My Night Riding Bike Set Up

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?

Don’t forget that our rides begin this Saturday 5 March at 11.30am.  Details here and here.

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53 Responses to My Night Riding Bike Set Up

  1. Mike 01/03/2011 at 10:45 am #

    Hi Nicole, interesting blog, thanks. Yes, on your point about constant lights. The human eye is drawn to things that move or change. Cars have constant lights, but they move quite quickly. The problem with a cyclist using only constant lights is that it’s relatively easy for a car driver or pedestrian not to notice the lights, ’cause they’re not moving fast enough.

    Blinking lights are more visible to other road users because they attract attention.

    However the human brain finds it hard to work out speed and distance where the light is blinking. So IMHO the best combination is to have both a flashing light and a constant light. The flashing light makes you more visible initially, the constant light means other road users can work out how far away you are and how fast you’re moving.

    Totally agree on the rear CatEye light – I have one and it’s excellent.

    • Nicole 01/03/2011 at 10:51 am #

      Mike, that’s really interesting. I hadn’t thought about it that way. With my light set up, I’ll do some flashing and some constant in future. Thanks for the tip.

      • Tim 02/03/2011 at 1:41 pm #

        Completely agree with what Mike said. When I’m driving I can see the flashing light further off and identify it as probably belonging to a bike. However it is much easier to judge its distance as you close on a solid light. A bike with a slow winking light can also shift a fair distance between blinks – easily enough to say move out into the centre of the road round a parked car or wobble over a pothole. I’d recommend having two sets of lights, one blinking and one solid as the best of both worlds.

        I also see an awful lot of people with rear lights in mesh back pockets, attached to rucksacks and helmets but pointing at the sky or the kerb, or with nearly flat batteries and all next to useless for making yourself visible.

  2. K 01/03/2011 at 10:55 am #

    In urban environments, one front NiteRider Ultrafazer 3.0 in constant mode, a cheap yet powerful 5 LED light at the rear also in constant, and a small flashing red on my helmet, all of which have good side visibility. Like you I don’t wear nuclear orange clothes – a white Gore jacket with reflective piping is good enough.

    I’ve also got reflective stickers on my helmet, pedals and one of my tyres is a Marathon Plus with the reflective sidewalls.

    The one time I use all flashing lights is in the early evening or in daytime rain/fog.

    I’ve only ever had a problem being seen when I wasn’t dominating my lane, so road position is just as important as good lights.

  3. Greg Collins 01/03/2011 at 10:56 am #

    Minimum of two rear lights, a helmet light, AyUps up front plus a pair of torches on flash, Loads of reflectives on my clothes which are as neon/fluoro as I can get. Rear mudguard has a big strip of diamond reflective tape and smaller sections on same tape is on my V section rims. That said I’m not that fussed about sidewards visibility as I assess the risk on my rural commute to be from front and rear. Dark nights tend to see me only cycling in to work and getting the train home after one to many near ‘rear enders’ last winter. Drivers just don’t expect to come across cyclists honking up hills at night down dark narrow country lanes in these parts it seems

  4. Alex 01/03/2011 at 11:25 am #

    My commute is 15 miles each way along a mix of busy but well lit town roads and unlit country roads some pitch black because of over hanging trees.

    For rear lights I use a cat eye LD600 and a Cateye TL-LD1100. I recently added the 1100 and I find that trafic gives me more space since I started.

    For front lights I use a cateye uno and a Hope Vision 1 LED. The former I use for town and the latter I save for the dark roads. It really lights up the whole road, stops the on coming traffic from using full beam and I can see the cracks in the road early enough to avoid them without swerving wildly. I spend more time nearer the middle of the road and so get beeped at more by following traffic but I feel much safer. I also keep a spare front torch in my pocket because when the Hope light runs out of battery it just goes. I should be able to prevent this when I get more powerful batteries. I want to get Uniross 4 x AA 2700mAh Performance Batteries but I am told they are a little fatter so may not fit. If anybody knows what the best batteries to use I would love to know what to use.

    I also have the reflective spokes and think they are a good purchase.

