Blackburn Flea review

Blackburn flea attached to bike handlebars

In my long, arduous quest to find myself the perfect light to illuminate the path ahead I’ve come across many a bike light. At first it was CatEye lights, then came the Knog Frogs, Knog Gekkos and Ixon IQ. But, finally I believe I’ve found the one bike light to rule them all!

I present to you the Blackburn Flea Front 2.0 USB (£21.99, Chain Reaction Cycles)

Blackburn flea in packaging

The stats: 1.5hr recharge time, LED battery level indicator (i.e. no more bike light dying on you without warning), 3 hrs runtime steady / 5 hrs on Flash. Comes in 6 colours.

So what is making me rejoice at no longer having to search for the perfect front bike light? That moment was realised as soon as I first turned on the Blackburn Flea.

I thought the night had been transformed to day by this powerful little light. Okay, that’s definitely an overreaction. But the Flea produces an impressive 40 Lumens. Roughly double the tiny Knog Strobe. On the road, that translates into impressive visibility and enough light for a dark ride around Regents Park – think minimum street lighting.

Blackburn Flea light on low power settingBlackburn Flea light on high power setting

On the left in the pictures above you can see the Blackburn Flea in the lower power setting and bumped up to full on the right. As you can see the light provides plenty of side visibility.

This isn’t just about brightness..

The Flea also comes with a set of very favourable features. For one, it prevents the annoying moment when you look into your bag and find your bike lights turned on. I’ve always been fascinated by how manufacturers never look into this.

Also, the design of the attachment mechanism (a Velcro strap) works well for quickly attaching and removing the Flea (something you always have to do when leaving your bike in a public place). This is also great for those with more than one bike who want to quickly switch the light between the two. The strap provides a range of mounting options and keeps the light firmly in place.

The end of having to buy new batteries..

Blackburn flea plugged into my laptop

The Blackburn Flea recharges via USB. This means you can plug it in when you get to this office and the battery will be full within an hour and a half. That’s perfect for saving money and for not having to remember to pickup replacement batteries.

In the packaging there’s a tiny attachment that plugs into a USB port. The Blackburn Flea then simply rests on top on the magnetic points. When the light turns from flashing red to green the light is fully charged.

The end of not knowing when your bike light is about to quit on you..

A green light means there is more than 75% charge in the battery, orange is from 25% to 75% and a red indicator means it’s time to get the charger out.

It’s a simple way of making sure you are never pedalling around in the dark.

Truly bike light perfection?

Blackburn flea light pointing towards brick wall at night

The light certainly won’t be perfect for everyone. Some will still seek more light for example or prefer non-rechargeable lights which last longer. However, for me, the Blackburn Flea combines powerful brightness, USB charging and a tiny size. There’s not a lot more I could ask for.

The Flea is available for £21.99 from Chain Reaction Cycles. For £39.99 you can also purchase the set which includes a rear light.

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31 Responses to Blackburn Flea review

  1. Artiom Chi 17/03/2011 at 12:15 pm #

    Hmm.. Unfortunately the example photos you posted are quite small, and it’s hard to see anything indicative on them.. The main thing that I can catch from them is the massive light
    bleeding on the sides (check out that patch on the wall!)

    Could you get some more photos?

    • Andreas 18/03/2011 at 11:39 am #

      It’s good to have a bit of side visibility Artiom ;)

  2. Craig 17/03/2011 at 3:49 pm #

    Blackburn produce some pretty impressive LED lights. The Mars rear is blinding. I do like the idea of the flea as a commute light.

  3. Mr Colostomy 17/03/2011 at 3:50 pm #

    The perfect lights have been around for a while; dynamo lights. Modern lighting technology combined with a modern hub dynamo means you can have an amazing amount of light whilst never having to worry about batteries, charging or forgetting your lights ever again.

    The downside is the higher upfront cost, but they pay for themselves in longevity, battery savings (rechargeables excepted) and the fact that cycling feels more viable on the long winter nights when you never have to worry about your battery running out of juice.

    I now expect to receive a few negative comments about dynamo lighting from people who haven’t used a dynamo or dynamo lights since the 80s, or whose experience is limited to a £4 sidewall dynamo :-P

    • John 17/03/2011 at 5:44 pm #

      You will be pleased to know that I go along with your comments entirely, albeit that I
      do use an B&M side wall dynamo with their lights.
      The initial expense can be quite high, but my set up has moved onto my 3rd bike now, so I think that is value for money.
      The only extra that I have is a small rear cateye as a back up if I am on the main roads in flashing mode.

      John

    • Raymond Parker 20/03/2011 at 7:56 pm #

      I’ll second your, er, motion there Mr. C.

      I think I’ve made the point here before and do so my lighting page that these kinds of lights are far from “perfect” for anything but a nip to the shop.

      Even then one has to bother with charging or replacing batteries and their beam patterns are usually abysmal.

      Every serious cyclist that rides at night will eventually, if they are paying attention, come to the realization that good dynamo lighting is the only perfect solution.

