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Old 02-28-05, 11:04 AM   #1
David in PA
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Hello,

I don't yet have a light system for my upcoming (hopefully) TransAmerica Tour. I don't plan to ride at night, but it could happen, of course. And I'd like having the the lights for especially dark days as well as for fog.

I'd like something that actually allows me to see the road--not just allows motorists to see me. Also, light-weight, not too bulky, and reasonable cost (nothing over $40 or $50, roughly). Because of my mountain-bike style handlebars, the light would have to fit on my handlebar bag. The bag has a special plastic bar attached to it designed for add-ons such as lights.

Any recommendations are greatly appreciated. Thanks!

Thanks!
Wolfy (David in PA)
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Old 02-28-05, 11:33 AM   #2
MichaelW
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You can ride in the dark with dynamo systems. A 3 watt lamp can be bolted to the fork crown. You can't use them for emergency repair ilumination.
Bottole dynamos: Cheaper. Need a solid mounting point. Can clog up in mud.
Hub dynamos:efficient and reliable. Heavier and residual drag when not in use.

I have a handle winding LED lamp for general household/camping use. It is smal and light and gives several hours of illumination from a windup.
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Old 02-28-05, 12:58 PM   #3
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My wife and I carry these


On the rear we use something like this


We don't ride in the dark either but carry the lighting just in case we get caught out. I don't worry at all about replacement batteries. We haven't needed to use them *yet*, just like some of the tools and spare parts I carry.

Cheers,

Ron
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Old 02-28-05, 01:02 PM   #4
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Oh, and I'm not saying that what we use is the best. You'd have probably gotten more replies if you asked "What do you use for lighting?".

In most equipment categories, there is no best, just personal preference.

Good luck,

Ron
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Old 02-28-05, 04:07 PM   #5
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You wont get a hub dynamo for $40 or $50. The Planet Bike Super Spot 1 watt LED is cheaper the Cateye EL-300, I use both, but either would be useful as a flashlight around the campsite, or looking at a map in the dark.
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Old 03-01-05, 12:38 PM   #6
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I'm not an expert, but the following criteria seem to limit your selection a bit:
Quote:
Originally Posted by David in PA
light-weight, not too bulky, and reasonable cost
My non-expert input is to consider a high-quality headlamp. Rather than adding a component to your bike, why not just dual-purpose another important piece of gear, that being a flashlight/headlamp. There are versions available that throw a pretty good spotlight out far enough for some riding at night. You wouldn't want to rely on it at 40 mph on a long downhill, but for cruising on the flats should give you enough visibility to ride safely.

Seems to me a dynamo system adds weight and bulk that you say you don't want, not to mention being another piece of gear to install & maintain. How often will you need that vs. a headlamp?

Also note that the good (meaning bright) headlamps will, by necessity have more batteries. Some people don't like having a lot of batteries on their head, or on the front of their head, so consider what your preferences will be in that department.

Lastly, it finally occurs to me that most headlamps will be incompatible with helmets. If you plan to ride helmeted, you may require another solution.
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Old 03-01-05, 01:19 PM   #7
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A simple bottle dynamo is the best option.
No batteries to rely on, and light available whenever you need it.
No hub dynamo that constantly steals energy even when it's not used (not much, but more than people seem to think).
The higher efficiency of a hub dynamo isn't that great anyway.
Weight is negligible. We're talking less than a pound for the entire installation - dynamo, cables and lamp.
The rear light should be a battery-powered LED. They last long enough not to require more than maybe one change of batteries during a tour, depending on how long you plan to tour for.
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Old 03-01-05, 01:43 PM   #8
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I go with a head lamp and a cheap cateye on my front rack. I find that the head lamp increases both the visability of the road to me, and my visability to on-coming traffic. Plus, I find that it's an invaluable camping tool.
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Old 03-01-05, 02:27 PM   #9
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But a headlamp is not legal lighting. At least not here in northern Europe.
You still need a complete and certified lighting system in addition to the headlamp.
Plus, a headlamp points straight down when you turn your head down to shield against wind and/or rain/snow, and points to the sides when you turn your head that way.
If it's too bright, it could shine into the eyes of people travelling in the opposite direction, which is also illegal, not to mention dangerously stupid (they could end up crashing into you if they're blinded by your light!).
And lastly, if you wear a helmet, which you should, you might find it difficult to fit a headlamp at all...
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Old 03-02-05, 07:18 AM   #10
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http://www.bikelite.com/

I haven't tried any of these generator lights but they look interesting.
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Old 03-02-05, 08:23 AM   #11
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Not many LED systems I know of produce enough light to actually see the road. Those that do are very expensive. I think they will be the way to go (low power consumption, durable bulbs, compact design and lightweight) in the future but not yet. Still, you could try some of the more affordable models, such as the Cateye mentioned above, to see if the amount of light they put out is enough for you. If it is - look no further.

