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First Night Ride

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First Night Ride

Old 12-12-07, 12:12 PM
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First Night Ride

Last evening I took my first night ride. We've been having really bad weather for the last week and a half - cold, snow, torrential rain - but yesterday afternoon the sun came out and the temperature reached the 60's. After supper I decided to go for a ride.

I have a Trek 820 mountain bike that I've been converting into a "winter/bad weather" bike - added Freddy Fenders, a blinkie taillight, and a Cateye EL350 LED headlight. The area where I live is two-lane blacktop country roads, with no streetlights, or even painted stripes on the roads. When it's dark, it's really dark.

First off, the Cateye EL350 just isn't up to task. It throws a pretty good beam straight ahead, but there's not much wash out to the sides. It was a little hard to keep track of the side of the road. Honestly, though, this wasn't much of a surprise - I sort of suspected that this would be the case.

What was a surprise was how unsettling it was riding without being able to see the little indicating numbers on the shifters, or being able to glance down to see what chainring the chain was on! I'm not 100% confident in these ratcheting shifters - my usual ride, a Surly Long Haul Trucker has bar-end shifters that are foolproof - and every time I shifted I wondered if i was going to throw the chain off. Putting it back on in the dark wouldn't be any fun. (On the Surly, you can get an idea of what gear you're in by just reaching down and feeling what angle the shift lever is at.)

So....I guess I'm in need of a new headlight. One of those multi-hundred-dollar lights is out of my budget, so i'll probably go the hooptie route. I'm thinking of a D-Cell Maglight mounted to the handlebars with conduit clamps or something. After getting home, I tried out a Maglight in comparison to the EL350, and the Maglight can be adjusted to throw a pretty good spread.

Also, I guess I need some sort of helmet mounted light to be able to view the "dashboard". When I was on the fire department we used to mount AA-Cell Mini-Maglights to our helmets with a little spring-steel bracket that mounted to the helmet face shield bolts. I just ran across mine a few weeks ago - now if only I could find it again.

Anybody have any other suggestions as to headlights, or night riding tips in general?
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Old 12-12-07, 12:24 PM
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you can make your own headlights/helmet lights pretty cheap, Check out the subforums for lighting here and at mtbr.com and you will find some great ideas that you can make for under $30 + the cost of whatever rechargeable battery you decide to get. I've just built up a really nice homemade LED system, one set for bars and one for the helmet, complete with batteries that give me 4.5+ hour runtimes for under $200. The brightness of my setup rivals that of systems that are easily 3x the price.
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Old 12-12-07, 02:44 PM
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The Princeton Tec EOS is a great helmet light for $35.
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Old 12-12-07, 02:58 PM
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I too, have started night riding on thing that noticed right away was the glare my cheap protective eye wear picked up from head lights. My eye wear is clear and clean but the plastic made the headlights of on coming traffic worse. Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated.
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Old 12-12-07, 03:12 PM
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Originally Posted by hos13
I too, have started night riding on thing that noticed right away was the glare my cheap protective eye wear picked up from head lights. My eye wear is clear and clean but the plastic made the headlights of on coming traffic worse. Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated.
Get quality cycling glasses. I use Rudy project and no glare from any of the lens's. I use clear at night but even when caught with the normal day lens- no problems.

And a suggestion for road riding at night is to look at the Luxion LED lamps. I have a twin 5w version that is probably over the top but Blackburn do a good cheap system in the X6. And on the Helmet lamps- I use a Lamp picked up from an outdoor Shop (walking and Mountaineering) for about $50. It mounts to the helmet by the normal head straps and is good enough for viewing the controls and rear mech and the spot is good for 50 yards. See attachment for the type and of the lamps I use for different uses. The Cateye LED is to be seen on well lit roads. The halogen is a twin 10w but works well- pity about the battery weight though. The Twin LED is a Use Exposure for use offroad and long night road rides.
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Old 12-12-07, 03:20 PM
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I have 2 light rigs. Both Nightriders. The older one im looking to get rid of is a 15w Cyclops from around the late 90's. The bottle cage battery still charges but only holds enough charge for 1hr of riding. When new it held about 2 1/2 hrs worth. A replacement, available online from Nightrider is about 120 bucks. The light itself works perfectly. 15w constant is more than adequate.

You can buy this thing from me for about 50 bucks and use it while you save the money for a new battery.

My other rig is an HID Night Sun system that rivals the light throw of a motorcycle. I recommend one if you can find it cheap. Even used I paid about 250 for it. I'll be keeping that one.
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Old 12-12-07, 07:01 PM
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I think I'm going to go to the Big Box home improvement center and buy a D-Cell Maglight and a couple of conduit clamps. I figure I can wrap the handlebars with friction tape where the conduit clamp will clamp on to protect the finish, and give it a whirl. Heck, if it doesn't work out, I've got a good Maglight to carry under the seat of the Mustang.

I'm going to have to work on the helmet light though. If I can find my old firefighter bracket for the Minimag, I'll probably just use that, although with the mirror on one side and the maglight on the other, all I've got to say is it sure is good it's going to be dark when I'm wearing it!

This bicycling is sure hard on the fashion-conscious!
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Old 12-12-07, 11:35 PM
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Originally Posted by tpelle
I think I'm going to go to the Big Box home improvement center and buy a D-Cell Maglight and a couple of conduit clamps. I figure I can wrap the handlebars with friction tape where the conduit clamp will clamp on to protect the finish, and give it a whirl. Heck, if it doesn't work out, I've got a good Maglight to carry under the seat of the Mustang.

