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  1. #1
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    nighttime commuting concerns

    I have been riding to work a lot lately and I would like to make riding to work something I do every day except for extreme weather. as the days have gotten shorter, especially after the daylight savings change, I have to ride home completely in the dark. it's only 3 miles total each way along busy city streets but i don't feel safe on these roads, even when I have my body and my bike lit up like a Christmas tree. anything else I should consider to make my ride home safer? I cannot seem to find an alternative route that does not involve tripling my commute distance.

  2. #2
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    Please describe what you are currently doing to be seen. My experience has been that I get better behavior at night.

    BrianMc

  3. #3
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    I have a Planet Bike Superflash blinky on the back of my helmet, a red Frog on my seatpost, a Solarforce flashlight on my helmet, a Niterider Minewt 750 on my handlebar, a white Frog wrapped around my front hub and a hi-vis vest on, but my backpack covers a lot of my vest from behind. i HATE riding with a rear rack. I have a bright blue frame.

  4. #4
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    I have one of these on my backpack and am happy with it. For some reason it only has a velcro loop on 1 corner, I use those office spring clips for paper to secure it.
    Aardvark Reflective Yield symbol 7x7" with Velcro Strap in Tree Fort Bikes Reflectors (cat699)
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  5. #5
    Anchorage, AK
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    You have to assume no one can see you. If you can't make the commute safely with that assumption, then your route is unsafe. Sorry.

    --Lars
    --Peace

  6. #6
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    If at all possible try to time your commute to lulls in traffic patterns. When I go in at night (@19:30) I leave at that time since it's after "rush hour" (such that it is down here), and when I head home if I'm on time it's @ 06:00. If I'm late getting out, I'll wait and have breakfast or read a book for a little while so I'm not riding during peak morning traffic. It stinks having to cool my heels, but it takes a lot of the tension out of commute home.
    The ridiculousness of cycling clothes increase exponentially in relation to the distance from your bicycle.

  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by ziax01 View Post
    You have to assume no one can see you. If you can't make the commute safely with that assumption, then your route is unsafe. Sorry.

    --Lars
    That sounds a bit extreme.

  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by mack_turtle View Post
    I have to ride home completely in the dark. it's only 3 miles total each way along busy city streets but i don't feel safe on these roads, even when I have my body and my bike lit up like a Christmas tree.
    Well I am in the same situation...dark in and dark to home....

    I ride about 8 km (short route is 5 km)...

    So you could be safer if you rode 9 miles that is 15 km.

    Since it takes me about 4 km just to warm up....I would definately consider the longer ride at least some of the time.

    Especially if the route is much safer.

  9. #9
    Unhinged Aussie on a 29er
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    Quote Originally Posted by jeffscott View Post
    Well I am in the same situation...dark in and dark to home....

    I ride about 8 km (short route is 5 km)...

    So you could be safer if you rode 9 miles that is 15 km.

    Since it takes me about 4 km just to warm up....I would definately consider the longer ride at least some of the time.

    Especially if the route is much safer.
    I have several routes home.

    16 miles is the shortest route. It takes dangerous surface streets. I only take this route if it's after midnight, and I do full speed the entire way home (~20-25 mph).

    19 miles is the next shortest. It takes less dangerous options, but is still dangerous. I broke a wheel avoiding a car and ramming a curb at high speed because it is that dangerous. To be safe, I have to descend a 30 mph zoned hill with manhole covers in the middle of the road at over 45 mph or face the prospect of getting rear ended.

    The longest route that I use is also the safest. It's 30 miles each way, but it's 27 miles of closed trail. Most of the time I take the 30 mile route home.

  10. #10
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    Some good info here:

    Another commuting thread about lights...

    Mechbegon's posts may be of particular interest.

    BrianMc

  11. #11
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    I've used a strobe like this for extra visibility in bad weather. It's meant for kayakers out in the ocean fog or needing rescue. Only blinks every few secs, but it is very bright.

    http://shop.vtarmynavy.com/aqua-stro...FUid4AodAmsAIw
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  12. #12
    since 4/10/2009
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    consider a taillight that is daylight visible, or nearly so.