    Tires are Continental Travel Contact which are quick enough for me and hard waring.

  5. Filippo Negroni 01/03/2011 at 11:28 am #

    My round trip commute is about 1 and a half hours, most of it on unlit country lanes.

    Two rear lights and one front light for me are a must.
    The rest I find rather optional: I do have reflective inserts in my shoes, gloves, hat and clothes.
    I do use hi-viz wrist bands which I find useful when indicating.

    I tend to leave the rear lights blinking all the time, mostly because it saves power.

    The front light is on steady if there is no street lighting and I need clear vision.

    What has made a difference to my commute is to get a powerful enough front light (min. 200 lumens) to be mistaken for a motorbike by other motorists.

  6. JdeP 01/03/2011 at 11:42 am #

    “I have a Cat-Eye front and rear light set that I bought about 17 years ago. The rear Cateye light is amazing”

    Please tell us which model it is!

    “it’s neon and flouro I can’t be doing with. I don’t want to look like I’m doing something hazardous”

    Flourescent jackets are worn by street-cleaners, roadworks men, lollipop ladies, and even staff indoors at railways stations: they do not say “I am doing something hazardous” they just say “I want to be visible”. Personally, in order to be visible, I would prefer to pop on a jacket than fiddle about with lots of extra lights, spoke reflectors, and whatnot!

    • Andreas 01/03/2011 at 11:59 am #

      I think it is the standard unchanged cateye design.. I.e. this one

      • Nicole 01/03/2011 at 1:18 pm #

        That’s the one. It must be a rogue one because I really can’t remember changing the battery other than the once, and that was about two years ago.

        Has anybody else got one and is theirs as long lasting as mine?

  7. Kerena 01/03/2011 at 12:45 pm #

    I’m with you on avoiding the neon where I can. I’ve got the Bspoke jacket too & the reflectivity on that is great. Also got the Schwalbe tyres with reflective trim & got Cat Eye spoke lights
    Not seen those spoke covers, but they are great & I will be investing in a set!
    I can’t seem to find the USB Boomer on any of the UK cycling sites which seems crazy!
    Personally, I DO tend to use my lights on flashing – but I think it’s out of habit and mostly because the battery lasts longer that way. I think you’re probably right about better visibility with the solid light – & I always have to change it when I’m going along the canal anyway, so I will give it a try!
    The other thing I have which is pretty good is the Pedalite Arm/Anklelite:
    Thanks for all your tips!!

  8. Gaz 01/03/2011 at 1:17 pm #

    My lighting is pretty extreme but i think it is required.
    I’ve made a video of it which can be found here –

    Basically using a Magicshine front light along with a hope vision 1.
    On the rear i’ve got 2x fibre flares, a blackburn mars 4 and a magicshine mj-818.
    I also have reflective spoke thingies which are good and the latest edition is an orange fibre flare …

    Something we have to consider is how are lights look whilst next to cars, which is why imo Knog lights by them self are genreally useless in traffic as they do not stand out.

  9. Mike 01/03/2011 at 1:57 pm #

    At the risk of a torrent of abuse, can I make a comment about helmet lights? If you want to wear them, fine, but please don’t rely on them as your only lights. I’m with Nicole on this one, make the bike visible.


    Two reasons, first, lights on your helmet are, IMHO, in the wrong place. Most road users, including cyclists, look for lights at around the height of car headlights, which is around handlebar height. They’re just not looking five or six feet in the air. I know I’m not, whether I’m cycling or driving a car.

    Second, the law (in the UK) requires that a front light is fitted up to 1500mm from the ground and that a rear light is between 350mm and 1500mm from the ground. If you’re of average height and sitting relatively upright on your bike, then lights on your helmet are likely to be more than 1500mm from the ground, so technically wouldn’t meet the legal requirement.

    OK, it’s very unlikely you’ll be stopped and fined for this, but there’s a reason for making this legal requirement – see point 1 above…

    • Evan 14/03/2011 at 6:00 pm #

      Re: Mike’s post about helmet-mounted lights. I have two Ayups, one medium spread set on the handlebars, one narrow spread set on my helmet.

