XuanWheel X1 Colorful Bicycle Wheel Spoke Light

goo_mason

Champion barbed-wire hurdler
Location
Leith, Edinburgh
Make and model: XuanWheel X1 Colorful Bicycle Wheel Spoke Light

1460673741359545847.jpg




Please note that I was sent this light by GearBest in exchange for an honest review, which is supplied below.


Click here to buy

Supplier
: GearBest

Manufacturer’s description:
“XuanWheel X1, a programmable bicycle light that turns your bicycle wheel into a colourful screen. It is controlled by a mobile phone app. You can download a variety of pictures or upload your own pictures, video, GIF and DIY your own text. You will never need to pre-store pictures any more. The App will monitor your riding speed, maximum speed and record your journey time and mileage”.

Main Features:
– Controlled via Bluetooth from a mobile app; no computer required to program the light
– Bike speed of 8kph required to show the picture within the wheel (other products on the market require a minimum speed of 15kph)
– IPX5 waterproof rating
– Charge time: 4 hours
– Working time: Up to 8 hours (depending on the light pattern being used)
– Built-in 3.7V 1800mAh rechargeable lithium battery
– Wheel radius compatibility: 26 inch, 27.5 inch or 29 inch, with a hub diameter of less than 50mm
– LED quantity: 192

Mobile phone requirements:

– Bluetooth 4.0 or higher
– Android 4.3 or higher
– iOS 7 or higher

Since I first saw one of these types of lights discussed on a website a couple of years ago, I really fancied trying one. It seemed to be the ideal way to get yourself noticed on the road by distracted drivers, as it’s so out of the ordinary and eye-catching that it’d be enough to make them look up from their smartphones for once. However, the early lights were DIY construction kits requiring a working knowledge of electronics, programming talent and some nifty soldering skills – so I quietly gave up hope and got on with life.

Roll on a few years and some leaps forward in tech, and I’m now a delighted big kid with one of these lights to test in return for an honest and unbiased review!

In the box

The box contains the two LED-lined ‘arms’ of the light (main one with built-in battery, switch and USB charging socket, and the secondary one), a lengthy, flat-cabled USB charging lead, some re-usable zip-ties, the sensor magnet, a screwdriver and a brief instruction leaflet.



Fitting

Fitting is relatively easy, though it can be a little fiddly as you may have to change the spoke clamps at the end of the arms round to the opposite side to keep the arms close together at the hub, depending on how the spokes on your wheel line up. The manual is clear on the process, and there’s a QR code to scan which links to an online video showing simple installation animations if you need any extra help. It’s simply a case of lining the two arms up at right angles to each other around the wheel hub, attaching the ends of the arms to the spokes, connecting the leads from each half together, and then attaching the sensor magnet to the bike frame and adjusting it so that the sensor on the arm sweeps by it in close proximity. (If you’ve ever fitted a bike computer which relies on a magnet on the spokes passing a sensor attached to the bike, you’ll know the drill here). Once the fitting is complete, push the on-off switch through its clear waterproof covering and turn the wheel until the sensor and magnet align. If the LEDs start flashing rapidly, everything’s in alignment and you’re ready to go! If you spin up the wheel at this point, you’ll get a colourful image displaying the word ‘Hi’, which confirms that everything’s fine and you can move on to installing the controller app on your mobile device, iPad or tablet.

The XuanWheel App

The manual has QR codes to scan to install either the iOS or Android app, which saves you having to search the App Stores of either ecosystem by hand. Nice!

Once the app opens and gets past the splash screen, you’ll see a default set of pictures in the Picture Lib. Hit the menu button on the left, select the wheel you want to connect to and allow the phone to start up its Bluetooth connection. Now click the wheel again, and the phone will scan for the bluetooth signal from the wheel itself. Once the wheel’s bluetooth name shows up, select it and you’re connected. Now you need to set the wheel radius in the menu, and then you can begin sending pics to the wheel. Doing this is simplicity itself – just select a picture from the Picture Library and hit the Apply button, wait for the progress bar to complete and voila, the picture is now on the wheel. If it looks like it’s sightly off the vertical, you can go back into the settings and adjust the display angle until it looks right.

You’re not restricted to the images which come with the app either – you have 4 options to add more by creating your own text, your own hand-draw image (using a Paint-like tool), importing any image from your phone’s gallery or downloading images from a large, free online library of still images and animated GIFs. Just be aware that the very middle of your image will be empty as it’s centred around the hub where there are no LEDs, so take that into account when creating your own pictures. Likewise, importing a photo often means it’s in a rectangle which fills only a small section of the available circular image area. It took me a while to realise that you could resize the image to fill the circle by pinching and stretching it, though you will lose the outer areas of the photo so it’s best to choose the one you’re using judiciously.

