Friday, July 31, 2009

En-Lightened Cycling

We enjoy cycling at night, and we want to be safe and confident doing it. The Pashley Sovereigns come with an excellent lighting system: a hub driven dynamo headlight and an LED rear light. This is sufficient for some night-time riding, but not optimal for the kind of riding we were doing. So we have made some enhancements to suit our needs.

HEADLIGHTS

Headlights serve two main purposes:
1. They make your bicycle visible to others
2. They enable you to see where you are going

What we immediately noticed, is that one headlight cannot do a good job at serving both of these purposes simultaneously. If the light is angled for optimal visibility (straight ahead), it does not provide optimal road illumination. If the light in angled for optimal road illumination (downward), it does not make you maximally visible to others.

If you live in an area that is reasonably illuminated at night, you do not really have a need for #2 and one headlight is perfectly sufficient. However, if you live in the country, in the suburbs, or in any other area with stretches of unlit road, you will need to see where you are going. This is especially important for avoiding pot-holes, objects on the road, patches of black ice in the winter, pedestrians dressed in dark clothing, and those cyclists who travel with no lights on (in the Boston area this is alarmingly common!).

Pictured here is a set of Cateye Opticube LED bike lights, attached to the brackets on the front tire of my Pashley Princess, pointed downward. In the first photo on this post you can see how far the beams illuminate the road in the dark.

REAR LIGHTS

With rear lights things are simpler, because visibility to others is the only requirement. Still, because we like to travel through poorly lit areas, we added something extra to what Pashley already provided.

We attached these Cateye Bike LD610 tail lights to the stays of our rear racks. These can be set to be solidly lit, or blinking, or lighting up top to bottom and back, like Christmas tree lights. The effects can be quite fun.

And here the same Cateye tail light (just one) is used as a rear light on Marianne (photo on the right). It attaches to the rear rack with a special mounting bracket. In a pinch, you can also use electrical tape. The photo on the left shows the enormous SunLite Low Rider Bullet headlight that I've permanently mounted on Marianne. Since we use the Motobecanes for recreation rather than transportation, the lighting set-up is not as extensive as on the Pashleys.

Having a good lighting system on your bicycles makes cycling in the dark considerably safer and more enjoyable. Rather than rush to get home as fast as we can once it gets dark, we can take nocturnal joy rides on bike trails and country roads. Let there be light!

11 comments:

  1. awesome! I am dealing with the light issue as it's dark over here. and my one cateye was not working for me. At all. I rarely go out at night b/c of the light issue. I like the ones you posted.

    ( I'm trolling CL now each day. Now I'm trying to figure out- should I get a CL bike to tool around and play with? Or wait for an ANT which *could* be a dear xmas present) Part of me wants every bike I see and wants to vintage bike too.)

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  2. It amazes me that cyclists can feel comfortable riding with just one light. Whenever I am in a car at night and see cyclists ride by with one of those blinkies on their bikes, I can hardly see them.

    Heh, sorry to have subverted you with the CL idea! The low prices and nice vintage looks can be so alluring. If it helps any, think "+$300" for any bike you see there, because that's the money you will end up spending if you want to bring it up to top-notch standards of comfort, safety and aesthetics. You will need new tires and brake pads (no matter what the current owner says), a professional tune-up at a bike shop, fenders, a rack, a new saddle, possibly new handlebars if you don't like the old ones (if the bike has drops and you want upright, or vice versa), bar tape, a bell, and lights. So if you see a $185 bike on CL, think of it as a $500 bike by the time you are done. Still worth it?

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  3. I love how your lights are so bright, but at the same time look really classy. They go so well with the lights that Pashley came with. Hub lights are great, but if I'm riding at night, I put an extra Planet Bike blinkie on the front and rear. Chicago is lit enough that I don't need a light to guide my way, but I others need to see me.

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  4. Thanks Dottie! It took us a bit of OCD planning to figure out which lights go well with Pashley's design and how exactly to place them : )

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  5. All of my bikes that get ridden at night have generators of some sort on them. Minimum for me is a head light, tail light and Planet Bike Superflash. Some of my bikes like the Raleigh Superbe have antique lights and get supplemental LED lighting. Reflective stuff doesn't hurt either.

    Aaron

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  6. “It amazes me that cyclists can feel comfortable riding with just one light.”

    That depends on the kind of light you use! One headlight CAN do a good job at serving both purposes. In Germany we have strong regulations for bike lights, which force light manufacturers to build headlights that don’t dazzle other traffic participants. My current street-legal high-performance LED headlight has a brightness of 40 lux and an outstanding road illumination, but it is also bright enough to be seen by others without problems (even though the light isn’t aingled straight ahead). Of course I am using a hub dynamo. I wouldn’t feel comfortable with a battery light.

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  7. Zweiradler -- I am talking about the kind of lights often used around where I live in the USA: tiny and dim, attached to the handlebar. When I am in a car at night, I can hardly see the cyclists who use such lights.

    In Austria (where I live for parts of the year), the lighting regulations are similar to Germany, and shops sell bicycles fitted with adequate lighting systems. Not so in the US.

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  8. Love that SunLite Bullet headlamp - shame I can't find a supplier here in Germany.
    Lovely bikes Filigree. Hope you enjoy riding them!

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  9. OCD? Obsessive compulsive design? :)

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  10. how did you attach those rear lights to the rack? looks clean, did those attachments come with it or is it something you configured?

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  11. I would invite you to check out Hokey Spokes, a bicycle safety light system that protects the rider by providing visibility on the right and left. Motorists slow down to view changing graphic patterns that are programmed into each Hokey Spoke. Communicating wirelessly, they sync images and can display up to 16 characters of your own text.
    Visit: www.hokeyspokes.com

    Bike Safely!

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