      What I find is that having a light on my helmet means that the beam of light is shining where I’m looking; handy for spotting the road exactly where I’m looking, not just in front of the bike.

      The other thing I find is that shining the light at motorists approaching from side streets almost guarantees that they will stop and give way to you as they are supposed to.

      I also agree with you that the police would be unlikely to pull you up on having lights too high, unless perhaps you were using them unsociably (e.g. shared footpaths, etc..)

      • Meadowend 15/03/2011 at 10:37 am #

        I have to agree that a light on your helmet that lets you get the equivalent of eye contact with drivers in side-streets is a good justification for a helmet light, and one I hadn’t thought of.

  10. JonF 01/03/2011 at 2:11 pm #

    I don’t ride many miles – mostly to the station and back, (about 1 mile and a half each way), but I do feel more vulnerable if I’m not wearing a Hi-Vis jacket or vest of some sort. I do understand the idea of wanting to look ‘normal’ and Copenhagenizing etc, but it’s just how I feel. I don’t wear a helmet.

    If I see people on their bikes in the dark and they don’t have some sort of light colour on – very often wearing a black jacket, because that’s what is fashionable – they do seem to disappear into the dark. Lights in the dark are essential. Don’t get me started on those silly dangly ‘back-up lights’ that people buy or take off the front of Cycling Plus magazines. I use Wilkinson’s 3 LED lights which at less than £7 for the pair are an excellent, excellent buy. PS how can Clas Ohlson sell a 28 LED work light (not intended for bikes) for £3.99, but CatEye lights seem to start at £20 or thereabouts?

    • Filippo Negroni 01/03/2011 at 4:24 pm #

      I posted on my blog a review of the Exposure Strada, a 480 lumen road-bike-specific light.

      Expensive (around £200), but well worth it. Wouldn’t dream of riding at night with anything less (and unfortunately I did for a while so I know what I am talking about).

  11. Mr Colostomy 01/03/2011 at 2:24 pm #

    I do worry that the issue of bike lights and night-time visibility will just keep escalating, until everyone is garbed head-to-toe in high-vis, with a flashing police light strapped to their head and every bike will be fluorescent with reflective strips, a series of stadium floodlights on the front and a load of red flares burning on the back.

    It is also worth mentioning on any piece like this that whilst additional taking precautions above any beyond the requirement of the law is perfectly fine, and it is understandable to want to reduce the risk of a motorist hitting you, if any motorist hits you and claims to have done so because they, “Didn’t see you,” (whilst you are at least meeting the minimum legal standards for cycle lighting) they are completely to blame for doing so, and that not going above and beyond the minimum shouldn’t be allowed as a justification for negligence on the part of motorists.

  12. Nicole 01/03/2011 at 2:59 pm #


    It isn’t about Copenhagenizing to be fashionable. It’s about incorporating cycling into my everyday life and routine without feeling that I’m undertaking a dangerous enterprise. I want to ride my bike every day and use it instead of my car and I want to encourage my children to ride theirs. I can’t do that if I have to put on a shed load of safety gear before I do so and look like I’m doing something which requires some extra visibility other than lights or is in a dangerous environment.

    I see many more people on the road in hi vis and NO lights, especially in central London, than I do who ‘disappear into the dark’ wearing a black jacket.

    And the one thing that no-one has mentioned is how much money the hi vis/light industry is making out of drawing attention to our visibility and conning us into feeling that we have to be well above the legal standard, while allowing drivers to get away without even looking! It suits all of them that we have this furious debate among ourselves and they just blithely roll on.

  13. Eliathah Boda 01/03/2011 at 4:54 pm #

    Does anyone know anything about vuelta wheels? they look like they have some good products but i want someone elses opinion.
    the site is

  14. JonF 01/03/2011 at 5:08 pm #

    Nicole, I wasn’t trying to say that Copenhagenizing is a ‘fashion’ or anything like that. Sorry if that’s the way it read. And I do understand that you want to not wear Hi-vis, not for fashion reasons, but that because you shouldn’t, (we all of us cyclists shouldn’t), have to wear it. Please believe me!