      Unfortunately, these cheap toy lights keep distracting people, so to speak.

    • SingletrackM1nd 02/01/2012 at 11:02 pm #

      Yes. Yes. Yes. I’ve been running an Alfine Dynamo with Supernova lights for years now, and there is no better light system, period.

  4. Tommy Mac 17/03/2011 at 4:40 pm #

    I’ll second Andreas on the Fleas – I bought a (1st gen) front and rear USB set and they’ve been superb since.

    What’s best is the lifetime guarantee from Blackburn which was happily backed up by Chain Reaction when my rear light failed.

    Superb lights

  5. silverAJ 17/03/2011 at 4:46 pm #

    I have had these lights (front and rear) for a few months now – they’re incredible!

    The only thing they could improve is that in order to put the light on charge, you have to completely remove the velcro, then put it back on again afterwards. It’s very fiddly to thread it through the holes on the bottom of the light, especially in the cold or dark.

    And because the velcro is ripped on and off every few days for charging, it gets fluffy and loses stickiness after a few weeks.

    If Blackburn found a more robust mounting solution, this would be the PERFECT front light :-)

    • Andreas 18/03/2011 at 11:40 am #

      Roger that – that’s one thing that has been bugging me a little bit. It just requires some very careful threading so as not to cause damage.

  6. Amoeba 17/03/2011 at 6:35 pm #

    I would add my support regarding dynamo powered lights. I use Shimano hub dynamos and B&M lights, as does my son. The German StVZO is more rigorous than the RVLR. Excellent for being seen as well as for seeing by. With a 3 Watt dynamo it’s easy to run two LED rear lights and have a really bright front headlight with a beam geometry that won’t dazzle, ideal for spotting potholes in the dark. I run a rear flasher (running on low self-discharge NiMH rechargeables) as well for the myopic drivers who should have seen my other lights. I always have lights and use them from dusk to dawn and at times of low sun and poor visibility.

  7. JimF 17/03/2011 at 6:44 pm #

    Andreas,

    You really must review some Exposure lights soon. I bought some at the cycle show and they rock.

    Flares front and back to be seen
    http://road.cc/content/news/24039-just-exposure-flare-mini-rear-light

    Spark to see the towpath
    http://www.exposurelights.com/product/000022/spark/

    Truly the holy grail of bike lights… You can borrow mine if you want.

    UK company – designed and built in the country. We should support them.

    JimF

    • Andreas 18/03/2011 at 7:01 am #

      Thanks Jim – good recommendation – I’ve actually got some exposure lights in my draw I’ve been meaning to test out. Will get them out and get them reviewed!

  8. Craig 18/03/2011 at 7:44 am #

    There are always the ultimate lights Trout lights are very good but really expensive (http://troutie.com/). I think the real test for a light is how affordable it is compared to the visibility it gives you when on an urban road.

    I’d love a dynamo with modern charging technology, but what I remember from the 1980′s apart from how inefficient the technology was at the time, was that they got vandalised with monotonous regularity.

    • Amoeba 03/01/2012 at 1:52 pm #

      I suspect that the older peasants have grown-up and the young peasants don’t know what dynamo lights are, or what anything else is, apart from trainers and iPods.

  9. Tim 18/03/2011 at 10:53 am #

    Back in the olden days (1960′s) that I doubt many of you can remember, lights were huge big lantern things with a single filament bulb which didn’t even produce enough light to interest a monastic firefly. The batteries were huge and heavy and expensive and gave you enough of a glow to just get you home on one journey. We are now blessed as cyclists with fantastically bright lights, relatively cheap and in London where we only need to use flashing mode(by and large) with batteries that can last all winter.

    The important thing is to use some type. Too many people often dressed in black ride at night with no lights at all. Yes you can see guys, but in a car you can’t be seen. Thanks for the Heads Up on these Andreas I like the convenience of the USB charging.

  10. Headhunter 18/03/2011 at 11:15 am #

    I use a Fenix L2D torch strapped on with a velcro Two Fish Lokblok thing. It has seen me through thick and thin, rain, snow and shine. It even survived my bike crash when some idiot pulled across in front of me and I hit him at 25mph. The bike was a write off but the light stayed in place and still works (although it was daylight so wasn’t on at the time of the crash). It’s made of lightweight aluminium and is about 100 odd lumens, enough to illuminate street signs from 100 metres away and has a fast pulsing flash that really gets noticed.

    I use a 1 watt Smart rear light but although it’s very bright, it’s very unreliable in rain. As soon as it gets hit by a few drops it gets very temperamental although it’s a bit better now that I have mudguards. I think this is a problem which afflicts a lot of Smart rear lights, not recommended. When it bites the dust I may look at the Blackburn rears… Cat Eye rears are OK but not that bright and front Cat Eyes brackets tend to weaken after intense use and fail, throwing the light into traffic.

