June 14, 2018

By Bernie Kowalski

I have been using two Hotshots, one on each seatstay, for a couple of years. As a dedicated commuter, I always keep my eyes open to the possibility of upgrading, and I have yet to find anything that beats this tail light.

How effective is it? Here’s the ultimate endorsement: my wife is a gold-medal worry-wart.  Even she gives them the thumbs-up. She occasionally drives past me while we are each on our way to work and she will attest to the ability of these lights to grab a driver’s attention from a distance. On one occasion someone told me they thought they were driving up behind a police bike. Seems silly, but it makes the point.

First, the basics. The Pro 150 has a peak brightness of 150 lumens. (Like everybody else, you’ll look directly into it. Once.) You can grab someone’s attention at night from about a half mile. During the day, it’s effective at a quarter mile. This is due to a couple factors: a straight-up torturously bright LED, and a lens that does a good job of focusing the beam.

This light offers six different light patterns. You also have the ability to adjust the brightness of the light, or the rapidity of the flashes. I had to tinker with my light for a while to correlate each flash option with the instruction sheet, as follows:

Steady – this setting doesn’t flash, but stays constantly lit.  You can adjust the brightness of the light in this setting.  According to the info that comes with the light, the battery life can be anywhere from 2 to 120 hours.  I think both of those ranges are found on this setting.  When the light is maxed out, it would make sense that a constant draw at that intensity will run the battery down in 2 hours, and the reverse would apply to the lowest intensity.  Why would you want an adjustable steady light?  Nighttime group rides.  At its brightest setting nobody is going to ride behind you.  Somewhere around a lower setting would be best for your buddies, but not the approaching cars.  This is where the adjustment works so well, as long as you can safely reach the light while riding (clipped onto a jersey pocket, seatpost, seatbag, etc).  By holding the adjustment button down, changing the brightness from the lowest to the brightest setting takes only 6 seconds.  Once the car passes, bring it back down and save your friends’ retinas.

Zoom – This setting reminds me of the flash pattern on a lighthouse. You are able to adjust the speed of the flashes.

Steady Pulse – my personal preference.  This setting will show 3 flashes, then a steady light between each 3-flash series.  The flashes get their attention; the steady allows them to see where the flashes came from.  You can adjust the amount of time that separates the flashes.

Triple – This flash pattern is Steady Pulse without the steady between the flashes.  It looks like something you’d see at a construction zone.   Again, you can adjust the length of time that separates the triple flashes.

Day Lightning – that’s not a typo.  “Lightning” is a good word for the light pulse this thing sends out, and it will grab attention during the day.  You can adjust the rapidity of the lightning flashes.  In the fastest setting it looks like a strobe light at a dance club.

Random Flash – This setting gives you a Day Lightning flash with less intense flashes in between the lightning flashes.  The in-between flashes decrease as you shorten the time between lightning flashes.  At its fastest setting, I swear it could induce seizures.

The Hot Shot 150 comes with mounting brackets and spacers that will allow for mounting just about anywhere.  It also comes with a charge cord.  I can attest to the claim that it is waterproof.   When the tail light is nearing the end of its charge, it will give you a distinctive dim, rapid flash when the light is turned off or on. Once you see the low charge indication, charge it.  It won’t have much time left in the battery.  Recharging takes about 3½ hours.

At $49.99 it’s on the upper half of the taillight price range, but is actually a bit less than comparable lights.  Knowing what I do about this light, I’d pay more if I needed to…….let’s just hope Cygolite doesn’t catch on to that.

Before ending this review, I’d like to make a point about tail lights in general and riding safely in the dark.  Today’s lithium ion batteries are great.  We’ve got lights that have never been smaller or brighter.  The downside to Li ion is that when the battery nears the end of its charge, it shuts itself off, leaving you in a potentially dangerous situation.  If you regularly ride in the dark, especially for more than 15 or 20 minutes, you need to have two tail lights.  Not only can your tail light go out without warning, you don’t necessarily see that it’s gone out because it’s behind you, making the situation even worse.  If you run two lights, and coordinate the charge schedules, you’ll always have at least one light in play.  Yes, it doubles your cost, but it also doubles your safety.  You’re worth the extra spend.