Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Are You Afraid of the Dark?

How dark does it get where you cycle at night? Some of us travel mostly on lit city streets, others in sparsely lit suburbs, and others still along pitch black country roads. 

Last week I rode a good chunk of a 10 mile trip home in complete and utter pitch darkness. Even with my good LED headlight, I could only see a small part of the path ahead of me at a time, but eventually my eyes grew accustomed to the dark and I began to distinguish other clues. I went at a steady pace of about 12mph, which was sufficiently slow for me to recognise upcoming turns and obstacles on the road. A small fox trotted across my path once, crossing from one side of the meadows to another. I stopped and watched her wet fur glistening in my headlight beam, then continued on my way. At another point, a raccoon considered dashing to cross in front of me, but changed his mind and observed me from the side of the road as I cycled past him. I also encountered a few late-evening joggers and commuter cyclists, all of whom I was able to spot in advance at the speed I was going. Any faster though, and I don't think it would have been safe on that particular trail. Local cyclists are always ending up in hospitals from crashing into one of the gates and dividers that are placed there.

I know that randonneurs will go over 30mph on winding descents in the dark, but I am not there yet. Even as recently as last summer, I was terrified to cycle on winding unlit country roads in Maine and New Hampshire. But now I'd like to try it again.

I have LED headlights on most of my bicycles now, and the Co-Habitant has just updated his Pashley's stock lighting with the Supernova E3. The front and rear standlight features are on the dim side, but we think that is due to the bicycle's barely adequate 2.4W dynamo hub. When in motion, the lights are super-bright.

While good LED lighting is important, I think that cycling in the pitch dark also requires a certain degree of skill, as well as knowledge of your bicycle's handling and familiarity with local terrain. What's the darkest you're comfortable with when traveling by bicycle?

69 comments:

  1. I ride mainly in a city, but sometimes in unlit areas. One advantage of bright lights (Edelux on smugfiets, Cygolite on recumbentfiets) is that when transitioning from a bright area to a dark area my eyes will not adjust fast enough for the change in brightness. Also, in bright areas, my eyes may be adapted to the glaring streetlights which do not light what I need to see.

    I'll ride in completely unlit areas, but I try always have high brightness front and rear lights.

    Dan.

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  2. The E3 stand light on my Bullitt also seems a bit dim. And my dyno is on a 20" wheel, so it must be getting full power. Next time I run meet the Co-Habitant on the road we should compare. The stand light is probably limited more by the capacitor in the light than by the wattage from the dyno.

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  3. Brian - Okay, you are the 3rd person who's reported that now, so maybe it's not the hub after all (what hub do you have?). Odd, because when he considered buying this light, he did not read about the standlight dimness in any of the reviews. The standlight does last for a long time, it's just not as bright as we expected.

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  4. funny, I was thinking about this a couple of weeks ago when I was pre-riding the Boston 400. I started riding through Belmont and Waltham, then arced north through Spring, Shade and Mill St. to Bedford and Hanscom Field. It's a ride that I do all the time and is my usual 'ride-to-the-start' route, but there's something about the density and darkness on Mill St. that can be occasionally creepy. From time to time, my mind thinks that any of the houses could be inhabited by a serial killer who ambushes loners on this route ... it's totally irrational and horror movie inspired, but it just creeps in. Same thing happens on the Minuteman at night when I used to commute through there. On certain nights, I would prefer to do the Grove St. hill and the requisite 35 mph nighttime descent into Lexington than deal with 5 miles of the Minuteman by myself.

    The feeling leaves me when I get on some of the busier streets like 2A or Lowell St. heading up to Carlisle. I think part of the difference is that some backroads just feel more closed in. The roads are narrower, the trees and their shadows hang closer, so it just feel like there's less warning of ambush (again, not that it's going to ever happen, but an overactive imagination is an odd thing). Aside from that, I usually like riding at night, especially when I'm rested. In some ways, because of the darkness and because traffic tends to be quieter my mind focuses more on non-visual sensory input. The smells of apple trees blooming in the spring; the sound of frogs mating in marshes; etc. When tired and sleep deprived, though, my mind tends to hallucinate more actively around the shadows outside my headlights.

