Commuting - strobe light
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As you know, I've temporarily given up commuting because I get off work after sunset and I don't get a warm, fuzzy feeling when riding home 14 miles in the dark with Atlanta motorists, even with two NiteRider headlights and three Vistalite taillights.
A non-cycling friend (but who is a cycling supporter) suggested that I get a strobe light for my bike, like many school buses have.
Anybody ever seen one of these or had a similar idea? How big would the battery be? How big or small would the light be?
If it works, I would feel better about riding in the dark with these idiot drivers.
12-12-01, 09:54 AM
I was just thinking the same thing earlier this week. The strobe light atop buses is very noticeable. I am sure they would work well on a bicycle, but more than likely no one has adapted one to do such.
Any budding inventors?
12-12-01, 02:17 PM
Sounds like a cool idea. I did find this on the web, perhaps it will get you started....
Strobe Light (http://www.norcoalarms.com/autogen/ezs-slcc.html?pid=/autogen/ezs-slcc.html)
"Necessity IS the mother of invention."
12-12-01, 03:29 PM
I use Lightman strobes on my bike. LED blinkies can't compare in brightness.
(there are other places to buy - usually $20)
I somtimes mount three (red, white and blue - patriotic, no?). To describe these strobe as bright is a huge understatement. Police and firefighters use these strobes and that's good enough for me. Besides, with 800,000 candlepower I could probably fry chicken!
12-12-01, 03:46 PM
Strobe Light is not a bad idea. I always use a reflective safty vest at night. It really helps. http://www.rbfab.com/
Now all you have to do is have them engrave "POLICE" on the back of vest and no one will want to pass you! ;-)
Just kidding.. In some places you can get fined for inpersonating a police officer. Although I was tempted to do that. I held off.
12-12-01, 04:41 PM
Bentrox, where is the Lightman strobe available? I think it is exactly what I need. Since half of my commute is on the shoulder of a highway, I am always concerned that cars are travelling too fast to notice my blinkie.
A F Baker
12-12-01, 06:19 PM
I read from a cycling website somewhere a few weeks ago that you can get blinkies that will strap to your arm at a sporting goods store. I think I will still try to find one at my LBS.
12-12-01, 07:04 PM
Don't underestimate the brightness of yellow reflectors, available
at auto parts stores for about $1.00 each. A little ingenuity and a few zip-ties, and you're as bright as any car.
I've found a combination of auto-type reflectors and blinkie(s) are very effective.
A strobe might be fantastic.
Strobe/blinkies attract attention, and reflectors are great for showing your exact position. Together, they are unbeatable.
12-12-01, 07:41 PM
Ack! The website doesn't say how to purchase. I want some! I like that red/white/blue idea to coordiate with my bar tape!
12-12-01, 09:36 PM
My opinion on this is if you don't think you're visible enough with your existing setup, then adding a strobe is unlikely to improve the situation. Another thing to consider is that if the strobe is too bright there's the chance that it's going to distract drivers and hinder their ability to drive safely. Another thing to consider is any cyclists that might be following you. Even a regular blinkie is irritating to sit behind, which is why it's handy to be able to switch thm over to constant mode. I don't believe a strobe light can do that.
I think that as far as rear lighting is concerned, the law of diminishing returns applies. You could put twenty-five blinkies on the back of your bike, but you're not going to be twently-five time less likely to be run into as if you only had one. Yes, you should be visible, but there's little to be gained from some of the extravagant displays I've heard described on the ng's/forums. I would feel more than comfortable with three blinkies - in fact I only use one without any problems.
If you do want to do more, try a reflective band around your ankles. Colour and movement is what you want, not blinding the buggers. Also, like Pete said, never underestimate the value of reflective tape - at the very least it's a lot cheaper and more convenient than a strobe.
If you're technically inclined, or at least a little handy with a soldering iron, buy some high brightness red LEDs (I've seen them here rated up to about 8 candela) from your local electronics shop and replace the ones in your existing blinkies with them. It's a fairly simply mod, but I think the results will impress you. Make sure you get the polarity right though.