    I wouldn’t contradict you that there are more people on bikes wearing hi-vis and without lights than there are without hi-vis but with lights. And for my money, yes people wearing dark coats do disappear in the dark – cyclists and pedestrians. I like my dark blue overcoat and I wear it on my bike, but I put on a hi-vis vest over it if I’m cycling in the peak hours or the dark. I agree I shouldn’t have to, but I feel more secure with it. I’ve no empirical evidence but the times I’ve gone without it I have got the feeling that drivers haven’t been as considerate, and therefore I enjoy my ride a bit better if I’m wearing a hi-vis on a commute. Then again, I usually don’t wear one on a Sunday ride in the countryside, I guess because I feel the risk is lower – much less traffic, fewer side roads.

    I don’t think that the safety equipment manufacturers are driving anyone particularly to buy their gear – or at least I’m immune to it. The legal standard is pretty low mind you i.e. reflectors and lights. They don’t make much money out of me because hi-vis tabbards come free in my job and i use inexpensive lights. I’m amazed at Filippo spending £200 on a light, but I guess if you do lots of night riding on roads that aren’t lit that’s the sort of equipment you need. Not in London though, surely?

  15. tache ovale 01/03/2011 at 8:05 pm #

    Interesting. Those 3M spoke reflectors also turn up in Lidls from time to time at about £3.99. I’ve also found, as my ride crosses a lot of side roads, that spokelits do make the cars stop and take note…

  16. John 01/03/2011 at 11:16 pm #

    Many years ago motorbike riders started using their headlamps during daytime to make themselves more visible to other traffic because of their small size on the road in comparison to a car.
    Cyclists also share the same small size to a car and so any form of lights or high viz has to be a bonus to us.
    The EU has just started making all new continental cars have to have ‘daylights’ fitted to be used during daytime driving, if this comes across to us (which I am sure it will) drivers will be looking for lights in the daytime and if we don’t change our ‘appearance’ on the road further we will just b ignored by traffic as we did not have a light on to show us off.
    It just goes back to the motorcyclists using their lights in daytime all over again.


  17. Bikefan 02/03/2011 at 11:09 am #

    For me, it’s not about the legal minimum, or whether or not I am allowing drivers to be careless – it’s about doing the most I can to look after myself.

    When I was taught to drive, I was told that “defensive driving” doesn’t mean being timid, but it means assuming that other road users sometimes do stupid things, and driving with that in mind (wearing a seatbelt, watching out for pedestrians even if the light is green, etc). When riding, I do the same thing – I assume that drivers are sometimes careless, or tired, or just not looking properly. Hey, I drive, and I can’t swear that I am 100% alert 100% of the time.

    When I am driving, I find the well-lit/well-fluro’d riders easier to see than those who are either not lit, or dressed in dark clothing. So when I’m riding, I like to make myself as visible as possible.

  18. Phil 02/03/2011 at 2:33 pm #

    Lights and high-vis gear are, regrettably, essential safety aids in traffic. I will not give the inattentive/careless/selfish/stupid/ignorant ( delete as appropriate ) motorist the opportunity to say they did not see me. I have a loud bell for the lemmings as well.

  19. Filippo Negroni 02/03/2011 at 6:19 pm #

    On dark rainy nights, on the very occasional drive home, I spot (very few) cyclists and pedestrians on unlit country roads wearing very few reflective items, if any: mostly I see the pedals or the reflective insert in running shoes.
    The point I am trying to make is that, I *see* them.
    And I have never understood how someone can not see a cyclist wearing a few more reflective wear and a couple of lights front and back.
    But I do know that the more visible you make yourself, the greater the chance they will see you.
    Unfortunately, as the recent Sky Rides have prompted me to think, a sea of hiviz has the exact opposite effect: see–Sky-Ride-Leicester-0

    As I mentioned in a previous post, I invested in a powerful front light, and I also wear hi viz wrist bands to aid indicating at junctions: they are small but help by not being ‘in your face’ and make my arms more visible. If I was to wear a fluo jacket with long sleeves on a fluo bike, my gesture would not be as visible.