    The last leg of the Boston 400k takes riders from Peter White's house in Hillsborough back to Massachusetts via Bennington and the Crotched Mountain ski area. The tail end of riders will get to Bennington just after sunset, and the climb by Crotched Mountain and the following six miles through the 2nd New Hampshire turnpike are an utterly desolate stretch of road and can be soul crushing at night. You're tired, the climb seems relentless, and you can feel so very alone in the darkness. We usually encourage riders who will hit that segment at night to buddy up and do it as a group, just to ward off the feeling of isolation.

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  5. I live in a rural part of England - the New Forest http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_New_Forest
    Street lights and even house lights are few and far between. It can get very dark. On good visibility nights the Milky Way is clearly visible. I only cycle on-road, but even so I need good lights. I have a Cat Eye EL-610 front light which is adequate for cycling at moderate speeds (~12/15MPH). More recently, I've fitted my Brompton with the SON dynamo hub & B&M IQ Cyo front lamp, which gives a better-directed illumination.
    Speed is limited by the need to look out for animals on the road. Colliding with a pig is bit more of an event than hitting a fox (though maybe not a skunk: fortunately we don't have those). I also need to dodge obstacles on the road: potholes, tree branches, and pony poo!
    Although darkness limits my speed somewhat, much the biggest problem is the combination of dark and raindrops on the glasses. If it gets bad I can hardly see a thing.

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  6. I regularly do the monthly FNRttC (http://fnrttc.blogspot.com/) and the annual Dunwich Dynamo (http://southwarkcyclists.org.uk/content/dunwich-dynamo). Parts of these rides are in pitch blacker-than-blackness. I have been getting by on Cateye LED commuter lights but it's definitely not safe to descend looping, swooping country lanes without being accompanied by someone running something like the Exposure MaXx-D Mk.3 or a good Hope light like the Vision 2, both of which produce gob-smacking car-like beams of brightness! I want one! But this seems to be an area where you get what you pay for... I haven't yet mustered my nerve to fork over that much money but probably will before the June FNRttC.

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  7. I've noticed since moving to Boston that I don't need the 'for me to see' type lights as much as the 'to be seen' type.

    When riding in actual darkness I prefer to have a very bright flood light. Currently I have an old NiteRider NiCd light in which I've replaced the aging NiCd battery with a lithium polymer pack. It's pretty bright as I'm running more volts through it than it's rated for. When it eventually explodes I'm going to build an LED light to replace it.

    And now... submitted for the approval of the Midnight Society, I call this story... 'deer in the headlights': When I used to live in Rochester NY I would frequently ride a fairly long and pitch dark trail in order to get from campus into the city and back. Very late one evening riding home I passed through the only 90 degree chicane in the trail and on the other side was a very large deer in the middle of the trail. I ended up locking my rear brake to avoid running into it. Eventually it took off and I continued on my way.

    It was a good lesson for when I eventually bought a motorcycle. And that is: never outrun your headlights.

    I declare this meeting of the Midnight Society closed.

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  8. You're saying that both the front and rear standlights are dim?

    I have the B&M IQ cyo headlight, and B&M Seculite Plus taillight, both with standlights.

    The headlight definitely dims the moment the dynamo output stops, and stays dim until it loses its capacitor charge in about 5 minutes. But the taillight retains full brightness for about 4-5 minutes, then dies suddenly.

    I don't think the headlight needs to retain full brightness when in Standlight mode, as the only real purpose is to be seen while stopped in traffic, but I do kind of think the taillight should retain full brightness in standlight mode. I don't know how large the capacitor is in the headlight, but when I gutted the taillight to retrofit into a vintage Soubitez housing (see here):

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/7516215@N03/5493022555/in/photostream/

    I noted that the capacitor is fairly large. There was no Farad rating stamped on it, but it is about the size of 4-5 stacked pennies.

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  9. LED lighting is such a huge shift in the world of bicycle lighting.
    I remember when I started commuting year round, there was halogen and metal halide, and the former was quaint and dim and the latter required enormous battery packs and frequent recharging.

