Tuesday, 8 January 2008

Gear review - Smart Polaris II light set

It's not often I can do gear reviews but yesterday I received the solution to my need for a flashing front light.

I have to say I'm impressed both with the service from Wiggle and the performance of the light. I ordered the Smart Polaris light set on Thursday last week and two working days later (Monday), it arrived. The regular list price is around £25 so at £15 the sale item appeared good value.

Package Contents
Contained in the package is a small hand sized powerful LED light for the front that can double as a torch. With this is a neat mount for the handlebar that doesn't require tools to install. The small rear unit weighs very little and comprises mainly the red plastic lens. It comes with a choice of seat post mount or smaller diameter frame mount. There are some rubber spacers to adjust to most frame and post types. Alkaline batteries are supplied for each unit

The Details
The front light has 3 powerful forward facing LEDs focussed through a quality lens sealed into the head of the unit. There are models with 5 LEDs for a little more money. It takes two AA batteries that are fitted in the unit by twisting the head of the light off the battery compartment making it easy to fit replacement batteries without tools. The unit looks well designed and the materials strong. There is a sealing ring between the parts of the body to prevent the ingress of water. Operation is by a rubberised push button on the top of the unit. It cycles between off, flashing and constant modes.

The rear light unit has 7 LED's in a clever arrangement with 3 rearward facing, two facing 90 degrees to each side and two facing at roughly 45 degrees rearward. The light cover looks well designed with diffusion and focussing lenses. The unit takes two AAA batteries fitted by opening the unit with a coin - again a clever idea, not requiring real tools. The parts of the body are sealed with a rubber gasket. The light slides into the mount until it clicks in place. The clip on the light for this can also be used to clip the light to clothing or a rucksack. Operation is by pressing the case at the bottom where there is a small micro switch. This rear light unit has constant, all flashing, alternating flashing and off operating modes.

This couldn't be simpler for the front light. The mount is a simple strap fitted with the mount at the top and a cam locking lever underneath. This allows the mount to be quickly moved between bikes. The assumption in the design is that it will be used on the handlebar, which for me was no problem. The unit is small enough that it can coexist with cycle computers, GPS and hands. The only adjustment required is to push the strap into the mount by the correct amount to ensure that when the cam lever is closed, it provides a tight fit on the handlebar. Fine adjustment can be made by rotating the cam lever in its threaded locator boss. The whole process took about four minutes on my bike.

The rear light took slightly longer, but this was only because I was restricted by the small bag under my saddle. Ideally this rear light fits on the seat post in a vertical orientation but on my bike, there was insufficient room. Because of this, I chose the smaller frame mount and one of the spacers wrapped around the frame. With a screwdriver to tighten the fixing, this also shouldn't take more than a few minutes. Mounting on the frame has the disadvantage that the unit is offset to one side and this restricts the view of the lights a little bit from the kerbside. Whilst the rear mount is not easily moved between bikes, the clip on the light facilitates temporary mounting.

In Use
My requirement was for a very bright front light. The Polaris certainly surpasses my expectations. Both units do, in fact. The front has a narrow beam, which close up looks to have little spread, but when viewed over a distance it is obviously a good design because even at hundreds of metres distant, the beam is still very bright and easily picked out, especially in flashing mode. The 3 LED front light shouldn't be looked at directly because it is blindingly bright close up, but what I wanted to know, was how it would improve things as I'm on the road. My aim was to ensure my front light isn't lost in the headlights of passing cars and hopefully prevent someone opening a door or pulling out of a side road. This advanced warning is what I'm after to help ensure motorists consider a cyclist is there.

Having done three journeys with the lights, I can confirm they do the job well. The front beam is reflected off road signs, number plates, bollards and other reflective street furniture hundreds of metres away. I sense cars approaching from the rear are adjusting their speed earlier and cars, approaching junctions from side roads ahead of me, have been stopping where before they might have pulled out. The photo below doesn't do justice to the brightness of the light as it is significantly brighter than my halogen, which has a wide beam. I hoped it would give an idea of the effect from about 100m but it is actually much better than the image suggests. It's early days (or nights), but so far, I'm impressed and can recommend these lights as a road safety accessory that's well worth the money.

An update to this review appears in this later post: Polaris II Light Set Review Update containing conclusions from extended use of the lights.


AlexTurgid said...

I got a set of those a while back. The back light lasted about eight weeks (400 miles) in all weather, but eventually the battery compartment started to get a little slack and the light cut out occasionally.

Front light lasted about two weeks longer (another 100 miles) before I got caught in a bad storm and it got sodden, and refused to light up again even after replacing batteries. All in all, not too bad, although I've had lights that last longer.

Psychalist said...


I'll be disappointed if they only last that long. Even the cheap rear 3 LED unit I have has lasted a couple of years and that gets water in the switch because I had to mount it upside down. I'll post an update sometime, either on failure, the end of winter or the start of next winter - hopefully the latter.

Off road led lights said...

wow such a lovely Led lights here i have found another bombproof eclipse off road led lights.

AJ said...

how about some lovely LED lights? What if you put an OFF Road LED Lights? That would be nice!