    A Dinotte, or a Magicshine, or something like that. Pack the lumens. I have found that the Magicshine taillight I added seems to be the single most important component of getting cars to give me space at night.

    Also, as much reflective tape as possible. I have a very large area of red on the backs of both of my fenders, and bits around my chainstays. I have bits of white on my fork legs and the fronts of my brake levers. I also have both red and white reflective tape all over my helmet, front, back, and sides. My pack, an Osprey Talon, has reflective bits on it, too, but I like that reflective triangle. Right now, I toss a blackburn blinkie on my pack, but I'm not a fan of how it hangs from the pack.

    In addition to what you are doing, how about describing the route you ride? You say busy city streets but that can be a lot of things. how many lanes? speed limits? are there shoulders or wide lanes? My route is about the same distance and the way I drive is down busy streets more than 3/4 of the way there. however I take a different route when I ride. speed limits are lower (about 2 miles are neighborhood streets where I pass a school and a hospital with 20mph zones), so traffic is lighter, and incidentally, the lanes are much wider even though there's no paint on the roads there. The better route adds about half a mile, but it turns out to be faster because there are fewer lights and stop signs.

  13. #13
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    Emulate the UFO Bike P1220812 | Flickr - Photo Sharing! although you don't need the Klingon name.
    2009 Redline Conquest Pro, 2008 Trek Fuel Ex8
    2007 Kona Cinder Cone utility bike
    Yes I spent too much on bikes.

  14. #14
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    triple it!

    Google map your route, choose bicycle as your form of transportation. Worst case, triple your ride. That would still be only 9 miles.

  15. #15
    Monkey Junkie
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    Sounds like you are already very visible. I'd also like to hear more about these roads. If they are too busy/narrow/dangerous to ride then I'd just take the longer route.

  16. #16
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    I heard there is a kind of lighting bike lane if anyone knows

  17. #17
    weirdo
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    A lot of good suggestions- hope you`re able to make use of some
    One that didn`t get mentioned above (pretty sure it came up in the thread that BrianMc linked, though) is reflective stuff on moving parts: tape on crank arms, tape on rims if they`re deep or reflectors on the spokes, reflective leg bands and jacket cuffs.

    kind of OT for your case, but I think I`m actually more visible lit up at night than I am in the daytime whith so many other distractions. That`s for mostly rural riding, probably different with more lit up stuff around (cars, streetlights, signs, and what-ever else).
    Recalculating....

  18. #18
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    Quote Originally Posted by cjohnson View Post
    Google map your route, choose bicycle as your form of transportation. Worst case, triple your ride. That would still be only 9 miles.
    tried that. it tells me to take the route I am already taking.

    the first half of the trip home is four lanes populated by strip clubs, Ethiopian restaurants full of cabbies, and gay bars. i don't trust the drivers pulling out of those establishments. fortunately, most of it is lit up and there are four lanes. then I have to make a right turn onto a two-lane street with zero shoulder and a wide sidewalk. shortly after that, I have to make a left turn onto a neighborhood street and I have home-free because that last third is easy. there is no traffic light at that last left turn so I have to sit there for several minutes and then sprint across on foot. it's that busy intersection and subsequent stretch of narrow, busy road and that left turn across traffic that freak me out.

  19. #19
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    Wheel lights/ more side lighting. Bright front blinking light.

  20. #20
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    Quote Originally Posted by leeboh View Post
    Wheel lights/ more side lighting. Bright front blinking light.
    ditto

    Plus...