    All I can say is that I do understand where people come from but if we start decorating ourselves like Christmas trees everytime we pop to the local shops, we are not going to make our life any easier.

  20. Phil 03/03/2011 at 11:01 am #

    Re the Sky rides: if there was that volume of regular cycling high viz gear would be redundant, as motorists would be unable to ignore so many cyclists at every junction. Happy days…

  21. JonF 03/03/2011 at 12:07 pm #

    An observation: Yesterday I saw a London Ambulance Service paramedic cycling round in the dark. Covered head to foot in reflective gear and the bike was all very fluorescent. Didn’t have any lights on his bike though. Tsk!

  22. GL 03/03/2011 at 2:39 pm #

    I cycle through London Fields everyday and notice that the majority of people (8 out of 10 maybe) have no lights (ad most also wear dark clothes). I would be interested to hear if other people experience this and if it annoys them as well.

    With regard to high viz, I do wear it, but don’t think people should be forced to. It’s a personal choice. Lights however are a legal requirement!

    I would like to see the police clamp down on people cycling with no lights as until they do, what is gonig to encourage these non light uisng cyclists to change their ways.

    • Andreas 03/03/2011 at 4:40 pm #

      That’s really bad – especially considering bike lights are a pretty cheap affair and the dangers of a driver not seeing you.

    • Kerena 04/03/2011 at 10:55 am #

      I have exactly the same complaint. I cycle along the canal for most of my journey and I would say say probably 6 or 7 out of 10 cyclists have no lights and wear dark clothing (not to mention the pedestrians & runners, but that’s a whole other issue!). Even on the main road part of my journey the problem is the same. Last night, my partner & I stopped off on the Mall so she could get her bike marked up by the Police. Several cyclists went past on the Mall – with 10 or so police officers standing around – with no lights, and the police didn’t bat an eyelid. How can that be right?!

  23. Kerena 04/03/2011 at 10:53 am #

    Does anyone have any good tips for lights that attach to baskets? Just bought my partner a very girly/Dorothy-esque Nantucket basket from Bobbin Bicycles. The problem is that her current Cat-Eye light which lights up the canal paths beautifully, no longer fits on to her bike handlebars or to the basket. I’m thinking maybe one of the Knog ones, but wondered if anyone else had experienced the same problem?

  24. Kathryn 04/03/2011 at 10:58 am #

    I have three Fibre Flare rear lights — two on my downstays, one on the pannier rack — for side visibility, though when I’m using pannier bags the side ones are rather less visible. I use a knog skink on my seatpost, and a cateye reflector/light combo at the back of my pannier rack. There is also a single LED light on my rear mudguard.

    I have a bright pink tweed helmet cover which I’ve modified with a reflective band and a reflective brooch. I wear a reflective sash which I made myself — it has bright blue and purple lace at the sides and silver reflective material (from a discarded hi-viz jacket, they ARE useful for something!) down the middle. With the rest of the reflective fabric I made a pompom which goes on the key to my spoke lock. I have some reflective ankle bands but to be honest I don’t always remember to wear them. I’d like to sort out something more reflective for hands/wrists. I saw a fantastic pair of purple leather gloves with a silver filigree pattern on them, but they were far too small for me.

    If I’m carrying extra bags or really loaded up with groceries I add some of the dangly red LED stick lights at the back, for good measure, but I don’t like to use these regularly as the button cells aren’t rechargeable.

    I’m thinking about modifying my pannier bags to have integral lights; it wouldn’t be too hard. They aren’t really constructed such that it’s as easy as I’d like to clip lights to the outsides of them, I had a clip light that got knocked onto the tracks when I was taking my bicycle off a train. I also wonder about the possibilities of electroluminescent wire.

    My front lights are less satisfactory, I use a Reelight induction-powered light which is great in terms of not having a battery to change but I’m not really happy with the brightness, and side visibility is poor. I also use two knog gekko lights on the handlebars; they seem to eat batteries, though, and while they’re okay for visibility in city riding they’re really the absolute minimum I’d want on an unlit road. So I’m planning on getting a proper front hub dynamo and a serious headlamp. I’ll still use the knog lights.