    I have been exceptionally happy with my Edeluxe- it's definitely bright enough for as fast as I want to go, even on dark trails like the minuteman. I was returning from an advocacy meeting a couple of weeks ago with two others. We decided to take the river path, which I would not have done at night alone. Two of us rode abreast in the beam off my light, and it provided plenty of illumination for an unevenly paved route.

    I have a slightly less powerful LED on Minerva, but it's still so much brighter than halogen- there's no comparison.

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  10. One job ended well past midnight and the commute home was about eight miles with more than half of it on unlit wooded trails. This was in Eugene, Oregon on the bike path between Eugene and Springfield. I only had one of those battery things one strapped around their legs. Never enough to light the road, but enough to warn others you were coming. The pedaling was slow and careful but the ride was immensely enjoyable. Amazing how familiar one becomes with the road.

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  11. My P7 headlight is brighter than most car high beams. It is much nicer than when I used that Cateye 530.

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  12. I find the Planet Bike Blaze 2 watt to be sufficient for my work commutes. Much of my commute is decently lit by the ambient urban lights, but more out of the way roads can get pretty dark. However, route familiarity is a big help, and riding less familiar roads I would find the battery powered blaze too dim.

    As it is, I end up slowing down somewhat during this time of year. I have plenty of light to see obstacles, and know the route like the back of my hand, but with spring in the north come the potholes, which are numerous and can develop fairly rapidly, especially if the city's maintenance leaves a little to be desired!

    Garth-

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  13. Steve - Who makes the P7 headlight? The listings I find for it are a little weird and DIY-ish, but maybe I'm doing it wrong.

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  14. Sun goes down and I go in for the day. I've yet to find bike lights that are as good as car headlights.

    Besides, my night vision sucks anymore. :^(

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  15. somervillain said...
    "You're saying that both the front and rear standlights are dim?"


    Yes, they both dim considerably as soon as the bicycle stops. Then they stay on in that dimmed state for 4-5 minutes. Other dynamo LEDs we've tried dim to a lesser extent to start with, then continue dimming gradually before switching off.

    When the bicycle is in motion, the headlight beam is both brighter and superior in terms of coverage to the B&M IQ Cyo. The dimming is a little weird though, which is why we keep thinking that something may not be functioning 100% as intended.

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  16. I haven't done night riding in ages can't remember the last time to tell ya the truth. Ideally I wanna get the Sturmey Archer hub with drum brake not sure on the light as of yet though have to wait a while for it. Only thing that really scares me around here is Deer darting out of no where at night. Roads around here are pitch pitch black. Anyways good post

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  17. NYC is so bright that I need lights more to make sure that I am seen than to see. I can see perfectly with the stock dynamo lighting my bike came with. I would love to cycle in a super dark countryside location, though. Sounds peaceful and exciting at the same time.

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  18. I find myself commuting after dark quite often, and although much of the way is well-lit suburban streets, there are quite a few dark spots, some of which have enough gravel and potholes that I feel the need for lighting.
    I use a rechargeable Niterider Mini-Newt mounted below my front basket, and that works well for my typical commuting speed (12-15 mph or so).
    When I'm just cruising around town, I've got magnet-powered flashers on my front and rear wheels, which allow me to be seen but don't provide any real illumination. On familiar streets at low speeds it's kind of fun to ride around in the dark.

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  19. I find the dark a real barrier to cycling now that I'm living in a really rural area. I definitely prefer cycling when there's a full moon, and mostly restrict myself to roads I know well and shorter distances. The problem is exacerbated by the lack of any reflective lines on the road so although I can see the surface I'm about to cycle onto, I can't always make out where I am in relation to the edge of the road (unless there's a car around to light my way). While it's doable - and I'm slowly upgrading my lights and probably my skills too - it's quite a strain to be cycling for further than a couple of miles peering at a tiny patch of road and trying to remember the location and nastiness of every pothole.

    That said, I do love the wildlife I encounter, including have bats dance above my head, a deer springing away from me and over a wall, and all those mysterious little rustling noises in the verges... And a full moon is just magical.

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  20. >What's the darkest you're
    >comfortable with when traveling by bicycle?

