Night Cycling

Discussion in 'Commuting and Road Safety' started by bioguy, Oct 2, 2003.

  1. bioguy

    bioguy New Member

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    My morning commute is now totally in the dark because of the shorter days. If I work late (like last night) my evening commute is too.

    What kind of headlight do those of you who regularly ride in the dark use?

    What other lights do you use/recommend?

    Is there somewhere on the web where I can get actual statistics on the risk I am taking by riding in the dark? I have a number of friends who are worrying about me, and I'd like to have real numbers to do risk assessment with. I live in Hunterdon Co, NJ and commute to Somerset Co., NJ (USA).

    Thanks.
     
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  2. jtfleming

    jtfleming New Member

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    flashing LEDs are the rage, and rightfully so. they are extremely visible. they make them in both head and tail lights. if you want to see as much as be seen then dual mtb headlights will provide the highest level of safety. just make sure you have a tail light that flashes! that is the most important thing.
     
  3. daveornee

    daveornee New Member

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    I suggest you check out the section on Sheldon Brown's website on commuter lights at URL:
    http://www.sheldonbrown.com/commute/index.html
    I don't think you will find a web site on actual statistics on risk by riding in the dark. It is much more dangerous, espeicially in certain areas.
    David Ornee, Western Springs, IL
     
  4. Merriwether

    Merriwether New Member

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    Bioguy,

    I bought an HID light about a year ago. I wouldn't go back to halogen or LED now. The thing is _bright_. I can ride at daylight speeds in the dead of night.

    I bought the arc light from light and motion:

    www.bikelights.com

    There are no worries about being seen, either. Actually, I'm not just seen-- I get the undivided attention of oncoming or crossing traffic. What the h*ll is that, you can hear them asking. Drivers wonder if I'm in some farm combine or other unusual (and large) piece of road equipment. I get far more respect at intersections now than in the day.

    In the back, I've got a Trek red blinkie, that's powered by two AA batteries. I have a large trailer-sized red reflector on my rear rack, itself covered with extra bright red and green tape. Then I've got ankle bands, and a vest. In especially dicey conditions I add another, high-rate blinkie. My panniers also have reflective stripes. I'm a Christmas tree.

    Again, I get more clearance at night than in the day.

    Night riding is possible to do with reasonable safety. You have got to be very serious about lighting and reflectors, though.

    Reflectors, by the way, can often be very prominent. Sheldon Brown warns that they're not sufficient by themselves for rear illumination. I agree. Still, ankle reflectors were the most prominent thing apart from the rear blinkie in the night tests I did with a friend. Your ankles are moving, and they're right in the beam path of overtaking traffic.

    The HID light is expensive, but, I think, worth it. If you want to spend less, you certainly can do so safely. But spend as much as you can afford on a good headlight.
     
  5. jg1695

    jg1695 New Member

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    I recently got a cateye EL400 http://www.cateye.com/detail.php?products_id=116
    and I have found it to be a really good little light. It is bright and in blinking mode it really grabs other peoples attention. I ride in the city mostly so I don't need a light to see where I'm going so I just use it to attract attention. I like it so much I'm going to get one for a tail light. The mount is really versitile which is nice but, it can be a little annoying when stripping down the bike at stores and such.
     
  6. HellonWheels

    HellonWheels New Member

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  7. jg1695

    jg1695 New Member

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    I just found these on the web. This looks like it might be a pretty killer blinkie. Maybe a compromise between the ubiquitous red led blinkie and a monster strob light. The manufacturer says it is visable for over a mile with very good uni-directional output. The item I mean is the Lite Tracker as there are several listed on the page. I going to order one soon. I'll let you know how it is after I get it.



    http://www.airsafeusa.com/litetracker/

    http://www.gracesales.com/products/recreation.html
     
  8. Merriwether

    Merriwether New Member

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    Jg,

    I don't see any reason to think these lights are an improvement over the better bike-specific tail lights already at the LBS.

    Look at the tail lights at www.trekbikes.com

    The "Disco Tech Tail Light", for example, is a bright red LED, like the Light Tracker. It too gets about 50 hours from 2 AAA batteries, just like the Light Tracker. So, it's probably as bright as the Light Tracker.

    The Trek light will be less than $20, though, at your LBS.

