by Charles O’Roake, PCI #1201
Federal Reserve Bank of Houston (TX) Police
Like others of you, I first found out about the X-Fire lighting system from a fellow instructor who posted their informational video to the instructor Google Group. I thought that the product looked like a great idea and quickly volunteered to test it.
When the light arrived, I was immediately pleased to see that they had upgraded to a USB port rechargeable system as opposed to the AA battery system shown in the video. The light was charged when it arrived, which allowed me to see right out of the package that it appeared to work as promised. Two parallel lines projected onto the ground in addition to the traditional style five LED lights that function as a normal taillight does.
There are separate controls for the LEDs and the laser lights, allowing them to function independently of each other. The LEDs have three patterns to choose from: steady, blinking and random. The laser lines offer two choices: either steady on or blinking. Both lights are bright; the LEDs are not quite as bright (in my opinion) as the Trek 7 flare which our department currently uses. It also has no side visibility. This, however, is not a major concern when the LED is paired with the laser light lane markers.
That said, I do feel that the Trek 7 offers slightly better side visibility at the eye level of most drivers due to the height of the light and because it is not projected onto the ground as is the case with the X-Fire system. As noted above, the laser lights are bright although not bright enough for daytime visibility. There is no problem with visibility under street lights or of vehicle headlights.
The lighting unit is slightly larger and weighs slightly more than the Trek 7 but not overly so. It has a solid feel to it and good fit and finish as well. The unit has a simple, straightforward seat post mounting bracket with a single hand-turned screw to secure it. It is possible to tilt the angle of the light, although doing so causes the laser lights to form a funnel into the rear wheel of the bike. In addition to the seat post mount, there is a clip mount which I found to be totally ineffective as the slightest bump will cause the unit to shift and the laser lights then become askew to the bike. There also is no screw hole in the back of the unit to allow for direct mounting to a rear rack.
Once the X-Fire was firmly attached to my seat post, I set about seeing if I could dislodge the unit from bike. The bracket held firm through all challenges, curbs, stairs, potholes and even off-road trail riding. I am happy to report that, due to the interlocking notches on the mounting bracket, not even a minor adjustment was needed, even after giving it my best shot to dislodge the unit.
Overall this is a good product that performs as advertised. Where the product fails is in its suitability for public safety use. Almost all of us use some kind of rear rack and bag set up. Because this unit can only be mounted to the seat post, the rear tail light is useless because it is blocked by the rear bag. Additionally, the laser lights can be blocked by the larger bags such as those used by EMS.
Most of the issues concerning use by public safety cyclists could be resolved by adding a screw hole in the rear of the unit to allow for direct-to-rack mounting. A secondary recommendation would be to make the width of the laser lights adjustable. With the current set up, the width of the lane is determined by the distance from the ground, thus the smaller the frame, the smaller the lane.
Overall, I liked this product and would likely use it on my personal bike for road riding. However, in its current configuration, we have no plans to use it for our bike patrol unit.
X-Fire does not yet participate in the IPMBA Product Purchase Program. Please visit http://thexfire.com for more information.
Charles has been in law enforcement since 1995. He worked as a reserve in Aurora, Colorado; a Town Marshal in Alma, Colorado; and an officer in LaSalle. He joined the FRB Police in 2001 and relocated to Texas in 2004. He attended the IPMBA Police Cyclist Course in June 2007 and was certified as an IPMBA Instructor in May 2010. His motto is, “Every ride should hold something new.” Charles can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This review appeared in the Winter 2014 issue of IPMBA News.