    Well, once Cathy and I were touring
    in the Faroe islands. We had to ride
    through a tunnel which would carry us under the North Sea between two islands.
    The Tunnel was a few Kilometers long
    and curved up at the ends like a U shape.
    There were no lights and there was dense
    fog in the tunnel, but we had no seen any cars for hours.

    We had LED lights, but Cathys front light
    was not working. So she followed me closely
    as we proceeded with caution on the slippery muddy surface. However, I was riding a little two fast (maybe 8km/h) and she lost visual
    contact with me. All I heard was "slow down ...Ahh!) I turned around and headed back
    to find her lying on the ground covered in black mud. She got totally disorientated in the pitch black. Unhurt, we reassembled our little peleton to continue up towards the light.

    John I

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  21. Most of the time I am good with the dynamo and standard light set that came with my bikes, but when I'm in the back alley way (we live in a row house) I can't seem to see anything because there are no more street lights and my eyes don't adjust quick enough. Normally I can pedal through the alley, but at night it's time to dismount and walk to the back gate. The alley gives me a load of trouble-- everything from metal drain grids to smacking into the walls to little kids running out of no where to cobblestone cracks that eat my tires.

    You give me a lot of hope that as time goes by, my bike skills will improve and the fear of every pot hole in the dark will get better.

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  22. I use a low mounted Planet Bike 1W dynamo LED light on steady, rack mounted B&M 4D Toplight Senso steady, and a seatpost mounted Planet Bike Blinky 5 set to blink for night riding. I have a Sturmey Archer XF-DD dynamo/drum brake combination hub which seems to produce decent output even at low speeds. I might say though that the PB 1W dynamo LED light beam pattern isn't particularly wide or well shaped for riding any faster than 12-15 MPH.

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  23. The E3 rear light has no capacitor. It feeds off the front 1 farad capacitor.

    If I bring the bike indoors and turn off the lights, it's about 1/2 as bright as the IQ Cyo standlight, but stays that way longer than the IQ Cyo does. The E3 taillight gets as dim as the B&M 4D taillight in standlight mode, which is to say fairly dim...

    But boy, is the E3 bright when you're moving!

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  24. I love riding in the dark but end up mostly commuting in well lit urban areas. This is the best test of bike lights I've come across: http://yacf.co.uk/forum/index.php?topic=11751.0

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  25. Oh, and I have a IQ cyo on Minerva with a Toplight Plus, and the rear light seems to stay at close to 100% brightness as a standlight.

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  26. About half of my commute has street lights, and the other half doesn't. One night over the winter I had my Cateye just die on me during one of the unlit parts of the ride! Good thing the skies were clear and there was a full moon or I never would have been able to see my way. For that reason I'm grateful for the dynamo on the Pashley, but I do find it lacking. Especially now that my husband has added lights to his ride. Check this out!, especially the last photo. I'm going to have him make a headlight for both of my bikes, and a taillight for the Kettler in this manner. With a smaller battery though.

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  27. I ride a great deal on very dark, narrow country lanes. i live in England and ride about 30 miles each morning from 4:30am to 6:30am, year round and in winter the roads are not only dark but often icy as well. I use a Lupine Betty 7 - 1850 lumens at full whack, but with lower settings of 700 and 1100 lumens.

    It is a brilliant light - literally and metaphorically. It lights up the road as well as any car headlight. It is rechargeable and at 1850 lumens has a 5-hour burn time - plenty for a very long ride. I can ride with absolute confidence.

    These lights are very pricy, but if you seriously do ride a lot at night, they are worth every penny.

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  28. cris - That was my one uneasy thought when riding on the Minuteman Trail in the dark as well. There are all these warehouse storage yards that border it, who knows what could be lurking there? Too many Stephen King books as a teenager!

    I am so jealous that you are riding the Boston brevets! My fitness level is not there yet. Just this alone makes that evident:

    "The last leg of the Boston 400k takes riders from Peter White's house in Hillsborough ..."

    Um... we've been there. In a car. It's f@*^ing hilly!!

