Upping urban visibility: The Redshift Sports Arclight system in action

Previously I went over Redshift Sports’ cleverly engineered Arclight pedals and light module system, and how the engineering and interoperability all works. Today I will share how it is in action.

Disclaimer: Redshift Sports sent me the Arclight pedals and light module as a free review unit. No money changed hands. While I may use their PR material from time to time, all thoughts and review impressions are – and will be – my own.

ON THE MULTI-MOUNT

The modularity of the Arclight system comes into play when the lights are clicked into the optional multi-mount. They can then be used as either a to-be-seen front light, or a rear light.

The multi-mount comes with one rubber O-ring and a zip tie. Both fastening methods are smartly accounted for by the design of the “ears.” Redshift also bundles a spacer and a longer bolt, which can be added if you want it pushed farther away from the mounting surface. The theory goes that the O-ring, with its knurled grab tab, is for temporary fitment, while the zip tie is for a more permanent arrangement.

One criticism: the lone O-ring supplied may be a little too short. Hyro, my TCX, runs a non-round D-Fuse seatpost, but it’s closest to a round unit with 30.6 mm diameter. Fitting the multi-mount onto it with the O-ring is quite tight already. Attempting to do the same on my folding bike Bino, with his 33.9 mm diameter seatpost, is just asking for trouble. With such bikes, if you don’t have a large enough O-ring on hand, the zip tie method is the only way to go.

So how does an Arclight LED module act as a rear light?

From a glance, I’d peg output at about 50-60 lumens. Many rear lights in 2022 sport at least this much light output, and are marketed as effective even in daytime riding use, so this is right up there with them I reckon.

(L) Arclight LED module, (R) Cygolite Hotrod 90 USB

A side-by-side comparison with my Cygolite Hotrod 90 rear light tells a more complete story. The COB LEDs on Arclight need to alternate between red and white, so the emitters are mounted accordingly along the circuit board. Looking closely, you can spot the little gaps this results in. The Hotrod 90, in contrast, is a dedicated rear light; its tightly grouped red LED emitters give a much more solid glow akin to a neon light stick. I suspect it’s mainly here that the extra light output is generated.

The Cygolite unit also has double the modes of the Arclight module. Where the latter has a solid burn mode and two flash patterns with a basic regular rhythm, the Hotrod 90’s six modes offer more variation in flash pattern brightness and timing. This results in a more flexible light that can be geared toward either retina-searing “look at me” visibility in daylight, or a more eye-friendly pulse when riding in a paceline.

Given the Arclight LED modules’ design brief, I wouldn’t hesitate to run one as a fit-and-forget rear light…if you can get the mounting sorted.

TURNING THEM PEDALS

Even before install, I had inadvertently put the pedals through the test via unintentional drop onto a concrete floor from about 50 cm. My fingers had fumbled and lost their grip on one of them, which already had two light modules loaded in. After tumbling to the floor, everything still worked. The pedal body gives pretty good coverage and protection of the light modules, with only their power/mode buttons sitting anywhere near proud of it.

The rear light loop on Bino’s saddle bag would be nice to hang the multi-mount on, had there been a suitable “clip” piece supplied.

I swapped out the Shimano Saint PD-MX80 pedals off Bino and threaded the Arclight ones on. At first glance, their shallow traction lugs appear short on grip; the downhill-focused Saint pedals with their variable-height traction pins take the visual win. However, when both pedals inevitably strike your shins and ankles, the Arclight pedals also won’t pose an infection risk the same way the Saints will. Horses for courses.

Appearances are deceptive though. These pedals are very satisfying underfoot. Pushing them along with Keds slip-ons, I did not find myself wanting for grip, although the jury’s out if that still applies on a wet ride. Pedal size is well judged, and despite not resorting to any convex or concave shaping in the body, the chunky items just work.

Slipped into the pedals, the light modules remained visible even on a bright sunny afternoon, and could definitely pass muster as a daytime running light array…provided you have them in the correct mode. Side visibility is excellent too thanks to the sizable cut-outs in the pedal bodies. I would leave “eco flash” mode solely for nighttime use, though, as it lacks oomph.

VERDICT

I’m not sure Redshift had my particular use case in mind.

If it isn’t obvious yet, I think Redshift has a great product here. The Arclight pedals and light system smartly innovate on the humble pedal reflector – and even expand on it. That’s backed up by how well it works in real-world riding.

What I’m concerned about is the price. At US$140 (PhP7,310), these are decidedly premium commuter pedals – a little bit more, even, than what Shimano Deore XT PD-M8100s cost. This doesn’t include the US$40 (PhP2,090) outlay for a light module + multi-mount combo, either. When you think about the price encompassing both a pair of pedals and a set of to-be-seen lights…the answer to the “what price safety?” question, I’ll leave up to you.

