- 4 / 5 Bee's Knees -
The age-old adage “good things come in small packages” seems entirely appropriate here. Like many others, I too nerd-out over cool new tools and gadgets that improve upon the simplicity or function of like-designed products. Case and point, the Niterider Sentinel.
From first glance, the Sentinel tail light would appear to be your average USB rechargeable bike light. Both its appearance and size are familiar. You’d suspect little more from it than you would any other light. However, this compact blinker is distinctly different from nearly all lights you're familiar with because it casts two laser lanes to increase rider presence and help motorists visualize a safety zone for the user.
Months into testing, I’m personally loving the concept of these virtual boundaries. A large part of me wants to incorporate this device in all aspects of my life. Whether your in line at the grocery store with a fast encroaching over-cologned bro invading your bubble, at work alongside that guy who can’t have a conversation shorter than fifteen minutes or dipping in a public pool with an eerie amber cloud drifting towards you…the sentinel will be your hero. More technically, the laser lanes are nearly useless in daylight but terrifically visible past dusk and offer a greater runtime compared to LED’s. As for size, respective to the mounting position, you can expect a lane roughly 3-4ft wide and extending slightly ahead and behind the length of your bike. Settings include off, constant and two flashing modes.
Of course the laser lanes themselves don’t draw as much attention from afar. To address this, the Sentinel still offers the traditional feature of a flashing LED; in this case a 2 watt diode. A large translucent body and clear diffuser lens gives this light both a wide area of visibility but also a pretty sharp punch for anyone directly behind the light. The LED itself has two constant and two flash settings as well as off (to run the laser lanes solo). By all means, this light can keep up with most of lights around this price point even though it is rated to a considerably lower output of 30 lumens. Waterproofing measures are also taken and achieve an IP64 rating.
Finally, the last point of interest is the mount. Quite a bit of thought had to go into the design of this mount to ensure each rider could adjust it such that the lasers would run parallel with the bike. This becomes quickly apparent when you mount the light. Thankfully adjustments are intuitive. Highs and lows. On the bright side, everything is secure and the rubber shims are both premium compared to others and ensure universal fitment. As for a head-scratcher, the bracket rotates with 4 index points each 90 degrees…it just makes no sense. In nearly no application will you cast the lasers up or to the side. Potentially this feature allows you to mount the light to a horizontal tube, but where and why you would have a horizontal tube around your seatpost, I can’t begin to know. Additionally, there is no advantage realized by the LED to reorient the light. The only other imaginable convenience is that you can see the release tab easier…and maybe that is what is intended here. Still, with specific reference to the mount system, I prefer the simple silicone mounts employed by Knog, Bontrager and others. Simple trumps complex, but the Sentinel is by no means poor, just overly engineered with features it doesn’t need. Finally, it is worth noting that the design of the Sentinel does allow it to clip onto a jersey or pack without the mounting bracket. One can assume that you would only run the lights LED since the laser lanes would constantly move around.
Is the Sentinel small? Yep. Is it a package? Well, it comes in one. Is it good? Without a doubt it is better than good. I am so excited to see Niterider create a product with such a nifty feature while remaining highly functional. For me, in recent years, Niterider has been too focused on creating functional products thereby loosing touch with making items of passion. But the Sentinel sets a new tone. It puts a grin on my face. That same grin you got when you were 5 years old and fried an ant with a microscope…its just cool…granted there is no guilt using the Sentinel. It may be too nerdy for some, I even have my days where I go without the lanes, but really I’ve got to tip my hat to Niterider for nailing this product with a complete balance of usability and desirability. Change that mount to silicone and it just might be my primary tail light. Here’s to hoping this creativity trickles down (or up) to their headlights!