Daybot by PDW – Is a locally designed, consciously crafted bike light a fallacy?

You might remember a while back I reviewed the Full Metal Fenders by local company – PDW, The fenders are still going strong and get used on an almost daily basis for 13months now, a bomber setup. PDW is a Portland company that designs, engineers, markets and ships bicycle accessories. The founders come from a cycling industry background having worked in bike shops and bike companies. Back in the day, they chose Portland because of the strong bicycle culture and supportive small business community.

daybot_buckyrides-13I was impressed by the Daybot as a product, but also because it’s a local company. With a peak behind the scenes, I saw they had some good ethical practices were in place as well.

The Daybot is a $35 rear light specifically designed so it’s effective during daylight hours, this means a switchable light mode where the output is higher so you go noticed during the day. 100 Lumens is the benchmark nowadays for daylight flashers.

daybot_buckyrides-24The market is flooded with rear bike lights from $15 to $50. The Daybot rear flasher by PDW is a great experience overall:  the packaging , instructions, installation and use of the product are all excellent. It’s well-designed, is rechargeable, features  5 flash modes, has easy to use controls, comes with great mounting options that are durable and easy to use (which is more than can be said for most) and is backed up by a 2yr warranty. Thus the Daybot offers great value at $35.

Daybot – $35, Features and details here: https://ridepdw.com/products/daybot-usb-tail-light?variant=45943847885


Diving into the details:

  • Packaging
  • Aesthetics & Materials
  • Technology
  • Weatherproofing
  • Sustainability & Manufacturing Practices
  • The goodie good bits
  • The critically not so good bits

Packaging

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With a coated cardboard, (not some nasty plastic clamshell catastrophe) the packaging design is very nice, physically and esthetically. Easy to look at and easy to open, the graphics are contemporary and simple. Retailers should note this eye pop – looking attractive on the shelf is going to make a difference. An aspect that really impressed me about my fenders were the instructions. Detailed, simple and graphically beautiful. It’s good to see this is still in place with the Daybot, as I get tired of shitty instructions with poor language translations. It’s often an overlooked consumer experience but is so easy to fix. PDW’s instructions are a delight, you can tell care has been taken, not only graphic design-wise but simple explanation and terminology to aid readability and help find exactly what you need.

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OK, enough of that. After you have recycled your packaging , lets talk product.

Aesthetics & Materials

Shut up Bucky, its a bike light. Well, yeah it is! But it’s not just a rectangle, I always thought the Danger Zone tail light from PDW looked a bit goofy due to the hourglass figure, but I consider the Daybot and similarly Gravity much more balanced and appealing. Similar in size to other competitors, it’s quite a stylish rectangle with graceful curves and stunning translucency of the deep red plastic, the high polish from the smooth surface of the injection mold and the extra wall thicknesses that give it a jewel and transparent juicy candy-like feel. This, combined with some curved surfaces on the face and black base, make it quite nice looking.  Im guessing since the lens is integrated that it is made from some type of polycarbonate and the base an ABS but I have not taken it apart yet. If polycarbonate it should be fairly resistant to scratching and ABS very resistant to impact.

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Technology

The unit contains three LED’s. These are supplied by CREE Taiwan which is a premium producer and R&D lab of LED’s. One LED is driven to output 100 and 60 Lumens and an LED under the power button that is driven to 20 Lumens. the third LED is a small Blue LED to show the charging status.

5 Flashing modes, two for day and three for night. Combination of pulses and constant ons.  Daytime mode – 100 and 60lumen higher brightness more battery draw. Night Modes – 3 modes with 20 Lumens.

The circuit board is very clean with no shoddy soldering or sloppy connections. The pcb traces look consistent and high quality connectors. From the looks it, it’s of high quality which also goes along with the feel and function of the on/ off switch. The waterproof USB chargeable light takes 2.5hrs to fully charge and can last a long time depending on the flash mode used. A night flash mode lets the battery last 100hrs and for higher output during the day – daytime pulse mode, which is very bright will last for 20hrs. The modes are selected by multiple clicks of the single button on the front of the light.

Weatherproofing

One of the large caveats here is weatherproofing, just hit with a solid spell of dry weather, i’m not going to be able to test it in downpours. Rain is a big deal for electronics, but the seals look secure and the product is rated to F1L Standard which is not quite as tough as some IPX ratings. But the covers over the USB charge port and the design of the button looks solid, I don’t expect problems.
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The USB charge port – notably the charge port is nice and deep, well recessed to avoid water and located on the back of the product. The cover is a rubber thingy which fits tight and sits deep, seems appropriately designed to survive rainy downpours.