A good hub dynamo (=SON) has very low drag when the light is switched off, and high efficiency when the light is on. It is also immune to bad weather and snow. A bottle dynamo has obviously no drag when switched off, and the best of these (Lightspin, Busch & Mueller Dymotec S6) compete with hub dynamos in terms of efficiency. They do not cope as well in snowy or muddy conditions. A self-powered light would make sense in many ways when touring. Downside is, a SON or both bottle dynamos mentioned are way over your price bracket and you would still need a backup light for roadside repairs.

Probably cheapest lights for actually seeing the road are still halogen based. There are helmet mounts, if you wish to put the light on your head. You can also do one yourself, see the (in)famous Total Geekiness thread in Commuting. I have a modified Vistalite 10W 6V system, but it would still require more tinkering (lighter battery and longer burn time) before I would agree to haul it with me when touring.

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Old 03-03-05, 01:27 AM   #12
Michel Gagnon
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David,

The best solution depends on when and how far North you tour. It also depends on whether you plan to use hotels, campgrounds or camp in the wild.

In June, July and even early August, there is so much daylight in the North that you will hardly need any headlight for riding. So the best headlight is one that's good for camp too. On the other hand, if you ride later or along the Southern tear, you will get 12-13 hours of sunlight per day and may be tempted to ride at night.

What light? Forget rechargeables unless you use motels. The typical rechargeable battery looses power over time so if you recharge it at home and use it two weeks later, it will almost be dead. And headlights with halogen bulbs will cost you a fortune in batteries.

My first option for any kind of nighttime riding is a generator. But my second option is the current crop of LED headlights. Two are very good:
- Cateye EL500. The brightest, with a very narrow spot, is good for the road, providing you don't do high-speed descents. Its beam is a bit narrowish for paths or twisty roads and is a bit bulky for handlight. Some people have complained about the bracket.
- Planet Bike 1W Led Superspot. Beam a little too wide, typical of MR-11 bulbs. So it is not that good to light your way in the dark, but it is a very good be-seen headlight. It is also very sturdy, seems water-resistant (I soaked mine a few times in heavy rains) and is a good light at camp, for repairs, etc.

In both cases, a set of 4 AA batteries last 15-20 hours, vs a mere 2-3 hours for a halogen-based headlight, so it's decent for touring.

As for taillights, if you plan to ride at night on the roads, I would suggest you install two or three of them in a cluster. Two benefits:
- it "makes" a larger taillight, which is visible from further away;
- if one taillight stops working, you are still covered.

I also install a large automotive red reflector (2.25 x 4.5 in -- legal requirement) and an amber one. The amber is usually legal as long as it supplements red (think of Ford Escorts that had them), and is visible from further away.
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Old 03-03-05, 01:36 PM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by David in PA
Hello,

I don't yet have a light system for my upcoming (hopefully) TransAmerica Tour. I don't plan to ride at night, but it could happen, of course. And I'd like having the the lights for especially dark days as well as for fog.

I'd like something that actually allows me to see the road--not just allows motorists to see me. Also, light-weight, not too bulky, and reasonable cost (nothing over $40 or $50, roughly). Because of my mountain-bike style handlebars, the light would have to fit on my handlebar bag. The bag has a special plastic bar attached to it designed for add-ons such as lights.

Any recommendations are greatly appreciated. Thanks!

Thanks!
Wolfy (David in PA)
I carry a Cateye LED (a small one with 3 LEDs). I too don't ride much at night but I do use it alot around camp. In fact it's the only lamp I carry - you know - "early to bed, early to rise" and all that. Don't over think a light system too much. The amount you might use it doesn't really justify too much in the way of cost.

Stuart Black
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