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  29. I do a lot of night riding b/c the time I actually get to be alone is after dark- when b comes home and I go to meetings. I really enjoy it and in Newton it varies from block to block on how dark it is. The other evening I had been at a cocktail party and was riding home at 11:30 at night, the latest I had been out. and while in some ways what'a the difference between 9pm and 11 pm right? except all the houses were dark too and it just felt really quiet and dark. I was riding on a road that goes along the pike ( elevated etc but one side has a fence against the highway )the other side the houses are on a hill and the yards are small and it's not well lit at all. And it's a hill so I couldn't go super fast and I felt very out there. But as soon as I crested the hill and could go fast I felt much better.

    My light ( can't remember the name some super brihgt $$$ thing that I love) is good enough but I do have to be super aware b/c of all the potholes. and each pothole makes the light fall forward ( I need to tweak that) .

    so basically I like it suburban dark ok. with a street light at the start of most blocks. Quiet to no cars on the road. It's quiet I get to smell all the smells, see the mist in the light and the moon over head. It's probably my favorite time to ride. I don't go very fast though- maybe 12 mph? I have no idea.

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  30. "P7" is a designation for an actual LED module, around which several lights are designed including the MagicShine headlights which are absurdly bright. On my recumbent trike I can, with two MagicShine headlights, illuminate the road as well as with automotive high beams with fairly modest battery requirements. Amy linked to my setup above. That being the case, I'm hard pressed to imagine a road so dark I'd hesitate to ride it, unless I expected that ride to be more than the four or so hours I estimate I'll get out of a single charge of my battery.

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  31. cris again - Wow, wait. How is it that I missed your blog, which you've apparently had since...2004? Sorry about that, I'll need to read through all the fascinating entries!

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  32. I ride to work most days about 5 am, and do a good amount of night riding just because I enjoy it. I ride mostly in an urban environment, with only very occasional forays into areas where I need a light to see rather than to be seen.

    That said, I've been really impressed with the Princeton Tec Eos headlight I recently got. The two areas I ride where I most need a bright light are a multi-use trail where my return trip from the beach has me facing car headlights--which makes seeing the actual pavement of the trail impossible with no light of my own-and a short nature trail that is totally unlit except occasionally by houses on the other sides of tall fences and through thick layers of tree branches. I'm comfortable enough with the light put out that I'm able to maintain a minimum speed of around 15 mph even in those conditions.

    The other feature that was vital for me was a slow blink rather than a strobe. I know from being on the other end of the beam that a strobe is annoying to oncoming traffic and makes it difficult to judge distance between the viewer and the strobe. But I feel that as steady light--even the Eos that people have compared to a car headlight--just doesn't grab enough attention for me to feel safe around the number of people talking and (illegally) texting on their phones.

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  33. no worries, V ... I keep my journal off the Google index so it isn't really easy to find. No specific desire for more exposure, just, you know wanting to keep the audience closer to folks that I might know than strangers who wander in from the cloud.

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  34. I prefer city riding at night with some street lighting but have no problem going down a dark road if its not too long.

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  35. Amy & HusbandofAmy - I understand about the P7 now. Thank you for the link; that set-up you have is just WOW. The headlight looks very classic as well. MDI, you need to have a look!

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  36. It looks super-bright, but it's battery.

    There are very good LED setups people have (for example on candlepowerforums), but I think most of them require more than 6 volts. In theory, all of these could work with a dynamo, but for some reason all the dynamo lights are a generation or two behind the latest in custom battery torches.

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  37. MDI - You could mount that P7 headlight on the Pashley's fork crown and move the Supernova to the axel bolt for a more classic look.

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  38. But I am trying to cut down on Pashley's weight, that's why I got rid of my 8 AA cateyes and 2AA taillight.

    I'd have to keep the battery pouch from this light somewhere.

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  39. Velouria and MDI - I'm going to put mine on the fork on the Pashley and just not use the dynamo except in case of emergencies and as daytime running lights. I'll probably go with a battery that is half the size HusbandofAmy has and just charge more often. I only need that much light for about 30 minutes in the evenings, but still even if I got 2 hours out of a charge and we went for long evening rides I think that + dynamo would be plenty. Saves some on the weight and the battery doesn't seem too intrusive that way.