After typing all that I had a look at the Lightman strobe Rainman flagged up. Impressive.
12-12-01, 09:40 PM
Originally posted by Steele-Bike
Bentrox, where is the Lightman strobe available?
Search Google and you'll find several outfits that sell it. Most are emergency/police/firefighter supply companies. RainmanP has posted a link to one place. Here's another:
BTW, one drawback of xenon strobes is short battery life.:(
2 AA alkaline last only about 6 hours as opposed to 100+ hours for LED blinkies, so I recommend NiMH rechargeables to avoid waste. And carry spares.
If maximum brightness is paramount, though, these are the lights to get.
If, like Allister, strobes are not for you, do consider an "illumiNITE" vest, jacket or tights - it's far more noticeable than reflective tape. Emergency personnel wear this fabric because of its higher safety factor in visibility. See the comparison at
12-12-01, 10:01 PM
i found this link quite informative.
12-13-01, 11:08 AM
For anyone interested in the Lightman strobe, here is the info I received, including how to order:
Thanks for your interest in our products.
The individual Lightman Personal Strobe comes with several attaching
components: a magnet, a belt clip, a window clip and a suction cup, all
contained in a storage pouch. (You may specify the color of the lens: red,
green, amber, blue or clear: Clear has the greatest distance visibility.)
There is a 1/4" X 20 threaded hole at the back for attaching the above
components or whatever you may desire. Each light is 3-1/2" per side
triangular in shape. It weights just 3-1/2 oz. with batteries installed.
It is powered by two AA batteries. Visibility at night can be seen up to
three miles. It is rated at 800,000 candlepower.
The price is $18.95 each .
Prices and specifications are subject to change without notice and prices
are subject to all applicable taxes and are quoted F.O.B. the factory or
Addison, IL USA.
Availability and Delivery is subject to wars, strikes and other events
beyond our control including availability on limited supply offers that are
subject to prior sale. Payment is to be in U.S. funds only. Checks are to be
paid through/to a U.S. bank. Terms are prepay or C.O.D. Master Card and
Visa are accepted. Call us at (630) 530-8393 or fax us at (630) 530-5019.
Let me clarify some of my statements about my visibilty.
I'm not worried about motorists seeing me on dark or dimly lit sections of road. It is when I am on well-lit sections with strip shopping centers, fast food restaurants, and gas stations all with lots of car pulling into and out of them. I feel that my lights get lost in the vast collection of taillights, headlights, turn signals, and neon and colored light signs in store windows.
When I am driving through these areas at night I am sometimes distracted by so many lights and colors, whether solid and flashing.
I'm hoping a strobe light would stand out and catch the attention of the motorists who are turning into and out of these driveways, side streets, and parking lots.
12-13-01, 02:44 PM
Originally posted by RonH
It is when I am on well-lit sections with strip shopping centers, fast food restaurants, and gas stations all with lots of cars...I feel that my lights get lost in the vast collection of taillights, headlights, turn signals, and neon and colored light signs...
In these situations I use not just one but three Lightman strobes. I fashioned a mount that clusters red, blue and clear strobes together either on my rack or water bottle cage. They each flash 82 times per minute and I sync them to flash in sequence like an emergency vehicle, which is the type of attention I want from motorists in brightly lit traffic conditions.
12-14-01, 10:12 AM
That sounds absolutely cool :cool:
Festive too! :fun: :fun: :fun:
I'm not sure that I would use a light that is irritating to motorists. 82 times a minute gives me a headache thinking about it.
12-14-01, 01:59 PM
I like a fast blink. The mode I use on my blinkies is about that. The strobe should be great. Less directional than the LEDs. If a motorist is close enough to be annoyed, THEIR comfort would be the least of my worries. Remember, they don't (or at least shouldn't) be seeing this stuff up close like we do. I really don't think a 3 1/2 inch non-directional, non-focused strobe is going to mess up anyone's night vision. If anyone is thinking in terms of the blinding effect of a photo flash, keep in mind that you are usually close to it, and photo flash reflectors and lenses are designed to concentrate the maximum amount of light into a small area for illumination. The company sells a landing zone kit consisting of about 15 of these same strobes. Nobody seems to be concerned about annoying or disorienting helicopter pilots, And I think that particular application says volumes about their visibility. Besides, these things are sold specifically for use by road crews, policemen, and other emergency personnel, as well as joggers and cyclists, to enhance visibility and keep from getting run over. Why should their use by cyclists raise any concern about angering motorists. Well any more than we seem to anger some of them just for being on a bike.
