Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Being bright

I seem to have a lot of posts frozen in mid-project- I have a couple of things in the works and haven't gotten to a good point to post any of them.  Hopefully this weekend.

In the meantime- I've been thinking about light and being bright.  I've actually been pretty impressed recently at how few ninjas I've seen out and about recently.  The fall has been relatively mild and dry and I'm seeing a lot of bikers, and most of them seem to have lights YEAH!

I thought I'd expound a bit more on my lighting strategy.
My main offense is my LED dynamo driven light, the Schmidt Edeluxe.   I posted on it right after I got it, but after a couple months of heavy use, I'm happy to say that I still love it.

I had a bit of a debacle with the fancy special order security screws that I installed to keep my light safe from thieves with allen wrenches.
While I was locking up, I  readjusted the angle on the light, and in forcing it, loosened it just enough that it kept slipping down.   I was out running errands and had to stop every 300yards to raise it back up before it hit the fender.  Sigh.  So I went to go get the driver from where I’d put it in the baggie with the rest of the security screws I bought.  Not to be found.   Frantic search ensues,  followed by tearful meltdown, followed by the Scientist going out to buy me flowers.  It had been a long day.
Anyway, $12 and a couple of days brought me a new driver, and so far so good.

All of that is a long preamble to two things I’ve noticed after living with it for a couple of months.
First-  This sucker is really really bright.  I notice a lot of pedestrians turning around to look at me as I come up behind them,  seeing the light and wondering what it is.
Secondly, and somewhat surprisingly, I’m really liking the lower light position below the basket.  With my old light position, I had to be really careful when I had stuff in the basket to keep it tamped down so that it didn’t obscure the beam.  Now I can pile it high without blocking the beam.

So that's the front.
Rear lights are tough because it's hard to see them when you're moving- so it's hard to tell how visible you are.  I recommend that people get someone else to either watch them bike away or have someone ride the bike for you, so that you can be sure that your lights are visible.  So often people have a helmet light or backpack light, that when they're crouched over becomes almost invisible.  I'm also not a fan of seatpost lights because they're easily covered by a coat tail or backpack.
I have two rear lights.  One is fender mounted- which is fairly low, but it does nicely avoid the problem of being covered with packages or my coat.  It runs off my generator, and has a nice bright standlight for several minutes after I stop.  In addition I run a battery powered LED that bolts onto the back of my rack.  I wanted a light a bit higher,  and this one is also protected from concealing clothing, although it could potentially be covered by something I'm carrying.

None of these lights are flashing.  I know that flashing lights are noticeable, but I think that it's hard to determine how fast they're coming, or going away from you, especially quickly.  Also, most of the dynamo operated stuff comes from Germany where it's illegal to have flashing lights.

I do however have flashing pedals which not only flash, but they provide a nice bit of lighting for cars approaching from the side.  They have a white light that is supposed to face forward, an amber light to the side, and a red light to the back, and they cycle with an eyecatchingly bright strobe effect- visible even during the day.   They have a little generator that is part of the pedal axle,  and a capacitor to create a stand light for several minutes after I stop.  They're really really bright, and although I'm sure there's some drag, I don't notice it. The bottom has a bit of a bump for the generator, and it mostly hangs down as its supposed to, but it's not the end of the world to pedal on it for a few revolutions. 
 The top has a nice little double row of blunt metal studs that provide a bit of extra traction.

I couldn't figure out how to post video so to see the pedals in action click here

One of the things that people forget is side visibility.  The reflective stripe on Marathon tires is really bright, and it has the added advantage of instantly identifying you as a bike.

OK,  Now that I've finished that post, I'm going to hop back on, and ride to the store for milk.  Riding the bike at night is much more appealing knowing I'm bright and visible.

1 comment:

  1. I like this post and agree that lighting is paramount to vehicular cycling safety. Real lighting, the kind that you use on your bicycle.

    Still see plenty of unlit (and often non-reflective!) cyclists though, especially when I am driving. Perhaps it's better than nothing, but a reflective strip here and a tiny watch-battery LED blinkie there are not enough. I wish more bikes on the street had real head and tail lights. No one ever talks of how being stuck behind an obnoxiously fluttering capacitor-driven flare must drive (heh) many motorists to added impatience beyond that of simply following a slow-moving vehicle equipped with standard lights.

    Ranting aside, I'd stop short of making blinking lights actually illegal, as they may be in some European countries, but I personally do not use them.