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Tested: The Orp bike horn and light combo

Posted by on December 5th, 2014 at 11:22 am

The Orp smart horn-2

The Orp in black.
(Photos by J. Maus/BikePortland)

Bells are the rare bike accessory that hasn’t really changed much in the past century or so. While shifting and braking and other bike tech has evolved considerably over the years, many people still use bells that would seem right at home on a high-wheeler. (I personally have two bells I use almost every day — both made of brass that’s dinged with a low-tech, spring-actuated lever.)

Then there’s the Orp, a product invented and designed right here in Portland by Tory Orzeck that’s decidedly modern in its looks, feel, and sound. I’ve been using the Orp since last summer in all sorts of conditions and I’m finally ready to share my impressions.

The Orp smart horn-5

Push the Wail Tail up for the friendly sound (and to expose the micro-USB port).

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The Orp smart horn-10

Fits bars from 26-33 mm in diameter.
The Orp smart horn-1

I mounted it sideways on my city bike, because a horn is only as good as its proximity to your thumb.

You might recall our first report on the Orp nearly two years ago. That was before Orzeck and his crew at FUSE, an industrial design firm, raised over $100,000 on Kickstarter to make the product a reality.

Orzeck is a former designer for Nike and GE Plastics who wanted to create a better bike bell as a response to two tragic right-hook fatalities in late 2007. “In both cases,” reads the Orp website, “the riders were neither seen or heard by the drivers. Tory wondered if there was a way to make cyclists more visible and maybe more “hearable” to drivers.”

orpsoundchart

I can relate to the “more hearable” part. I often feel impotent dinging my bell in the direction of people in nearly sound-proof cars as creep onto my path.

As Orzeck set out to design a better bell, he figured it might as well include a light too. So the Orp, which they tout as “the world’s first combination dual-tone bike horn and beacon light,” was born.

The Orp stands out from the myriad other light and bell options on the market. It’s got a distinctive shape due to its flat facade and rubbery body that clings to your handlebars like a raptor’s claw. The guts (electronics) of the Orp are tucked inside a high-impact polycarbonate shell that is surrounded by soft silicone rubber.

There’s a little fin at the rear of the unit called the “Wail Tail” (get it?), which is how you turn on the horn. Flip the tail up for the “friendly” sound (76 decibels) and, when things get serious, flipt it down for the loud sound (96 decibels). If you can’t mount the Orp close enough to your fingers, it’s got a built-in remote switch port. The remotes aren’t out yet (Orzeck says they’re coming soon), so I wasn’t able to test one out, but that’s a very promising feature.

orpstache

They sell “Orpstache” sticker packs in case
you want make yours even cuter.

There are two LEDs on the Orp which have a max output of 87 lumens each. A recessed button at the top is where you turn the Orp on and off and cycle through the steady and blinking light modes. The Orp is rechargeable thanks to a micro-USB port just below the Wail Tail.

During my test period I used the Orp in all types of environments: busy downtown streets like SW Broadway and 4th Ave; higher-speed roads like SW Terwiliger; and the off-road fire lanes in Forest Park.

As a light, I found the Orp useful more for safety than helping me find my way. I also appreciated how the light strobes when I turned on the loud horn, giving me a visual presence in addition to the audio warning.

The horn feature is really where this product stands out. I’m a huge bell believer. I ring them a lot during my daily riding. I love the classic “ding-ding” sound of my brass bell. It’s a universal sound that everyone immediately knows is coming from a bicycle. The Orp’s sound is different.

Very short video where you can hear both sounds.
(I mounted it sideways so I could reach it quickly with my thumb.)

The friendly Orp horn is more like a bird whistle: a quick “ta-tweet-ta-tweet.” I like how it pierces through urban white noise with a distinct sound. The funny thing is, it’s not nearly as well understood as a traditional bike bell. In Forest Park, when I’d use it on walkers on Leif Erikson Road, some of them would first react by looking up in the trees. They thought it was a bird, not a bike coming behind them!

The tweeting horn worked much better for me on city streets. When I used it approaching a busy intersection, walkers would look up from their phones and people getting into cars parked in the lane next to me would look over their shoulders.