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  40. Don't fear the battery! If you're willing to fork over a little extra dough for lithium polymer the batteries are very light. the 9AH battery I'm using on my setup (which is HUUUUGE in terms of capacity, because I have two headlights and three tail lights and wanted a very long run time) is exactly one pound. If you were running only a single headlight and tail light you could get by with MUCH less. By contrast, Alkaline AA batteries can weigh .8oz a piece. I can pretty much guarantee you'll work harder to push through the dynamo drag than from pushing four or five ounces of battery up hills...

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  41. The dynamo though has the advantage of no recharging. And I don't know if we can be diligent enough with maintaining battery lights, not forgetting to put them on, moving them from bike to bike and so on. For us, there is a distinct advantage to permanently mounted systems that don't even need to be switched on, let alone charged.

    Having said that, not all of our bikes have dynamos. We're getting a rechargable headlight for V to use on fast bikes and will see how that goes.

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  42. As an aside, the reason why dynamo systems aren't as bright as battery based systems isn't a matter of progress, but simple electrical maths. The dynamo on a Pashley produces 2.4 watts on approximately a 50% duty cycle. A single P7 LED consumes 12 watts at a 100% duty cycle. So just to run a single P7 headlight your dynamo would have to drag ten times as hard as it presently does (probably more, since the efficiency won't scale linearly) No dynamo you'd ever want to pedal through is going to produce the wattage required for high powered LED lights like the candlepower chaps use, the physics don't add up. Generating your own power on the fly is much less physically efficient then pulling out out of a socket when charging and only moving the weight of the battery around. (especially when the high energy density of lithium batteries is put into the equation)

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  43. I know that *I* will not be diligent enough to recharge battery lights on bikes I ride in the dark regularly : )

    The dynamo vs battery choice really has a lot to do with how people ride their bikes, how long they travel in the dark, as well as their maintenance habits.

    Oh, and the 2.4W dynohub that the Pashley comes with is not one I would ever intentionally get for any of my bicycles. There is no comparison between it and the higher end hubs I have on my 2 touring bikes.

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  44. To add to the last paragraph in my comment above: I am not necessarily critical of Pashley for using that hub. I think that makers of upright transportation bicycles cater mostly to city dwellers who cycle short distances, for whom so-so lighting is sufficient.

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  45. Velouria, re: "the 2.4W dynohub that the Pashley comes with is not one I would ever intentionally get for any of my bicycles. There is no comparison between it and the higher end hubs I have on my 2 touring bikes."

    Short version: The Pashley has weak lights, not weak hubs.

    Long version: Are you saying the hub has too much drag, or that the light is too weak? It may be true that the generator hubs used by Pashley have more drag (most likely due to cheaper bearings, since the generator coils are almost all made by the same factory, except perhaps for the SON). However, if the light is weak, this is almost certainly due to the headlight. All generators put out almost the same voltage and wattage at a given rotational speed. The brightness of the light depends on 1) how fast the hub is spinning and 2) how efficient the light is.

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  46. Joseph E - The 2.4W hub is limited as to what lights it can accommodate at optimal brightness. It is designed for headlight only. And yes, of course there is more drag then on the higher-end hubs. There are lots of comparison charts and things about this stuff, somewhere...

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  47. I'm sympathetic to the remembering to charge argument, yet I can't help but notice that everybody I've ever met who makes that argument manages to charge their cel phones. For my part, it's just part of my routine: When I'm done riding I yoink the battery and stick it on the charger, it stays there until I'm ready to ride again. Not so bad, if you make it a routine every time you ride, rather than trying to charge it only when you've run it down or keep track of how much you've used it. If you can remember to bring water, or (as some do) grab a helmet, or wear shoes, you can remember to charge a battery if you do it every time. Still, different strokes for different folks, I suppose...If I were only occasionally riding in the dark, I'd likely feel differently.

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  48. i always feel awkward riding in the dark (even with lights). there is something about not being able to see the ground that makes me feel like i am much higher off the ground, therefore giving me a bit of 'fear of heights'

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  49. HusbandofAmy said...
    "...can't help but notice that everybody I've ever met who makes that argument manages to charge their cel phones."


