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Knog unveils new waterproof, USB-powered 'Blinder' lights at Portland party

Posted by Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) on February 27th, 2012 at 3:55 pm

Cyclone Bicycle Supply party (Knog product launch)-6
Blinders blinked in fishbowls
as party-goers milled about.
(Photos © J. Maus/BikePortland)

Leave it to Portland to throw a party for a new bike light.

A sneak peek at Knog's new Blinder model attracted scores of bike shop owners and employees from around the region to a party in a cavernous art studio in northwest Portland Friday night. The shindig was hosted by Cyclone Bicycle Supply, a parts distributor based in Portland that supplies bike shops throughout the country.

Cyclone's Director of Sales, John Byfield, said the party served a dual role — to introduce the Blinder and to say 'thank you' to the hundreds of bike dealers he serves. With a full spread of finger foods, plenty of free beer, and a DJ, Byfield expected a healthy turnout from the over 200 shops he'd invited from throughout the Pacific Northwest.

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Cyclone's Director of Sales
John Byfield.

While Cyclone isn't nearly as large as industry juggernauts like Quality Bicycle Products and J & B Importers, Byfield says they've found success by carving a niche among niches. Byfield plucks obscure brands — like Var Tools, Early Rider balance bikes, and Rubena Tires — from across the globe and introduces them to the U.S. market. While they have dealers across the nation, Byfield says Portland makes up a large portion of their business. "We really believe in the Portland market. It's what drives us."

Australia-based Knog is another company that believes in the Portland market. On Friday, one of Knog's four partners — and a key creative force behind its products and infamous marketing campaigns — Mike Lelliot, was there to show off their new lights.

Mike Lelliot of Knog.

Since bursting onto the bike scene seven years ago with their "Frog" lights, Knog has had a meteoric rise in the bike industry. Back in the early days, Lelliot says they grew from selling 1,000 lights a year to 100,000 lights a year in just two years. Today Knog employs 20 people in their Melbourne offices and sells over 2 million lights per year. Only five companies sell more bike lights than they do in the U.S.

Introducing the Blinder.

Lelliot commands attention not just as the man partly responsible for Knog's enviable brand; but at over six feet tall, and with a beard sized to match his lanky frame, he's hard to miss. During our chat, as I strained to hear him over the thump of dance music, Lelliot explained how Knog owes much of its success to the creativity they bring to products.

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Cyclone Bicycle Supply party (Knog product launch)-7

"Obsessed with making things differently," he said their use of materials (they were first to wrap an LED in medical-grade silicone) and their design aesthetic is what makes them distinctive.

Speaking like a true product designer, Lelliot said at Knog he and his team, "treat even the smallest object [like their Frog light] with vast attention and importance." With a background in fine arts, Lelliot sees himself as an artist, and his products as, "public art for the urban gallery."

Knog's success has not gone unnoticed and their products have had a big influence on the industry. Much of that influence has come in the form of copycats. "It sort of sucks when big brands steal your ideas," Lelliot lamented Friday night.

While their designs have influenced other companies, Lelliot says Knog is inherently difficult to copy. Likening the designs he and his team come up with to the music of a rock band, Lelliot said companies will always try to copy, "But they can't get ahead of us."

Rock band or not, Knog has learned their lessons and they are trying to thwart the mimicry. Lelliot said they've filed for over 600 official design registrations (similar to patents) for their new Blinder lights.

One place Lelliot won't have to worry about copycats (at least in buttoned-up America) is their racy ad campaigns. Often featuring profanity, sexual innuendo, and scantily clad models, Knog ads have become infamous. Some U.S. dealers even refuse to include the ads in their shops and mailers. Lelliot, who has a large hand in creating the ads, says he's just trying to tell a story about youth, freedom, longing and urban adventure — things that he feels bike lovers can relate to. "The ads are just for fun," he said with a smile.

Fun for Lelliot, but seriously not funny for some of his critics. The emails and phone calls he gets about the ads used to worry him. But not anymore. "It used to worry me, but people still buy the lights, so I don't really care... You can't please all of the people all of the time."