Speaking of the multi-mount: neat idea, but its mounting hardware constrains its versatility. While the provision to thread a zip tie through it opens up its use to any bike or any seatpost, that also means a degree of permanence not everyone is willing to commit to – such as, say, cyclists on folding bikes. Perhaps bundling a second larger size of O-ring would help. More importantly, a lot of saddle bags have loops for fitment of a rear light, which Redshift seems to have ignored. Why not throw in another plastic piece that will enable hanging the multi-mount off that?

Combining the Arclight pedals with the Lumos Ultra helmet just might be a commuter cyclist’s nighttime visibility pipe dream. I understand the cost of making all this as simple, as functional, and as robust as it can be. If it were a little more affordable, I think this product would easily find more fans.

Would Tom Dumoulin approve of these shorts?

One of my favorite posts from 2021 detailed just how jealous I was of the innovations being made with women’s cycling bib shorts – specifically, the multiple ways to facilitate bathroom breaks for the female anatomy while keeping jerseys and modesty intact. Because yeah, we all know and remember – with a chuckle, I might add – how Tom Dumoulin got caught out by sudden gastrointestinal distress while he was leading Stage 16 of the 2017 Giro d’Italia…

I still can’t believe just how quickly Dumoulin stripped off his jersey to lower his bib shorts and empty his bowels. Man deserves an award for that.

Realistically speaking, traditional bib shorts were never designed from the outset to account for the very natural biological task of defecation. Ladies have it worse, since bibs make either call of nature much more awkward. Which is why I was so interested in these frankly amazing modern women’s bib shorts that took all of that into account.

Was there no analog for the men? I wondered.

It turns out, someone somewhere at Pearl Izumi was reading my mind. For 2022, they revamped their Expedition Pro bib short line, and snuck in this exact feature – along with a few other tweaks.

That “dark ink floral” print is very gravel, I guess.
Photo credit: Pearl Izumi

FEATURES

  • Meant for gravel riding and all-day rides
  • All-new Levitate Pro chamois design and construction
  • Drop-tail design for easier nature breaks
  • Italian PRO Transfer fabric
  • PI Dry water-shedding coating
  • Storage: One pocket on each leg; one pocket at the back
  • Color options: black or dark ink floral
  • Size options: S, M, L, XL, XXL
  • Suggested retail price: US$265

IMPRESSIONS

I didn’t pay full price. Thank goodness for Strava challenges

I got these bibs on Competitive Cyclist, assisted by a discount code I won on a Strava challenge so that damage to the wallet is a little more palatable. Because holy smokes, this thing is premium. Had I not wanted to test the drop-tail design badly enough, these would just not be on my radar.

So what does all that moolah get you? Quite a lot. None of it goes into packaging though as this pair of bibs was shipped to me in a simple plastic bag.

Photo credit: Pearl Izumi

Unworn, the Expedition Pro bibs have a pretty unusual construction. The back of the bibs eschews the traditional center strap in favor of a H-bar configuration. The rear also has a strange partial overlap of material panels around where the bibs would sit against the small of a rider’s back; without the tension of being worn against a human torso, this droops loosely. This is to facilitate the drop-tail function for bathroom breaks, which I will talk about later.

That PI logo on the hip is the only bit of reflective on the shorts.
Photo credit: Pearl Izumi

Coincidentally, this overlap panel also plays host to the bibs’ rear pocket, which is a decent size for a wallet or an energy bar or two. A phone could go there, but my Samsung Galaxy S20 FE, measuring 15.7 cm (6.2″) diagonally, would have about a third of its length peeking out.

The leg edges and grippers are just really nice on these.

These are, appropriately, some of the most luxurious bibs I have ever worn.

That Italian PRO Transfer fabric makes up almost the entire thing – no mesh anywhere to act as an “extender” – and it is fancy stuff. The wide straps are practically borderless, with no edge seams or piping like on most bibs. When worn, the material feels very supple next to the skin, with a slight hint of compression. Finally, the leg edges are cut cleanly, backed by some very effective silicone grippers.

Photo credit: Pearl Izumi

Given the popularity of so-called “cargo bibs” nowadays, the Expedition Pro pair fits this bill. While the back pocket was a slightly precarious location for storing your phone, the leg pockets will swallow my S20 FE with ease, with just a sliver of the phone peeking out. I have no doubt it’d pass Rapha‘s infamous banana test too.