    Haha. Not I : ))
    Seriously, I could never own something like an iPod that requires frequent charging. Even my current, simple and ancient phone, is often discharged... much to the annoyance of my close ones!

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  50. Anon 9:25 - Okay, I am not going to annoy everyone by putting on my psych/neuorosci hat, but what you wrote is very interesting to me; it has to do with sensorymotor processing and dissociative tendencies. I experience something like that as well... though I do not find it entirely unpleasant if I cycle slowly.

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  51. There is a certain thrill in riding on a dark path as I did every morning when I was going to college. I live in Toronto (Canada) and part of my commute was 11 km through parks.
    The scariest thing was the sudden noise made by some deers who would run away when they detected my presence. I was also wary of them running across the path just in front of me as it happened sometimes.
    Recently I have installed an LED Lumotec Lyt in my new touring bike and the light beam is a lot better than my Pashley's Lumotec Retro. I didn't notice any dimming in the standlight (but I only used it once). It would be nice if they made a retro looking LED light like this one. It would be a good upgrade for the Pashley.

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  52. I gotta add one thing for me there is always one thing I hate and more so with the new cars is the new pure white headlights anyone else have problems getting blinded by them? otherwise I tend to have pretty decent night vision though as said I haven't gotten on my bike at night for a few years now.

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  53. Dim standlights scare me. There was a guy around here who chopped off the top of a hobby horse. You know, the flashing big orange light on a traffic barrier. Rigged it so it flashed all the time, taped it to his basket.

    I like.

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  54. "Even my current, simple and ancient phone, is often discharged... much to the annoyance of my close ones!?"

    You need a charger port on your dynohub bikes! ;-)

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  55. I ride through about 4 miles of unlit 4 lane road before 5:30 am using a Cateye EL530 (wide, near), Niterider mininewt on the handlebars (distance forward), and a helmet mounted Niterider mininewt (where I point). In back I have a yellow Lightman xenon strobe on my helmet and then 7 red LEDs on pannier, frame and shoes. I like the the button LED from RoadID; on flash the batteries last a year for 40 minutes/workday usage. I also have had good luck with the cheap safety light on rechargeable AAA (available from Nathan). Charging is a matter of habit.

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  56. somervillain - Ah but then I wouldn't be able to annoy my close ones!

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  57. I use my NiteRider Minewt 150 lumens lamp, which is sufficient for the type of night riding I like to do, which is mostly leisure rides for me. The mount is not the best.. It sometimes slides down and I find myself adjusting it while I'm riding, even after tightening it to the max on the handlebar. I use a battery operated Bontrager flare for the rear. I do like to be familiar with the area when I night ride, but complete darkness does not spook me - the NiteRider, works well. The only thing that spooks me would be if a critter jumped out in front of my wheel, so I'm much more hyper aware of what's going on in front of me, and not so concerned about the traffic behind me. I'm not sure if that's necessarily a good thing. I do enjoy night riding on quiet roads... I find it peaceful and therapeutic.

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  58. I used to do allot of (and sometimes organized some) moonlight Cruiser rambles and pub crawls and it was very common for me to go out on the weekend on one of my bikes. One incident comes to mind that of the annual Fall ramble in Austin. It's generally held during a full moon so visibility is great (if it's not raining), but one year the route went down a very steep hill close to Town Lake and that particular stretch of road is TOTALLY covered by trees! Cruiser guys being minimalist by nature none of us had lights (or reflectors!) We were all doing close to 20 MPH when we hit this stretch and BAM! it was like "lights out" you could not see your hand in front of your face. Your first thought was to slow down and hit the brakes, but then somebody might slam into the back of you. everybody started yelling and screaming as loud as the could, and as scary as it was the adrenalin was pumping and the hair was standing up on the back of my neck!! After what seemed like forever a car appeared coming the opposite direction and all of the 20 plus riders could now see each other, the trees ended about the same time and everyone breathed a sigh of relief that they could now see and nobody had had an incident! It would have been good to have a light, but if I had I would have missed that experience!! ;-)

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  59. Well, the rear E3 does get kind of dim in standlight mode (like B&M 4D) but the front E3 while dim is still brighter than Pashley's stock light while moving. It's relative. I find that the IQ Cyo has a brighter standlight than the E3 for the first minute, after which the E3 is brighter for longer. While moving the E3 appears somewhat brighter and has a bigger, better placed beam than the IQ Cyo (which is a really good deal for the money, I think).

