- 3.5 / 5 Bee's Knees -
If there has ever been a bike light that I’ve been inseparable with, that light would be none other than Knogs Blinder Road R (“R” for rear). The function, flare and simplicity of this light as well as its massive output sets it apart from every other mundane rear light. After reviewing the Road 3.0 and loving all of its various patterns, I developed a great liking to their front lights but still was longing for an output that put it closer in the realm of the Urban 700. At 550lm, the Arc 5.5 is Knogs first shot at a generous-output light and a sure contender with various popular commuter lights.
Given the unanimous love for the beam patterns produced by the Road 3.0, the Arc 5.5 maintains a pattern that is unique to most lights including the 3.0. The 5.5 employs a prism-like lens which diffuses light into an oval-like spot while adding a softly transitioned flood. I’ve raved about both L&M’s and the new Volt 700’s exceptional pattern but I wouldn’t hesitate to state that the Arc’s beam pattern is one of the nicest on the market for commuters. It offers a ton of balance and none of the harsh cut offs between spot and flood or flood and black. In a word, this beam pattern is outstanding. Output is hardly in limited supply at its highest output of 550lm and even the lower settings seem much more usable than those found on the 3.0. For these reasons, I anticipated that the Arc 5.5 would have become my favorite new light. But…
Here is where things go a little awry…and I cringe because I wanted to adopt this guy as my primary commuter light. Where models like the Road 3.0 or the other various blinders (front and rear) succeed with Knogs signature silicone strap-mount design, its application on the Arc 5.5 has proven to be insufficient for anything but fair-road riding or as a helmet mounted setup. Slipping on surfaces from raw aluminum to clear coated carbon and even on top of bar tape was commonplace and disheartening for such a cool light. Worse than the slipping, which primarily occurred from significant jarring, was the jittering that was present over moderately rough surfaces. I do wonder if a stable connection could be established if the mount were positioned further forward and closer towards the lights center of gravity. Regardless, with its current design the light bounces and jitters on OS bars as well as classic bars…(again) basically in any application except a helmet setup. Utilizing the smaller diameter strap did not mitigate this issue. On one occasion, hitting a hard pothole actually caused the light to turn off. While I do my best to avoid treacherous potholes, it is an inevitability for myself and others to hit them on occasion and the performance of the 5.5 was not reassuring for someone who can’t afford to have their light turn off while descending generous hills at 45mph. A saving grace, however, may be the included helmet mount. By strapping this guy to your helmet and thereby taking all the sharp bumps out of the equation, the light becomes much more competent. However, whereas I loved the beam pattern from a handlebar position, it really doesn’t seem all that effective as a helmet light. When the light is pitched down at a steeper angle (from a helmet as opposed to a bar), the light doesn’t project forward. Instead you get a little oval which is generously wide but has no depth. In summary of the mount, maybe there is a segment of casual cyclists who are fortunate enough to ride on particularly smooth roads and would not experience the tremor issues but I’m obligated be honest here – riding with this light as a bar mounted setup was unpleasant on roads that weren’t unrealistically rough. On segments that were poor to terrible, the light was even a bit unsafe. To add insult to injury, the small magnet placed beneath the metal clasp which I originally thought was a cool design to further promote secure mounting fell off on two occasions.
In terms of ease of use and simplicity, the Arc 5.5 is entirely intuitive and simple. The output settings are organized in a logical manner and switching between each is easy, although I’m confident that operating the light with thick gloves would be tricky considering the buttons small size and inset design. The on-board USB tab allows for a cable-free charge (great for charging at work) and an extended cable is included for those tough to reach USB ports.
I think I’ve been quite honest and fair here – every part of me wants to love this light and give it a flawless review but in reality the strap-style mount which is so successful on all the Knog lights I’ve tested simply does not work for the Arc 5.5. Every brilliant feature including the impeccable beam pattern is overshadowed by the shaky, dizziness-inducing light. But again, in a helmet mount application and especially on smooth roads while bar-mounted, these issues are non existent. All this being said, I would hold out for a more robust mount before jumping on board with the Arc 5.5. Once this issue is resolved, the Knog Arc 5.5 (or hopefully by then the 7.0?) will be a fierce competitor with many top commuter lights.