I'm going to have to work on the helmet light though. If I can find my old firefighter bracket for the Minimag, I'll probably just use that, although with the mirror on one side and the maglight on the other, all I've got to say is it sure is good it's going to be dark when I'm wearing it!

This bicycling is sure hard on the fashion-conscious!
You could do better for not too much more. Go here for some ideas. I'm a firm believer in much more then 'being seen' lights. With a little work, you could probably do it for less than I did. The results speak for themselves.



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Old 12-13-07, 07:47 AM
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Well, the more I thought about some homebrew conduit-clamp abomination with a big long aluminum flashlight mounted on it looking like a bazooka or something, the less I liked it.

Instead, I scored one of these for about $62.00:

https://www.cygolite.com/2-Products/8-RoverNimh.htm
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Old 12-13-07, 09:55 AM
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https://www.pricepoint.com/detail/157...Bike-Light.htm

for the money it is HARD to beat this light and it uses 4 C batteries and can run 25 hours straight on high.

Just velcro strap the pack to the top tube.

https://www.pricepoint.com/detail/145...Bike-Light.htm

This one is rechargable, not that expensive, has rapid charge and runs 4 hours on high....
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Old 12-13-07, 10:06 AM
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The thing that sealed the decision a year or so ago for me was: "If I end up getting hit by a car or having an accident because I couldn't see well enough, how much would I be willing to pay to get up out of a hospital bed and be perfectly well again?"

The answer was certainly more than $100.00.

The lighting thing is one place where going cheap doesn't necessarily make a lot of sense. I have a basic Cateye be seen light, a Cygolite DualCross for errands where there is a lot of turning lights on and off, or shorter distances, and a NiMH L&M Arc which is phenomenal... comes with a helmet mount as well, but that has the potential to blind drivers. Seeing where you are going is key.

Also, a flickering LED will make you more visible, but having a whopping HID or really bright LED on the bars will make cars treat you noticeably differently. I routinely find people will stop making a turn while looking directly at me in the dark, where in the past I was almost always edging across street crossings, waiting for the left cross or the right hook. Even the risk of getting doored is much lower in the city when people see your headlight wash strongly ahead of you.

Also, remember that with a rechargeable battery light, you save yourself cash on batteries for the whole life of the light. Not an inconsequential amount of money for the power you end up using.

Last edited by superslomo; 12-13-07 at 10:07 AM. Reason: additional thought, last paragraph added.
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Old 12-13-07, 10:58 AM
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Originally Posted by superslomo
The thing that sealed the decision a year or so ago for me was: "If I end up getting hit by a car or having an accident because I couldn't see well enough, how much would I be willing to pay to get up out of a hospital bed and be perfectly well again?"

The answer was certainly more than $100.00.
I see your point. Where I live, however, the traffic is very light. As a matter of fact, on my ride the other night, I was not passed by a single car.

I'll give this light a try, and if it's not up to snuff I'll upgrade again.

(I don't plan on riding regularly or seriously after dark, but would like to have the opportunity to take short spins around the neighborhood after dark to try to keep the conditioning going between weekend rides in the winter.)
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Old 12-13-07, 11:18 AM
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Night rides are the best. Careful out there, watchout for crazies!
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Old 12-13-07, 11:29 AM
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I run an overvolted MR16 20 watt halogen on the bars running off a 14.4V drill battery (total about $10) and a rayovac headlight I modded with a drop in self regulated Cree LED (total $25) and am more than happy with the light I have. I'm estimating it at about 700 lumens and the batteries I'm running it all with outlast the ride...

A polished store bought system would be nice, but I've yet to see one selling for less than about $300 that I would actually be happy with...

I see great in the mornings. I love riding in the dark...
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Old 12-13-07, 06:12 PM
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Originally Posted by ovrrdrive
I run an overvolted MR16 20 watt halogen on the bars running off a 14.4V drill battery (total about $10) and a rayovac headlight I modded with a drop in self regulated Cree LED (total $25) and am more than happy with the light I have. I'm estimating it at about 700 lumens and the batteries I'm running it all with outlast the ride...

A polished store bought system would be nice, but I've yet to see one selling for less than about $300 that I would actually be happy with...

I see great in the mornings. I love riding in the dark...
The 14.4V drill battery is a good idea. I'll have to investigate that idea......a couple of automotive accessory lights....might have to do some calculations.
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Old 12-13-07, 07:55 PM
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Just keep in mind that if your battery is like mine and is nicad you have to drain it down before you can charge it back up or else the memory effect will ruin it quick. My battery will power the MR16 for about 45 minutes and it's a cheap battery. My morning ride is usually only about 30 minutes so every night I have to run it down before I charge it.

If you have a nimh you're fine to basically charge at will (from my experience anyway) without worrying about completely draining it.

So far my setup is working great and I'm very happy with it. The beauty of the battery is that I already had it and a quick charger. Eventually I'll get a good water bottle battery from batteryspace but for now at least I'm out riding with a bright light.

I've cleaned it up a lot since I made the thread, but this basically shows what I have and has a few beam shots in it too. I don't have any with the helmet light yet but you can at least see what a good MR16 overvolted flood looks like.

https://www.bikeforums.net/electronics-lighting-gadgets/359528-10-parts-cordless-drill-bright-halogen-light.html
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