Commuting - lighting the commute
Bikeforums.net is a forum about nothing but bikes. Our community can help you find information about hard-to-find and localized information like bicycle tours, specialties like where in your area to have your recumbent bike serviced, or what are the best bicycle tires and seats for the activities you use your bike for.
having just gotten back into biking after a 10 year lay off I need help in finding a light (front & back) to use on my ride to work. I see so many kinds in the shops and all sound the best. Maybe someone in the real world can help me.
I just went through the same selection. Seems that two beams are better than one, which adds to the cost nicely. But let me back up. Are you lighting your way or just trying to be seen?
If you want people to see you, than a simple handlebar mount one beam works well. I found that the Cateye model I had didn't help me see much.
So I went to the family of higher wattage. These are made by folks like Niterider and VistaLite. More watts=brighter. And the two beams is a nice add on. That way, you can mount one on the handlebar and one on the helmet. When you look into a turn or at a car, there goes the beam.
The last group is more costly and usually involved a separate, rechargeable batter pack. But it is well worth it.
On the back-one of those strobing, red lights works well. And think reflective everything-what if your light dies on the way home?
Hope this helps-happy riding.
Thanks for your advice. I have strobe lights front and rear but want to see the junk on the road before I hit it. Good idea on the helmet light. Never thought of that. With all the people asleep at the wheel the more lights the better. I'll be on the only bike that looks like a semi.
It is now winter here in Wisconsin. Today it was -5 F on the thermometer and -20 F with wind chill.
As I hopped on my wheel to go home in total winter darkness, "CLICK", "CLICK"... "Oh, no my light battery is dead again".
Riding home in pure darkness is a scary thing. My biggest concern is that motorists cannot see me despite the many reflectors on my bike.
Well, my winter bikes are not made for speed, but for safety so they have a lot of junk on them despite the weight. I had almost forgotten about the old generator light that I had intended to remove about a month ago.
With a push of the spring button and just a little extra pedaling effort, I was "with torch" so to speak and riding home with good light.
If you are a committed bicycle commuter who rides in the dark often AND has to deal with battery killing cold temperatures, it sure is good to have a generator back-up. It will add to the weight of your bike slightly, but empty the change from your pocket before your rides and you have lightened your load by about an equal amount.
[Edited by mike on 12-06-2000 at 04:02 AM]
Keep in mind that reflectors are your best chance of being seen at night by motorists. Reflectors are brighter than just about any bicycle light available.
Have you ever noticed as a motorist that you will usually see a bicyclist's reflectors long before you see his lights?
Moving reflectors are much more effective than stationary, so make sure you have reflector bands on your ankles and reflectors on your pedals if possible. Of course, you need reflectors front and rear as well as on your wheels. Have you ever been driving at night and see what appear to be two light fairies dancing up ahead? "What the heck..." then you find it is the reflectors from a jogger's or bicyclist's tennis shoes. The people and machinery the reflectors are attached to are still invisible in your high beams long after you see the reflectors.
The bigger reflectors, the better. To save cost and to be fashionable, most bikes are provided with the smallest of reflectors. Don't trust your life and safety to these. Replace them with the biggest reflectors you can mount on your bike.
12-11-00, 08:29 AM
Good points on reflectors. My ride to work in the morning is it darkness. I can usually get home before dark, but have switched the lights on a couple of times. I strap my blinking red light to my left ankle and a reflective strip on the right. I am thinking about getting another blinking light for the right or back of helmet. I also got an orange mesh vest with big reflective strips front and back. Since it is mesh it does does not add heat in warm weather, and it fits over anything. I wear the vest night or day.
I originally bought a Cateye headlight that uses 4 AAs. It is ok, but I had to recharge every evening and even then, a set of batteries won't go round trip, about 2 hrs total. As luck would have it, there is an optional 4 D battery pack that fits a bottle cage. When I went to the shop to get one, they had kits that included the light as well. It wasn't much more so I went ahead and got a whole new set. Cost about $37 bucks and a set of D's will last a week or so. I carry the original as a back up. Comes in handy as a flashlight, too.
I may go a little overboard with safety stuff - lights, reflectors, orange vest, rearview mirrors, but I figure overkill is better than roadkill!
I may eventually get one of the high watt setups, but this seems fine for now. I look at the generator sets from time to time. I had one on my old Huffy 3-speed as a kid.
