A critical look at the
Revolight Arc on Kickstarter
Geniuses don't need reflectors
After quite a decent attempt by the Germans who made the Magnic light, again I am shocked by unsubstantiated claims made by a Kickstarter project. Once again, somebody thought that they could come up with the perfect bicycle light, and because so many people told them it was a cool idea, they actually started to believe that they were smarter than everyone else. And so the Revolight Arc was born. Guess what? You're not the first. It's the fifth I have seen on Kickstarter in three months!
Because they are so smart, they don't need to bother with boring things like evidence or research. After all, it's only safety equipment that they are selling!
We take a smarter approach to design. We create safety products that are more stylish and functional than any currently on the market.
The Revolight Arc is a continuation of the Revolight, which integrated lights in the rims of the wheel. Because many people were complaining that these cool-looking lights were too expensive, they came up with the Revolight Arc; a light that is mounted on the rear fender.
One of the selling points of this light is that it is affordable. The retail price will be only $89 USD, which is about 65 euros. For that, you will get a light made by people who are willing to promise a lot, yet offer very little support for their claims. The light will supposedly last 8 hours, after which you have to recharge the battery.
This is more than 4 times the price of a very decent rear light, with a batteries that last 185 hours (which will last most people several years), has a motion and light sensor, built in reflector, battery indicator, weather sealing and is certified to be used in countries with the most strict regulations. This is just one; there are many well-designed and highly functional bike lights for sale at a fraction of the price. The self-proclaimed geniuses who made the Revolight Arc have apparently never seen them:
Traditional bike taillight designs use only a small blinking red light for rear visibility and provide little to no side visibility. This leaves cyclists vulnerable and drivers straining to see them.
I don't know what tradition they're referring to, decent rear lights exist, are not that hard to find, and it's not a new thing either. Decent bicycle lights have existed for decades.
We don't need no reflectors
You know what is a tradition? Reflectors! They are so awesome that they put them on the on the moon in the sixties!
Long before the makers of the Revolight were born, somebody also figured out that you can put them on bicycles. They work so well that in countries like the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, Denmark, Germany and others, bicycles on the road at night are required by law to have them. The same goes for reflectors on pedals. Quality tires for city bikes even have reflective strips on the rubber. Again, these are not new innovations. Every bicycle since I was a child has had these safety features, because it has been mandatory here since the eighties.
The Revolight Arc does not have any reflective parts. On the bicycles featured in their product pictures and videos, I spotted only a single reflector in the rear wheel. However there were no shots in the video to show what you would see while driving a car. Drivers in cars will see their own light reflected back at them; the closer they get, the brighter the reflection. I have a hard time accepting claims that a particular light will make a bicycle more noticeable from the side than a bicycle with standard reflectors. The reflected light of car headlights is so bright that it easily drowns out most bicycle mounted lights.
Industry Standard Bike Lights (left) - Revolights Arc (middle) - Revolights City (right)
Another statement that is untrue. The term "Industry standard" has a very specific meaning; shitty rear lights are not an industry standard by any definition.
A functional brake light with next-level visibility. Revolights technology now priced for everyone.
Next-level visibility? What does that mean? I'll tell you what it means: jack shit, nothing, nada. Nowhere do the people who wrote this crap bother to even back up their claims. Brighter is not better, and blinking is definitely not better. The Revolight Arc features a brake light that gets brighter as you slow down. They claim this is the first brake bike light ever. It's not. I am not aware of any research being done on the safety of brake lights on bicycles. There are however some valid concerns regarding its effectiveness. You can't tell your customers something is safer just because you think it is.
The guys who made the Magnic light specifically mentioned that they were working on getting their lights certified for the STVZO in Germany. This is the strictest certification for bicycle lights in the world. A light that is certified there can be used anywhere in the world.
But who cares about some rules made up by some Germans based upon decades of scientific research and experience? Not the designers of the Revolight. They have a smarter approach to design! Their approach is based upon imagination, getting people to pay to test their products for them, and then when people agree that it looks cool, sell it for even more money as safety equipment.
The main premise of the Revolight Arc is that is made by smart people who decided that bicycles are not visible enough for drivers in cars and that all existing lights suck. Some of the claims are objectively untrue, and no evidence is provided to back up any of the other claims.
Based on this I have to conclude that there is no reason to assume that bicycles shown in their videos are no more noticeable, let alone safer, than a bicycle equipped with a decent set of lights and reflectors, which can be had for a fraction of the cost.
I urge the makers of the Revolight Arc to remove their claims regarding superior safety, have their products tested by an independent team, and modify their product so that it can be certified. Until that time I consider the Revolight Arc a lifestyle product, not safety equipment.