Photo credit: Pearl Izumi

Central to any bib short is the pad, or chamois. Pearl Izumi takes a page off its more premium competition, such as Assos, and anchors the Levitate Pro chamois’ inner, higher-density foam pad with front and rear stitching such that it is free to shimmy sideways.

This chamois is thick, certainly, and you will feel it once you put the bibs on. When in place, however, it just disappears under you and molds to the contours of your undercarriage, helped by the lack of odd folds and how the chamois tapers off at the edges. This is in contrast to Decathlon’s ultra-affordable bibs, which need at least a half dozen “breaking in” rides before the chamois becomes truly comfortable and molded to your bum.

Nether-region numbness is kept at bay very well, too. Normally I’d be inclined to stand up out of the saddle for 30-second spurts every now and then when on the indoor trainer, but with these I found I could keep seated for much longer. Seems like it’s a combination of the fit of the shorts and the construction of the chamois.

So, returning to the main question: Would Tom Dumoulin have appreciated these bibs back in the 2017 Giro d’Italia?

Photo credit: Pearl Izumi.

The drop-tail function does work. You put your thumbs to the “corners” of the two back straps where they meet the waist of the shorts, then pull down. The first time you do so, it feels wrong, as if you’re asking the shorts to do something they’re not supposed to. Fight that urge though, keep pulling until you can “sit over” the dropped tail of these shorts, and you will successfully moon someone – er, expose enough of your bum to do your business. All without having to take off your jersey!

This might not be the most comfortable position to hold for prolonged periods, though, since you’re bent over jackknifed and fighting the elasticity of the (now slightly twisted) bib straps the entire time you’re doing your business. After all, male cyclists will be familiar with “dropping the front” of their bibs and bending over to take a wee; this is simply the inverse.

VERDICT

There is definitely a “first adopter” tax to these bibs. I wanted to vote with my cash to tell cycling apparel companies like Pearl Izumi that there is a demand on the men’s side for bib shorts that will make answering the call of nature easier. I can confirm that the drop-tail concept works well enough. (If these kinds of shorts take off in popularity, you’re welcome.)

Paying too much attention to that aspect ignores everything else about the Expedition Pro bibs, though. These are genuinely wonderful shorts, and everywhere I looked, it’s obvious Pearl Izumi didn’t hold back. The fabric is so good, the chamois excellent for purpose, and the three available pockets are pretty well thought-out, allowing you to carry stuff without wearing a traditional jersey, if you so choose. Doing away with any mesh and strengthening key areas with more stitching, it feels these shorts will last quite a long time, strange construction aside.

These are the bibs I’d snatch from my wardrobe if I had an audax to ride. I’d get another pair had pricing been much friendlier – which is a good segue into my desire to see the drop-tail concept applied at lower price points.

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As an aside, Tom Dumoulin is calling time on his pro cycling career at the end of 2022. He leaves the pro peloton as one of my personal favorite cycling athletes. If the thought of sampling some gravel ever crosses his mind, I think he’d approve of these bibs.

Upping urban visibility: First look of the Redshift Sports Arclight pedals and light system

Philadelphia firm Redshift Sports is no stranger to this blog. I bought their ShockStop suspension stem four years ago, before they had any distribution in the Philippines, and was so impressed with it that I still use mine to this day. They’ve since had a slew of other products, targeted for gravel riding and triathlon, but now they’ve turned their itchy mechanical engineering hands and smarts over to the commuter cycling segment.

Longtime readers know that I am a huge advocate for running lights on your bike instead of reflectors, even in the daytime. They do much more to increase your visibility to other road users, which is often enough to ensure you aren’t ignored as a rider. What if you could combine the attention-grabbing motion of pedaling with lights, instead of just reflectors? This isn’t a new premise by any means, but with the Arclight pedals, the Redshift Sports boffins have come up with a frankly ingenious solution that extends the concept.

FEATURES

  • Flat pedals with aluminum construction; steel spindle; sealed bearings
  • 97 mm x 95 mm platform; molded traction lugs
  • Four dual-color COB LED light modules included; two modules per pedal
  • Charging via USB type-A connector; four-way hub included for simultaneous charging
  • Modes and expected run time
    • Steady – 3 hours
    • Flash – 11 hours
    • Eco Flash – 36 hours
  • Motion-detection-based automatic shut-off logic
    • Standby mode – after 30 seconds no movement
    • Sleep mode – after 150 seconds no movement
    • Off – after 24 hours no movement
  • Optional multi-mount allows LED light module to act as either a front light or rear light
  • Weight (claimed): 305 g per pedal; 30 g per light module
  • Price: US$140 for the pedals and lights set; US$40 for the multi-mount and one light module

Disclaimer: Redshift Sports sent me the Arclight pedals and light module as a free review unit. No money changed hands. While I may use their PR material from time to time, all thoughts and review impressions are – and will be – my own.

