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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 11-19-13, 07:48 AM   #26
Phil_gretz
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I ride at night fairly regularly. I've found that a good handlebar mounted headlight is made better by complementing it with a helmet mounted forward light, like this one:

http://www.amazon.com/dp/B008VFBJ6A/...l_6q969hvzlg_e

This allows me to use it in strobe mode at dusk or in diffuse evening light, and on a steady beam in darkness. Having the ability to point your light "into" a curve, or directly toward side approaching vehicles is an advantage. It's something different that get's the driver's attention.

Also, as mentioned above, don't neglect rear lighting. I use a PB blaster rear blinking light on the bike, and a different rear light blinking on the back of my helmet. Plus, I select outerwear with reflective strips designed in, and add reflective ankle bands.

There are also city tires with reflective sidewalls that really glow when headlights fall on them.

in the end, you'll just have to develop your own sense of how to ride safely, with awareness, and just enough confidence to get out there and do it. But not too much confidence...
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Old 11-19-13, 09:36 AM   #27
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The only thing that concerns me about riding at night is that there are more likely to be drunks on the road then.

I actually LOVE and prefer riding at night. I'm certainly far more visible at night than during the day.

Get a reflective vest - harbor freight sells a $5 one that's excellent. That's very effective. Get a good taillight - the Cygolite Hotshot at $35 is excellent. $30 "1600 lumen" lights on eBay are actually quite good. I have one with an Action LED wide angle lens fitted to it, and it's fantastic.
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Old 11-19-13, 11:12 AM   #28
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I have one right now with the wide angle lens that I like because I feel like riding in a tunnel with the normal lens. I'm thinking hard about another one with the standard lens. Those should work nice together.
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Old 11-19-13, 11:29 AM   #29
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Lots of really great advice here. Thanks all. I'm going to start by ordering a brighter headlight, backup taillight, and a reflective jacket. I think I'll also add a helmet light. Once I have those, I'll do some test rides around the neighborhood. In the meantime, I can almost always arrange to leave work so that I get home before dark.

My last real hurdle is mostly psychological. Even if I'm well equipped and feel comfortable with my night-time riding skills, I still have to contend with the fear that my bike will break down on the way home, leaving me pretty vulnerable on the side of the road. I live in a high-crime city, though my route doesn't take me through any "bad" areas. I'm going to start scouting out a route that would keep me in more public areas than my daylight route does. That would put me in more traffic (but still not heavy traffic), but the trade-off might be worth it, especially if bikes are more visible at night than during the day.
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Old 11-19-13, 11:38 AM   #30
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My last real hurdle is mostly psychological. Even if I'm well equipped and feel comfortable with my night-time riding skills, I still have to contend with the fear that my bike will break down on the way home, leaving me pretty vulnerable on the side of the road. .
I consider myself pretty self-sufficient on the road, so flats and the like don't bother me. However, in the winter I alter my route to run parallel with the bus routes. This isn't so much because I couldn't fix a flat on the road, as much as it's because of the temps. I underdress so I don't get overheated while riding. That means I'll cool very quickly when I stop, so having stores to duck into, or a bas as fallback transport is sort of my plan C. (B is to fix the flat fast). Also being near a bus route gives me a backup if lights fail while I'm still a ways out from the destination.
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Old 11-19-13, 11:56 AM   #31
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I consider myself pretty self-sufficient on the road, so flats and the like don't bother me. However, in the winter I alter my route to run parallel with the bus routes. This isn't so much because I couldn't fix a flat on the road, as much as it's because of the temps. I underdress so I don't get overheated while riding. That means I'll cool very quickly when I stop, so having stores to duck into, or a bas as fallback transport is sort of my plan C. (B is to fix the flat fast). Also being near a bus route gives me a backup if lights fail while I'm still a ways out from the destination.
This is embarrassing to admit, but my repair kit consists of a lock and a cell phone. I've never had a breakdown, but the plan for one is that I'll lock the bike to something and call my spouse for a pickup! My place of work is only six miles from home, so he could get to me pretty quickly. I just need a safe place to wait for him. Temperature isn't much of an issue here in Memphis.
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Old 11-19-13, 12:01 PM   #32
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If your headlight lasts 7 hours on 2 AAs, it's not bright enough. I use a Rapid 3 for a taillight and it does the job. That, coupled with the reflective strips on my vest, panniers, and pants are plenty for cars behind to see me. I have a MagicShine 808 for a headlight and run it on high at night. Anything less and I would not feel comfortable. Headlights are very important so that oncoming traffic can see you. You don't want to be invisible from the front. Remember that most car-bike accidents happen at intersections.

