Orfos Red Flare Review
If you commute by bike like me, you know the frustration of bike lights. The batteries die at the most inopportune times. They are subject to failure from wet conditions and vibration. In the last couple years, I have gone through three bike lights. The first, purchased at Performance failed at the switch. Vibration would cause it to turn off at random times. The second clipped to my saddle bag, until vibration caused the clip to break off leaving no way to attach it to my bike. The third, my Cygolite Expilion 680 which I reviewed here has a power button works intermittently. As a result of frustrations like these I see a lot of cyclists who ride with 2, 3 or even 4 headlights and tail lights in case one fails. This is ridiculous! I want to simplify my ride to work and be safe. I do not want to complicate by mounting a half a dozen lights to my beautiful steed.
- So I set out to find a new tail light. However, since I don’t want to be continuously babysitting 2-3 individual lights, not any light would do. My new tail light would have to have the following qualities:
- It would have to be bright! If your light is not bright enough to draw attention to your presence, why even bother. I see many cyclists who ride with barely visible dim lights.
- It would have to be reliable and durable. I need to be sure my light will stay lit when I ride. Constantly checking to be sure your lights are still working is nerve wracking. It removes the fun of the commute!
- It will not be a strobe. I hate strobing bike lights. They are obviously visible, but they can blind and disorient drivers. Just say no to strobes!
- It would have to be rechargeable. Changing batteries is a pain in the neck.
- It will have to alert you to when the battery is low. Having a battery die on a ride sucks!
- Attachment to the bike has to be low profile and secure.
As it turns out, I had a tail light in mind when I started shopping. Last year I met the creator of Orfos bike lights, Peter, at the Seattle Bike Show. Like me, Peter is a bike commuter who was frustrated by other bike lights on the market. Being an engineering student, he set out to create his own lights that solved these problems. Once he created his lights, he had his headlight and taillight manufactured here in Washington state. I was intrigued, but the price was a bit high and I was not currently in the market for a bike light. After searching extensively for a light that met my criteria, I came back to the Orfos Red Flare.
The Orfos Red Flare comes with the light, a charger, two magnets and a bunch of zip ties. Instead of relying on complicated clips to secure the light to the bike, the Orfos Red Flare relies on very strong magnets. You simply zip tie the magnet to your bike and the light tenaciously holds on to the light. I was worried about losing my light at first, but I have hit potholes, railroad tracks and even jumps on my Masi without signs of any movement. The zip ties do loosen over time, but they are still secure and the magnet is not going anywhere. The magnetic mounting system works great if you have multiple bikes. You could also mount it to your helmet or backpack. In a pinch you could stick the magnet in your jersey pocket and clip the light to it. It is really a clever system.
The light itself is housed in an extruded plastic case with a solid bottom. The light’s ‘innards’ are slid into the case. After this is complete, the air in the case is displaced with silicone. This leaves no way for water to get into the electronics to cause failure. I also imagine that this limits the impact of vibration. The one drawback, is that the top of the unit, where you turn on the power and plug in the charger is raw silicone which is tends to attract dust and debris especially if you mount the light with the power button pointing down. Otherwise the light is beautifully crafted and feels incredibly solid! As for operation, the light is operated through a single button on the top. It has three levels of brightness, Low is 100 lumens, Medium is 200 lumens and High is a mighty 300 lumen! That is a whole lot of light. The next brightest tail light I can find is only 70 lumens. That light certainly gets you noticed. Cars give me a lot more space on my late evening rides with the Orfos Red Flare. What did I think of the Orfos Red Flare?
- Super bright! Look at this thing directly at close range and it hurts, but step away and the Flare’s light spreads nicely to make you noticeable, but not overwhelming. This is the brightest taillight I have seen. The low setting works great for me. The higher settings are for daytime use.
- Orfos claims that the flair spreads visible light 360 degrees. It is true. It is great for side as well as visibility directly behind the light.
- I wanted a tail light that gave an audible signal that its battery is low. The Orfos does not do this. However, it changes mode when its battery is low alerting you that you better get home and charge your light.
It is easy to see if your Red Flare is running. Just look down. It is easy to see its reflection on the bike and ground. Checking other tail lights may involve some gymnastics or even stopping.
- I suspect that the Orfos Red Flare will be durable. It is solidly built and the photos from their website show it is water resistant. However, it will be several years before I really know how durable it is.
- I love having a rechargeable taillight and it uses the same plug as my phone. Peter from Orfos says the battery can handle hundreds of charging cycles.
- The magnetic mounting system is great and additional magnets are available for purchase on at www.Orfos.bike
- The Red Flare was designed to look like a car tail light. It does a pretty good impression. Drivers seem to give me plenty of space when I am using my Flare.
- The Orfos light has a strobe function, which I hate, but it also has three other modes. My favorite is a steady transition from dim to bright and back to dim.
- The Ofors Red Flare is made in America.
- The one button operation can be confusing. Press the button to turn the light on. Press the button again to change modes. Press and hold the button for two seconds to change low, medium and high settings. Want to turn the light off? Press the Button and hold it for four seconds. Getting this routine down takes a while. It helps to turn on the steady setting before adjusting light brightness. Be sure to turn the light away from you when you do this. It would help a lot if the light went off after holding it down for four seconds. You have to hold the light, count to four then let it off.
- I was hoping the battery would last longer. I was worried it was not lasting long enough, but I think the charge dissipates with time. If it has been sitting for a couple weeks, you might want to charge it before your ride. The brighter settings work better for daytime riding, but at those levels the light does not last long.
- I love having a visible low battery mode. However, once it goes into low setting mode, you cannot turn the light off until you put it on a charger. I would like to be able to turn it off to run an errand, or maybe ride the bus due to limited battery. It would help conserve the battery.
- The price. $120 is not the most affordable light on the market.
- The manual is online. It would be nice to get a paper copy, but I would likely lose it and refer to the online manual anyway. Eh…
My Orfos Red Flare is the best tail light I have owned by far. It does have a couple issues. These include high price, short battery life and power button that takes a while to get used to. However, the Orfos Red Flare’s low power mode, apparent durability, brightness, magnetic mounting and multiple flash modes more than make up these issues. I would recommend it to anyone who faces a dark commute or worries about visibility.