Rainman's post gives some good safety points that you can easily buy rather than points you have to learn. If you are a commuter and ride in darkness, look Rainman's post over when you make your Christmas wish list.
I agree 100% about the 4 AA batteries not lasting as long as bigger batteries. I also use C and D batteries. At least with the Rayovac rechargeables that I use, I don't think even the D batteries would last for a two-hour commute. My commutes are always less than 45 minutes - unless the snow is really deep.
What I usually do is have several lights all with the same mounting. I keep whole spare lights (with fresh batteries already installed) in my warm pocket so I can just un-snap the one with the dead batteries and snap on the new one with the fresh batteries. Sometimes when it is really cold like below 0 F, battery life is shorter. In this case, the batteries will sometimes come back to life after they warm up in my pocket for a while.
12-13-00, 10:55 AM
I just bought myself a SigmaSport Mirage X. It's a 2-beam headlight (1-20 watt, 1-5 watt). The system cost $80.00 at a pretty LBS. The Sigma Mirage has only the 5-watt and I'm sure it's probably significantly cheaper.
I've found that the 5 watts is more than enough for the darkest roads. The 20 is definitely nice for 30+ mph descents (48 kph+/- i think)but there is no reason anyone has to feel like they need to break any speed records, especially at night.
Furthermore, the sigma has treated me well so far and is attainable at a very good price, for a serious lighting system. Did I mention--3.5 hours run time on the 5 watt alone? Great little light folks!
As for tail lights; I think it's Trek that markets the "DISCO INFERNO". Although most flashers work like a charm, this one blew my mind. You'd have to see it to believe it. Any description I could give would not do it justice.
12-13-00, 01:59 PM
For what it's worth, here is how I cope with tenebrous treks to the office:
My commute runs about 17 miles, and begins at 06:15 or so, which is well before sunrise this time of year. I see the sunrise about 45 minutes into my ride, so it's not so bad.
The darkest portion of my commute is the outset, nine miles or so of suburban two lane roads. There are some streetlamps and building lights, so my main concern isn't seeing... it is being seen.
Lights: I use two Cateye Halogen 500 lamps, running on C batteries. One is aimed at the road three meters or so ahead of me, and I use it to spot glass and other hazards.
It is also very good at lighting the white stripe at the shoulder of the roadway, which keeps me out of the weeds.
The other lamp is aimed at the windshield of oncoming cars, and serves to announce my presence. It will also illuminate street signs a long way off... These lamps have a usable run time of about six hours, and will weakly mark the way for another two. (The C cells will work well at extremely low temperatures, that would have a AA cell straining to excrete electrons.) I have a spare set of these lamps on my rainbike, they use the same mounts. Plus, I've a stash of spare halogen bulbs.
I've never been a big fan of rechargeable lamps. They are never fully charged when I need them, they can die suddenly, and the expensive batteries wear out rather quickly. I buy good quality C cells and recharge them several times. (Of course, it helps that I can buy them in bulk for my business.)
Out back, I have three 5-LED flash units... one mounted on the rear rack, one clipped to the underseat bag, and a third sewn to my backpack. The two soft-mounted lamps swing and bob as I ride.
Reflectors: Loaded. I've a set of four DOT grade reflectors from a motorcycle I used to own, mounted on the rear rack and the fork's pannier bolt holes. I sewed two more big oval reflectors to my backpack as well. I found these at a local auto parts store. I have reflective tape, from the same store, running the length of the seatstays, and on the rear stays of the rack. I trimmed some of that tape into a thin band, and ran it around the lip of my helmet, which, being red, doesn't look so very bad with the tape.
I also found two useful items in Performance Bike's catalog: A rack trunk and a windbreaker, both covered with Performance's "Illuminite" retro-reflective material. In the summer, I wear a roadworker's reflective vest. (I stopped one day where some electric company workers were set up, asked about the vests they wore... and one of them gave me a vest. If you want one, it is certainly worth a try.)
The ultimate compliment came one drizzly predawn morning when a police car pulled alongside me at a traffic light. The deputy put down his window and said to me: "Jeez, you look like a two-wheeled Winnebago with all them lights and stuff."
At least he saw me.
Powered by vBulletin® Version 4.1.12 Copyright © 2013 vBulletin Solutions, Inc. All rights reserved.