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Commuting before sunrise

Old 09-27-05, 10:50 AM
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Brian Ratliff
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Commuting before sunrise

Hello all,

I will start tomorrow, commuting in the early morning before the sun rises. I have a commute which runs through some rural highways, and got really fed up with the drivers I encounter later in the morning, so I figure I will slip my commute an hour earlier (from leaving ~7:00am to ~6:00am PDT; ride is an hour long). That means riding in the dark. Dark here, by the way means dark. There are no streetlamps on the first 2/3'rds of my route.

I just got a Niterider Digital Evolution light. I think it's got 15W at high power, so it should be bright enough to see by. I also have a five LED tail light.

Does anybody here have experience riding in the dark and is willing to give some advice? Anything from battery care to riding technique will be welcome.
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Old 09-27-05, 11:00 AM
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I ride a dark road that follows a river so along with dark i also get fog, about 6 miles of it. The road has no shoulder at all so i take the lane. Its black as black on my ride in. And since the road is out of the way the cars fly along it at about 2x the speed limit.

I have a cateye TL-LD1000 on the back.

The only other thing i do is when i hear a vehicle screaming up i close my eyes, tense up, and pray.
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Old 09-27-05, 11:03 AM
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Well, I hope it's not that bad. I have to deal with 15 miles of it.
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Old 09-27-05, 11:04 AM
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In addition to your tail light, be sure to have plenty of reflecting material on you and your bike. The more the better. In the dark, a small blinking light is just one of many blinking lights along the road. A reflective construction vest is a good item. They're available at Harbor Freight in my area for under $10. LBSs sell a bike version for a bit more. Reflective tape on the rear of the chainstays, front and back of the crank arms, and on the rims between the spokes also helps identify you as a bike from behind.

Be especially cautious at intersections. Your little headlight may appear like a car headlight far down the road to a motorist in a hurry to make a turn ahead of you, especially if the intersection has no street light.
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Old 09-27-05, 11:07 AM
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Originally Posted by Brian Ratliff
I just got a Niterider Digital Evolution light … I also have a five LED tail light.
Let your battery use up all its juice before recharging. If you toss 'em on the recharger every night, they lose capacity.

If you're riding on roads where it is profoundly dark, I'd go with multiple rear blinkies. I always use two, and I ride in the city. They strobe at different rates, and are very attention-getting.

Ride sensibly. Resist the urge to run stops signs (at least slow down a bit). Keep your eyes open for dog walkers, paper boys and the like. Folks that are up and out really early are often not expecting any road traffic, and are prone to walking off the sidewalk in front of you.

If the sun does rise while you are in transit, make sure you greet it properly. Something like "Bonjour, Monsieur Soleil" works best.
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Old 09-27-05, 11:09 AM
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Originally Posted by konageezer
If the sun does rise while you are in transit, make sure you greet it properly. Something like "Bonjour, Monsieur Soleil" works best.
That's great. I'll do that!
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Old 09-27-05, 11:10 AM
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I too ride in the DARK. I have 2 Blinky's on the back...

I am thinking of adding a 3rd... Tail light

You have a strong enough Headlight.
I have a dual system with a 10w and a 20w light, I only use the 10w, very rarely do I use both lights. I think I run the lesser of the 2 to conserve battery juice. Then when I near home I BLAST both of them puppies! Nice to "Light up the Night"

I work 14 hour shifts, so it won't be long that I will riding in the Dark in BOTH DIRECTIONS! Arrrrrrrrrrgh!

Also check out this web site for great visability: https://www.alertshirt.com/higvisshirfo.html

Last edited by Walkafire; 09-27-05 at 03:15 PM.
 