As one who commutes every morning year round in darkness, not dawn, dark, I do everything I can to be as visible as possible - headlight, reflective vest, reflective tape, multiple blinkies, etc. These strobes should be even better. If I could figure out a way to mount and power a regular car headlight, tail lights, turn signal and brake lights, I would do it. I'm just not sure I could carry a big enough battery to run all that. Let's face it. Even regular blinkies are marginal at best. I do think that adding a strobe will make me visible from a greater distance, and, to me, distance is what it's all about. The farther away someone can see me, the more time they have to react.
Forgive me for getting on a rant. I just don't understand all the concerns that have been expressed here. These things are made and marketed for this use - personal visibility and safety. Where is the issue?
Sorry. I'll shut up now.
12-14-01, 02:26 PM
Originally posted by RainmanP
If a motorist is close enough to be annoyed, THEIR comfort would be the least of my worries.
12-14-01, 04:36 PM
God bless you, Rainman! I am right there with you. Really, how long is a motorist right behind you anyways...maybe a couple of seconds. If it keeps my head off the curb, I am all for it.
12-14-01, 04:39 PM
Originally posted by RainmanP
If a motorist is close enough to be annoyed, THEIR comfort would be the least of my worries. Remember, they don't (or at least shouldn't) be seeing this stuff up close like we do. ... Why should their use by cyclists raise any concern about angering motorists. Well any more than we seem to anger some of them just for being on a bike.
I went to my LBS today to get a new saddle. While I was there I asked about strobe lights and the owner showed me a Vistalite Strobe light. I believe he said it was a discontinued item(??). He had 3 so I bought one.
He said he has one on his commuter and likes it. It comes with a clear lens and an amber lens. It looks like it will work for me.
Talk to the folks at your LBS. Maybe you'll be lucky enough to find one of these.
12-16-01, 10:32 PM
"Forgive me for getting on a rant. I just don't understand all the concerns that have been expressed here. These things are made and marketed for this use - personal visibility and safety. Where is the issue? "
Your 100% correct. There is no issue as far as I'm concerned. I just ordered my 3 strobe lights today and can't wait to put it on my folders. I did a search of the words "bike strobe lights" and the LightMan without a doubt was the best out there. The other strobe lights were made for cars.
Sadly, I also found this story too. It just goes to show you that your never really safe.
12-19-01, 08:20 AM
This morning I had a coworker tell me that she almost hit me out on the highway. It seems that my single blinkie and other reflectors/reflective material doesn't make me as visible as I thought. My coworker passes me everyday and says she always keeps an eye out for me, but she said I am really hard to see at highway speeds. Now I know I need to get a strobe.
12-19-01, 09:45 AM
I am pretty sure what you got was what we are calling a blinkie with 3, 5 or 7 bright LEDs. Many people call them strobes because they blink, but they are not true strobe lights. The Lightman is a true strobe light which employs a capacitor which charges then rapidly discharges to flash a strobe tube, producing an extremely powerful, but very brief flash of light. Camera flashes are strobes. The built in type employ small tubes so they are not extremely bright. The flashing lights you see on airplanes are strobe lights. You can see them from 30,000 feet. I guess the Lightman falls somewhere in between.
12-19-01, 10:56 AM
HOLD THE PHONE, MY COMMUTING BROTHERS AND SISTERS!
I just received my Lightman strobes and at first impression, I am underwhelmed. From admittedly very close, about 30-40 feet, my $8 Performance and Nashbar 5-LED blinkies are much more noticable than the $20 Lightman! The blink is not as fast as the fast mode on the LED lights and it just doesn't seem as bright. The Lightman weighs quite a bit more and the belt loops are plastic. Though sturdy enough for wearing while walking or jogging, I wonder how they will stand up attached to the back of my bag where they will be subjected to considerable bouncing around. The weight and whine of the capacitor charging may preclude attaching one to my helmet strap as I do with a blinky.