You might want to enlist the help of a friend. Ride around the neighborhood with your lights going and have him drive around in the same general area. Ask him if he could see you. For the best test, don't tell him exactly where you'll be.

Finally, remember that even with lights, hi-viz clothing, and a siren blaring, some people still won't see you. Ride as if you're invisible.
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Old 11-19-13, 12:11 PM   #33
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Neon Lime parka with reflective stripes for me.. in the summer I have a reflex striped sweatshirt.

German Hub dynamo and LED lights , are my preference , others use lots of flashing battery lights..

And I live on a small town , not a major metropolis ..
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Old 11-19-13, 12:57 PM   #34
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Nobody has mentioned that great confidence builder, a rearview mirror. Two of my general rules specific for riding in the dark are:
  1. "When riding in the dark, look for cars, not just headlights."

  2. “Make yourself as visible as possible, and assume that no one sees you.”

Last edited by Jim from Boston; 11-19-13 at 04:47 PM.
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Old 11-19-13, 01:36 PM   #35
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I'm gonna concur with the majority opinion.
I ride well lit and reflective, plus You can see the other vehicles better.
That said Jim's rules are worth repeating:
  1. "When riding in the dark, look for cars, not just headlights."
  2. “Make yourself as visible as possible, and assume that no one sees you.”




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Old 11-19-13, 01:37 PM   #36
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Nobody has mentioned that great confidence builder, a rearview mirror. Two of my general rules specific for riding in the dark are:
  1. "When riding in the dark, look for cars, not just headlights."
  2. “Make yourself as visible as possible, and assume that no one sees you.”

Definitely a vote of agreement on the mirror.
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Old 11-19-13, 02:13 PM   #37
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Human beings are not lizards. We have not evolved the ability to use our eyes independently to any great degree. It can be fatal to smack into something ahead of you because you are busy monitoring your mirror. It has happened. You cannot significantly change your odds of being rear ended by monitoring your six! You must learn to believe in the relative competence of other road users and focus your attention on what is ahead. Your ears (if they work) will tell you all you really need to know about what is going on behind you. When a mirror is priceless is when you need to change your position on the road and you need to know how that impacts following traffic. A mirror is a tool for planning offensive maneuvers. I really get tired of hearing how wonderful a tool it is for defensive protection. Five in one hundred drivers are deaf enough that a bicycle horn makes no impression on them. Bicyclists get overtaken much more than other road users. How many of you swear by your horns and its ability to force drivers to correct offensive maneuvers that put you in jeopardy... sigh... I see a lot of blame in this forum directed at 'those drivers'. Maybe, but I don't think we do all we can on our side to meet them half-way.

H
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Old 11-19-13, 02:41 PM   #38
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I really like my cygolite hotshot, here is a cellphone pic of it lighting up my daughter's school with the bike in the bike rack.

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Old 11-19-13, 03:27 PM   #39
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Nobody has mentioned that great confidence builder, a rearview mirror. Two of my general rules specific for riding in the dark are:
  1. "When riding in the dark, look for cars, not just headlights."
  2. “Make yourself as visible as possible, and assume that no one sees you.”
I like your rules! I've been looking at a Mirrycle MTB bar end rearview mirror. Does that seem like a good choice?
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Old 11-19-13, 03:28 PM   #40
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I really like my cygolite hotshot, here is a cellphone pic of it lighting up my daughter's school with the bike in the bike rack.

Wow!
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Old 11-19-13, 03:39 PM   #41
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Get two of these. Free Shipping

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Looks like my magic shine and I paid a lot more than that. I don't worry about the cars at night I can see them and I make sure they can see me. I'm lit up like some kind of emergency. The other night problem around here is the critters. We have dogs, deer, wild hog, bobcats all coming out in our back roads at night. I've had friends get hurt with deer jumping out of the bushes Probably not much of a problem in the city
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Old 11-19-13, 03:42 PM   #42
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This a Bad Time to be on The road


This is the scenario that killed James Dean. Contrary to misconception, he was not speeding. He got left hooked by a guy who only saw something similar to the image above.

I use bright lights. Most often, when I commute in the dark it is early morning, and the traffic is lighter, so I am more uncomfortable. The afternoon rush hour scares me more, especially in the dark. In lighting conditions like the image, I get real concerned, especially if I can see well. That means the cars coming toward me can't.
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Old 11-19-13, 03:44 PM   #43
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Human beings are not lizards. We have not evolved the ability to use our eyes independently to any great degree. It can be fatal to smack into something ahead of you because you are busy monitoring your mirror. It has happened. You cannot significantly change your odds of being rear ended by monitoring your six! You must learn to believe in the relative competence of other road users and focus your attention on what is ahead. Your ears (if they work) will tell you all you really need to know about what is going on behind you. When a mirror is priceless is when you need to change your position on the road and you need to know how that impacts following traffic. A mirror is a tool for planning offensive maneuvers. I really get tired of hearing how wonderful a tool it is for defensive protection. Five in one hundred drivers are deaf enough that a bicycle horn makes no impression on them. Bicyclists get overtaken much more than other road users. How many of you swear by your horns and its ability to force drivers to correct offensive maneuvers that put you in jeopardy... sigh... I see a lot of blame in this forum directed at 'those drivers'. Maybe, but I don't think we do all we can on our side to meet them half-way.