Old 09-27-05, 11:22 AM
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I leave every morning at 5am for my 24 mile ride to work and usually average about 1:07 to 1:13 depending on the wind. It is DARK out as I live outside the city and the ride wimply would not be possible without the Light In Motion ARC HID light. It is a single beam light with a lithium ion battery and is equivalent to a halogen 20 watt light. The run time on the highest setting is about 3 hours, allowing me to ride home in the dark as well (That leg is a lot slower since it is uphill all the way). I picked up the light at Supergo here in town for $399.00 on sale and it is well worth it! I cannot outride the beam even at 30mph, and that is a necessity given my riding style and the terrain. I also use multiple LED flashers in the back and wear a flourescent orange jersey. I have had no issues with visibilty to date. I have tried various battery powered headlamps, but have never been satisfied with performance. You truly get what you pay for.
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Old 09-27-05, 11:33 AM
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Redundancy in the rear lighting is a good idea (two or more blinkies). When I started riding at night, I purchased FOUR cheap blinkies and attached them to my bike, and discovered that they were so cheap that whenever they got jarred, they went out. I got caught in the middle of a busy street in the dark with NO rear lights. Lots of honking.
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Old 09-27-05, 11:36 AM
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Thanks all for the comments. I've never riden before at night. Keep them coming!
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Old 09-27-05, 12:10 PM
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My favorite time to ride is at night. Keep in mind that displaying two blinkies that don't flash in sync is illegal in most states, (that set up is reserved for emergency vehicles). It's highly unlikely that your local law enforcement will cite you on this, but you should at least be aware of the law.
I use two rear lights: one solid, one flashing. I can't remember where, but I read that a study showed this setup to be more eye-catching than just a blinkie, by itself. If using this setup, be sure to stack your lights, one above the other. If they are side by side, it may give the appearance of a turn signal.
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Old 09-27-05, 12:31 PM
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Originally Posted by konageezer
Let your battery use up all its juice before recharging. If you toss 'em on the recharger every night, they lose capacity.
This is bad advice. The NiMH batteries on the Niterider Evolution does not suffer from a memory effect, and even on old-fashioned NiCd draining the batteries as part of the recharge cycle shortens the life of the battery.
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Old 09-27-05, 12:39 PM
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On ni-cad batteries recharging when partly discharged definitely reduces capacity.

However the point is valid, that it depends on the type of battery. My nighthawk (I think that's the brand) light has a big heavy bottle-cage battery that is lead-acid... lead-acid batteries work best when charged up as often as possible.
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Old 09-27-05, 12:44 PM
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My CYGOlite directions say keep the battery charged all the times to keep
capacity contrary to some other posts I have read here but I suppose it varys
by manufacturor. At the risk of being redundant.....Lights and light clothing !
My morning commute goes from dark to pitch dark and the most important
things I have found are my lights ! (Obviously )
What has worked for me are two Mars strobes (from Alien or Park tools I think ??)
set to flash at different rates with some crappo reflectors torn off the seatposts of new
bikes rubberband as a back drop for the MARS strobes and justified to the left of my body
and bike to hopefully give the car an idea of how much room to alot you. The MARS units
are very bright and the AAA batteries last for months ! Up front a CYGOLITE dual beam unit
that I save energy by dropping to the low beam only when I think its safe like on the two
lane, wide shouldered part of my commute. Commonsense and awareness as always are
your biggest safety item though. Car drivers at that time of the morning I have found to
actually be a little more respectful of you than in the regular 8:00 am type rush hour situation
but you WILL encounter the occasional not-quite-awake or drunk at that hour. Listen for how
fast they approach and everyday on your ride try to make mental notes of the road and
possible places to pull off. Repetition takes some of the anxiety out of the trip.
Please come over to the Very Long Commute club and post your adventures !

Be Safe !
Lem in Vt.

::::::::EDIT:::::::: Throw a hand held type flashlite into your tool bag, string your
tire levers together and if you are not a fan of multi-tools you might want to reconsider
because looking for tools in the grass in the dark while trying to fix a flat in the rain
is not a pleasant situation......of course this never happened to me ..ha ha ha
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Old 09-27-05, 12:52 PM
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Thanks for all the advice so far. How do you mount multiple blinkies? I have one at the rear of my rack currently. I also have a clip-on blinky I may be able to mount on my seatpost, but that's it for space on my bike. Do people make special mounts, or does everyone just use duct tape and bailing wire and attach them where ever?
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Old 09-27-05, 01:04 PM
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^^^^ At One Dollar stores you can get these really neat little bungie
cords and thats what I use. I carry spares too. Anyway...I have one
clipped to a slot on my backpack and one bungied on the battery that
I have attached to my seat post. BTW....One Dollar stores are the best
unknown commuter bicycle havens in all of bike-dom !
1.00 rain suits....
1.00 tools .....much less painful to lose than a 15.00 Park or Snap-on
1.00 rubber boots etc etc etc....Great stuff ! If your lucky you might even be
able to get a 1.00 felt painting of Elvis or mystical Unicorn for your work area

Really though....check one out of you have them in Oregon.
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Old 09-27-05, 01:10 PM
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Originally Posted by konageezer
Let your battery use up all its juice before recharging. If you toss 'em on the recharger every night, they lose capacity
Not necessary to do this every time. For NiCad, once every 10-20 charges is sufficient. For NiMH, it's hardly necessary at all, but once every 50 or so charges should be more than enough. Capacity loss for NiMH maxes at 0.05 volts per cell.