The Lightman is much more visible from the sides, but I am less concerned about that. It may also be more visible than the LED light from longer distances and THAT I am willing to pay the extra money for.
I am not unpacking the blue and white ones yet. Tomorrow morning I try to do some distance testing. I will report back on my impressions.
Raymond, aka BikeForums Guinea Pig
12-19-01, 01:13 PM
Rainman, I'd be interested in your review.
Among the red, blue and clear lenses I have, the clear one is by far the brightest and the blue the least (amber is also very bright I'm told.) Together, blinking in sequence, however, these strobes are very noticeable from a great distance or under bright street lighting - really like an emergency vehicle. Yes, many blinkies have a faster flash rate but do they, even ones using the brighter LEDs, match the intensity of a xenon strobe? I'm not sure, but I do know the strobes do the job. Battery life is an issue, though, so use rechargeables.
There is also a bike kit available, I believe, although I don't see why a bar/seatpost clamp couldn't be packaged with the other mounts in the standard kit.
12-20-01, 01:34 AM
After Steele's comments and Rainman's initial review of the Lightman, I'm now seriously considering making my own tail light with some of the super bright red LEDs you can get. I should be able to use a simplified version of the circuit I used for my headlight and drop the number of batteries to make it more compact. By the sound of it, 10 superbright LEDs should compare with the lightman reasonalby well.
The circuit I use has a 2.3% duty cycle, meaning the LEDs are only on for 2.3% of the time - it's looks a bit like a strobe flashing at around 5 times per second. Such a short duty cycle extends the battery life considerably. From looking at the LED taillights I've had in the pass, I'm guessing that they generally use a 50% cycle - I believe because it's a much simpler circuit. This means that I can improve on the normal battery life by a factor of 20.
12-20-01, 02:45 AM
Hi guy's I have a "blinkie" on the front of one of my bikes, It is made by Knitelite, It has a single xenon led and is extremely white almost kinda blueish/purple and to look into it leaves a burn on the eye like a camera flash !
12-20-01, 03:09 AM
The brightest tail-light I've seen is:
It was bright enough for me to ask the rider where she'd got it - unfortunately the mounting bracket is not what I would call wonderful, and only really suitable for the seatpost, which is okay if you haven't got a large saddlebag and rack.
This Smart 7 LED is almost as bright, more compact and has a clip as well as seatpost mount - I use it on my pannier, and would highly recommend it:
Not as bright as the other two, but still pretty good is:
this meets British Standards when in non-flashing mode and includes a small reflector. I've fixed one to my rear rack, and leave it on non-flash. I've been told that as well as avoiding giving insurance companies a hole to wriggle through, a fixed light like this is also easier to judge distance from (as a non-driver I can't comment on the accuracy of this though...).
Personal recommendations only - I've no link to either company.
12-20-01, 04:25 AM
Originally posted by Richard D
This Smart 7 LED is almost as bright, more compact and has a clip as well as seatpost mount - I use it on my pannier, and would highly recommend it:
This one looks identical to the Planet Bike one I just bought. It's on the bottom of this page (http://www.planetbike.com/lights.html#)
I also have the brt spot (see pic) as a backup front light, but I never use it now. It's good though - I sometimes use it as a reading light so as not to disturb my good wife with the lamp when I'm reading late at night.
12-20-01, 08:02 AM
Well, I compared the Lightman vs my Performance 5-LED blinky in the dark this morning. I turned both on and walked about 50-60 meters away. I did not perceive much, if any, difference. Neither seemed either brighter or more noticable to my eye. If anything, the blinky with its faster flash rate seemed to catch my eye more. Believe me, I was predisposed toward the Lightman so I don't think I am being biased. Now, perhaps two flashing in unison as Bentrox describes would be brighter.
I am undecided about returning the other two strobes and will probably wind up keeping them. I kind of like the idea of having the red, white and blue. I can say, reluctantly, that had I been able to do this comparison before, I would not have purchased them.
