Today my new bike lights arrived – a pair of RSP Asteri 2 LED lights.
The manufacturer’s website has hardly any details and reviews of these lights are scarce, so it is practically my duty to write this review, for the benefit of anyone else who is considering buying them. Also note that the pictures on the manufacturer’s website are wrong. Both the battery pack and the lights are different!
What you get
In the box, there are two lights, each with one 1W LED. There is a battery pack which actually contains 4xAA NiMH rechargable batteries. There is a Y-adapter to attach both lights to the shared battery pack, and there are two velcro straps to attach the battery pack.
Build quality is not actually as good as I might have hoped.
The lights themselves seem sturdy. The silver ring around the front is metal and feels solid. But the attaching mechanism is made entirely from rubber. I don’t know how supple this will be after a couple of years. Other rubber cycling products I’ve seen have perished after a few years and no longer stretch, eventually causing them to crack.
The battery pack is flimsy in my opinion. It has a belt clip which can be used to attach it in a number of ways, but it looks brittle and would expect it to snap off before too long. The lid of the battery pack is held on by a single screw, which could be damaged by over-tightening. Be careful! There is also no rubber seal between the lid and the body of the battery pack, so I don’t know how it will fare in rain. However, the box does claim that the set is waterproof, so we will see.
The cables are thick and appear suitably strong. Their connectors are all standard push connectors, but they have a “click” to keep them in place. The strength of that “click” seems to vary across the connectors and some are not as strong as I would like. I don’t plan to unplug mine very often so I will probably tape them up with insulating tape.
The mounting facilities are not as good as other sets of lights I have used. The headlight units attach to the handlebars with a rubber strap with holes, and a plastic peg that pushes into the hole. There is no way to set the tightness to a setting between holes (e.g. the way that other lights have a screw).
Mounting of the battery pack doesn’t seem great either. The pack itself simply has a belt clip. There is a velcro strap in the box, presumably to attach the unit to part of the frame. However you’d have to figure it out yourself, and loop the velcro under the belt clip. Luckily I have some other rubberised velcro strips from other cycling products I’ve bought over the years.
Bear in mind that you will probably have to remove the battery pack in order to charge it (unless you leave your bike within reach of a mains socket overnight).
The cables are not curly, so if they’re too long then you’ll have to put up with them being saggy, or tie them up. You’ll need to be careful running the cable between the handlebars and the frame, in case it gets pulled taut when you steer. Nothing is provided in the box to attach the cables to your frame. I plan to use regular cable ties.
The lights have short (5cm) cables and the Y-splitter is perhaps 15cm long. The battery has the longest piece of cable and this is rather annoying. To remove the battery, you also have to remove the cable from the frame, so there’s not much choice to fix it permanently.
The system boasts a low battery warning so you don’t over-discharge the batteries and break them. Unfortunately you are unlikely to be able to see it as it’s on the battery pack, which will probably be on your luggage rack, on your frame or in your back pocket! Never mind.
Both the lights and the batteries are very light.
Despite my grumbles so far, these lights are really bright. Much brighter than any other so-called “1W” lights I’ve come across. The beam is fairly narrow, such that no light is wasted but it’s by no means a narrow beam. It can be seen from all angles.
Each light has its own button, so you can use one light or both. The button cycles through 3 modes – dim, bright and flashing. The separate buttons means you can have one flashing and one on constant. Nice and versatile. Other twin lights I’ve seen have a central button on the handlebars. I guess each system has its pros and cons.
The battery pack contains 4 x AA batteries as opposed to simply being a proprietary NiMH battery pack. The intention is to keep the pack sealed and simply plug the charger into the battery pack to charge it, but of course you can remove the batteries to charge them in a conventional battery charger if you wish. See Modding for other ideas.
The system is quite simply put together, so it should also be nice and simple to take apart! 😀
As I mentioned above, the battery pack takes 4 x AA batteries, and a set of 1600 mAh batteries are provided. This immediately gives you options – you can replace them with more expensive rechargeables (such as the 2500 mAh ones I use in my camera) or simply use regular alkaline batteries.
Using the included batteries, the manufacturer quotes 1-2 hours runtime at full power, and up to 6 hours flashing. Swapping these for 2500 mAh batteries immediately adds 50% to those figures for not much outlay.
Using AA batteries also has a huge bonus in that you can always keep some spare alkaline batteries in your rucksack so you’ll never be caught out if your rechargeable batteries go flat on you. This is often a problem with rechargeable light sets that use proprietary battery systems.
The battery pack has a standard power connector that you can buy from any good electronics shop. Maybe even a bad electronics shop, too. You can create your own battery pack so long as you use the same connector, and you won’t have to alter (and risk breaking) your light set.
I plan to build a bottle battery with D batteries, for long runtime. Naturally I will post about it here when I get round to it.
As far as lights go, this is a good, versatile, powerful set. Shame about the build quality. If you buy these, expect to have to do some DIY when you install them. You will probably need cable ties and insulation tape – the kit isn’t even in the same league as a CatEye set. However, it is a fraction of the price!
Some simple oversights exist in the system, such as the battery back not being detachable from its cable. It would cost pennies to rectify the design, but you’ll just have to make those changes yourself, or work around them.
Overall, I would recommend this light set to a fellow cyclist, on the condition that they weren’t expecting miracles, and that they were prepared to do a little work to install it.
Here are some photos of how I’ve got my lights set up. The other headlights are a pair of CatEye ABS-35 halogen headlights. They’ve long since been discontinued but are still going strong. There’s a 20W spot and 15W flood, with individual handlebar-mounted switches. With both lights burning, you get around 45 minutes runtime…
The new RSPs are mounted below the handlebars, and the CatEyes are mounted above.
You can barely see the RSPs hiding below the handlebar in this one. Each light has a switch on its top (so underneath, in my case) which can be a bit fiddly to press while riding. The CatEye lights have the yellow/grey switch to control them.
I’ve fixed the battery pack to my luggage rack with a rubberised velcro strap.
Another shot showing the CatEye batteries under the bottle cage, and the loose cable for the RSP lights along the top tube. It’s held in place only with velcro straps as I need to remove the cable every time I want to remove the battery for charging.
After I’ve used the lights for real, I will post more pictures of them working outdoors at night.