The new Blinder lights are sure to please. They come in an array of anodized finishes, are USB chargeable, waterproof to 10 feet, and are super bright (80 lumens for the front, 44 for the rear). The rubber attachment band can fit a wide range of diameters and they've got a nice latch system. Knog even gave them a 15-degree tilt so when they're on a seatpost, they lay flat for optimal viewing.

The Blinder is a big step up from Knog's previous lights. Lelliot said when they debuted the lights at Frostbike last week, they sold four-times as many as they expected. You can find the Blinders in stores mid-March at a retail price of $44.95.

Nathan Roll, owner of Metropolis Cycle Repair in North Portland said Friday night that Knog has "Revolutionized the light market." As long as Knog continues to have eye-catching ads and products that are as functional as they are beautiful, that revolution seems far from over.

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Comments
  • rider February 27, 2012 at 4:15 pm

    I know it doesn't, but it would be nice if this meant they were going to take those single LED lights off the market. Those things are worse than having no lights.

    Recommended Thumb up 6

    • Scott February 28, 2012 at 9:20 am

      Some people want to be legal, and not pushing the envelope of lumens. I actually get my night adjusted pupils torched by cyclists way more than by cars.

      Recommended Thumb up 5

      • rider February 28, 2012 at 9:34 am

        I'm not saying you need a light that can be seen from space, but while driving I always think bicyclists with those lights are riding ninja until I'm right up on them. If you're using them to be strictly legal and have no illusions that they're helping you be seen then ok, but I don't think most people using them realize they do nothing to help visibility and ride as if they're being seen.

        Recommended Thumb up 0

    • wsbob February 28, 2012 at 11:52 am

      Single LED lights? Maybe I'm not following your meaning. Most lights seem to use a single LED. There are some lights that use a series of LED's in a group, but I'm not sure exactly why. Increased brightness? Backup in case an LED fails? For achieving a specific beam pattern?

      LED and light manufacturers seem to be working ever harder to get increased, efficient brightness out of single LED's. Li-Ion batteries allow it to work. USB chargeable makes it convenient. These all cut away at the excuses people can have for not helping themselves to be visible on their bikes in traffic.

      If they actually are visible in traffic, and aren't just a novelty pop item, which their unique designs seem to want them to look like...kind of the Swatch of bike lights...these knog lights might be just fine, and fun too. Possibly strong contenders for lights styled like the Planet Bike line and other similarly styled brands. Lots of people would seem to rather not have the addition of conventionally styled lights bringing their bike to more resemble a car or a motorcycle.

      Recommended Thumb up 0

      • rider February 28, 2012 at 12:59 pm

        These things, http://www.amazon.com/Knog-Frog-1-LED-Bicycle-Light/dp/B001G6N36U/ref=pd_sim_sbs_sg_6

        They're so worthless you've never even noticed them.

        Recommended Thumb up 0

        • Kristen March 1, 2012 at 10:48 am

          Hm. In my experience of using them and seeing them being used, they're pretty bright.

          I was able to illuminate reflective signs a good 500 feet or so away from me with my white Frog. I know it was me because I had it set on blink and there were no other cyclists around me; I didn't know who was making the sign flash reflectively like that, then realized it was me!

          But hey-- your mileage may vary; and it does depend on their orientation.

          Recommended Thumb up 0

  • lavie.lama February 27, 2012 at 4:15 pm

    I wish they made rechargeable ones that were a little less bright! I hate being blinded on the road, and I'd hate to be that guy that does that to others.

    Recommended Thumb up 4

  • Champs February 27, 2012 at 4:24 pm

    Hopefully not literally blinding. Too often, ultrabright lights are mistakenly aimed at eye level, not the road, where they should be. Even better when it's an epileptic strobe.

    Misuse like that is a major personal bugaboo.

    Recommended Thumb up 6

  • dwainedibbly February 27, 2012 at 5:24 pm

    Unfortunate name, but they sound like decent lights. (What is the sound of one light flashing?) Hopefully they'll be packed with aiming instructions, or, even better, print something simple on the back where it won't be lost or tossed.