    I also have vague plans to make a coat or jacket or cape of some sort out of LumaTwill, but I need to get better at sewing first, so that’s probably a good year or so off. I’m also planning a cycling waistcoat for summer, some kind of light cotton or polyester with and applique pattern in a mixture of reflective and “ordinary” fabric, and enough pockets for keys/wallet/phone/etc so I can just throw it on.

    I’ve seen people with CDs attached to their front baskets, but I’m not sure if that sort of shiny is a good idea — might the glare interfere with visibility?

  25. JimF 04/03/2011 at 10:59 am #

    Sorry, late to this.

    Exposure flares are the bees knees. Got a pack at the Cycle Show 2010. They alternate a permanent light with a bright flash

    Well worth it.

  26. Middle aged cyclist in a skirt 04/03/2011 at 11:05 am #

    Thanks for a great post Nicole.

    Bit of a side issue I know,(especially when so many people complain, rightly, about cyclists not using lights at all) but I was struck by your sentence ‘ I was cycling behind her and I couldn’t look at it, it was so bright.’ My commute involves quite a long section where cyclists share space with pedestrians and I often see cyclists with lights so bright they dazzle pedestrians and other cyclists they are in close proximity too. There is one particular offender who has something close to a searchlight attached to his handlebars – people shield their eyes from it. While I completely endorse any cyclist’s need to be seen by traffic, his light feels like a hostile act to other space-users. Don’t know what the solution to this is but perhaps push the light downwards slightly in this shared area?

    Interested to see a scientific reason for using one static and one flashing light – that’s what I do (front and back) but now I have a justification!

    • Kerena 04/03/2011 at 11:10 am #

      I have the same problem with a ‘repeat offender’ with a dazzling light. I know it doesn’t help that I have a slight astigmatism, but it is definitely an unnecessarily bright light! I tend to point my light down a bit as soon as I hit the canal where there isn’t much other light & there my lights are that much brighter for anyone coming towards me…

    • GL 04/03/2011 at 1:34 pm #

      I agree that sometimes bike lights can be too bright. Cars don’t drive around with full beam on as is dazzles people, well cyclists need to be aware of this as well.

      I cycle on entirely lit streets (and cycle paths) so my front light is an LED light. On lit streets their isn’t much need for a light that lights up the road for you. If you cycle on un-lit routes and need a bright light people should make sure it isn’t dazzleing to others.

  27. el-gordo 04/03/2011 at 12:23 pm #

    As I have said on these forums before, I don’t wear high vis for the night time, I wear it for the low light of mornings and evenings, when the ambient light levels render the lights on your bike less effective.

    Totally agree that people who wear reflective gear and no lights/poor lights are far less visible (idiotic!) at night than those with just decent lights. However, I don’t think that same statement is true if you apply it to dawn/dusk. It is certainly nowhere near as clear cut. 

    I am also struggling to think of a situation where reflective spokes are going to be useful.

    Reflects will only show in lights and if you are in a cars headlights you are already directly in front of them. When you are side on that generally isn’t a good thing. High vis will show you up to cars sat in junctions or turning across the lane, reflects on the side won’t ever fill that role.

    • Gaz 04/03/2011 at 1:29 pm #

      Reflective spokes are useful for when vehicles are coming at you from an angle, say 90 degrees. Most cyclists lights point forwards and backwards. And at a 90 degree angle there is a good chance your lights are not visible. By having spoke refelctors, the vehicles head lights will be reflected by the reflectors and stand out.

      They are very much worth while.

    • Phil Russell 11/04/2011 at 1:39 am #

      SPOT ON!

  28. Kathryn 04/03/2011 at 12:30 pm #


    I think side visibility is pretty important if you ever turn corners.

  29. el-gordo 04/03/2011 at 1:37 pm #

    I am not saying side visibility isnt important, I just don’t see what reflexives on your spokes will do to improve it?

    Probably being really thick but if you need headlights to reflect off them for them to work then who is going to see you as you go around a corner? Cars on the other side of the road probably, but unless they swerve on to your side they aren’t an issue (although they do become a pretty big issue if they do swerve on to your side). Cars on your side are following you, so won’t really see them.

