Saturday, September 18, 1999

klite 2nd impressions

I was very excited to get a hold of the latest kit from K-Lite to run through its paces recently. Kerry is constantly iterating his designs but recently he has launched a couple of very cool additions to his line-up. His new rear flashing lights, (QUBE) and a new USB converter with dual outputs.

If you followed the world's gnarliest bikepacking events, like the Tour Divide, or the Silk Road Mountain Race you would have noticed that many of the riders were using various models of K-Lite kit. These guys are using the kit in the crucible of fire, if anything can possibly go wrong, it will.

Dual-port USB-charger, QUBE flashers, switch wire/loom and front light.

The flashers
Kerry makes the only dynamo powered flashers, in the world, called the QUBE, available in 1x or 2x formats, or front and rear sets, for attaching to the seatpost, seat stays or bars.

Runs for 3 mins after a 15 second spin of wheel.
Somehow he has crammed little super capacitors into them so that a 15 second spin of the front dynamo wheel means your rear flashers will go for 3 mins before needing more juice. Not many traffic lights take that long to change. 

The QUBE flashing pattern seems quite random, but in fact, the LONG/SHORT flash-pattern is actually what NASA use. It is the best for judging the distance to the rider, and also catching the eye from a distance.

They are very bright and yet Kerry tells me they draw less than 30mA intermittently, a typical rear dynamo light draws 110mA at all times. That's a big difference. If it means anything to you, the standard bikepacker's GPS, the Etrex 30, draws 50mA-110mA (back light dependent) at 5 volts. 


Even in the daytime the QUBE's are a great addition.
Kerry has also done something smart with the optics, so that the further you are away, the brighter they look, the idea is that the rider behind, sitting on your wheel, is not blinded, but a car, in the distance gets full blast, clever stuff. These QUBEs are the only item that Kerry is building by hand these days, so he only does a run on them when he has a big enough order. Check your local K-Lite dealer for stocks.


The switch / wire loom
Mount the switch on bars, stem, or steerer
The switch wire/loom comes in two styles. The first one is where the USB-charging out-puts are active all of the time, and you just toggle the front light off and on. This is the mode you will need if you are wanting to run the QUBE flashers.

In the second style, you just flip back and forth between front lighting, or USB charging.






The USB charger

Kerry has some clever smarts hidden in the new dual-port  USB-charger to help with charging supercap systems like the QUBE. He has more smoothing caps than any of the other USB chargers out there. This does make it a little larger, but it allows safe direct connection of phone or GPS to USB charger, should your USB cache battery stuff up.

Normally connecting a sensitive USB device direct to a dynamo charger (without an inline cache battery) is not advised, as the output can be a bit "choppy" due to the AC conversion done on board. This can cause re-sets and crashes of sensitive USB devices. In the new K-Lite charger with its extra smoothing, it offers another layer of back up, in an emergency situation.


The new design retains the little LED activity light introduced in the previous model, so you know if the power is making its way from the dynamo to the charger. Apparently the new USB charger lets you run your SPOT-tracker and charge your USB cache battery at the same time, because the SPOT trackers draw so little power.

The SPOT-tracker will run from the dynamo all day and automatically switch to it's own battery only when you have stopped moving. You can even power your SPOT tracker with no batteries in the bay, just plug it in to the USB-charger and get pedaling. I haven't tried this out myself as I don't have a personal SPOT tracker. As in his previous model Kerry has all the plugs going in and out of the USB-charger at the same place, this is great for space saving in your gas-tank, if that's where you store your electrics.

Here are a few potential scenarios that you might hope to run from your dual USB-charger. Obviously it depends on whether its day or night, and the terrain, as the front lights will use a lot of the power coming from the dynamo hub at night time.

Night-time riding
  • Front lights and QUBE F and R flashers
  • Front lights and QUBE F and R flashers and GPS (Etrex and Edge as they are low powered)
  • Front lights and QUBE rear flashers and GPS and SPOT tracker. In this scenario you'd need a USB splitter as there are only two out-puts from the USB converter. It's not until the demand exceeds 500mA that you start to rob power from the front lights. Flashers+SPOT+GPS should be under 500mA if you are moving at any kind of pace.

Day-Time riding
  • Charge cache and run SPOT tracker
  • Charge cache and run QUBE F and R flashers
  • SPOT tracker and GPS 
  • SPOT tracker and QUBE rear flashers 
  • SPOT tracker and QUBE rear flashers and GPS (need a USB splitter).

Obviously the idea is to charge your cache battery in daytime if you can as there is a lot more power available when the front lights are off.

