Sunday, August 28, 2011

Blinky Lights - be seen in the gloom

Blackburn Mars 3.0
On my recent group ride in the Sourlands, it became more than apparent, that even when you think you're never going to cycle in the dark, eventually you're going to be caught out.

Indeed, the group I was riding with seemed well aware of this. I don't think I've seen so many flashing rear lights in action on a ride with the evening drawing in.

The last few years have seen a transformation of bicycle lighting. Systems which give bikes the lighting power of a car are available, if somewhat expensive. But every year sees the amount of available lumens doubling and the price halving. Until recently each lumen cost around usd2.00/ukp1.50. This year the ratio has inverted and cost is about 2 lumens per usd1.00/ukp0.60.

Blackburn Flea
Most road rides can manage with a rear blinky light. Of course a front light of some sort aids conspicuity too, but, at least, you can see trouble coming at you from that direction and take appropriate action. Even on summer rides in bright sunlight a flashing rear light is useful to draw attention to you as vehicle drivers wearing dark sunglasses come up behind you in deep shade, under trees and so on.

Planet Bike
Superflash Turbo
Most bicycle rear lights have a series of modes from constant on to a variety of flashing and strobing effects. Some sequences have been specifically designed to be the most eye-catching to motorists.

But don't forget, you might not want to subject other riders in your group to a blitz of intense, flashing red light. Some of the more expensive rear blinkies are very bright indeed and employ random or even psychologically tested strobe patterns which can be very unpleasant indeed if you've a dozen or so riders in front of you. So think of using a less conspicuous setting and let the fact there are several riders on the road attract the attention of passing drivers.

Princeton Tec
Swerve 2
Lastly, don't stint on batteries.

Modern LED lights are very efficient and a set of batteries will last many hours. But it's still common to see good, potentially effective, live-saving even, rear lights barely glimmering through the gloom because they need a new set of batteries.