Neither will fit on a helmet directly though, so you'd need to fashion some sort of extra bracket if you wanted to do this.

The front light weighs just 36g (including batteries) and sports 3 bright LEDs which are operated by a large switch on top of the unit. This is silicon coated, has a very positive action, and is easy to find and use even when you're wearing winter gloves. The LEDs cycle through High, Low and Flash settings with successive pushes, and there's a reassuring click from the button for each. The LEDs are best in flashing mode, and do a great job for such a small unit. If it came to it, they'd allow you to limp home in the continuous High mode, too. I rode along an unlit road using just the Lightning Bug 3.0, and while it's very dim and a bit scary, it does provide just enough illumination to find your way along smooth tarmac in an emergency, so it's a handy back up if everything else fails.

The front light is powered by two 3v lithium CR2450 cells. I must confess, I'd never seen these before, but they're the largest coin cells I've come across and are about the size of a 10p piece. Accessing them was easy enough - just pull down the hinged flap on the base of the unit - but getting them out was a pain, as the top one is wedged in against a spring clip, and there's no way of levering it out with your fingers. I eventually removed the cells using a very thin screwdriver on a mini penknife, so while a battery change at home is no big deal, it would be a proper faff on the roadside, and it'd be worth keeping an appropriate tool with some spare batteries if this is likely to happen. To be honest, it won't happen that often, as the run time is huge - up to 100 hours in the flashing mode. You have to have some spares though, and the batteries themselves are probably best bought in a 10-pack online. Amazon.co.uk offer a number of different makes at various prices, so key in CR2450 and follow your nose.

Aside from the (admittedly infrequent) battery changes, the Lightning Bug 3.0 is a super little unit. It would only be improved if the silicon band had a shorter attachment option for helmet use, and if it ran on more popular batteries. Those points aside though, it's a genuinely useful back-up light, and its flashing mode is bright enough to attract attention, so you can put it on for extra safety whenever you ride in traffic. It's available on its own for £15, and in this guise, scores a healthy 4 stars in both the Performance and Value stakes.

Unfortunately, the Stinger Tail Light was another story. It looks good with a neat rubber case surrounding the small LED unit, but the 1/2 watt output from the single LED isn't as bright as other 1/2 watt units we've used - maybe because the lens and reflector is so small. It is still bright though, and certainly better than a cheap, standard rear LED. The lens unit is the switch, and pushing it cycles through the flashing and continuous modes. But while it's neat and attractive, battery replacement again is a real pain - much worse than the Lightning Bug 3.0. You have to first prise the small LED unit out of the rubber casing that surrounds it, and then you have to somehow get the cover off the battery compartment. On our sample, this was extremely difficult, and the knack is to get two or three fingernails underneath it and heave it off, hoping that a) your nails and b) the plastic will hold out. If there's a better way of doing this (and we couldn't find one), then it'd be handy to offer some advice in the instructions. There is a small info sheet supplied, but it simply says "Pull back rubber casing and remove LED housing, replace batteries and place back into housing". That's it, and for something so awkward, it's inadequate. It'd make much more sense to add a screw thread and let the user just unscrew the battery cover. Putting the light unit back inside the rubber housing is slightly more difficult (and annoying) than getting it out, and I really wouldn't want to do this on the roadside.     

With another huge runtime of up to 100 hours in the flashing mode, replacing the batteries won't be something you'll be doing weekly or even monthly, but when the time comes, it's worth noting that button cells are used again, and the Stinger takes two of the more popular CR2032 batteries. These are the ones found in a lot of cycle computers, and a pack of 10 branded cells can be obtained for about £3 if you shop around online.

Overall, the tail light mounts well and is nice-looking, but it's let down by the cumbersome battery replacement process. It's just plain irritating and a long way from what you'd expect. Luckily, both light units are available separately as well as in a front-and-rear set, so the best bet is to go for the excellent Lightning Bug 3.0 on its own (£15) and unless you really love the design, leave the £20 Stinger Tail Light alone, as better value can be found elsewhere. The 3-star scores above reflect the £30 front-and-rear set we tested, but the £20 Stinger on its own would collect a 2-star rating in Performance and Value.

Buy from www.wiggle.co.uk

At a glance

Verdict Small, lightweight 'be seen' LED light set with a long runtime and a good front flasher, but the rear unit is compromised by an awkward battery replacement process.
Value
Performance

NiteRider says:

Introducing the Lightning Bug and Stinger Taillight, these lights were designed with the same quality and attention to detail as our high end bike lights. Battery installation, mounting and operation can practically be done with your eyes closed. Due to the ease of installation and their small size, they are quickly removed and stowed into your pocket. The Lightning Bug comes in 6 different colors and you can choose from a 1, 2 or 3 LED version. The Stinger Taillight operates off a powerful ½ watt LED, allowing you to be seen from a half mile away. Whether you're out for a quick spin around the block or a cruise down the boardwalk the Lightning Bug and Stinger help you be seen.

FEATURES

Lightning Bug 3.0

  • 3 Bright LEDs
  • 3 Modes - High/Low/Flash
  • 36g
  • Up to 100hrs run time 

Stinger Tailight 

  • Quick release mounting
  • 2 Modes-Steady/Flash
  • Bright ½ watt LED
  • Fits round and aero seat posts

Find out more www.niterider.com