Cost: $49.99 MSRP
How obtained: sample from company
RBR Sponsor: no
Tested: 6 months, 3,000+ miles
Claimed weight: 73g (light only)
Output: 30 lumens
Run times: 4.5 to 18 hours
Sentinel from Niterider Adds Laser ‘Virtual Bike Lane’
The Sentinel from Niterider claims to boost safety on the road with the company’s latest tail light. They do this by building on their experience with the Solas rear light by adding two downward-facing lasers. These shine on either side of the bike with the aim of creating a “virtual bike lane” that travels with you – in effect, illuminating a “safety zone” for drivers to see.
Light output is unchanged from the Solas. Both lights claim an output of 30 lumens. The addition of the laser bike lane projectors makes the light around 50% larger than the Solas, and the Sentinel weighs 21 grams more.
Niterider claims the following run times when using only the light:
- 18 hours – flash 1, steady on and off
- 7 hours – flash 2, long pulse to bright with a fade out
- 4.5 hours – full steady
- 36 hours – low steady
Out of the box
Charging time was about what you’d expect for a light of this type, at four hours from when the battery was almost drained. The light changes from red to blue to alert you when it is complete.
The light is supplied with both seatpost and seatstay mounting brackets. They are both easy to install on the bike. If you intend to use the laser lane feature, the seatpost mount is the only one that will work since the lasers need to be projected in effect “evenly” on either side of the bicycle.
In real world testing in the coldest winter conditions, I used the light in the full steady mode and solid laser lanes. In these battery-sucking settings, I found the light would last about 1.5 hours, less than claimed by Niterider. After contacting the company they found this was lower than they would expect and intended to simulate cold weather testing. Later testing in (thank goodness) much warmer weather showed that I was getting much closer to the expected run times. Niterider’s own testing showed a run time of 3 hours 6 minutes at 72F when in the full steady-with-lasers mode.
How useful is the laser lane feature?
When mounted on the seatpost the light creates a virtual bike lane about four feet across. Getting the laser lanes to be parallelon the road takes a little adjustment. I found that it required aligning the unit at a lower angle than you might think. Not doing so created more of a triangle effect, with the lines angled in toward the bike. Fortunately, the seatpost clamp securely holds the light, so that once the correct position is achieved, it remains set in place.
One point to note is that as you’re riding your foot will probably break the line as you pedal through the laser line. It’s not a big issue and may even inadvertently add another element of safety — the light is reflected off the back of your shoes, and the effect may draw further attention from drivers.
Overall, the laser lane is a nice idea and may enhance visibility and safety. That said, I didn’t notice any real difference in the amount of space afforded me by passing cars. The feature sets this light apart from other high-power rear lights while keeping the price in line with other comparable lights that don’t include the laser lines.
The Sentinel costs $5 more than the Solas, a little more than a mid-ride coffee, and is worth considering based on the small upcharge. But if you want the same functionality without the laser lights, in a smaller form factor, then you’re probably better off with the Solas. (The photos show the size comparison to the Solas, right in both photos, and the equal brightness.)
The Light is Bright and Powerful
While the virtual lane lasers may or may not add to the value of this light, the light itself is bright and powerful. In short, it’s going to get you noticed. Even in the daytime the light is bright enough to be seen in full sunlight, making it an ideal full-time rear light. Which is exactly how I roll these days. Like many other roadies, I ride with the full-time rear flasher on every single ride I do, whether by myself or with a group, no matter the time of day.
For daytime riding I found I preferred the second flash mode to attract the focus of motorists. The long pulse and fade seemed to be distinct and different enough to draw maximum attention. In the dark the high power mode provides all the brightness you could want. For darker group rides there is a nice solid light option that has a lower output to keep the light from bothering fellow riders.
I find myself charging the light about every fifth ride, after using the light for around 7 hours in different modes. When you turn the light off, a blue indicator light illuminates when there is 25% or more battery remaining. A red light indicates less than 25% charge left.
The laser lane feature may enhance safety and visibility, but it’s not the reason you would buy this light.
This and similar lights are great safety tools because of the uber-powerful light itself. To me, the increased quality of rear lights represents the single largest upgrade in cycling safety in recent years. There is a noticeable difference in how visible a bike with such a light on board is to drivers, and how the drivers react by giving you a wide berth. The sentinel is bright enough for daytime usage and protects you as a cyclist. If you do any solo riding at all and don’t have a light like this, then I don’t believe you are as safe as you could be.
Paul Smith regularly reviews products for RBR. He’s an avid recreational roadie who lives in thePiedmont area of North Carolina. He commutes often, and his car is worth less than any of his bikes. Click to read Paul’s full bio.