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  1. #1
    Time for a change. stapfam's Avatar
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    In a couple of weeks time I will be doing my first night ride. Hopefully we have the main lights sorted, but this will be an 80 mile offroad ride and will last about 10 hours

    My problem is that we will not be able to see much on the Tandem, and I do like to be able to physically see which chain ring or rear sprocket we are in. I am thinking of mounting a light on the pilots seat tube shining down and rearwards onto the rear gear train. Has anyone any suggestions on what sort of lamp would be suitable, or how have any others of you overcome this problem?

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    I've not used this idea on a bike as I don't ride at night, but I use it camping and on board our sailboat. It's a simple head strap and a strong battery powered lamp that sits just above my brow. It gives me an ample, focussed light on exactly what I'm looking at. Beam can be changed from flood to spot. Perhaps it could be set up to fit securely over a bike helmet. Got mine at Mountain Equipment Co-op.

  3. #3
    hors category TandemGeek's Avatar
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    Use a helmet-mounted light and you'll quickly find that so long as your helmet stays on your head, where ever you look, you'll have light. This works as well for road riding at night as it does for off-road riding, as you'll be able to look into turns and actually 'see' what's ahead instead of waiting for your handlebars to come through the arc of your turning manuever to bring the lights back to bear on the road ahead. Moreover, if you have a mechanical, your work light is your helmet mounted light. I could go on with other examples but nothing is as compelling as actually giving it a try.

    FWIW, we use the Lights in Motion ARC HID headlight with 4hr Li-ion battery. Incredible light and incredibly light-weight. Unfortunately, even with one extra battery you'd come up an hour or two short.

  4. #4
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    I ride my single at night quite frequently during the winter. I find that using a handle bar mount and a helmet mount give me the most depth perception. There is a bit more about this at http://www.compufind.com/bike/night.html When riding technical terrain at night, I find depth perception is more important than long distance vision. We have not attempted a night ride yet on the tandem .


    10 hours is a long time. (Are you sane?) You will have to go to an LED system to get that kind of burn time. The 'white' LEDs that I tried last year were bluish in color and not as bright and focused as the incandescent lamp assemblies. Perhaps they have improved this year.
    Extra batteries tend to be expensive. The gel cells are heavy, larger, and more difficult to mount. Do not use alkaline batteries on incandescent lamps unless you are carrying a lot of spare batteries. You may need to precondition the rechargeable batteries a few times before they work at peak efficiency. I run my helmet at 10-15w and handle bar at typically half that for 2+ hour trail rides. The light use independent battery systems. When it is near freezing I place the batteries in bubble wrap inside my Camelbak.

    Regarding your sprocket vision;
    I sympathize with your need to see the gears. One thing I have learned while riding at night is you will 'tune in' to your bike differently. I find myself shifting less.
    Do you need to see the sprocket or the shifter indicator?
    If you or any of your comrades can solder I would suggest a yellow LED coupled to a 9v alkaline battery via dropping resistor or better yet with a voltage regulator and dropping resistor. The yellow LEDs can be very power efficient and visible.

    Your eyes will eventually adjust to the lower light condition. Moonlight helps a lot. Also if you are in the middle of a pack you may even be able to turn your lights off!

  5. #5
    Senior Member zonatandem's Avatar
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    Stapfam:
    Suggest helmet mounted light for stoker . . . at your urging she can take a look-see and tell you what you need to know while you keep eyes on the terrain. Helmet mounted light for pilot in addition to bike mounted light would be good idea also.
    No longer do night rides, but when we did, we had a home-made 20-watt light that an electrical engineering friend jiggered up with ni-cads in a water bottle.
    Best compliment we ever had was an upcoming car . . . flashed his brights at us!

  6. #6
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    I just got back from using my helmet light. I use it, Petzl, all the time. It's easy to turn on and off, to narrow or broaden the beam, and to switch between its five LED lights, and its main conventional light. When a driver decides to blind you with his brights, you can move your head and flash your light right in her eyes. She usually turns the brights off fast.

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    We are going to attempt a hilly double century next weekend. We'll start in the dark (4:00 am), and unless evrything goes perfectly, we'll finish in the dark. Hopefully before 9 pm. We are taking two batteries for the bar mounted light and a small batery lantern that will be placed in one of my back pockets. The lanter will be used for map reading and road repairs if necessary.
    We have tought about helmet mounted lights but decided against that.... we have enough problems with red-necks trying to run us off the road...

  8. #8
    Time for a change. stapfam's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by tandemonium

    10 hours is a long time. (Are you sane?) You will have to go to an LED system to get that kind of burn time. The 'white' LEDs that I tried last year were bluish in color and not as bright and focused as the incandescent lamp assemblies. Perhaps they have improved this year.

