Thank goodness there are less than 30 days to go until the start of British Summer Time but even when the clocks go back, we still have a good few weeks cycling before the light nights enable us to cycle home without our lights.
As you all know, I’m not a fan of wearing high visibility clothing and I prefer to let my bike do the talking in that sense. I do have a set of reflective arm and leg bands which I wear and my Bspoke jacket has a reflective belt. I don’t mind reflective, it’s neon and flouro I can’t be doing with. I don’t want to look like I’m doing something hazardous, when I’m trying to convince people that cycling is safe and fun. I know that a lot of readers don’t share my views but let’s agree to disagree.
My commute takes place on roads that are well lit with street lights and are busy with other road users. I don’t really ride on roads where I need to see, but rather I need other traffic to see me. To my mind, there’s nothing more ineffectual than a cyclist all neon-ed up with a single blinky light on the bike the size of a 5p. My other feeling is that, as a car-driver myself, I’m looking for hazzards at the point of impact with my car and that would be at bumper level. When I’m driving I’m looking out for the constant beam of light from another vehicle and not the blinky strobe light favoured by so many cyclists. If we want to be seen why don’t we all adopt the same strategy as our car-driving nemeses and use the same warning system and keep the light constant? I just don’t get it. But I’m sure you’ll enlighten me….in droves!
So, if I’m not going to wear neon, I need to keep my bike lit up as much as possible, which means three or four rear lights, two or three front lights, all on constant, plus I have tyres with reflective side walls and reflective spokes covers. I have a Hump backpack cover which I use to cover whichever bag I put on the rear rack.
At the moment, I have a variety of lights that I’m putting through their paces. I have about four different sorts of Knog lights, the old-style Frogs, the Gekko, Boomer and Skink and I have a Cat-Eye front and rear light set that I bought about 17 years ago. The rear Cateye light is amazing. I use it everyday and to my knowledge I’ve only had to change the battery once. I don’t know how that can be but it just is. I use it on constant mode as well, not flashing….in contrast it’s sister light the front one works for about 20 minutes before I have to put new batteries in. The beam of this light is good for those rare times when I need to see the road ahead rather than just being seen myself which means that I only use it for short periods on certain journeys otherwise I’d be singlehandedly keeping Duracell afloat. The Knogs Gekko and Boomer are my go-to lights for the front although I have to echo the thoughts of other users and say that sometimes they turn themselves on in my bag and the Boomer has a mind of it’s own. Whenever I go over a bump in the road it turns itself on to strobe mode which is bloody annoying.
USB Rechargeable Boomers
I now have a set of USB rechargeable Boomers, both front and rear, and I have to say that they’re the best lights I’ve had so far. The beam is very powerful and there’s no way you’d miss that. It was too bright for a picture to develop. I’ve only recharged it once and it’s still going strong. The advantage of these lights is that you just pop them into the port at work and you’re ready to roll again in the evening. No hassle at all. I was out with my children last week and I gave one to my daughter to use. I was cycling behind her and I couldn’t look at it, it was so bright. The front one is equally bright and unlike it’s battery operated cousin, it doesn’t have a mind of it’s own and the beam stays put on which ever mode it’s on.
For the rear, I have the USB Boomer on my pannier, the Cateye and a reflector fixed to my rear rack and a pair of Skinks attached to each of my rear seat stays. Because I carry my bag on the rack, I can’t use the seat post for a light. I have a front and rear Frog that I carry when I need a little extra backup too.
I have to say that unlike other Knog users I haven’t found that they move around much and I haven’t lost one yet so I’m a real fan. But I do have to take them all off my bike when I leave it at the railway station which creates a bit of extra weight to carry around, along with the Hump but I like them for the flexibility. I have three bikes that I use all the time and I couldn’t be doing with permanent fixtures that go with a lot of other light brands.
Reflective spokes – Remembering side visibility
I chose Schwalbe Marathon Plus tyres for my main commuter bike and the Marathon’s for my drop-handled Mixte because I’d read that they were both great puncture resistant tyres but primarily because they have a reflective strip on the side-wall which provides visibility from the side, which we tend to forget about. The Marathon Plus rides a bit heavier than the regular Marathon, but then I’m not in a race and I don’t mind a bit of drag. It’s character building. A few weeks ago I was in Halfords (buying bike racks, more of which soon) and I saw some reflective covers for the spokes. They cost about £8 for a pack of 36 so I put one on every other spoke on both wheels and I think that that about covers it. There are a few things around that attach to the spokes to provide extra visibility from the side, like Hokey Spokes but these are the cheapest and I think they’re quite effective.
So that’s my night-time set up. What do you do?
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As seen on The Guardian, BBC and The Independent.