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The Light That Failed

Old 12-09-07, 08:25 PM
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Neil_B
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The Light That Failed

From my blog:

...The sun was setting, but I felt secure with a blinker attached to my backpack, the reflectivity of my Illuminite cycling jacket, and the Bell Dawn Patrol headlamp I was using. Besides, I know the local roads, and I wasn't going to be out in the dark too long.

Man proposes, and God disposes. Sunset took place while I crossed the Kennedy covered bridge, and it was dusk as I reached the market. I parked, leaving my headlamp on, and went inside to get dinner. As I decided between vegetarian lasagna and a rice salad a fellow in the market said to me, "You've left your blinker on."

"It's easier to leave it on than reach back there to turn it off" I said. I mentally noted he must be a cyclist, and headed to the cashier with my lasagna.

Back in the parking lot, I straddled the bike to push off, and noticed a set of handlebars sticking up from the back of a truck. It was an Electra Amsterdam, a shiny new Dutch-style cruising bike. Never having seen one, I was fascinated by it. I waited a few minutes for the owner to come out of the market. The owner turned out to be the man in the market who spoke to me about my blinker. Although he drove for this trip, he is a bike commuter, and we talked bikes for 15 minutes. And lights:

"I have a great German light set from Peter White that makes this look like a motorcycle at night. You might want to get one."

"I have a nice headlamp for my commuting to work, but I'm just down the road, and this little light should be fine for me for now," I said. "I'd better get going though, as I don't want to become a hood ornament." And I pushed off onto the road.

I decided to take Pughtown Road instead of back roads. Yes, the traffic would be heavier, but the route was more direct, and it was starting to drizzle. And I was very visible, I thought. I pedaled across the intersection of Kimberton and Hare's Hill, the same intersection my car was struck in five months ago, and a truck quickly slowed down at the cross street. It was clear he hadn't seen me from a distance, and was preparing to run the intersection when he spotted me. So much for visibility, I thought, as I pedaled faster up the hill out of Kimberton.

The rain began to pick up. I took the lane, since there was little or no shoulder. Cars passed me in the other lane, and I was grateful for the additional light their headlamps provided. Then one car passed me and the road ahead was dark. I looked down at my headlamp, and it was dark too. I banged it with my hand, and it flickered on and off. I pressed the on button again and again, and it flickered dimly. I reached the top of the hill as the rain splashed around me, and dismounted.

No amount of tinkering made the light shine again. The light had failed. And I was faced with a four mile ride down a sizable and wooded hill and over French Creek, at night, in the rain, without a headlight. I took a deep breath, mounted the bike, and pushed off.

The descent was nerve-wracking, but uneventful. Passing car headlamps and the little ambient light from nearby homes helped illuminate the road for me. It helped that the road had been repaved and repainted that summer. I silently thanked the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation as I rolled downward. As I approached the bottom and the road's curve to follow French Creek a car followed me a distance. He may have been trying to be cautious to avoid a cyclist at night, but for whatever reason his keeping behind me lit up the road enough that I could follow the road's curve with confidence. He sped past me as the road straightened, and the tree cover thinned enough to allow me to see my way across the steel grate bridge on French Creek. The tree cover ended, as did the rain, and I was less than three miles from home. All that stood between me and a warm fire was a busy road and an unlit bicycle. And off I pedaled.

The last stretch was the worst of my ride. The night had grown darker, the road markings were not as new as the ones I'd seen the past couple of miles, and cars passing in the other direction blinded me. At one point I was completely disoriented and only avoided a ditch by noticing the sound of gravel under my tires. As soon as I heard it I swerved back into the lane. As the car passed I noticed I'd been what appeared to be less than two inches from the ditch. After a few more feet I dismounted and began walking the bike.

After a quarter mile, I tried my headlamp one more time. I clicked the button, and the headlamp shone. I mounted the bike, pushed off, and made it home by six PM, about an hour and a half after sunset. Total miles for the ride, 12.50.
 
Old 12-09-07, 09:01 PM
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Glad you made it home OK.

My post from a thread in the electronics and gadgets forum:

I always have 2 headlights (one on the bars and a headlamp on the helmet). This way you have a spare, and it is much easier to fix a flat with the headlamp then with the other.