    Regarding your sprocket vision;
    I sympathize with your need to see the gears. One thing I have learned while riding at night is you will 'tune in' to your bike differently. I find myself shifting less.
    Do you need to see the sprocket or the shifter indicator?
    Your eyes will eventually adjust to the lower light condition. Moonlight helps a lot. Also if you are in the middle of a pack you may even be able to turn your lights off!
    I am wondering about the sanity, But this will be a challenge so worth a try.

    We have two light systems on the Tandem. Two powerful LED's- one a flood light for near distance and a spot for a bit of distance. They have a 30 hour battery time and will last, but the light is not that good even though they are the most powerful LED's one can buy. The other is a 5w flood and 10w spot that are fantastic, but battery life is only 4 hours continual use. We will ride with the LED's on permamently, and only use the powerful lights when required, which is mainly downhill, or when speed gets above 20mph on the flat. Hopefully used in this fashion we will still have lights at the end of the ride.

    It is sprocket illumination that is required, as the pilot will be looking at the trail hopefully, with promps from me that he is still in granny, or we still have a couple of gears left. I will be attempting to get a helmet lamp today, but they are a bit scarce in the bike shops in the UK. Not much requirement for them over here so it is down to look at a couple of Camping shops and see what they have got.

    Incidentally, we are an all male team, which is a bit unusual, but the wives of both of us have seen the way we ride, and will not take up the offer of a "Gentle ride" to see what it is like.

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    Here's an ultra simple solution - how about a mini-mag lite you keep in your back jersey pocket and the stoker can pull out and check at your request?

  10. #10
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    Even with light I cannot clearly see the rear sprocket on a single. On a tandem even seeing the front sprocket is iffy. Neither can I see street signs in most cities except progressive one's like Portland where they are huge (for the main arteries anyway). My stoker is blind so that is that as far as that goes. Point is, rather than worry about trying to see what gear you are in by taking your eyes off the road (when driving I do not take my eyes off the road ever, not even to drink, I bring the cup to my lips and look over the top) maybe you can learn the positions of the gears by how the shifters line up. I have indexed grip shifters that eliminate the need to actually see the sprockets but even if the shifters got out of index I still go more by how a given gear 'feels' at the cranks than what the shifters say.

    LED lights are still bluish but I am planning to buy a Cateye EL-500 anyway. The point about a helmet mounted light is well taken. Will think about adding one as well. My stoker says "there would have to be some damn good sex at the turnaround point of that all night ride to make her want to participate. She is from Bernley (sp) by way of Manchester now Hoboken, NJ to put her comments in perspective.

    H

  11. #11
    Time for a change. stapfam's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Leisesturm
    Even with light I cannot clearly see the rear sprocket on a single. On a tandem even seeing the front sprocket is iffy. Neither can I see street signs in most cities except progressive one's like Portland where they are huge (for the main arteries anyway). My stoker is blind so that is that as far as that goes. Point is, rather than worry about trying to see what gear you are in by taking your eyes off the road (when driving I do not take my eyes off the road ever, not even to drink, I bring the cup to my lips and look over the top) maybe you can learn the positions of the gears by how the shifters line up. I have indexed grip shifters that eliminate the need to actually see the sprockets but even if the shifters got out of index I still go more by how a given gear 'feels' at the cranks than what the shifters say.

    LED lights are still bluish but I am planning to buy a Cateye EL-500 anyway. The point about a helmet mounted light is well taken. Will think about adding one as well. My stoker says "there would have to be some damn good sex at the turnaround point of that all night ride to make her want to participate. She is from Bernley (sp) by way of Manchester now Hoboken, NJ to put her comments in perspective.

    H
    One of the LED's we are using is the cateye EL500 which is the spot light, and the other is the EL300 which is a 5 led Flood light. The light is blueish, and for fast offroad they are not good enough. Just about adequate is how I would put them and as we know the trail, will try to ride as long as possible with just them. The 5w/10w will have to be used, but hopefully just intermitantly for the trickier parts, so that battery life can be conserved. As you are from the UK- Look at www.blacks.co.uk for "Head" lamps under torches. I went there today and bought a Head torch that will fit my helmet, but take your helmet to ensure compatability. Incidentally, the ride is The South Downs Way, but only 80 miles of it. May be a bit south for Manchester, but the Web page for this is http://www.trailbreak.co.uk/maxx_exp/
    Never done a night ride, but if you do this ride, you will only be the 3rd Tandem to complete the SDW on a tandem on an organised ride in one day (or night as this will be)

    I'll be honest and say that if you are contemplating an EL500, I think you can do better for just a little more. One of the rechargables with a 5w/10w and a spare battery if you are doing more than 4 hours riding will be better. BUT the head torch is going to be a must. Either as a backup, or as an emergency system, or just for following the trail markers.
    By the way, I am the stoker in our team, so look at the other perspective of most of you of tandem riding.

