First look: Blackburn Flea head and tail lights

USB and solar charging options for 2010

California-based Blackburn Designs has redesigned its popular compact Flea head and tail lights to include both a USB and solar charger for 2010.

The 2010 US$39 Flea USB+Solar rechargeable lithium-Ion 17g headlight uses four White Nichia LEDs to provide three hours of steady run time (five hours on 'flash' mode), according to the company. Both lights come with three settings: standard, overdrive (brighter) and flash (blinking) which are activated by a top-mount rubber thumb button.

Reflecting the popularity of using USB computer ports, Blackburn calls its system a Smart Charger, taking less than an hour for a full charge. Simply attach the light to the magnetic dots of the USB stick and voila!

The headlight has a 40 lumen output, and comes with a rubber-backed Velcro strap for easy and versatile mounting. The US$39 rear USB+Solar rechargeable lithium-Ion taillight, also 17g, provides six hours of steady run time, with 10 hours of flashing/blinking. It uses the same Velcro strap and has a built-in belt clip for jacket or saddle bag mounting. Remember to remove these lights from your bike as a theft-prevention effort if you leave your bike unattended for long periods.

We received our lights at the recent Interbike Outdoor Demo from brand manager Sean Coffey, and haven't had any challenges or letdowns in the nearly four weeks we've used them. We've been flashed by automobile drivers at night when in the 'overdrive' setting, so brightness is not an issue.

Strong enough for night trail riding? Probably not, especially if there isn't a full moon. Waterproof? Haven't had wet weather yet in northern California, so that verdict will have to wait. There's no disputing the affordable price, and not having to burn through a steady rotation of expensive batteries is a bonus.

We appreciate the versatility and lightweight of the Blackburn Flea lighting system. With North America and Europe sliding into winter and less daylight, the Flea's solar charger may not get as much use, but you can be assured our USB Smart Charger will always be riding shotgun next to our well-worn MacBook Pro.

According to Coffey, USB chargers and Solar chargers are also available as accessories and are compatible with current and last year’s Fleas. Front headlights come in six colours: green, pink, blue, white, red and black.

For more information, visit www.blackburndesign.com.

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