My experience with the USB charger and the Etrex GPS was pretty good. Basically, if you have it plugged in to the USB-converter, and you are moving, it defaults to the dynamo for power. I found that it wasn't until I dropped below 9 kmh that I got the nag-screen. However, if you run the GPS via a cache battery you don't get the drop-out at all. Etrex AA batteries last for 4 days anyway, and are easily available at most stores or gas-stations, which is why they are so popular.


My buddy ran his Garmin 1030 without a cache battery in the Japanese Odyssey last year with no problems using his K-Lite kit. It would just drop down to the internal battery when the dynamo power was too low. The 1030 is a much more sophisticated piece of equipment than the old Etrex though and you have to look at the pros and cons of each device. Matt pointed out that in Japan a lot of the riders used phones instead of GPSes for navigation. In an event where most of the people are topping up their devices in accommodation over-night it's an option.


The lights
The lights have undergone a weight-loss programme that shaves a bit more meat off them but they still share the same internals as the previous model. Coming in 2 variants, the Gravel/Road and the MTB, the major difference being that the MTB has a wider more diffuse spread for the great outdoors, vs the more punchy beam of the Gravel/Road light which has to compete with urban light pollution.

In both variants the outside lights come on first and are supplemented by the centre beam at higher speeds. Everytime I go out I am amazed at the strength of these lights.

The new K-Lite kit also contains an adaptor for the Universal fork crown mount, allowing easy connection to Supernova or B&M style mounts. The GoPro mount is still a very popular mounting mechanism, and rightly so, with thousands of cheapie variations of it available online.




Related. More details in my K-Lite Ultra first impressions here.





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Protect the brains

I walked out of the office yesterday and saw one of my workmates chilling in the hallway. She was wearing a peaked hat and dark sunnies, and yet it was overcast and raining outside. She'd just stepped out of a crowded meeting room for a break, she was overstimulated and needed to get out for a minute to relax.

I hadn't seen her for quite a while, but I knew the reason behind her absence as I'd heard the rumours. She'd had what is often called a "concussion" or a TBI (traumatic brain injury) depending on how you want to call it. Her fatigue levels had reduced down to the degree that she was able to do some work, but exposure to artificial light, and even computer screens had her feeling nauseous, hence the hat and sunnies.

We had a chat and she talked about her progress and the advice she'd been given by another woman scientist at my work who is still recovering from a head injury she received one and a half years ago. The advice was to take the time to come right slowly, don't try to come back too work to soon.

These are high achieving people who typically find this kind of advice hard to take. Another buddy of mine, also a woman scientist, but not at my work, was also badly concussed recently in a cycling accident, but her recovery has been pretty swift, by comparison to the first two. The first few weeks she was a mess, and being a co-leader of a 12 million dollar project, she's not the kind of person who thinks its acceptable to take a nap half-way through the day.

If I do a tally up, I can think of 4 people I know of at my work, or who work with the scientists at my work who have received head injuries in the last 2 years. All of them very highly intelligent professionals. None of them risk-takers, all of them with access to good medical advice and an understanding work-place.

What if you didn't have access to all the support systems that a well paid professional with a PhD did? What if you were young and bullet-proof and a risk taker by nature? What are the chances that somewhere along the way you are going to get a good smack on the head, give someone else one, or get head-injured in a car accident? What percentage of people in jail have undiagnosed head injuries? Do you know what some of the side-effects of a head injury are?

Disinhibition, low tolerance to stress, depression, emotional lability, difficulty concentrating, sensitivity to noise, or light, aggression, impulsivity, irritability, confusion, sleep disturbance, visual problems, memory problems to name a few.

If you were in the wrong place at the wrong time, with poor support, these behaviours could see you in trouble with the law.

I've also met a few cyclists on social media who are recovering from head injuries, and sadly as time goes on, I watch new people join them. Hitting someone's wayward dog at 50kmh has that kind of an effect.

So what can you do, not go outside? It wouldn't have helped the two women at my work, one banged her head on a cupboard and the other slipped in the shower. Just look after yourself, the best way you know how. And if you come across someone who has a head injury, try to understand whats might be going on on the inside.

Factoids:

  • ACC's statistics show that in 2015 most brain injuries happened at home (5674) or on the sporting field (5394).
  • The major causes of brain injury are car crashes, sports injuries, assaults and falls.
  • Shockingly, the highest risk groups of New Zealanders for traumatic brain injuries are not our rugby players or our boxers - it's our toddlers

Reference. The hidden epidemic of brain injury, Stuff, 2016.

https://www.brain-injury.nz/