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Commuting Bicycle commuting is easier than you think, before you know it, you'll be hooked. Learn the tips, hints, equipment, safety requirements for safely riding your bike to work.

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Old 10-29-08, 02:36 PM   #1
hnsq
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Commuting in the Dark

I need some help. I love biking in to work, and the cold really doesn't bother me. I live in Pittsburgh and work out in the suburbs. I never have a problem biking in the city, with street lights and the amount of bikes around I always feel safe. The suburbs, however are another story. I have never biked outside the city when it is dark out, and was wondering how safe it is. With narrow roads and little shoulders, is there a good way to bike in the dark out on the back roads? I don't want winter to stop me from biking in with my new job. Any help/advice is appreciated!
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Old 10-29-08, 02:42 PM   #2
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I have to ride on narrow, relatively busy, 35mph-limit rural roads with no street lights to get to school. I run a superflash in back and an Ultrafire 606a from dealextreme on my helmet, along with reflective tape on my rims, seatstays, and fork. So far I've had no problems and it seems pretty safe, but I can't really say for sure - many bike ninjas and wrong-way riders have never had any problems either.
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Old 10-29-08, 02:52 PM   #3
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reflective clothing/gear is good, and of course good lighting is a must.

i go with a dynohub + halogen lamp, it's plenty strong for me, and never runs out!
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Old 10-29-08, 02:56 PM   #4
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With a bright blinker you should be more noticable at night than during the day with or without one.
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Old 10-29-08, 03:02 PM   #5
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I have a Superflash and a Fenix L2D-CE. Granted there are streetlights some of the way but it's pretty dark in places now too. The time change will help a bit with that.
Anyways, I've been fine, but make sure to use good lighting.
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Old 10-29-08, 03:02 PM   #6
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Hey, I live in moon township and I have to bike at night through the local neighborhoods and stuff. I just bought DiNotte Dual 200L. I love them, they are really bright and have rechargeable batteries which is a huge bonus. They are a bit pricey but I really like them and I can see everything on the road at night. I use some little blinkies on the back of my rack as well.
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Old 10-29-08, 03:19 PM   #7
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I use lights and plenty of reflective gear. One versatile item is a high-quality reflective vest, since you can wear it over whatever layers the weather is calling for. I like this one: http://www.safetygearonline.com/prod...?tid=4&pid=182

Reflective legbands are also good. They move, which attracts attention and also gives motorists a definite cue that it's a cyclist, plus they don't cost much. REI has the Jog-A-Lite ones for $5.

Beyond that, you definitely want some good lights. Planet Bike SuperFlash is a good rear light (make sure to aim it level). For the headlight(s), tell us your budget, how long you want it to run on one charge, and whether you would prefer a one-plug charging setup versus removing batteries to charge them in an external charger.
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Old 10-29-08, 03:22 PM   #8
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I haven't been commuting that long, but I know that those rear flashing reflectors work extremely well. My friends that have passed me have said I was easy to see on the highway leading to our neighborhood. It's a dark highway with cars zooming around doing anywhere from 55mph - 75mph. I wouldn't ride without mine.
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Old 10-29-08, 10:50 PM   #9
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more lights than cape canaveral launch pad
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Old 10-30-08, 06:05 AM   #10
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You need some lights and reflective gear if you want to keep commuting in the dark safely. Like Paul, I use a PB Superflash for a rear tail-light and a Fenix L2D Premium for a headlight (mine uses AA batteries). This is probably the least expensive light combination you can get that is really effective. The Superflash can be bought for $20 if you shop around and is probably the brightest tail-light short of the $150 Dinotte ones. The Fenix lights can be bought for about $60, plus you need a handlebar mount, batteries and charger -- for a total outlay of perhaps $75.

I wear only bright yellow jerseys, jackets and vests when riding in the dark or low light. Screaming yellow/ neon yellow-green is the best for visibility. I also wear reflective ankle straps, and my commuter tires have reflective sidewalls. Finally, in addition to the Superflash, I have two other tail-lights that are not quite as bright but add to visibility (one of them on my helmet).
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Old 10-30-08, 06:10 AM   #11
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I commute regularly at night on a 2-lane 55mph no shoulder road. I use at minimum 2 Dinotte 140L red lights facing to the rear, and 2 Fenix flashlights pointing forward. I also have lots of DOT-C2 tape on my bike, along with the state required reflectors. Reflectorizing yourself is also good. I use an ANSI class 3 jacket when it's cold. Lots of reflective tape FTW.
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Old 10-30-08, 06:19 AM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by degnaw View Post
I have to ride on narrow, relatively busy, 35mph-limit rural roads with no street lights to get to school. I run a superflash in back and an Ultrafire 606a from dealextreme on my helmet, along with reflective tape on my rims, seatstays, and fork. So far I've had no problems and it seems pretty safe, but I can't really say for sure - many bike ninjas and wrong-way riders have never had any problems either.
True; however, the brighter you are lit the better your odds of making it to work and back home without incedent..
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Old 10-30-08, 06:21 AM   #13
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I suggest you spend fifty bucks on reflective gear and relatively cheap blinkies and lights, and just go for it. I'm pretty sure you'll find you feel safe enough, and in fact enjoy cycling in the dark. Once you've crossed that bridge, you'll feel better about investing in dynamo powered lights and the like.

