Tuesday, November 17, 2009

C'mon Baby Light My Fire

After reading this post and the ensuing comment about the glories of nighttime riding, I've been able to think of nothing else--even though I am "working" and should be plugging away at my case load.  I know that when I do get my bike, I am going to need to do some night riding because 1. I won't be able to stay off my wonderful new bike and 2. my work schedule has a possibility or changing which would mean a commute in the darkness on the days I ride to work.  So it seems inevitable that lights for my bike are in my future.  The question is which ones to get.

I've mentioned a few times that I'm a "cheapskate" but that word just has such a negative connotation.  What I mean is that I don't really throw my money around and if there is a bargain to be had, it's got my name all over it.  This is tempered by the fact that I don't want to buy things 6 times because my cheap piece of crap whatever keeps breaking.  I'm not the type of girl who buys a lot of products in my search for "the one".  I try to do some research and come up with some good ideas and then ask someone knowledgeable either at the store or sometimes I email a complete stranger who seems to know what is going on.  I'm not at the point in my life where I think about things lasting forever or until I'm 80 or the rest of my life. I want it to last awhile--say a couple or maybe 5 years minimum.   I want something that works now, is of good quality and is not super expensive.  It's a bonus if the product is made in the USA.

I've done a little looking at lights and have thought of what I want my lights to do and here is what I've come up with: 

1. I want a headlamp and an additional light mounted on my bike.  (I'm thinking mounted low instead of on the handlebars so that it is focused on the road.)
2.  I want the light/s to have setting that include flashing/steady preferably with a range of brightnesses.
3. I want the headlamp to be something I can also wear without my helmet.  (You know, for all the  spelunking I do.) No, but seriously.   
4.  I want a taillight that also has various settings.  I haven't decided if I will mount this on my rack or on the back of the seat.  Since my commute route would be through some heavily trafficked areas this needs to make me VISIBLE
5. I'm thinking I will need to go battery powered at this point which is fine as I probably won't be using the bike everyday for commuting.  Though I like the thought of the dynamos, honestly at this point, it's not a huge factor to me.

I don't have $300 to spend on the top of the line lighting system for my bike, but I do want my setup to keep me safe and help me feel confident with riding at night.  Since I'm scared of getting squashed this is very important.  I'm also looking into illuminating my bike as well- but that is not my first priority. I read a good article in Bicycle Times Magazine about lights last month.  Check it out here and here is one on  blinkies.   Ecovelo also has some good articles here  and here as well as stellar content day in and day out. 

A few of the candidates I have looked at so far in my limited search are (in no particular order):

Velo Orange Cateye:

Planet Bike Blaze

Planet Bike  Sport Spot:

Planet Bike Dynamo:

Planet Bike 1200:


RivBike EOS:

I don't know what other companies have a reputation for quality, or the specifics of the performance for any of the above lights.  Any reader suggestions?  Anyone have a really good or bad experience with any of these or with a light I haven't listed?   Anyone have a great lighting setup to share as an example?

Bookmark and Share


Courtnee said...

I have a red rear Cateye that blinks or emits a steady light. It has has a clip so you could easily wear it on your clothing and an adjustable mount that can go around the seat post or wherever you decide to put it. That thing lasts on the same ol' batteries forever! It's alos very bright.

Don't forget about lateral visibility--it's really important so you might want to look into the free traffic sign leftovers or just get some retro-reflective tape from the auto parts store and put it on your rims between the spokes.

Brenda said...

Courtnee, Thanks for your feedback!
I like everything I have read about the Cateye and it sounds like it is pretty versatile.

Also, great tip on the lateral visibility! I have thought about it, but didn't include it in my post. I'll make sure to include it in my plans. I want to be as safe as possible!

bikeolounger said...

Brenda, the folks at Bicycling for Louisville are friends (I enjoy being among such friends--and I've done some contract teaching for B4L as a League Cycling Instructor). Have a look at their commuting page:
http://www.bicyclingforlouisville.org/commuting/ for some tips you might find useful.

I worked in a sign store for a while, and collected some scraps of reflective vinyl. One need not be terribly handy to cut out bits of vinyl and make reflectors for a bike. Some of my rather utilitarian creations are on my photobucket account (you should be able to see them--my user name there is bikeolounger, as it is just about everywhere I do anything online).

Best results!!

Tom, in Louisville KY, who had the honor of assembling Robert's bike

bikeolounger said...

I would add, with regard to your specific lights in question: I have an assortment of Planet Bike flashing lights, mostly Superflash taillights, on the fleet my wife and I own. Each of our commuting bikes has a Blaze forward flashing light, but those are hard to see when near our CygoLight Dual Cross Pro LED headlights. We have some rough, poorly-lit roads to traverse on our way home, and having more light really makes the difference!

If you are in an urban area, with lots of ambient light, the CatEye Opticube stuff is fine. If you are deep in the wilds of suburbia, though, you will want more light--especially if you are commuting and depending on the lights nightly.

I've found that redundancy in lighting is a good idea--don't ask me about why I know this!

bikeolounger said...

PPS: I find that mounting flashing lights on clothing makes those lights harder to see. If I can mount them on a bracket, on the bike, I can control the aiming of the light, and optimize that aim so that motorists can't help but see me.

Brenda said...

Thank you for the tips and the great link. Looks like that site has some great info and I look forward to reading more of it. I also appreciate the feedback about the lights you use.

At this point, I've realized for me to feel safe I will probably light myself up like a Christmas tree! Good tip about attaching the lights to the bike instead of me. I'll be sure to keep posting updates of my lighting journey!

I also added your blog to my Reader and look forward to reading through it. Thanks again!