Sustainablility & Manufacturing

Knowing the nuts and bolts of manufacturing and the amount of waste plastic, I’m on a kick of recent to uncover the good that is happening at some of our local firms, Erik Olson, the General manager had a few words to say on ethical practices. “We manufacture almost everything in Taiwan. The factories are small, well run, honest and turn out a high quality product. I visit each factory a few times a year to work on new projects and see how their operations are evolving. We believe that half the battle is making high quality, rebuildable products that are going to stay out of the landfill.”

As far as supporting good causes and looking out for the planet, PDW puts its money where its mouth is and is a 1% for the planet member . 1% of the yearly sales of PDW goes to accelerating smart environmental giving (this organization founded in 2002 by Yvon Chouinard, the founder of Patagonia)

As far as sustainability and recycling, I was please to hear that this is on top of Erik’s mind also. “We recycle or repair as much as we can. Certainly any batteries, steel or alloy get recycled. Plastic is becoming more challenging now that no one in Portland accepts it. We used to be able to run any plastic to FarWest Fibers but as of September they haven’t been accepting it. We’re hoping China starts accepting plastic recycling again from the US so recycling organizations can resume accepting it.”

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The elastomer attachment strap is well designed, has a large and thich durable tab for easy attachment and removal.

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The unit has two LED’s the large one up top being used for daylight visibility – outputting at a high 60 and 100 lumens so drivers can see you in the day.

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The goodie good bits

A couple of things that really stood out from the crowd in my mind.
The switch, Yeah, its pretty easy to find bike lights with crappy switches, this is often where a lot of cost gets removed during the development process, at the expense of a working or long term reliable product. The switch on the Daybot is great, works well, has a good tactile feel even through gloves and is reliable and responsive, unlike some other brands I could mention.
The seatpost clamp – although the light comes with an attachment for the seatstay  (to clamp tubes down to 0.6″ outside diameter ) the winner is the design of the built-in seatpost attachment. It’s easy to use, intuitive and fits many sizes. The elastomer / probably silicone pull tab is oversized and a pleasure to use, the angle of the light can also be adjusted with a hidden screw. Overall a well-designed and executed clamp, you can tell the care has been poured in here. Which matters when you take it on and off your bike a lot on your daily 5-9. One thing on silicone bands that can be annoying is if they are too thin they can snap from frequent use. This doesn’t look like the case here, the silicone is over 5mm thick in its thinnest spot, meaning its pretty burly. Some manufacturers choose to have these bands replaceable.

The critically not so good bits:

There’s only a few, and at that they are minor
An intuitive way to know when it’s nearly dead? – I have mentioned this in prior reviews but no one in this industry has addressed this problem yet. As a user I need to know the battery is running low and needs recharging soon. I’m relying on your product to help me get home safely and don’t want it to run out. Before rechargeable lights, if worried you just carry a few spare batteries or if you had your product long enough you know how long two AAA batteries last. But rechargeable products change things. How do you know when your iphone needs charging? Yeah, it clearly shows it.  Along with other manufacturers PDW take less friendly, less obvious method. By subtly changing the flash pattern  – right? really? This is electronic! There’s user friendly solutions here to be had here. Copy from your cell phone brethren if you must. Even just letting a user know there is a safety net of say 30minutes would help ease minds.
Now which dang flash mode am I in? – Switching between flash modes – this is less of an issue than the above but most of these products are multi modal – the Daybot has 5 flash modes. Two for day and three for night. Is it easy to tell which flash mode has been selected? is it easy to remember the modes? – No. This ain’t rocket science. Fix it.

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Having said all of this, we look forward to PDW’s next innovation and are are confident it will be as thought-out as well and of great design like the Daybot.

The PDW Daybot comes complete with:
Seat-stay Attachment bracket with rubber shim.
Built in seat-post mount.
USB charging cable
Cool packaging
Good vibes from Portland

2 thoughts on “Daybot by PDW – Is a locally designed, consciously crafted bike light a fallacy?

Add yours

  1. Regarding a ‘battery running low’ alert, I have a Cygolite Hotrod50 tail light that when the battery needs recharging it’s designed to flicker quickly when you turn it on or off. Very simple and works great to alert me.
    So at least one brand in the industry has addressed this concern.

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