- 4.5 / 5 Bee's Knees -
After reviewing the Bontrager Ion 700 front light and giving much praise, Trek/Bontrager was back on my radar pinging for new hip products. I can’t pin point the year, but there was a period where Trek, and countless other manufactures just seemed to put out products that were a bit boring or matter-of-fact. Certainly, the Ion 700 is anything but stale. Actually it is a calculated, well-honed light with no excess fat. Like many companies that offer complimentary taillights, Trek also brings a sister light to the table to pair with the Ion. Introducing the Flare R rear taillight.
Where the Ion was a no-frills, all business light, so too is the Flare R. No gimmicks, no fluff, just a heaping serving of light and functional design. Each of the light settings (2 constant & 2 flash) appeal to the commuting cyclist where safety is paramount. Simple constant settings are complimented by intelligent flash modes that either draw attention during the day via a staccato flash or prevent disorientation at night by applying a constant light within the flash. Bontragers apparent goal with the Flare R is to promote daytime, let me just re-emphasize, daytime visibility. Not to overlook all the accident statistics that were noted with the sample product received, the skinny reads: the majority of accidents both fatal and non-fatal occur during the day. What isn’t maybe accounted for is the disproportionate number of cyclist riding during the day vs at night. Regardless of these statistics, accidents do happen in the day (I can speak for this myself) and many riders likely overlook the value of using a rear strobe during the daytime. And for those dedicated folks who ride both day and night, rain or shine, an IP46 waterproof rating helps seal the deal.
Enough preaching. Whether you choose to use a rear light during the day, at night, or both, all are beneficial but not all are created equal. As for the Flare R, a single rear facing LED blasts (up to) an intense 65 lumens of light to a max distance of 2km. Additionally, two side facing amber leds promote visibility that covers 270°. This does promote better side visibility at night, but in my option draws little attention during the day. Regardless, the sum of this and a transparent red housing with a clear flys-eye lens raises this light to the highest of podiums alongside few competitors. To boot, some cleaver programing preserves a dim flash when the lights battery depletes to 5%. This is a great function to allow an illuminated ride home even if the output is lower than optimum. Once it's completely drained, a full charge is accomplished in a terrifically short 2.5 hours.
Clearly the optics and output are well above average, but how about the interface? In all respects, the user experience is intuitive and easy with a build quality of equal excellence. The power/mode switch is a rather unique over-sized square design and features a charge indicator light. A firm press is needed to cycle through each mode. This may be even a touch too firm yet it is still more glove-friendly than many other lights with comparably microscopic buttons. As for the mount, it is nearly identical to the silicone Ion mount only the angle is changed a bit to compensate for your seatpost angle. In that respect, this light isn’t very adjustable in odd applications, but for a standard setup the light was easily positioned to face directly back and level. Applying the silicone mount to this rear light makes more sense with the Flare R than the Ion because of the Flares light weight and because you won’t notice jittering over bumps as you do with the Ion (any front light for that matter). Importantly, I was pleased to find no scratches to my ultra-high polished raw aluminum seatpost while using this light contrary to my experiences with nearly every other light I own or have tested. As an additional option, Bontrager is including a clip mount which broadens the lights usability. This clip is both robust and secure lending well to a saddle bag loop, backpack or even a jersey pocket.
Are there any flaws to be found with the Flare R? Let me put it this way, I’m still looking. If there could be any, as is the case with many lights of this price point, some riders will not be able to justify the price because “a blinking light is a blinking light, right?” To me no, qualities vary greatly. To others, certainly yes. At the end of the day I would highly recommend the Bontrager Flare R to any rider and argue the marginal difference in price between this and a cheaper light could be the difference between Tammy Texter seeing you or lol’ing to her hearts content while she drifts closer and closer towards your freshly tuned Parlee. Again, just as it is with the Ion 700, the Flare R is a no BS light that was designed entirely with safety, quality and function in mind.