Then there’s the loud sound. It’s exponentially louder than a regular bike bell, and infinitely more annoying. And that’s a good thing when you want to grab someone’s attention. I can’t describe the sound, but you can listen to it in my little YouTube video above. The Orp’s loud horn came through for me on more than one occasion. In one instance, when I thought, ‘OK, this product is legit,’ came when I used it on SW Terwiliger. I was riding north approaching the notoriously dangerous SW Condor intersection, when I saw a potential right-hook developing in front of me. I slowed down a bit, then slammed down on the loud horn: “BLRRRRRRRRR!” At that instant, I saw the woman in the car fling her head over her right shoulder in fright. We locked eyes. She stopped. Then I rolled through with a cheeky grin and a wave.

The loud horn is my favorite feature of the Orp.

I also like how it comes in all sorts of neat colors, including glow-in-the-dark green.

Like any product though, I do have a few minor quibbles. I found it hard to tell sometimes if my Orp was on or off. This is important because it’s embarrassing/annoying/startling when the super-loud horn goes off when you don’t want it to (or when you have to move the Wail Tail to plug in the USB cord). When you push and hold the top button, the Orp lets out a different sound to tell you if it’s being turned on or off. I often had trouble hearing the sound and wasn’t sure if it was awake or asleep. I’d also love this product much more if the friendly sound was some variation on the classic bike bell “ding-ding” or jingle. The “tweet-tweet” whistle not only fooled those walkers in Forest Park, but there were times when I felt self-conscious about using it downtown because it sounds like a catcall.

Those minor things aside, at $65 retail the Orp is a solid investment. Have you used one? I’d love to hear what you think.

Disclosure: Orp is a current BikePortland advertiser.

— You can find the Orp for sale at local bike shops and online at Orpland.com. Orp is giving BikePortland readers a special discount through December 25th. Use code ORP4BPO (o’s not zeros) to get 23% off (making it $50.05) and free U.S. shipping.

NOTE: We love your comments and work hard to ensure they are productive, considerate, and welcoming of all perspectives. Disagreements are encouraged, but only if done with tact and respect. If you see a mean or inappropriate comment, please contact us and we'll take a look at it right away. Also, if you comment frequently, please consider holding your thoughts so that others can step forward. Thank you — Jonathan

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Allan
Guest
Allan

I’ve got one too and I think you summed it up perfectly. The one thing I would add is that the lights aren’t set up for seeing (especially if you’re travelling over 10mph – it just doesn’t let you see the road far enough in front of you. The lights are very visible to others seeing you, however. I think I would prefer something a bit more directional for the light

Jagur
Guest
Jagur

I got mine for 45+5 shipping early on in the kickstarter but waited almost 6 months for it. After using it for 2 weeks the gimmick wore off and I realized that a traditional bell is just better for bike pedestrian interactions. As “cool” and fresh as the Orp may be its just another battery operated product of tech that is easily outpaced by its always on predecessor. A fun toy at best IMO. I sold mine on eBay. I would not have bought one for 65 like they retail for now.

I also fine the design somewhat lacking with the slits in the front that are open to all the elements. I know the sound needs to get out but this is Oregon and when it rains sideways and your traveling at speed the drops funnel right into the units heart and lungs.

For my lifestyle it just makes more since to have a low priced very effective traditional bell mounted and an effective waterproof light at the ready.

Tory
Guest

Just so you know…,The openings surrounding the lens are to port the sound but it’s a torturous path back to the sound emitter. That means it’s really difficult to get water into the sound chamber.

Even if on the rare occasion this did happen, the water can be shaken out
and once dried, your Orp will be back to normal.

Also, all of Orp’s electronics are sealed from the weather
So unless you submerge your Orp/ he / she should be fine.

Tory

Alan Love
Guest
Alan Love

I have the 1.0 version, and the improvements in the one Jonathan has are steps in the right direction. Mine old one is a bit finicky with regards to “nice” vs. “loud”. All in all, it’s a good product. The light casts a nice broad beam for good be-seen visibility, it’s small and light, the battery lasts a good stretch, relatively easy to take on/off for theft resistance, and the “nice” sound is just that. Plus, it’s far, FAR more cosmetically appealing than the goofy looking AirZounds horn with the plastic bottle. My only complaint is that the “loud” siren really isn’t very loud. It’s audible inside a car on a quiet residential street, but on a busy high speed road, a driver ain’t gonna hear it from any distance away. Still, I’m glad I have it on my big ol’ cargo bike when hauling the youngins’. Plus, their office is right in inner SE if there’s a problem.

dan
Guest
dan

I also have the V1 version. The changes to the horn switch in newer versions are nice — wonder if my firmware can be updated to work the same way? As it is, it’s way too easy to accidentally blast pedestrians with the loud horn, which comes across as very unfriendly.

