JIM LANGLEY REPLIES: I’ve only seen them in pictures, too. They’re called gonfleurs, which is French for “pump.” As I understand it, they were an early form of compressed-air pump. The mechanics would charge them with air from portable compressors before the start, and racers would use their gonfleur to rapidly repair a flat tire. Like today’s CO2 pumps, they were smaller, lighter and faster than conventional hand pumps.
Lights for Commuting
DEAR JIM: I’ve started riding my bike to work, a 20-mile roundtrip. I leave at 3:30 a.m. and travel the first 5 miles on a dark country road.
Is there a headlight for less than $100 that will provide sufficient light for this stretch? I bought a Cateye LED light, but at best I can see 15 feet with it. On 20-mph downhills, that isn’t sufficient to avoid rattlesnakes keeping warm on the road or litter such as tread from big rigs.
I’ve learned where the potholes are, so those are easy to avoid. It’s the new and temporary hazards that concern me. Any suggestions? — Paul H.
JIM LANGLEY REPLIES: You’re in luck, Paul. There are numerous lights that’ll meet your needs. However, I won’t be able to tell you which specific light to buy because I haven’t tried them all.
In fact, I’m still using a 6-year-old light. It’s the type I recommend for you. Unlike your Cateye, it has a rechargeable battery. Mine uses the nickel cadmium (NiCad) type, but many new lights have nickel metal hydride (NiMH) batteries. Both work great, but an NiMH is lighter and will accept more recharges, giving it a longer life.
My light is made by Nite Rider, a company with an excellent reputation. Contact a bike shop to check the newest lights in your price range by Nite Rider and other good companies. I believe you’ll find a nice system for $100-$135. It would light up the road very brightly and allow you to ride at daylight speeds while spotting those rattlers and other hazards of the wee hours.
For budget rechargeables, try the mailorder catalogs. Most have house-brand lights that cost less but still offer decent quality.
You’ll find as you start reading about lighting systems that they’re quite high tech. There’s a lot to know. The good news is that as you go up in price, you’ll get a headlight every bit as reliable and nearly as bright as what’s in the average motorcycle.
Good job commuting to work!