H

I've never ridden without some kind of mirror. Right now I use helmet mirrors but if you can't see far enough ahead to be able to glance into the mirror you need a better headlight. I use Cygolites and Magic Shine and I'm bright enough to make the cars blink their headlights at me
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Old 11-19-13, 03:58 PM   #44
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Human beings are not lizards. We have not evolved the ability to use our eyes independently to any great degree. It can be fatal to smack into something ahead of you because you are busy monitoring your mirror. It has happened. You cannot significantly change your odds of being rear ended by monitoring your six! You must learn to believe in the relative competence of other road users and focus your attention on what is ahead. Your ears (if they work) will tell you all you really need to know about what is going on behind you. When a mirror is priceless is when you need to change your position on the road and you need to know how that impacts following traffic. A mirror is a tool for planning offensive maneuvers. I really get tired of hearing how wonderful a tool it is for defensive protection. Five in one hundred drivers are deaf enough that a bicycle horn makes no impression on them. Bicyclists get overtaken much more than other road users. How many of you swear by your horns and its ability to force drivers to correct offensive maneuvers that put you in jeopardy... sigh... I see a lot of blame in this forum directed at 'those drivers'. Maybe, but I don't think we do all we can on our side to meet them half-way.

H
I agree with much of what you say, except for your dismissal of a mirror as being an effect "defensive" tool. Many years ago, in my early days of commuting there was an incident in which I was biking home (in the dark) on a narrower road. Back then, bicycle lights were not nearly as bright nor effective as they are now. I heard the car coming up behind me, took my initial look in my helmet-mounted mirror and thought nothing unusual about the situation. As the car approached, I took another peek in the mirror and saw a glimpse of something that just didn't register as "right" in my mind. I still can't tell you exactly what it was I thought I saw, but it was concern enough that I hit the brakes and pulled off of the pavement quickly. The car slowed, and I could make out the shape of someone reaching out the passenger window and swinging what appeared to be a stick. The car sped up and that was the end of the encounter. I was too shook up to even think about trying to get a license plate. I did report a "vague" description of the vehicle to the police an hour later when I got home, but to no avail. If I hadn't taken that final quick glance in the mirror when I did, would the outcome have been different? I don't know.

Flash forward to just these last few months. On two occasions, when riding in the bike lane, while taking those frequent "peeks" in the mirror, I've watched inattentive motorists who have drifted across the line into the bike lane coming up behind me. One scenario, I simply waved my hand up and down to get the driver's attention, and he pulled back into his lane. The other time, I could tell it was a driver who was looking down (texting?), and just wasn't seeing me in front of her. As she got near enough to me, I chose to ditch into the curb, and she went right by me, half in the bike lane. I'm still not sure she even saw me.

For me, my mirror is a valuable tool, definitely as an aid in positioning myself within traffic, as you describe, but almost most certainly as a tool to help me be a better defensive cyclist as well. Perhaps my helmet-mounted mirror lessens the chance I'm losing focus on what is occurring in front of me, I can't say as I've always used either helmet-mount mirrors or those that attach to sunglasses. And, I apologize in advance, but I am losing my faith in the relative competence of most other road users, whether they be motorists, cyclists, pedestrians, etc.
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Old 11-19-13, 05:10 PM   #45
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I like your rules! I've been looking at a Mirrycle MTB bar end rearview mirror. Does that seem like a good choice?
I wear prescription eyeglasses so Take-a-Look eyeglass mounted mirrors are my choice. In fact I wear both left and right eyeglass mirrors and have posted about the advantages. They require the least head motion, just a lateral glance to look behind, instead of a head turn away from the forward line of sight as with no mirror at all.

Any mirror though, is better than none at all requiring a head turn and complete loss of forward vision; not as described below:

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It can be fatal to smack into something ahead of you because you are busy monitoring your mirror…You must learn to believe in the relative competence of other road users and focus your attention on what is ahead. Your ears (if they work) will tell you all you really need to know about what is going on behind you…
”Trust me…I’m a cager.”