BTW I ditto the construction vest idea. They're cheap, < $10 around here, and they throw 100 times the light back at a car than a wimpy little LED blinkie would. I use an amber xenon strobe rather than a blinkie, and I also have a large (1.5 x 4 inch) red truck marker reflector on the back and HID up front, but the one thing I'd say you need is a reflective vest.
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Old 09-27-05, 01:10 PM
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Wear bright shirts or bright shirts with reflective material. Dark colors disappear after dark. A lighter color shirt will give the motorist more to gauge distances with. Reflective tape on your bike seems to really stand out and make it more obvious you are on a bike. I also adhere to the 2+ lights front and rear philosophy if only incase one should fail. I've lost light from thier brackets on rough roads, had lights fail in rain and forgotten to replace the batteries until it was too late, so I always perfer a backup.
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Old 09-27-05, 01:22 PM
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One other thing to consider are blinkies that fit in the bar-ends if you have traditional drop bars. Very noticeable from behind, in addition to the light on your rack. ...Plus reflective material on the feet is good because they are going around and around!
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Old 09-27-05, 01:24 PM
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An additional comment on the "run the batteries dead" comment.

You don't want to run them DEAD dead. NiCad and NiMH should NEVER EVER EVER be run deader than 0.95 volts per cell - doing so will do them GREAT HARM, far worse than not discharging them regularly.

If you have a digitally controlled system, odds are it'll shut the light off when the battery gets this low. But if you just have a regular ole' light on a battery, you could run the batteries stone dead, and that will kill them fast.

In fact the whole "memory effect" thing barely has any truth to it anymore. It came about years ago, and the original observations of it were on a satellite that went into earth shadow like clockwork every x minutes and then into sunshine (charging) every x minutes. If you load NiCad like that, discharging them PRECISELY the same amount every time, you can get a noticable memory effect, but it's not that bad anymore; modern NiCads are much better than they were 10+ years ago.

NiMH barely has a memory effect at all. You would probably need a digital voltmeter and a lot of time to detect it. The big nemesis of NiMH is running them too dead, and overtemperature when charging. If you charge a whole pack at a time, be sure to get a charger that has a temperature probe to keep from boiling your batteries.
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Old 09-27-05, 01:25 PM
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Originally Posted by supcom
In addition to your tail light, be sure to have plenty of reflecting material on you and your bike. The more the better. In the dark, a small blinking light is just one of many blinking lights along the road. A reflective construction vest is a good item. They're available at Harbor Freight in my area for under $10. LBSs sell a bike version for a bit more. Reflective tape on the rear of the chainstays, front and back of the crank arms, and on the rims between the spokes also helps identify you as a bike from behind.

Be especially cautious at intersections. Your little headlight may appear like a car headlight far down the road to a motorist in a hurry to make a turn ahead of you, especially if the intersection has no street light.
I'm not a big fan of inactive light systems, i.e. reflective surfaces. Personlly, I prefer lots of lights, both front and rear. For the rear, don't just put one light on your bike. Put one on the bike, one on your back, one on your helmet (Vistalite used to make one called a whaletail) and one on your leg. Set one of them, preferable a large one (5 or more LEDs), to steady mode so that motorists can judge the distance. Set all the others to flash mode. The one on your head is particularly important (make sure it can be seen by motorists and isn't mounted too high) because as you ride you head moves back and forth naturally. This motion will catch someones eye rather easily and warn them that you are there.

I'd suggest adding another light to the front light. I'd add a helmet mounted light because it lets you direct the beam where you are looking which helps a lot in cornering.
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Old 09-27-05, 01:26 PM
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Originally Posted by Brian Ratliff
How do you mount multiple blinkies?
I use plastic zip-ties to put one on the back of my helmet. Also my rain coat and helmet cover have a loop for attaching a blinkie (specialty bike clothing, obviously).
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Old 09-27-05, 01:28 PM
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Originally Posted by ItsJustMe
An additional comment on the "run the batteries dead" comment.

You don't want to run them DEAD dead. NiCad and NiMH should NEVER EVER EVER be run deader than 0.95 volts per cell - doing so will do them GREAT HARM, far worse than not discharging them regularly.

If you have a digitally controlled system, odds are it'll shut the light off when the battery gets this low. But if you just have a regular ole' light on a battery, you could run the batteries stone dead, and that will kill them fast.

In fact the whole "memory effect" thing barely has any truth to it anymore. It came about years ago, and the original observations of it were on a satellite that went into earth shadow like clockwork every x minutes and then into sunshine (charging) every x minutes. If you load NiCad like that, discharging them PRECISELY the same amount every time, you can get a noticable memory effect, but it's not that bad anymore; modern NiCads are much better than they were 10+ years ago.