Another accidental discovery I made was that you can create your own GIFs by selecting multiple images to send to the wheel. You’ll then see a little GIF symbol appear in the bottom menu which, when tapped, allows you to set the delay between displaying each image before confirming and creating the GIF. If you select a long delay, it allows you to display a slowly changing sequence of images in your wheel without having to keep manually sending different images to the wheel via the app whilst you’re riding.

Additional options allow you to control the front and rear wheels separately or bind them together if you’re running two sets of lights. Unfortunately, as I only have one set I can’t give any more details on this.

Display quality

The display quality is surprisingly good, though don’t expect photo-realistic images as that’s impossible to achieve without thousands of individual LEDs, and you’d probably need to have a Penny Farthing-sized wheel to get nearly enough of them crammed into each light arm! Images with bolder detail make for better displays, as fine detail can’t really be reproduced by the 190-odd LEDs. Likewise with animated GIF images – the more clear and defined the movement, the better it looks in the wheel display. Having said that, by choosing the right images you can have a fabulous light display that’s going to make everyone around sit up and take notice! I did try to get some photos of the light when riding around outside after dark, but all too quickly realised that trying to get a shutter speed which matched one entire wheel rotation to capture the light image was impossible. Not one pic showed more than a few random blobs of colour, so you’ll have to take my word for the light images and believe the manufacturer’s images at the start of this review. They are accurate though – take my word for it!

Other features

As well as being a brilliantly attention-grabbing light, the XuanWheel also tracks your riding data, and displays it via the Riding Data section of the App. It’ll track your current speed, average speed, riding time and journey (distance) as you ride (although you’ll obviously need to attach your phone to your handlebars to view this info on the go), and it keeps a persistent record of your Distance (total), Total time and Top speed. There’s also a persistent Power data field, but this appears to be unused. If you don’t already have a bike computer, this info will come in handy and saves you the extra expense of buying on. I can’t vouch for the accuracy of the data, but given that it works on the same principle as all sensor & magnet bike computers, it should be reliable enough for most cyclists.

Charging

Charging is done via the micro-USB port on the central part of the light arms. The port itself is covered by a rubber plug to prevent road crud and water getting in, so needs popped out to plug the USB lead in. Charging appears to be reasonably quick, though I’ve never managed to run the battery right down to try a charge from empty yet. From around ½ full, it took about 40 minutes to charge up. Charging status is displayed by a single LED on the unit, which turns from red to green when charging has completed.

Waterproofing

For once, the Edinburgh weather failed me – in the week I’ve had the light, it’s not rained AT ALL. This has to be a record for late May / early June! It does mean that I wasn’t able to test the unit’s IPX5 rating ‘in the wild’, although I did use the pressurised pump-spray I usually use on my plants to give the unit a good spraying / dousing and there were no ill-effects.

So, let’s sum it all up:

Build quality:
9/10

Solid construction, and being protected within a cage of spokes will give it that extra durability & protection from knocks.

Ease of use:
8/10

The bluetooth connectivity wasn’t totally straightforward, and I had to discover a number of functions by myself as there’s no user guide for the app. If you’re an inveterate tinkerer like me, you’ll work things out quickly enough – but for those who rely on manuals, the app has hidden features that they’d find confusing if they didn’t know about them and missed them altogether.

Fixing options:
8/10

I blistered my fingers trying to tighten to spoke brackets up, as they were pretty stiff. This is great once you get them tightened up (as they’re not going to loosen off by themselves), but not good news for your fingers. I eventually used pliers to turn them, but by then I’d already damaged myself. If you find yours are tight, use pliers or grippy, thick gloves from the outset.

The sensor magnet mount attaches very easily with the supplied re-useable zip-ties, though you may want to use a little strip of rubber between it and the frame as it can still move if the paintwork is shiny, no matter how tightly it’s attached.

Value for money
9/10

This light is available at the time of review for $44.99 on GearBest with free postage from China. At current exchange rates, that’s about £31.00. There are other similar lights available on their site, but they lack app control (you have to plug the light into a computer to transfer images) and the creation of images is much more complex and requires separate software and much more manual work. The others have fewer LEDs on their arms too, so display images at a much lower resolution.

For the relative ease of use and simplicity of creating and transferring images, this light is great value.

Summary
9/10

Had it not been for a few minor niggles, I’d have given this light 10 out of 10 as it’s just so much fun to have on your bike! In a way I’m disappointed that it came for review at this time of year when there’s so much daylight, as I’d have loved to have had it on far more often. It is going to get a good run later this month though, as I’m doing the Edinburgh Night Ride – a 60+ mile ride through the night as part of the excellent Edinburgh Festival of Cycling – and I’ve already way more time than I should have on creating the festival logo to display in my light, along with other fun pictures which I’ll be chaining together as slow-change GIFs. It’s going to turn some heads, as I’m pretty sure no-one else on the ride will have a light like this.

If you want to stand out on the roads later in the year once it’s dark again during your cycling commutes and rides, grab one of these lights. You’re going to catch the eye of every other user on the road, and that can only be a good thing!
 
Top Bottom