FIRST INSPECTION

In isolation, the Arclight pedals themselves are pretty normal platform items at first glance. They’re aluminum, with a few traction lugs molded into their perimeter. Like most pedals, they will mount up to your crank arms via 15 mm wrench flats or a 6 mm hex key on the end of the steel spindle.

A closer look into the cavities for the light modules yields some very interesting details. On the inboard side sit a pair of round magnets, one for each light module. These work with grooves and lugs in the cavities as a retention mechanism. I suspect these are some sort of rare earth or neodymium magnet. While the light modules slide and click into place, it takes a firm, intentional tug to remove them, and they’re only ever coming out the way they came in. There’s even a little keyway to accept the exposed USB type-A charging plug on each light module.

Photo credit: Redshift Sports

Speaking of the light modules, each is made of ABS plastic encasing a strip of COB LEDs in both white and red, and has a little button at the end. This acts as the master on/off switch and the mode select switch, of which there are three (see “Features”). Beneath it is a small status LED that will glow orange while charging, and green for 15 minutes when done – after which they will turn off. This also appears to show current state of charge as well when turning on the light module.

With regard to charging, Redshift bundles in a four-way USB type-A charging hub so that you can charge all four light modules at once. Neat. Claimed charge time this way is two hours to full.

Unlike Look’s Geo Trekking pedals, which can also incorporate lights, Redshift cleverly thought of making Arclight as a modular system – hence the reference to the lights as “modules.” Extending the concept means the light modules can be used outside of the pedals, and act as either a front light or a rear light. This is done with the multi-mount.

The multi-mount is essentially a plastic sled that incorporates the exact same magnet-based retention system built into the Arclight pedals. On its back side are two ears and a curved pad, for fastening it to either handlebars (in a horizontal fashion) or seatpost (in a vertical position), either via the supplied rubber O-ring or a zip tie. While optional, this is ingenious. Ordering the full set of extra light module and multi-mount in conjunction with the pedals does add $40 to your expense, but as an all-in-one urban commuting setup of “to-be-seen” lights, this makes sense.

Photo credit: Redshift Sports

I’d run this fifth light module as a rear light and get a more powerful front light…but hey, options.

A closer look at the multi-mount also explains how the Arclight pedals perform their best party trick. All you really have to do is turn the light modules on. As you pedal, the lights automatically work out where their position is, and will glow red or white accordingly.

How do they do this? It’s down to the magnets.

The multi-mount’s two exposed magnets gives a better insight as to how the Arclight’s LED modules work.

On the pedal bodies, all you see are the magnets at the inboard end, but the multi-mount exposes another magnet just behind the lengthwise edge of the light module. This magnet is hidden away somewhere in the pedals’ spindles. The interaction of the magnets’ polarities and the position of the light modules determines what color they glow.

The final trick is the automatic shutoff logic for the light modules, which is motion-detection-based and works when they’re mounted to the pedals or the multi-mount. This makes the Arclight system fit-and-forget until the lights need recharging.

When the light modules are detached from the pedals or multi-mount, the color-changing and auto shut-off functionalities are inactive – all of that is cycled through via button presses.

INITIAL THOUGHTS

Photo credit: Redshift Sports

Redshift claims the pedals run on sealed bearings, and spinning them in hand yields a smooth, buttery action not unlike the Look X-Tracks I run. That said, I can’t find a way of dismantling these easily for servicing. I suspect this is due to how the magnets are mounted hidden in the spindle. There may yet be a way of servicing these, but the documentation is mum about it.

Look’s Geo Trekking Roc SPD+flat urban pedals, with one optional Vision LED light mounted.
Credit: JensonUSA.

One major difference between the Arclight pedals and Look’s Geo Trekking counterparts is that the latter is a clipless+flat pedal combo, much like Shimano’s Deore XT PD-T780. While I’d love to see an SPD-style version of Arclight, this may be difficult to pull off in practice, due to how the light modules and pedals are apparently designed from the ground up as a flat pedal system first and foremost. A theoretical SPD-style version would need to add at least 30 mm to the length of the pedal body, I reckon.

I haven’t yet mounted the Arclight system onto any of my bikes. It seems Bino, my folding bike, is a good candidate, as I use him mainly for running errands. It will be interesting to see how the whole system stands up to real-world use and abuse. Stay tuned and watch this space.