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…A mirror is a tool for planning offensive maneuvers. I really get tired of hearing how wonderful a tool it is for defensive protection…
If you like my “rules,” I hope you’ll follow Jim’s Law of the Road: “No matter how well-paved or lightly-traveled the Road, a vehicle is likely to pass on the left as you encounter an obstacle on the right.”

Besides just offensively monitoring the upcoming traffic, a mirror can save split seconds when you have to defensively avoid unexpected obstacles and evade approaching traffic, while still maintaining near-continuous forward vision.

Last edited by Jim from Boston; 11-19-13 at 05:14 PM.
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Old 11-19-13, 05:16 PM   #46
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Human beings are not lizards. We have not evolved the ability to use our eyes independently to any great degree. It can be fatal to smack into something ahead of you because you are busy monitoring your mirror. It has happened. You cannot significantly change your odds of being rear ended by monitoring your six! .....
With respect, this is utter nonsense. While I don't use a mirror on a bike, it's patently ridiculous that glancing in a mirror from time to time increases your risk of hitting something up front.

Cars have had rearview mirrors since they were introduced on the Indianapolis speedway in 1911. Since then experienced drivers have come to accept them as a requirement, and truckers especially couldn't function without them.

Whether knowing that a car is coming up behind you on a bike would make any difference most of the time is debatable, and I agree probably not. But it can make a difference for cyclists riding in heavy urban traffic and needing to make maneuvers such as left turns. In any case though they aren't much help, they are not a hazard unless they break in a crash, and cause you 7 years of riding in the rain.
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Old 11-19-13, 05:36 PM   #47
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This time of year my everyday commute is in the dark both ways. 1.5 hours in the morning and 1.5 hours at night. I invested in a dynamo hub to power my front main light. I also use a blinking light on my bars. I use 2 different blinking lights on the rear and 1 solid red light. I wear a safety vest and reflective straps on each leg. I use a bar mounted rear view mirror that still doesn't take place of looking back when merging crossing etc etc etc.

Even though I look like a lit up Christmas tree going down the road I ride like I am invisible. At first I was nervous riding in the dark but now with the right equipment and the confidence I am very comfortable at night.

The only time I have had close calls was during the day.

I think a helmet light is a very good idea.
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Old 11-19-13, 06:35 PM   #48
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With respect, this is utter nonsense. While I don't use a mirror on a bike, it's patently ridiculous that glancing in a mirror from time to time increases your risk of hitting something up front.

Cars have had rearview mirrors since they were introduced on the Indianapolis speedway in 1911. Since then experienced drivers have come to accept them as a requirement, and truckers especially couldn't function without them.

Whether knowing that a car is coming up behind you on a bike would make any difference most of the time is debatable, and I agree probably not. But it can make a difference for cyclists riding in heavy urban traffic and needing to make maneuvers such as left turns. In any case though they aren't much help, they are not a hazard unless they break in a crash, and cause you 7 years of riding in the rain.
Only a NY'er could "respectfully" tell someone their POV is utter nonsense. I can say that, I am one. Only a NY'er could say something like "while I don't use a mirror on a bike... mirror use does not increase any risk... oh the irony. I use a mirror on a bike. I am not afraid of traffic. A cyclist that is afraid of traffic, and many are, will use that mirror to distraction. Its human nature. AFAIK its only glass mirrors that cause 7 years if bad luck if broken, I don't know of many (any?) bicycle mirrors that aren't polycarbonate these days. FWIW.

H
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Old 11-19-13, 06:58 PM   #49
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Reflective tape and bright lights work together


Amen to that!



Not really visible in the pictures are the 5 LED blinkie on the rear rack, single LED red blinkies on each seat stay, a white single LED blinkie on the ends of the handlebars and the 5 LED headlight with hi, low and strobe modes. I also have reflective stripes on the arms, back and chest of my cycling jacket, reflective tape on my helmets and I have a reflective cover for my "cold weather" helmet. A friend told me I look like a low flying UFO from a distance.
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Old 11-19-13, 07:03 PM   #50
FBinNY 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Leisesturm View Post
Only a NY'er could "respectfully" tell someone their POV is utter nonsense. I can say that, I am one. ....

H
Yes, but you don't have a disclaimer in your signature.

I tried to be careful, not taking a position either way on mirrors, and quoting only the part of your post that was utter nonsense, namely the references to lizards and evolution.

In fact, if you read the entirety of our posts, you'll see that we agree that humans are fully capable of using mirrors (or at leas you claim to be), and people can do so without increasing increasing risk of front end collision. Also that mirrors are useful mainly for planning maneuvers.

BTW- when I start a negative post with the phrase "with respect" is isn't sarcastic. It's an attempt to put some distance between the message and messenger, and reinforce that my comments are directed only at the former.
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Last edited by FBinNY; 11-19-13 at 07:14 PM.
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