    I really like the rechargeability. That really is huge. More huge? Let me use the light to top up my cell in an emergency. (Just throwing ideas out, throwing ideas up. It's projectile brainstorming!)

    More choices are good!

    Recommended Thumb up 1

  • A.K. February 27, 2012 at 5:33 pm

    Was Chopper Reid there?

    Recommended Thumb up 1

  • Sauce February 27, 2012 at 6:50 pm

    Less bright than these is the Knog Boomer, still pretty darn bright and USB rechargeable.

    Recommended Thumb up 1

  • jim February 27, 2012 at 8:13 pm

    I cant tell from the picture. Do these have quick disconnects?

    Recommended Thumb up 0

    • John Byfield February 28, 2012 at 1:27 pm

      Yes...easy on & off

      Recommended Thumb up 1

  • Tourbiker February 28, 2012 at 4:35 am

    Problem with most tail lights out there is they are nearly worthless during day.
    "Daylight bright" tail-lights should be standard equipment for commuters & long range riders. this is one area that I believe DOT needs to set some regs. Cars have em...motorcycles have em...bikes SHOULD have Min 1W of tail light power during day riding. 1/2W distinctive flash for nights, alerting motorists there's a rider ahead.
    If you want to be taken seriously as a rider, you have behave as one.

    Recommended Thumb up 3

    • Scott February 28, 2012 at 9:22 am

      Keep your laws off of my bike.

      Recommended Thumb up 2

    • wsbob February 28, 2012 at 11:26 am

      Yeah...now moving towards Oregon's next full term legislative session next January, considering ideas for improvement of in traffic bike visibility by way of light specs seems like it would be a worthy effort. There's major brand 2 watt tail lights on the market now for under $35.

      Oregon law currently has the rear reflector requirement, tail lights optional and recommended, which I suppose is o.k. for around the neighborhood, and helps to not limit accessibility of the use of bikes to get around for people without much cash, but for in traffic, bikes equipped with lights can really improve visibility of people on bikes.

      Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Editz February 28, 2012 at 9:25 am

    Go DiNotte for a serious tail light.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • drew February 28, 2012 at 9:26 am

    Looking over their info page, there is no information on the shape of the beam; "blinder" may describe it depending on how it is aimed.
    It is in nobody's interest to blind oncoming traffic. I don't know whats more annoying, the blinding or the blinking. There are other lights that actually have an engineered low beam like a car, like the Edelux or Supernova.
    This looks like another strap-on light I will just have to lower my cap to endure as it goes by.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

    • Champs February 28, 2012 at 12:30 pm

      I love my Supernova E3, but you can still shine it in people's eyes.

      With great candlepower comes great responsibility.

      Recommended Thumb up 1

  • whyat February 28, 2012 at 10:49 am

    Do they attach easily to racks? These newer rubber band connectors usually make them completely useless to a bike with a rack. Hoping maybe???

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Joshua February 28, 2012 at 12:00 pm

    After having two of their lights completely stop working on me I think I'll probably stick with something that will last.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • captainkarma February 28, 2012 at 8:00 pm

    I really hate being Blindered out on the Springwater. Sometimes I have to stop and wait for some brighties to pass in order not to be rolling off the path .

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Tourbiker February 29, 2012 at 7:14 am

    DiNotte does make a great tail light engine. I use the equivalent their XML-3 on the front. (custom built). However, their rear lights mounting system is junk.
    For anyone that uses a trunk bag or touring rig, You need a beefy rack mount.
    I still stand behind legal req's for minimum daylight light standards. Drivers have used the "I didn't see em" defense far too long.
    If I haven't done my part to ensure I'm seen out there,
    I've given up my right to whine when I'm not.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • mh March 1, 2012 at 12:23 pm

    Sauce
    Less bright than these is the Knog Boomer, still pretty darn bright and USB rechargeable.

    I don't recommend the Boomer at all, and am still trying to find someone I can return mine to even though it's out of warranty. It shipped water, and it's theoretically sealed so it hasn't dried out in months. It shorted out in as many ways as it had patterns, now it says it's charged when it is not. Worthless, and because the battery is built in, It's hazardous waste. Sad.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

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