The Planet Bike Blaze 1W is an economically priced one-watt LED headlight that can be used as a primary headlight for commuting, or as a powerful, forward-facing flasher for urban settings. The body is made from high-impact plastic, with an alloy center ring that serves as both a reinforcement and a heat sink for the LED. It uses a highly efficient, lifetime Cree XR-E P3 LED as its light source.
Included with the Blaze is a universal “QuickCam” quick-release mount that fits any handlebar and can be quickly removed without tools by flipping a lever. With the push of a separate button, the light slides off the mount while the mount stays on the handlebar; this is a great feature for those who park their bikes outside where accessories are vulnerable to theft.
The QucikCam mount is identical to the mount I’ve been using with my B&M Ixon light for the past couple of years. I pretty much abuse the mount—moving it from bike to bike on a regular basis—and it has held up well.
The Blaze has three light modes: low, high, and “Superflash”. On low, it’s not bright enough to use as a primary headlight, but it works fine as a “be seen” light. On high, it outputs an impressive 70 lumens, more than enough to be used as a primary headlight for urban/suburban commuting where some ambient light is present. In Superflash mode, the Blaze is blindingly bright and eye-catching (see video below). Think of a Superflash tail light with a forward facing 1 watt emitter instead of a 1/2 watt emitter, and you get the picture. The staccato flash pattern is the most eye-catching I’ve seen and it sets this light apart from its competitors. If you’ve been searching for a high-intensity urban front flasher, look no further.
The Blaze has a typical American-style round beam pattern with a markedly bright center that quickly drops off at the edges. The beam is tightly focused which makes it seem brighter than its 70 lumen spec would indicate. The trade off for a brighter center beam is less light off-axis toward the edge of the road.
It’s natural to compare the Blaze to the Fenix L2D because the L2D is generally considered the current leader of the pack in sub-$100 LED headlights. Here’s how it breaks down.
The Blaze wins on price. It can generally be had for $10-15 less than the L2D and the Fenix isn’t supplied with a mount (it’s a flashlight). A decent mount for an L2D will run $10-50, so you’ll want to factor that in when considering the purchase price.
The L2D wins on maximum output but falters on run time. In “turbo” mode, the L2D outputs an astounding 180 lumens which is unheard of in a light of this size and in this price range. But there’s more to the story than just max output. At 180 lumens, the L2D barely gets 2 hours run time using high quality NiMH rechargeables. Most bike commuters will want more than two hours between charges and consequently they’ll run the L2D in the lower output “general” mode. On this lower setting, the L2D outputs 107 lumens with a run time of 4 hours. Taking that into consideration, suddenly the Blaze looks pretty competitive, with a 70 lumen output, and a much better 7 hour run time. It’s an individual choice whether max output or longer run time takes priority.
The Blaze wins on ease of use. Assuming you’re running rechargeables (hopefully you are), the nearly 80% longer run time saves a lot of battery shuffling over time. It’s also easier to remove from the bike, and the battery compartment is easier to open and close.
As prices on LED commuter-style lights have plummeted, the lights themselves have gotten brighter and more efficient. The Blaze 1W is a good example of this; just 2-3 years ago, a light of this quality would have run $100 or more. Now, for under $50 you get a light that’s lightweight and durable; has a max output of 70 lumens with a 7 hour run time; comes supplied with an excellent quick-release mount; and has the best flashing mode I’ve ever seen in a headlight. Team it up with a Superflash tail light and you have the best value on the market in a truly functional, battery-powered lighting system for bike commuters on a budget.
List Price: $44.99
Maximum Output: 70 Lumens
Emitter: Cree XR-E P3
Run Times: High=7 hrs, Low=14 hrs, Superflash=20 hours
A note on batteries: I recommend rechargeable NiMH AA batteries because they’re ubiquitous, cheap, environmentally friendly, and hold plenty of juice for today’s highly efficient LED lights. Please consider using rechargeables — the last thing we want to do is trash our landfills and pollute our waterways with spent alkaline batteries. Read more on rechargeable batteries here.