    • Gaz 04/03/2011 at 1:45 pm #

      Hi-viz will do you no good when the cars headlights point at the ground.
      As i said, reflective spokes are there for the instances when cars are coming at you from about 90 degrees, for instance when you are waiting to pull out of a side road, and your lights are not visible to them.

  30. Cafewanda 04/03/2011 at 1:43 pm #

    Nice to see I do the same as many of you.

    I have two lights at the front and two at the back: 1 flashing and one constant. The front ones are angled downwards slightly. I have reflective spokes (and sometimes spokelits as I love the colours) and my Marathon tyres have reflective sidewalls. Sometimes I wear my hiz-viz jacket or vest.

    For all that vehicles still get a little too close at times, but they could never say they didn’t see me!

    I need to check out rechargeable batteries as I’m sure I help Duracell increase their profit margin during the winter!

    • JonF 04/03/2011 at 4:48 pm #

      Rechargeables: Yes, do. You won’t be disappointed.

  31. el-gordo 04/03/2011 at 2:21 pm #

    At 90 degrees it makes perfect sense but I was struggling to think of an instance where you would be and they would be useful. At a junction you are but you have to give way then anyway. I guess roundabouts would be of some use but you just don’t get them in London so I didn’t really think of it.

  32. Phil Russell 04/03/2011 at 2:22 pm #

    I have a (flashing) rear light attached to my right ankle using a quick-release toestrap through the lamp-clip, and pointing backward, obviously. Pedalling action causes the light to bob up and down, so if dozy or incompetent drivers can’t spot that……they must be blind, or blind drunk, and shouldn’t be in charge of their smelly polluting bangers. Of course, my blinking & bobbing light isn’t legal, but frankly my dears……

  33. Shreds 04/03/2011 at 5:34 pm #

    GL has a good point, coming down through Clapham and Streatham last night, the number of unlit cyclists was horrendous. I have only ever seen greater stupidity in NYC!

    I have to say that having been blinded by motorists beams far more times than I care to remember, I don’t have a problem with ultra bright bike lights on the road, ( not shared paths – I am talking A roads and unlit country roads) so rather than objecting to bright lights I actually will often chase down a rider with such lights and find out the make and congratulate them. Far better than the lemmings with none at all.

    I tend to have two front lights, one to identify me and the other for trail finding and for dealing with incompetent motorists. Never fails when they realise I have two levels of brightness too!

    I would say that the blink rate is very important too. Some are very noticeable and others look like a loose connection in the light, the religion being so poor.

  34. Shreds 04/03/2011 at 5:49 pm #

    ….should say above……

    loose connection in the light, the rate being so poor.

    (Tsk….iPad spell checker really doesn’t know when to leave my typing alone sometimes.)

  35. ERic W 07/03/2011 at 2:05 am #

    Just to give you perspective. I’m Los Angeles. Very long 20 mile rides, at night – occasionally in the equivalent of your British weather with drizzle and fog. Many, many, many cars and the frequent bus or heavy truck too. The main roads are sometime really bad on the shoulder. I ride on Gatorskins for the Kevlar because there’s a lot of glass. I ride fast (20mph if I can) as it’s a long way.

    Two lights – the human brain/eyes are predisposed to recognize the lion getting closer when the lights appear to move apart. Works similarly with cyclists. Constant light in the front: one at axle level to illuminate potholes, glass, the road, one very bright one at handle bar high to see objects in front of me ( like slow unlighted cyclists ) and so cars can see me coming. A Planet Bike Superflash in the rear on the rack with an extra reflector, set for flash unless I’m cycling with companions, and a small blinky, also reflective, on the back of the helmet. Cars can see me intending to turn at intersections.

    A bit of reflective tape on bits of the bike, reflective hi-viz wristbands for signaling, and a reflective leg band. And I wear a particularly loud jacket in the winter, bright shirts otherwise.

    Seem to work in my very urban environment. Hope that helps – I cannot imagine riding without lights at night. The first car along would not see you until it’s too late. You would ride into something and crash.

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