For the record, I have two bikes that I use for commuting, and both have dynamo hubs and really bright lights.
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Old 10-30-08, 06:24 AM   #14
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I would suggest two blinkers, with seperate power on the back. Both wont go out at the same time and no rear blinker will get you run over faster than anything.
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Old 10-30-08, 06:31 AM   #15
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I wouldn't ride without TWO lights. I've gotten off my bike at work and discovered that one of light had shut off for some reason. I no longer ride with just one light.

Reflective vest too; when hit by a car's headlights (which WILL happen most of the time when a car is approaching you), it's far brighter than all but the brightest taillights, and the much larger surface area commands attention better.

Both reflective (passive) and blinkies (active) lighting are necessary IMHO. Reflective, when it works, leverages the car's lights, and can be astoundingly bright. Active because there are many situations (especially cars approaching from sides) where reflective material may not be effective.

BTW, $10 or so is plenty for reflective gear. Harbor Freight sells an extremely bright reflective vest for < $5. Put on a reflective leg band, or maybe buy a roll of reflective tape at the hardware store and pimp up your bike if you're not averse to that. I bought some 3M hi intensity tape on eBay and really uglied up my bike, but then again I don't give a rat's ***** what my bike looks like, I just want to get to work and back.
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Old 10-30-08, 06:33 AM   #16
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Any little thing that gives you a little better chance of getting to work without getting run over is probably worth it.
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Old 10-30-08, 07:22 AM   #17
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I ride with a 1W LED handelbar light, a 3 W LED helmet light, A rear soperflash blinky on my helmet, the below light on the back of my bike, a reflective vest from harborfreight, ankle reflective straps, and wheel and side reflectors on the bike. Night doesn't scare me as much as twilight, just before sundown, or just after sunup when the sun can blot all that light and reflectors out.


http://www.columbussupply.com/products/?productid=764
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Old 10-30-08, 09:34 AM   #18
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I pretty much agree with the above. For about $100 you could get a fenix for the front, a good rear blinkie, a reflective vest, and a roll of reflecting tape. You might also want to have a cheap $25 front light as a backup (my backup, which I use sometimes, is a $20 flashlight from DealExtreme).

The other thing to reconsider is your route. You might feel more comfortable if you optimized your route to low traffic and, if possible, wider shoulders. Getting buzzed by cars is more unnerving at night in my experience.
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Old 10-30-08, 06:12 PM   #19
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Originally Posted by ItsJustMe View Post
I bought some 3M hi intensity tape on eBay and really uglied up my bike, but then again I don't give a rat's ***** what my bike looks like, I just want to get to work and back.
Same here; I have 4 feet of conspicuity tape on this thing.
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Old 10-30-08, 06:31 PM   #20
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Originally Posted by biknbrian View Post
With a bright blinker you should be more noticable at night than during the day with or without one.
+1 I get comments from co-workers that they see me 2-3 miles away with my blinkies... during daylight that distance is closer to 2/3 of a mile!

I have a Cateye TL1100 and a another 5 LED cheapy as backup. I have a cheap white blinkie in the front with 16W halogen light in the front.
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Old 10-30-08, 06:35 PM   #21
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Really, those wheel reflectors that "Everyone" strips off of their new bikes do work.
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Old 10-30-08, 08:05 PM   #22
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I went with the hub-mounted Reelights. Red in back, white in front. The use magnets on your spokes to generate electricity through induction and don't need batteries.

I also have a Superflash blinkie in back, and use a twofish lockblock and a flashlight for seeing in front, but, with the Reelights, I ALWAYS have a light flashing when I ride and I don't have to worry about batteries dying on me and leaving me low-vis.

I also wear an illuminite jacket whenever it is <50F.
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Old 10-30-08, 08:13 PM   #23
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For the front: http://www.dealextreme.com/details.dx/sku.13060
For the back: http://www.amazon.com/Planet-Bike-Bl.../dp/B000KBEH1W

Problem solved. : D
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Old 10-30-08, 08:37 PM   #24
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Dinotte

Never felt safer since I got a set of lights from them.
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Old 10-30-08, 09:52 PM   #25
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Dinotte 300L rear tail light. Overkill? Yes. Best tail light on the planet? you bet. Expensive too. I hear they make great headlights too.
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