The light is fairly bright, but the translucent body of the device makes it extremely distracting to use on the strobe setting at night (you see the flash in your peripheral vision). I run it as a steady light, and I think it is helpful for visibility.

My biggest complaint is that the “loud sound” isn’t that loud and doesn’t sound enough like a horn. Several times I’ve needed the horn to ward off an incipient collision, and the driver hasn’t heard it / hasn’t recognized it as a vehicle horn, and has held their hazardous line. So, I’ve gone back to yelling — much louder, better recognized as a danger sign, and no fumbling for the switch.

Cheif
Guest
Cheif

Agreed. I own a different but similar product and my experience is exactly the same as yours. When people who are driving aren’t paying attention to anything outside their bubble, that’s the end of it. Sights and sounds aren’t going to get their attention because there wasn’t any attention to get in the first place. Having to grab at a button or a switch in a split second moment of emergency isn’t the best option either. The fact is that automobile users crash into other roadway users because the automobile users aren’t competent to drive, not because the other users are “too quiet” or “too unadorned” with flashing lights and bright colors.

Kyle
Guest
Kyle

That last sentence describes the problem perfectly. Anyone getting behind the wheel of a vehicle that’s easily capable of carnage should be certified as an *expert*.

caesar
Guest
caesar

Yeah. Just like handgun owners.

Tory
Guest

Dan,
Personally I like the original 4 sound actuation, but we can do some toggle reassignment surgery and turn your Orp into a newer 2 sounder.
Email me at tory@orpland.com.

Tory

SilkySlim
Guest
SilkySlim

Mine broke pretty quickly… I was using it for just a couple weeks, and frequently switching it between bikes, and I think the silicone that is part of the attachment mechanism (it sort of stretches out and hooks around a hard plastic bit) started to tear, and then one day just ripped and fell right off.

But otherwise the review is spot on.

tory Orzeck
Guest

See comment from Tory from Orpland.com below!

tory Orzeck
Guest

Silky,
Did you return it to us for a fix? If not, you still can.
let me know and we’ll replace or fix your Orp. If you know anything about Orp, is we try to make things right.

Tory

SilkySlim
Guest
SilkySlim

I haven’t but I will! Thanks for the response.

Alex Reed
Guest

Thanks, just ordered some! These’ll be my backups to my dynamo lights, plus my horn 🙂

Alex Reed
Guest

Any insights into how well the battery stays charged if not used much? (used as a backup light)

WD
Guest
WD

My Orp is my backup light too, and the battery has held up great. There have been a few times where I’ve used it regularly for a week without charging it, but I’ve never really paid much attention to exactly how long the battery lasts. It helps that the charger uses the same micro-USB plug as a lot of non-Apple phones & gear so I can usually find somewhere to recharge it for a couple minutes.

I like how loud it is too, but I use the horn sparingly. I’ve had a couple instances where someone driving a car was close to hitting me, I honked, and then they got angry and drove even more aggressively than they had been before. But in a true near-collision, it comes in handy.

Alex Reed
Guest

Thanks!!

mh
Guest
mh

I’ve got dynamo lights, steady beam German version, and always run with the addition of something blinking, since that tells American drivers that what they’re seeing is a bike.

My front blinker is my v.2 red Orp. Tory kindly replaced the v.1 white. I had lined it with a bit of inner tube, since I was seeing too much of its light, but I could not modulate the sound.

In nice weather, the angry sound hurts my ears, so I know it’s loud; in the winter, I wear a cap with ear flaps and it doesn’t sound very loud to me. I’d like to be able to crank it up. Of course, I can’t reach it in time to use in in the winter with my hands tucked snugly into Bar Mitts, so I’m eagerly anticipating the remote. I have no idea how the horn sounds to drivers. I do like Jonathan’s sideways mounting, just because I’ve been buzzed more than usual lately.

