Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Princeton Tec bike lights

Several months ago, Princeton Tec sent me a selection of their lights specifically designed for biking.  All three of the lights, EOS BikeSwerve, and Push, have been out on the market for a while and the discerning consumer can find numerous reviews of them online already.  In fact, folks have undoubtedly done a better job than me of wringing them out and geeking out on their technical specifications.  So why should you waste your time looking at this review?  Well, you shouldn't.  But if one wants to hear the perspective of someone who has done 1000 miles of bike touring with these lights, gone climbing, hiking, auto repairing, and bar-hopping using them as well and who is more apt to drop an f-bomb in his review than the word "lumen", then read on.

Princeton Tec EOS Bike, Swerve & Push (as if you can't see that already)

The EOS Bike is quite simply Princeton Tec's EOS headlamp that one can also attach to their bike helmet.  This sounds like an obvious and unnecessary point to make until you realize that the EOS is a time honored and reliable light among backpackers and climbers.  Therefore, when bicycle touring or if you are a multi-sport individual and only want to purchase one type of headlamp, this is the light for you.  I do not use this as my primary light for bike touring as it isn't quite bright enough on it's own for my tastes.  If you're mountain biking and you want both a helmet light and a handlebar light or as a backup light in case your primary fails, the EOS works great.  Often I find myself keeping it rigged on the traditional headlamp strap in a front pannier while riding so it is ready for setting up camp.  I keep the velcro helmet strap permanently rigged on my helmet and can mount the light quickly if need be.  For one light that can work flawlessly for climbing, backpacking, etc. and also be secured to a helmet comfortably (instead of stretching a traditional headlamp's headband over your helmet) this is the ticket.

Now, most folks don't get too excited about taillights.  So long as it is red and perhaps even flashes nobody pays much attention.  I on the other hand have a fear of being crushed to death.  Why more people don't share my fear is beyond me.  Very often I find myself in dense traffic in areas of Pennsylvania where cycling is not recognized as a legitimate past time.  You're none too sure if folks are paying attention or even care to see you.  Another hazard I find myself in is open stretches of road with high speed limits and no road lighting.  Do you think that someone whipping along at 60 mph is going to see that single pukey LED?  I don't want to bet on it.  That's why I have used a Princeton Tec Swerve for a couple of years now.  It is bright and annoying as shit.  I mean that in a good way.  Whenever I ride directly behind my friend who uses a Swerve too, I fear the onset of seizures.  That's exactly what I want out of my taillight.  Also, the light uses a heavy duty rubber band to mount the light on any bar.  I have never had a problem with the light falling off.  It makes for quick transfers from bike to bike.  And if the need arises, the light also has a clip so you can mount it on your courier bag, jacket collar (hey, it has worked in a pinch), or bazooka sling.

      Clockwise from left: PT EOS Bike, PT Push, PT Swerve and Cygolite ExpiliOn 250

The Push is a handlebar mounted light from Princeton Tec that they advertise for anything from urban riding to mountain biking.  In speaking to sales reps, they have suggested that the light is more for urban riding and after testing it for a while I would agree with them.  The Push throws off a good beam for riding around town and some night road riding.  For extended night riding, I felt that the light wasn't quite far reaching for me.  Keep in mind that I am legally blind, so plenty of others may disagree with me.  When riding my touring bike down gravel fire roads, the light didn't shine far enough ahead to convince me that I wasn't going to hit a deer or some deadfall.  But around town, it works great.  It isn't as expensive as many other lights are so if it gets swiped you won't need a government bailout.  It is light enough and compact that you can throw it in your pocket while you stop for a brew and you won't get the inevitable question "It that a banana in your pocket or are you happy to see me?"  (My apologies to all bananaphiles that I just offended)  The only thing that troubled me about the light is that there is little way to tell when the batteries are getting low.  Sometimes there was a barely discernible flickering minutes before the light died, but usually it was rather abrupt.  That can be a little alarming when you're ripping downhill at night...

I believe that the Princeton Tec lights are all splendid within their respective categories.  However, for bike touring and "wilder" nighttime exercises, I wasn't totally satisfied with the Push.  I have started using a Cygolite ExpiliOn 250 which is like trading in a shotgun for a tank.  It's twice as bright and three times the cost.  I will let you know how it works out for me.  One thing that I like about it already is that it has a rechargeable battery.  Both the EOS Bike and the Swerve worked perfectly with rechargeable AAAs.  For some reason, I had poor luck getting my Push to work with a couple of different types of rechargeable AAAs.  This was another strike against it for bike touring for me, but I don't think that this should discourage others.


  1. Hey, that's my tail light now too! (Swerve). I agree that it's a good buy and definitely makes me feel safer. It's so bright that I used it as a (very) temporary headlight when mine broke mid-ride. Now that's some serious ass-lighting...

  2. There are times when the Swerve's lights are reflecting off of buildings nearby and it makes me think the cops are behind me. I don't know if this is good or bad...