Editor’s Note: I welcome and really enjoy receiving emails from readers sharing a bit of the cumulative wealth of knowledge that exists in our diverse readership group. Whether it’s a Quick Tip, a heads-up about a new product, an idea for a story or, in the case of an email I received last week, a full-blown, nicely written article – it’s always a pleasure to read what you have to say.
That email last week, from long-time Premium Member Russ Starke, was so perfectly timed, and just the kind of useful how-to advice that is our hallmark, that I decided on the spot to run it in this space today. In it, Russ tells us the ways he stays illuminated, and illuminates, on his rides as the days grow shorter and darkness becomes something we must once again deal with more regularly on our rides.
By Russ Starke
Fall is here, and the days are getting shorter. This may mean you are beginning or ending your ride in less than ideal light conditions. During the week, due to schedule issues, I typically ride at 5:15 a.m., which means large doses of darkness. Here are a few products I use for both vision and visibility. You might find some of them helpful.
Clothing: Much of my cycling clothes have some reflective accents. There are too many to go into. I do, however, wear a Nathan reflective vest. I found mine at REI. It is extraordinarily lightweight and is highly visible.
Wheel Reflectors: Fiks makes sets of 3M reflective material designed to go on rims of various sizes. They weigh virtually nothing when applied to a rim. They make a variety of colors, but I chose black to go on my black rims. In daylight, they are all but invisible on the rim. The application is simple and goes quickly. I only did my front wheel, as this provides quite a bit of visibility.
Tail light: There are many excellent red blinky lights, but I find many are just not bright enough for riding in the dark. I see other riders out there in the darkness, and some of their lights are essentially useless, either due to low lumens or poor placement. I really like the Niterider Solas with 4 levels of brightness and a USB rechargeable battery. At its brightest, it is too bright to use in a paceline in the daytime! I typically recharge monthly. The mount is good and can be placed in a variety of locations.
Headlights: Again there are numerous great lights out there. Just make sure you get enough power to be safe. I like the line of lights from Serfas. They are small, powerful, USB rechargeable and have solid battery life. The thing that gives them the edge for me is the mount can be placed not just on the bar, but also fits on the spacer stack of my headset.
In addition, the mount has what would be side-to-side adjustability when installed on the bar, but becomes up-and-down adjustability when installed on the headset. Aiming the beam is simple, and the bar stays de-cluttered, unless of course you already have your computer and cell phone there.
I run a 500-lumen on my bike and have a 250-lumen on my helmet. The helmet light allows me to see hazards and/or critters that I do not see with just a bike-mounted light. It is especially good for seeing into a turn, when the bike light is still aimed forward. I also like the redundancy of having two lights in case something should happen to one.
Cluster Light: There are times when I wish I knew what gear I was in on the cassette, but it is too dark to see. I have solved this issue by mounting a small light on the right seat stay that shines a small pool of light down onto the cluster.
Most of these smaller lights are designed for the handlebar. I found a set from Planet Bike − The Spok Light Set − that has an adjustable mount that allows it to be mounted in a manner to light the cassette. Loosen the screw on the back and rotate 90 degrees. Easy. It comes as a white and red set. I have found both to work perfectly at getting just enough light onto the cluster. Two bikes for the price of one. Battery life is quite good, but they are not rechargeable.
Additional Safety: While my experience has not been perfect, I use the ICEdot safety device. Essentially, it is a small accelerometer mounted on your helmet that pairs with your smartphone. If you have an accident, detected by the accelerometer, the device signals the phone via Bluetooth to start a countdown. If you do not disable the countdown within a prescribed time, it assumes you are injured/unconscious and sends a text to your pre-determined emergency contacts with your GPS coordinates.
[Note: ICEdot has also added a manual emergency/check-in feature that allows the user to share his/her GPS coordinates to “check in” during a ride to let someone know the rider is OK, or needs a SAG, for example.]
Night Riding: Night riding is not the same as riding in the dark! With everything described above, I see as well as a car and am extraordinarily visible. With the lower traffic levels, I actually feel safer riding in the early morning, in the dark. When the weekend comes it is simple to pull the velcro straps and take the cluster light and helmet light off. Presto, ready for daylight running.
Final Note: We’ve reviewed a number of tail lights, headlights and various other safety equipment, all of which can be found at http://www.roadbikerider.com/product-reviews/25/Safety%20Equipment.