    Edit section
    I'll actually digest what I read sometime as I presume that NJ is further away from Sussex than Manchester is, but The web sites are still worth a read.
    Last edited by stapfam; 10-08-05 at 02:55 PM.

  12. #12
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    Oh, does my head ever hurt! Just when I thought I had the headlight thing all decided you go and suggest I can do better. So what did I do, I Googled 'halogen vs. LED and have just come up to speed on a debate that has raged hotly for over a year. Performance bike has what might be a last years model Nite Rider system for $34.00 with a 10w bulb and frame mounted battery pack. This is more weight than I wanted to carry around but if it is going to be a significantly brighter light than the LED then I'm there because that is what is most important to me: maximum brightness per dollar. So thanks I guess for making me do some more research and good thing Nashbar was closed yesterday preventing me from phoning in an order before reading your post. Campagnolo has a bike computer that will tell you what gear you are in and it has a nitelite. Under $200.00. Split two ways... ...

    H

  13. #13
    Time for a change. stapfam's Avatar
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    Just to make you feel comfortable- The EL500 has a 1,000 candle power lamp. This is equivalent to a 1 Watt lamp, so a 10w bulb is definitely going to be better. If I were starting with the little bit of use experience I now have- Ar least 5w as a main riding lamp (preferably a spot and a flood) and a 1 watt helmet lamp as back up/ convenient lamp.

  14. #14
    Senior Member Brian's Avatar
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    SRAM X9 with indicators. Made things much easier, and I think they're probably a bit better than the Shimano gear they replaced.

  15. #15
    hors category TandemGeek's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Expatriate
    SRAM X9 with indicators. Made things much easier, and I think they're probably a bit better than the Shimano gear they replaced.
    Which, coincidentally, are illuminated quite nicely in the dark along with your computer by a helmet mounted light...

    It's amazing how many "problems" associated with night riding can be solved by using a head/helmet mounted light instead of a relatively fixed bike-mounted light. Heck, even Preston Tucker realized that headlights needed to "lead" a car through a turn as far back as the 40's... now called "Adaptive Forward Lighting", this "safety innovation" is just starting to show up in the marketplace.

  16. #16
    Senior Member Brian's Avatar
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    Sigma also makes a little light for cycling computers, as I'm sure Cateye and others do. One of those rigged to the shifter would do the trick just fine. With the SRAM X9, you could even remove the indicator strip, and paint it with some glow in the dark paint. Or maybe that's getting too involved.

  17. #17
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    Quote Originally Posted by stapfam
    One of the LED's we are using is the cateye EL500 which is the spot light, and the other is the EL300 which is a 5 led Flood light. The light is blueish, and for fast offroad they are not good enough. Just about adequate is how I would put them and as we know the trail, will try to ride as long as possible with just them. The 5w/10w will have to be used, but hopefully just intermitantly for the trickier parts, so that battery life can be conserved.
    Sounds like you need a better light set up. Something more like the USE Exposure Enduro with 8.5hrs of burn time. Unfortunately they're a bit expensive....

    http://www.exposurelights.com/exposure_spec.htm

    As for seeing your drivetrain, how about a seatstay or seatpost mounted blinkie, set to steady mode, in white and pointing down where it will do you some good. For example

    http://www.cateye.com/en/products/vi...d=7&subCatId=4

    or

    http://www.knogusa.com/en-us/dept_6.html

  18. #18
    Time for a change. stapfam's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by woog
    Sounds like you need a better light set up. Something more like the USE Exposure Enduro with 8.5hrs of burn time. Unfortunately they're a bit expensive....

    http://www.exposurelights.com/exposure_spec.htm

    As for seeing your drivetrain, how about a seatstay or seatpost mounted blinkie, set to steady mode, in white and pointing down where it will do you some good. For example

    http://www.cateye.com/en/products/vi...d=7&subCatId=4

    or

    http://www.knogusa.com/en-us/dept_6.html
    Will agree about the USE lamps but at this stage,I do not want the expense. Mind you- as Wednesday night is 20 miles offroad at present, and all in the dark, Santa's list might include a set. Have tried a seat post/frame lamp, and the problem is getting it pointed in the right direction. Cannondales have fat tubes and are at 90degrees to handlebars, so conventional mounting has not worked. Instead I have taken the other option of a Helmet lamp, and so far this is more versatile. The 1w spot is ideal for readinf trail markers, and the 3 leds on this show a good enough light for about 6'. By the way- Night riding is great. We are taking the downhills a bit slower, but the wild life we see on the trail are unbelievable. Deer, badgers and tonight what we think was an Otter. I just think myself lucky that we do not have the larger animals that exist in some of the remote parts of America. How we would cope with a bear on the trail I shudder to even contemplate.