Also, always have at least 2 blinkies. It's too easy for one to quit, or the batteries die, or the light fall off, and with blinkies you might not notice till you get home. If you need 1 blinkie you need two.
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Old 12-09-07, 09:42 PM
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I'm glad that you got back home okay. I've had a few "after dark" experiences that were a bit nerve wracking, to say the least. It sure makes you appreciate a good headlight!
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Old 12-10-07, 04:22 AM
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That's one of my worse fears too...

Counting my helmet light, I have 5 lights on my bike but only 3 are capable of really lighting the road enough for me to see to ride with. I ride with 2 of those on and the others are spares in case of dead batteries or light failures.

I'm betting that after the ride you just had you come up with a spare light too.

Last edited by ovrrdrive; 12-10-07 at 05:38 AM.
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Old 12-10-07, 04:42 AM
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Spare batteries and maybe a small MAG light you can strap on in the event this happens again.
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Old 12-10-07, 06:56 AM
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It's funny that lights were mentioned twice that night - I always see those little hints as the universe telling me I'm about to experience something unexpected.
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Old 12-10-07, 08:08 AM
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Nice bit of writing, there.

I have taken to riding in the dark with my different hours, and I know even in my neighbourhood that lights and spares are good to have. After every heavy rain (such as our deluge last week) there's at least one pothole which could have adverse effects on my ride should I not notice the danger . I also have one of those LED headlamps strapped around my helmet 'just in case'...

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Old 12-10-07, 08:47 AM
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AA LED maglites. I'm thinking of adding another one if I can find the room:




a quickr pickr post
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Old 12-12-07, 08:38 AM
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Originally Posted by East Hill View Post
Nice bit of writing, there.

I have taken to riding in the dark with my different hours, and I know even in my neighbourhood that lights and spares are good to have. After every heavy rain (such as our deluge last week) there's at least one pothole which could have adverse effects on my ride should I not notice the danger . I also have one of those LED headlamps strapped around my helmet 'just in case'...

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To "see" the hill in question, go here:

https://www.bikely.com/maps/bike-path/63942

Look at the elevation profile. My light gave out at the top of the peak at the 7 mile mark.
 
Old 12-12-07, 08:41 AM
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Originally Posted by neilfein View Post
AA LED maglites. I'm thinking of adding another one if I can find the room:




a quickr pickr post
Thanks. I have backup lights - in fact so many sets I sent one to a Bike Forums poster who wasn't able to afford a headlight - but I hadn't brought one with me. I didn't think I'd need it. As I wrote, Man proposes, and God disposes. I'm glad He wasn't disposed to plaster me all over some SUVs hood.
 
Old 12-12-07, 08:47 AM
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Originally Posted by The Historian View Post
To "see" the hill in question, go here:

https://www.bikely.com/maps/bike-path/63942

Look at the elevation profile. My light gave out at the top of the peak at the 7 mile mark.
Nothing like a steep descent in the dark!



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Old 12-12-07, 01:25 PM
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Not to drift from the point, but did the guy with the Dutch bike mention which German headlight he had from P White? I have a dynohub on my commuter and last night was the first time I rode in dark enough conditions to see it and was not impressed. Shortly after the holidays (when family gifts have been turned into a clyde-reducing trainer for my Raleigh) I'd like to upgrade to something a little more macho.
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Old 12-12-07, 10:07 PM
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Originally Posted by joelpalmer View Post
Not to drift from the point, but did the guy with the Dutch bike mention which German headlight he had from P White? I have a dynohub on my commuter and last night was the first time I rode in dark enough conditions to see it and was not impressed. Shortly after the holidays (when family gifts have been turned into a clyde-reducing trainer for my Raleigh) I'd like to upgrade to something a little more macho.
I believe he said it was Baucsh, or some thing like that. He didn't recall the name offhand. It was a side mounted 'bottle' dynamo.
 
Old 12-13-07, 04:27 PM
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Originally Posted by (51) View Post
Spare batteries and maybe a small MAG light you can strap on in the event this happens again.
Ditto on the Mag light. I've needed it.
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Old 12-14-07, 06:54 AM
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Originally Posted by neilfein View Post
AA LED maglites. I'm thinking of adding another one if I can find the room:




a quickr pickr post

Hi there,
Just a question about your mounting system. It looked like you are just using two screw clamps (normally used for plumbing type applications) and maybe a little padding. It looks like a really simple and excellent idea, especially with the contoured handle on the maglites.
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