The Lightman comes with 3 possible mounts, each of which screws into a threaded hole on the unit. One mount is a magnet. One is a rectangular plastic "loop" with an opening about 1/4 inch by 2 inches. I suppose this could go on a large belt like a policeman's Sam Brown belt, a backpack strap or other wide strap. The third mount is obviously a belt loop with two openings for threading on a belt or strap up to about 1.5 inches wide. Using the belt loop mount, I attached the Lightman to my Carradice SQR using a length of hook and loop strap around the carrying handle, which is located in just the right location for light mounting. I rode with it like this on the way home yesterday. As I had suspected, the weight of the Lightman caused it to bounce around a lot, and it wound up flipping up on top of the bag where it would be shielded from rear view. I cut a piece of inner tube to lightly bungy it so it couldn't flip up. That worked fine.
All in all, I think I will stick with my 5-LED blinkies from Performance or their identical cousins from Nashbar. They are routinely on sale for $6.95 or so and work about 100 hours on a freshly charged pair of AA Nimh batteries vs advertised 3-7 hours for the Lightman.
I am always willing to try something that seems to be an improvement, and I have now tried a number of blinkie systems. I just have not found anything that seems any better than the inexpensive Performance and Nashbar blinkies.
Just one commuter's opinion.
12-20-01, 08:58 AM
Thanks for the review, Rainman. Now, I think I need to invest in a couple more blinkies and forget the Lightman. If all things were equal, I would consider the Lightman, but with its short battery life, I see no advantage.
12-20-01, 10:16 AM
I was really sorry to post a neutral/negative review. As a photographer, I was hoping for something as bright as a powerful photo flash. I guess that was too much to hope for from a unit that uses just 2 AA batteries.
12-20-01, 12:00 PM
Bright as a photo flash or not, we MUCH prefer the unabashed Rainman evaluation!!! ;)
Was that a:
* * _ _ _ out or * * * * * ??? :confused:
03-22-02, 09:56 PM
I just figured out how to attach a photo!
Here's my three-strobe setup mounted in a water bottle cage on the back of the seat of my recumbent. I was once mistaken for a motorcycle cop!
03-29-02, 10:59 PM
Yesterday, I was taught a lesson.
Riding home during daylight, on two occasions a driver tried to turn in front of me (or into me.) My whistle stopped them, but I realized the low sun behind me was the culprit (not to mention my ignorance.) In cases in which the cyclist almost completely disappears into direct sunlight, a bright flashing light and a loud whistle might be lifesavers.
05-03-02, 12:42 AM
Originally posted by bentrox!
I sync them to flash in sequence like an emergency vehicle, which is the type of attention I want from motorists in brightly lit traffic conditions.
There is no doubt that flashing lights are more visible than a reflector, or plain light.
However, if every vehicle begins to display a flashing light, they will begin to become less effective. It's simply the law of decreasing returns.
It is simply no wonder why no one pulls to the right for emergency vehicles any more. We have simply begun to blend.
For those who are interested I use a Radio Shack Personal Safety Light (cat. no 61.2506) They are a discontinued item so you will have to do some calling around (Call your local store and have them check their store inventory and district perpetual) When it's dark or raining wearing the strobe on my left arm gives the drivers an idea where the outside of my body is.
08-11-02, 01:26 PM
Since you already have two Niterider headlights, you should see if they're compatible with the Niterider ultra-high-output rear LED flasher. http://www.niterider.com/products/bike_taillight02.html
I have one of the original versions. The power is staggering. I dare you to stare into one for a while :D It flashes about 10 times per second and has intensity on par with a car's center brake light, meaning it stands out even in broad sunlight, let alone at night. I see the new version can operate in steady mode, for those who live where a flasher isn't permitted (Canada?) See if a local dealer can show you one of these in action, and check to make sure it's compatible with your generation of NR headlight.
The NR unit is weathertight and reduces your runtime about 5%. The new version is visible from 360 degrees, unlike my 1st-generation one. Hope this gives you another option. :)
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