Friday, March 25, 2011

Two lights at the front, two lights at the back

Here in Australia the days are getting shorter. The nights a bit colder. So naturally thoughts turn towards ... lights. I run with two lights at the front, and two lights at the back. Surely this is a bit paranoid – why two?

I'm talking about lights for commuting in a major city. With mostly bright street lighting. Not for touring. When the sun gets low in the sky I think of only one thing: stopping and putting up the tent. I don't like doing this in the dark.

I used to be an Audax rider. If you are planning on doing all night rides, then look up the rules for Audax lighting. They know what they are doing. Some of my set-up comes from that background.

Let's start with the back lights. Nothing special there. Running on rechargeable batteries, I have one on the seatpost and one on the frame. They are both visible when the bike is fully loaded. Why two? Well rechargeable batteries have one problem – when they run out of charge, they usually do this fairly quickly. So you set off on a 20km ride. At the start the lights are bright, but by the end they are hardly visible. Problem is you are facing forward and  you are not aware of the failure. How many cyclists are struck from behind? Lots.

Here's a vertical view of the front lights.

The egg white is 4 watts. Quite bright. The other is a 5-led that I only use as a flasher. If I was buying a new one, I would get another egg white. They are good value for money. Looking from the front, you can see the role that each plays:

Egg white is pointing down at the road or track. I use this to look for potholes. One place I like to ride is the bike path from Carrum to Dandenong. There is no lighting at all, so this is really needed there.

The other light is devoted solely to pointing at car drivers. It is aimed straight at eye level for them. It's quite bright, and hard to miss. Car drivers are looking for cars, not for anything else, so you need the extra level of illumination. Lots of bikes I see have really weak lighting – a single led or flat batteries. Not a good idea.

My philosophy is be really bright, and really visible. There is an alternative view that says be invisible – that way they can't aim at you. Good luck if you follow this approach.


Thaddeus Clarke said...

I agree with brilliant lighting, and have begun to use a Planet Blinky on strobe and a helmet cave light on flash day and night. I've also just added a pair of 3 LED Mouselights on strobe, one each side, to fill the lateral blindspots.

Andrew Jennings said...

Update: the egg light failed and I have replaced it with a Niteflux Commute 4.