  19. #19
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    Here's the best advice you're going to get about this ride: reconsider. Ten hours in the dark as your first attempt? Makes no sense at all. If you need a light to see what gear you're in, perhaps that's an indicator you're not ready for this. Why not try an hour, then two, etc...? I direct safety at a very large corporation, and this is the sort of story people tell after an accident. Ill conceived.

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    Good advice certainly ElRey but the "best" advice? You are a safety director, of course you think in terms of caution but I think in terms of preparedness. I'd say they have a more than even chance of making it given that they are even thinking of minutiae such as lights to check the running of the bike. Elsewhere on the site are people talking about running single track in the dark with 10 watts in front of the bike. Means nothing to me I have only been out in city lights but I understand it gets pretty dark out in the country. I haven't read of any mishaps. Anyway, from the sound of it they have already been out in the dark a time or two. Make sure your cell phone(s) is charged stapfam and Godspeed.

    H

  21. #21
    Time for a change. stapfam's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ElRey
    Here's the best advice you're going to get about this ride: reconsider. Ten hours in the dark as your first attempt? Makes no sense at all. If you need a light to see what gear you're in, perhaps that's an indicator you're not ready for this. Why not try an hour, then two, etc...? I direct safety at a very large corporation, and this is the sort of story people tell after an accident. Ill conceived.

    3 weeks ago, I could have agreed, but 4 rides at night, the last one being 4 hours, and I am confident that we can do this ride. The lights are now sorted, and with the spare battery for the main lights means that we have sufficient lighting for the 10 hours planned length. With the helmet lamp, we can now see wherever we want -on the bike or the trail signs if we forget where we are.

    This event is a shortened version of the big ride we do each year. The South Downs Way. 100 miles with 10,000 ft of climbing and only 15 hours of daylight to do it in. Although this is only 80 miles of the SDW, we are not underestimating the difficulty that night riding brings. We have had to modify our riding speed style, so 50mph downhills are out.

    Out only problem will be the state of the trail after the Rain we have had. We know it is now very slippy, but this weekend we will be trying a Mud Specific tyre to see if that helps. Won't help with the ruts that have appeared or the large exposed flints but that is why we are cutting the downhill speed.

    Thanks for your concern, but this night riding is fantastic. Providing the adrenalyn does not get the better of my pilot, we will make it. Mind you- if the trail is too difficult, we know the shortcuts too.

  22. #22
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    There's a vast difference between going on a first night ride of 8 hours and what you descirbe above. You've prepared and trained. Leisuredude, my thoughts may have seemed cautious to you but your "caution vs. preparedness" comment was misplaced. How can one consider themselves prepared for an 8 hour event if they've never even done a similar one hour event? WOuld yo enter a marathon without ever having done a single training run? That speaks to a total lack of preparation. I was in the Boyscouts, too, but it is ill-advised to jump into any extended endeavor having a component of risk without some experience with that form of risk in a smaller format. Like the idiot rider out in the Pac NW last year who decided to take a 100 mile ride in the Cascades the first time they ever took their bike into the hills. Brakes failed, off the side, dead. A few rides in the foothills may have been in order.

  23. #23
    Time for a change. stapfam's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ElRey
    There's a vast difference between going on a first night ride of 8 hours and what you descirbe above. You've prepared and trained. Leisuredude, my thoughts may have seemed cautious to you but your "caution vs. preparedness" comment was misplaced. How can one consider themselves prepared for an 8 hour event if they've never even done a similar one hour event? WOuld yo enter a marathon without ever having done a single training run? That speaks to a total lack of preparation. I was in the Boyscouts, too, but it is ill-advised to jump into any extended endeavor having a component of risk without some experience with that form of risk in a smaller format. Like the idiot rider out in the Pac NW last year who decided to take a 100 mile ride in the Cascades the first time they ever took their bike into the hills. Brakes failed, off the side, dead. A few rides in the foothills may have been in order.
    I reckon that a 4 hour ride with no problems at night is good enough to do the 10hour ride. If I were to train up to 10 hours, I would finish up doing 10 hours so no point. Incidentally, The Route we know as it is part of the 100 miler we do each year, and that is the event we train for continually. I have done the full 100miler 6 times now, so know our endurance is up to it. As to doing a similar one hour event- done as the 4 hour night riding has been done. This is not a race- this is a Randonnee, the only people we have to beat are ourselves. And that is pretty easy to do as others have found out before. The only thing is- we have done the distance, done the night riding, got our fitness up to peak, and if things do fail we can always call on the backup vehicle.

  24. #24
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    GOt you. Was postulating at Leisuredude about the one-hour thing. Sounds to me like you're ready. Have fun!!!!!

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