  11. AdamS 18/03/2011 at 11:18 am #

    Great tip thanks Andreas. I feel a bit bad about the number of batteries I get through, especially when my Knog Frogs seem be to switched on by a slight breeze and are forever running out.

    • Andreas 18/03/2011 at 11:41 am #

      Exactly – you just have to look at those lights and they turn on – plus their battery life is truly horrendous! Got a load of Frogs lying around unused now..

  12. Daniel 18/03/2011 at 1:20 pm #

    I was also tempted by the Flea and used them for a while as backup lights – when they work they are really great but I have had to return two sets now due to charging problems. I am now using the new Knog Boomer USB set instead – impressed so far …

    • BBertie 08/08/2012 at 12:59 pm #

      Me too, I have had to return two sets due to charging problems, it is really frustrating as they are bright and I like the USB charging aspect! It seems if you do not use them for a couple of months they just stop charging properly and die after 10 mins or so!?

  13. Gaz 18/03/2011 at 1:44 pm #

    What about the magicshine lights? near 600 lumens, blows the flea out of the water.

    What is very important to consider is how your lights look against those of vehciles. Day in day out we are surrounded by cars with their lights on and if they out shine us, then we are just lost in the sea of lights and cars will continue to pull out on us.

    I’m not saying blind people but standing out is important!

  14. Giorgio 18/03/2011 at 5:45 pm #

    anibody knows ” http://www.reelight.com ” no battery at all !

  15. Fitzroy 21/03/2011 at 8:26 pm #

    thanks for this I was going to purchase CATEYE UNO + TL-LD610 LIGHT Set, but I will take a closer look at the flea and make a decesion, not sure which one is better.

  16. kelly 27/03/2011 at 4:15 pm #

    nice post.

    My biggest issue with basic lights is having to removed them every trip. Why does virtually every new LED come as removable? It may seem convenient, but if you have lock your bike, lock your wheels, then turn off and remove two lamps front and back, not to mention helmet and gloves and possble bag, wow, that’s just too much for trip to the store.

    My short term solution has been locking skewers for the wheels and electrical tape around the lights so they can’t easy be stolen. This means I only have to lock the frame and this saves a minute+ of faff.

    My other big issue is few of the cheap lights offer side visibility, and I don’t particularly want to get extra side lights for that. My last three close calls have all come from drivers not seeing my passing by directly in front of them, like at mini round abouts. I’ve seen some rounded tube lights that look pretty good and a few rear lights that offer a 180 degree view; definitely a bonus. But seriously, I’m considering Monkey Lectric lights for the spokes (check youtube), and reelights for the front and back, in part so as not to deal with the faff.

    • Amoeba 27/03/2011 at 6:57 pm #

      Kelly,
      How much do you value your life at? I bet it’s more than say £10!

      Side visibility and beam geometry are dealt with well by lights that are BS (UK) or StVZO (German) approved.

      Busch & Muller make some good StVZO approved lights. StVZO are road legal in the UK and the rest of Europe, as are BS approved lights (although flashing lights aren’t permitted in some countries).

      Of course there are other manufacturers. Spanninga are good, but awkward & relatively expensive to buy in the UK.

      Another reason to use approved lights. In the event of a collision, having non-approved lighting may be used regarding contributory attribution of guilt.

  17. Amoeba 03/01/2012 at 10:34 am #

    Rechargeable lights almost always these days use Lithium batteries. Lithium batteries age, battery technologies vary, but it seems reasonable to expect 2-3 years out of them.

    If a battery light can use removable batteries, then these batteries can be replaced.

    Lithium batteries are often not user-replaceable. When the battery dies, unless the manufacturer offers a replacement service, the light goes in the recycle bin.

    I’m sorry, but I think rechargeable lights are a bad idea. They’re bad for the pocket and bad for the environment. Money is only money, but we only have one environment.

  18. Lindsey 01/02/2012 at 9:10 pm #

    I have the fleas for both my front and rear light. They are really bright and easy to put on and remove, and I love the fact I can re-charge them instead of having to make sure I always have spare batteries.

    I just have one major problem, and that is the runtime.

    The rear light seems fine, but my front light lasts an hour at most on constant, around 2 hours on flashing, so needs re-charging after every use as my journey to work takes about an hour. From looking at other reviews it seems to be a common problem.

    I was using them as my only lights, but I got so worried about being stranded half way home without any lights that I recently bought a set that just run on AA’s so i can carry spare batteries round with me.

    I would bring it up with Blackburn if I could find the receipt…

  19. rachel 11/10/2012 at 6:16 pm #

    i have had to return 2 of these lights because of problems with charging. i have no idea what the problem is. i know its not an issue with my usb cable. regardless, its quite annoying. my safety is important at night when im riding.

  20. mark 17/02/2013 at 7:22 pm #

    I have returned two sets of blackburns due to charging problems usually after using them during rainy rides to work (they only charge flashing green not red and actually don’t take a charge at) all very frustrating considering everything else about them is fine

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