    Better still would be a red LED tail light Trek sold last year that runs on 2 AA batteries. That's my primary tail light. If you can find that one, I recommend it. It's significantly brighter than the Disco Inferno lights on Trek's page. And it was only $15 or so. I don't believe those Light Tracker diving lights could be as bright, much less brighter, than this one, running as they do on 2 AAA batteries.

    I also want to say a couple of more general things about the adequacy of LED blinkies. As I mention above, I have an expensive head light. I think of it as indispensable. So, I'm not opposed to spending on lighting to go well above the average illumination of night riders.

    Still, I don't think anything more than a couple of red LED blinkies is needed in the rear. Note that I'm assuming these lights are in addition to adequate reflectors, which in my case includes ankle bands, a vest, and one large tail reflector. Even with just one bright LED flashing light in the rear, I have had no evidence that I'm not clearly visible to overtaking traffic, and plenty of evidence that I am.

    If I'm on a dark, empty road, I can see the high beams of overtaking traffic being switched on when the car is still a long way back-- that is when drivers have seen me but don't yet understand what I am. I can hear their engines change pitch as they slow down. As they approach, I can see my shadow off the right as they move over to the left. This is all typical-- indeed, it more or less always happens.

    On busy roads I'm also quite visible. There, the cars don't pull over, nor do they use their high beams for fear of oncoming traffic, but I know I'm seen because overtaking cars slow down from some considerable distance back before they pass me. To the extent they can, they move left. Or they'll just wait for oncoming traffic to clear and then go around.

    These effects are even more pronounced when I have two LED blinkies in the rear, flashing at different rates. True, these lights are not as bright as car tail lights. But they flash, and they are at strange heights (I'll put one of them on the back of my head, for example.) They immediately attract attention.

    I've also done my own tests, and I can tell you that red LED blinkies work. I especially like the two light combination, one above the other. It looks _weird_, and any driver who can't yet see what you are will slow down to get a sense of what he's dealing with. Maybe you're some piece of road equipment, jutting far out into the lane?

    The brand of lights matters; I've been talking so far about good LED lights, like the Trek mark and some other brands. Others, like Bell lights, are not as good.

    So, the strobes are fine, and I may yet get one as my next light. I don't think I need one, though, so I'll make do with the red LED's.
     
  9. jg1695

    jg1695 New Member

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    Yea, you're probably right. I guess the promise of over a mile of visability got me excited, but a strobe light....3 miles of 360 visability... I have a three LED blinkie I think maybe the addition of a 5 LED light would satisfy me. I need more reflectors. Hey, I've heard that putting reflective tape on the inside of your rims works pretty well. Has anyone tried this? Seems like water and mud would wash the tape of pretty quickly.
     
  10. daveornee

    daveornee New Member

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    Reflective stickers work well if you clean the rime well to start.
    Lictons provides reflective stickers on each of the wheels they build.
    Also, for those who are concerned about wheel balance, try 2 reflectors per wheel, mounted 180 degrees from each other. Moving reflectors add to visibility.
     
  11. sjenney

    sjenney New Member

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    In the fall and winter I ride to and from work in the dark 36 miles a day.
    The main thing is to be visible. Use reflective clothing and front and rear lighting.
    I make my own lighting that flashes for visibility. Presently I am using 25 luminous flux LED’s with optics, which can be found, at http://www.lumileds.com/pdfs/protected/DS23.PDF. These LED’s light up signs over 500 feet away.
     
  12. franklen

    franklen New Member

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    I know you say you dont ned this light to see where you are going, but can you give an idea of how well it would perform in such a manner? After doing my own search I put the EL400 near the top of my list for size, weight, and hours per batteries, but need to know just how bright it will shine if it would be my sole front light.
     
  13. Geonz

    Geonz New Member

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    I like my really bright light -- just started using it this week and yes, I think the driver's give me more clearance than in the day, and I haven't even gotten all the reflective stuff I want to add. (Couple of rear flashers aren't quite enough now that I feel so visible in the front!)
     
  14. circuitweed

    circuitweed New Member

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    I have an EL400 on my bike, so I can offer my opinion. The EL400 is great for being seen. In flashing mode, it really catches the attention of motorists.

    It might even put out enough light to see by if you didn't have oncoming headlights or other ambient light sources constantly messing up your night vision. The problem I have is that on poorly lit city streets, I can't see the road enough to know if I'm about to run over something. Even at 5 mph, I wouldn't have time to react. So, I'm off to spend a large amount of money on a rechargeable headlight system.