Rob
Guest
Rob

96 db is exactly four times as loud as 76 db. (Each increase of 10 db is a doubling in loudness; 106 db would be 8 times as loud as 76 db and twice as loud as 96 db, for example.) I guess it is literally true that the loud horn is “exponentially” louder – decibel scale is exponential – though maybe not to the extent usually meant when used figuratively.

matt picio
Guest

“It’s exponentially louder than a regular bike bell” – no kidding! At 20 decibels higher, that’s 100x louder than the “friendly” setting.

Marshall Guthrie
Guest

I’m using the Hornit 140 and an Incredibell combo. Incredibell is my friendly, and the $35 Hornit is louder than loud (I accidentally set it off in a closed garage once: bad idea).

gak
Guest
gak

I too have an original version of the Orp. I like it as a backup light and the friendly sound seems to work, though does sometimes just seem to confuse pedestrians. In the situations where I have tried to use the loud version to alert a person driving in a car I don’t believe it was ever noticed. I think even if the sound is loud enough for them to hear it is not something that is recognizable the way a car horn is recognizable.

feral ferret
Guest
feral ferret

I’ve had my Orp for 6 months. It’s working great. I love it. It’s saved my bacon more times than I have fingers to flip off drivers. Far better than my bell. Definitely waterproof. I’m buying more for Christmas.Thanks for the discount!!

q`Tzal
Guest
q`Tzal

This looks and sounds a lot better than I ever expected!
I swear by my AirZound but pressurized air powered devices are subject to annoying little problems like temperature fade (both from overall temperature and the use of stored air pressure lowering the temperature thus affecting remaining pressure), line crimps and leaks.
Electrical energy storage and transfer is easier, safer and more reliable. I’d like the Orp to have a higher top end volume but we work with what we got.

It might be nice to have a “cruising noise” for use on nature paths and quiet rural areas. Something repetitive, not jarring but not “natural” sounding; maybe a “baseball cards in spokes” sort of sound but quieter and less frequent but still faster and slower as the bike travels. You could use a wheel sensor but in might make more sense to cheap out and just use a cheap low resolution vibration sensor as a rough estimate of speed. Something like Slow Vibration Sensor Switch at $0.95 in low quantities is an option.

caesar
Guest
caesar

Oh please no constant-on bike “cruising” sound generator. Noise pollution, man. Like, I’m so sick of those loud Harley Davidson riders making excuses that their “loud Pipes Save Lives.”

Prattle On, Boyo
Guest

For $65 bucks, it sounds like this version Orp is barely out of beta. The $100k in startup money doesn’t sound like it was used very wisely by Orzeck.

Scott H
Guest
Scott H

Money raised with kickstarter doesn’t really go towards research and development. Head over to the projects on http://www.kickstarter.com and you’ll see that money is raised by promising an already developed product, so you can easily surmise that the money is probably going towards manufacturing the product you promised to deliver. So 100k of kickstarter money isn’t like 100k of private capital, where with the latter you can presumably inject into R&D.

tory Orzeck
Guest

Ill give you one to use and you can decide. And, have you ever built an electromechanical injection molded product? I don’t think so, because the NRE on something like Orp is substantial.

Tory

Zaphod
Guest

I’d like, and would pay for, a light/sound item like the ORP but far more powerful. Something with only one function and intent, to let a driver know they’re about to make a mistake. With a remote button that resides near where my thumb would naturally rest. A massive wall of light to go along with a sound with equal fortitude to a car horn. I’ve experienced far too many left turns into my path where dinging a bell is darn near pathetic.

Or maybe this thing has enough power… where might I test one?

Alex Reed
Guest

My coworker bought an air horn that’s powered by pumping it up with a bike pump. Says it works like a charm.

K'Tesh
Guest
K'Tesh

SHEEPLE HANG UP YOUR F*****G Phones and look before walking into an intersection.

Tonight I was nearly in two collisions with pedestrians on SW 6th. I’m in the traffic lane, lights are with me, I’m coasting downhill at 20-25mph, and these idiots walk right in front of me only feet away. One froze, then tried to step forward, and then again back before I could even think about stopping we were so close (I was able to squeak behind him). I know it was dark… That’s why I had my colored and flashing headlights on.

mh
Guest
mh

And you’ve got to be the most illuminated pair of wheels out there.

was carless
Guest
was carless

Hmm, this is pretty cool. Kind of want one now…

Right after I get a new set of bike lights. Santa…?!