NiMH barely has a memory effect at all. You would probably need a digital voltmeter and a lot of time to detect it. The big nemesis of NiMH is running them too dead, and overtemperature when charging. If you charge a whole pack at a time, be sure to get a charger that has a temperature probe to keep from boiling your batteries.
That's roughly what I've heard about batteries as well. The charger for the Niterider has a temperature sensor which shuts the battery down if it gets too hot.
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Old 09-27-05, 02:00 PM
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Originally Posted by ItsJustMe
An additional comment on the "run the batteries dead" comment.

You don't want to run them DEAD dead. NiCad and NiMH should NEVER EVER EVER be run deader than 0.95 volts per cell - doing so will do them GREAT HARM, far worse than not discharging them regularly.

If you have a digitally controlled system, odds are it'll shut the light off when the battery gets this low. But if you just have a regular ole' light on a battery, you could run the batteries stone dead, and that will kill them fast.

In fact the whole "memory effect" thing barely has any truth to it anymore. It came about years ago, and the original observations of it were on a satellite that went into earth shadow like clockwork every x minutes and then into sunshine (charging) every x minutes. If you load NiCad like that, discharging them PRECISELY the same amount every time, you can get a noticable memory effect, but it's not that bad anymore; modern NiCads are much better than they were 10+ years ago.

NiMH barely has a memory effect at all. You would probably need a digital voltmeter and a lot of time to detect it. The big nemesis of NiMH is running them too dead, and overtemperature when charging. If you charge a whole pack at a time, be sure to get a charger that has a temperature probe to keep from boiling your batteries.
Actually, the memory effect is quite real, it's just not the cyclic effect that you describe. From Batteries for a Portable World:

The problem with the nickel-based battery is not the cyclic memory but the effects of crystalline formation. There are other factors involved that cause degeneration of a battery. For clarity and simplicity, we use the word ‘memory’ to address capacity loss on nickel-based batteries that are reversible.

The memory phenomenon can be explained in layman’s terms as expressed by Duracell: “The voltage drop occurs because only a portion of the active materials in the cells is discharged and recharged during shallow or partial discharging. The active materials that have not been cycled change in physical characteristics and increase in resistance. Subsequent full discharge/charge cycling will restore the active materials to their original state.”

When NiMH was first introduced there was much publicity about its memory-free status. Today, it is known that this chemistry also suffers from memory but to a lesser extent than the NiCd. The positive nickel plate, a metal that is shared by both chemistries, is responsible for the crystalline formation.

In addition to the crystal-forming activity on the positive plate, the NiCd also develops crystals on the negative cadmium plate. Because both plates are affected by crystalline formation, the NiCd requires more frequent discharge cycles than the NiMH. This is a non-scientific explanation of why the NiCd is more prone to memory than the NiMH.

The effects of crystalline formation are most pronounced if a nickel-based battery is left in the charger for days, or if repeatedly recharged without a periodic full discharge. Since most applications do not use up all energy before recharge, a periodic discharge to 1V/cell (known as exercise) is essential to prevent the buildup of crystalline formation on the cell plates. This maintenance is most critical for the NiCd battery.

All NiCd batteries in regular use and on standby mode (sitting in a charger for operational readiness) should be exercised once per month. Between these monthly exercise cycles, no further service is needed. The battery can be used with any desired user pattern without the concern of memory.

The NiMH battery is affected by memory also, but to a lesser degree. No scientific research is available that compares NiMH with NiCd in terms of memory degradation. Neither is information on hand that suggests the optimal amount of maintenance required to obtain maximum battery life. Applying a full discharge once every three months appears right. Because of the NiMH battery’s shorter cycle life, over-exercising is not recommended.

A hand towel must be cleaned periodically. However, if it were washed after each use, its fabric would wear out very quickly. In the same way, it is neither necessary nor advisable to discharge a rechargeable battery before each charge — excessive cycling puts extra strain on the battery.



No battery should be drained until it is dead. This just kills the cells and renders the battery inoperable. The discharge should be tightly controlled which means the use of a smart battery charger to monitor the cell voltage. Most of the ones that come with light systems are pretty dumb, in more ways then one .
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Old 09-27-05, 02:03 PM
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I'm telling you, nothing alerts cars to your presence, especially in fog, like a Lightman strobe. It's simply amazing how the cars notice you with one of those.

I've also heard of people setting a light on their rear rack, or a mast attached to their rear rack, which shines on their back, thereby illuminating themselves and making it pretty obvious that they are, indeed, a cyclist.
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