    Now, I like the flashing LED lights to catch motorists attention, so even with a headlight system to see by, I'd still leave my EL400 in flashing mode. So, as far as being seen, I really like the EL400. I even use it during the day.

    As a source of light to see with, you're probably going to have to shell out some green. I saw one of those HID lights the other day on a bicycle coming at me. It was several times brighter than any other bicycle headlight that I have ever seen. Nothing short of impressive. Impressive enough that I might even consider spending that much money on one. Hopefully it wouldn't cause a drunk motorist to fixate on it and drive right into you.

    Hope this helps!

    John Bertram
     
  15. circuitweed

    circuitweed New Member

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    I should also add, the EL 400 is easy to mount to a helmet. This is a great way to catch a drivers attention and get them to look at you when you turn your head and flash it right at them.
     
  16. circuitweed

    circuitweed New Member

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    Hehe, I just told my wife how much the HID systems cost, and she said not to put a price on safety. Woohoo!

    Can anyone think of a downside to the HID systems besides the cost?

    John Bertram
     
  17. circuitweed

    circuitweed New Member

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    I just bought my NiteRoder BlowTorch HID headlight the other day, and have had a chance to use it on my evening commute. It's very nice. In fact, I wouldn't be happy with anything less.

    A couple things really surprised me. Suddenly, cars are able to see you better than in the daylight--at least from the front. I had what would have been a near miss become a safe avoidance when a car turning off of a one-way street cut into my lane as I approached an intersection. The second he could see my light, he instantly swerved out of the way, leaving plenty of room between me and the car. I was impressed with how soon the car saw me.

    Everyone has been wondering if there is a downside to the HID headlamp systems, and I think I have found one. You have to be careful where you point the thing. It is so bright that you could really annoy, or blind other traffic. When pulling up behind a car at a stop light, I had to turn my handlebars to the side to avoid blinding the car in front of me. I could see that he was visibly iritated with the intense light in his rear view mirror. It's not a big deal, but you do have to be cognisant of where you point the thing.

    I did notice that pedestrians were well aware that a bicycle was approaching them from behind, and knew what side I was coming up on. Better than a bell, or yelling, "on your left". Inevitably they will move to their left when you yell that.

    One more thing that I noticed about the white light that the HID systems emit. It makes anything reflective stand out like a neon sign. A jogger with a couple reflective stripes on his jacket looked like something from the movie TRON--from a hundred yards away! Road signs light up like you've never seen before.

    Let me just say that if you're interested in safety, this is a must have. Consider it this way, the extra couple c-notes that you save on another system won't do you any good when you're dead. Funeral costs are much higher than the price of this light. Also, the time you spend out of work while your broken bones heal is going to cost you a lot more than this light.

    If there's any way you can afford it, get one of these things! I don't care which brand you perfer, just get one!
     
  18. ejdoo

    ejdoo New Member

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    Performance has a dual headlight system that I've been pretty happy with but if you look on other sites you can find mixed reviews on it. I have had mine for a year and it's been great.

    I also go whacko with flashing LED reflectors, two in back, one on each panier facing to the left and right and a white LED flasher in front. I also have an illuminite jacket and ankle bands as well. And on top of that I have Michelin commuting tires with reflective sidewalls. I have been told I look like a UFO going down the road, but better a live, reflective geek than roadkill.

    Ed
     
  19. circuitweed

    circuitweed New Member

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    Yeah, I've been teased about the number of reflectors and blinkies on my bike. These would consist of two Vistalight Total Eclipses on the rear rack facing backwards both flashing, one night rider rear tail light running steady burn, and two cat-eye compact safety lights flanking the bag on my rack. Add to this the three LED blinkie on the front of the bike, the HID headlight, and yards of reflective tape. It must be quite a sight.
     
  20. msrw

    msrw New Member

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    The problem with reflectors is that light has to hit them at a certain angle for them to work. Everyone I know who rides a lot at night uses lights. You probably don't need a super bright headlight for road riding, unless you go down long hills (need more light to allow longer reaction times), or ride in areas with no street lighting at all. But a very bright tail light isn't a bad idea. Niterider has the brightest one on the market--a touch pricey, but they last almost forever.

    Another option for the headlight. A hub generator. The big advantage over battery powered lights: less hassle.
     
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