    I am not suffering from the E3's dimness on standlight mode, but I will definitely supplement the taillight with a tiny battery backup version.

    In general, I believe in having more than one taillight. I've had both a dyno and battery taillight fail in the middle of the ride. You want there to be two points of failure, not one. You can't see if your rear light is working...

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  60. Yes. Brought to you by the Department of Redundancy Department. It's real. For reals.

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  61. I live in the country so dark roads are the norm. When the moon is bright it's nice! I do not even have very bright lights and do fine. However my night vision is so so and I am a scardey cat so I would love to have really good lights. Have you looked into Dinotte lights? They are battery powered and could be good extra lights. Last I checked they had 1200 lumen lights which is blazing bright. If I had the money I would buy them.
    I also have to be careful of animals running across the road like deer, coyotes, raccoons, bears..and others. I haven't encountered a cougar at least not that I know of which is a big fear.
    Once in Tofino my husband wanted to out at night on rented bikes and the lights we brought needed batteries. We attempted to ride in the dark without lights into town and I had a terrifying scare. A wolf chasing something dashed right in front of me. There was much snarling, growling and scared animal noises. I couldn't really see so it was scary.
    My biggest peeve about riding on dark country roads are the drivers who cannot be bothered to dim their highbeam lights. I doubt they even notice cyclists on the road. When I had a car, I certainly would watch for cyclists and pedestrians and make sure to dim the high beams.
    I have to wave like a lunatic and even then only a few drivers notice. Some high beams can be very blinding. I find I get disoriented especially when it is wet and rainy with all the reflections. This can be dangerous if I suddenly stop or fall off(which hasn't happened, but you know...).

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  62. Can't believe no one's mentioned the B&M Ixon IQ -- a super-bright battery light with a square beam to prevent blinding other road users.

    I cycle pitch-black country roads by necessity. The Ixon is brighter than all of our other dynamo lights: Supernova E3, IQ Cyo, and Lumotec IQ Fly.

    For standlights, the Lumotec IQ Fly (LED) that we have stays very bright for quite a long time. The other headlights we have dim quickly in comparison.

    The standlight on the Toplight Line Plus tail light stays very bright for a long time. These two on the same bike would be quite visible for longer than most, I think.

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  63. Speaking of Dinotte lights, I use the amber one as a tail light along with my regular dynamo tail light.

    This helps boost visibility, since amber sticks out in the sea of red lights. Friends who've followed me in their car say it's extremely eye-catching.

    Also, there's a small percentage of the population that's color-impaired, so they don't see red very well or *at all*. But the yellow tones are still visible.

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  64. heather - OMG, I experienced vicarious fear just reading your comment! First the wolves, then the car beams... : ((

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  65. @velouria,

    Have you considered buying the 3W version of the X-FDD hub and either you and/or the co-habitant can have a go at building it into the wheel? The 3W version is easily sufficient to drive a good front and rear light. The external dimensions are identical so it wouldn't be that hard with Sheldon's wheelbuilding guide. I did the same when I got my DL-1, it had an X-FD hub but I wanted an X-FDD dynamo hub.

    Worst case scenario, you have to take it to a bike shop.

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  66. One caution about Amber colored tail lights is that they are not legal in all states. Check your local statutes, some states (including TN) require red tail lights/reflectors on bikes. This is something you're unlikely to get busted on by a policeman, but if you're ever involved in an accident it can factor into insurance matters if you are not marked in the way the state requires.

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  67. V: I have a Shimano Alfine with disk mounts on a 20" wheel.

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  68. I know this is an older post, but I was wondering if you could share a picture of the co-inhabitant's Pashley Roadster with the Supernova e3 on it? I'm considering making that change to my Pashley, but I'm just not sure what the look would end up being. I do love the retro feel of the current light, just not it's output.

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