    Tires with reflective sidewall.
    Reflective tape all over the bike and reflective clothing.
    "I may be old and fat, but at least I'm slow." - Me


  21. #21
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    I think my ultimate goal is to look like a wayward blazing alien spacecraft riding down the street.
    "I may be old and fat, but at least I'm slow." - Me


  22. #22
    Bicycle Radical
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    Glowsticks in your spokes. Raverbike!
    Free people must travel the road to productive social relations at the speed of a bicycle.- Ivan Illich

  23. #23
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    Quote Originally Posted by bikeCOLORADO View Post
    I think my ultimate goal is to look like a wayward blazing alien spacecraft riding down the street.
    Oh! You mean like this:

    <embed src='http://img20.imageshack.us/flvplayer.swf?f=Py7m' width='640' height='380' allowFullScreen='true' wmode='transparent' type='application/x-shockwave-flash'/><br>Uploaded with <a target='_blank' href='http://imageshack.us'>ImageShack.us</a>

    James Doohan once did a documentary on Dad's farm when I was about 6. So maybe the warp lines of the Enterprise changing to light speed had a bad influence on me as I was a fan from the pilot, on. Or maybe Mel Brooks did it with Spaceball's going to plaid at ludicrous speed. Obviously cloaked Klingon Birds of Prey or Romulan Warbirds were not my models.

    One thing that still amazes me. Is that reflective stuff does not show well in the absence of street lighting or a following vehicle to light them up. (I used a car to light the road at right angles to the bike with the bike dead ahead as it passes in and out of view to or from the left. The camera is aimed to the right like a driver looking in that direction, and at the height of a Ford Ranger driver (higher than sedans, lower than most SUVs). Of course they are only going to stare that way if nothing is coming from the right and they are mesmerized by the UFO. It does let you see what a quick look at amy point would look like.) Note that the cyclist is almost directly in front and only a second away and the speed is in the 16 mph range before the passive stuff does much. With low beam the yellow jacket is not seen.

    I also ride under street lights so I have some reflective stuff as it weighs little, maybe as much as a pair of AAA's total.

    Drivers share the road most generously. Be advised that very drunk drivers are attracted to flashing lights. So heading to the ditch or a lawn or bunny hopping to a sidewalk may be required. Two flashing lights of even the same make are never in sync for long and the disharmony is very attention getting. Provided they look up from test screens of course. ;(

    BrianMc

  24. #24
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    Quote Originally Posted by mack_turtle View Post
    The first half of the trip home is four lanes populated by strip clubs, Ethiopian restaurants full of cabbies, and gay bars. i don't trust the drivers pulling out of those establishments.
    Understandable. Side collisions are the most likely, statistically. More so at night. But there is a data bias because of poor bike lighting, in most collisions. However, throw in alcohol and inattentiveness by drivers. Add in a lot of traffic to block driver's view of you and things can get dicey fast. Though rarer, rear run overs are more deadly. Most are of poorly lit cyclists or 'well lit' drivers. Right and left hooks into such places are also an issue.

    Adjusting departure times to avoid traffic peaks, pulling off to let a clump of traffic by, and other tweaks can help but my be of little use to your exact situation.

    Quote Originally Posted by mack_turtle View Post
    Fortunately, most of it is lit up and there are four lanes. then I have to make a right turn onto a two-lane street with zero shoulder and a wide sidewalk.
    While illegal most places, if the sidewalk is a good one and little used, it can be the safer if illegal option. However, every driveway and cross street is a very dangerous situation requiring a lot of attention to avoid right and left hooks.

    Quote Originally Posted by mack_turtle View Post
    Shortly after that, I have to make a left turn onto a neighborhood street and I have home-free because that last third is easy. there is no traffic light at that last left turn so I have to sit there for several minutes and then sprint across on foot. it's that busy intersection and subsequent stretch of narrow, busy road and that left turn across traffic that freak me out.
    Sitting like a car for a left turn will allow a late responder to hide you from the tailgating driver behind them. Not good. Is there a light further up the road where you can U turn or get turned around another way so it is a right turn?

    BrianMc

  25. #25
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    NateHawk, how well does reflective tape hold up long term? I live in hot & wet central FL and I find that most tape tends to peel back after being wetted and soaked with road debris, and this process continues over time. Eventually I have to remove all the tape and start over. Can you recommend a brand of tape that will avoid this?

  26. #26
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    I've been commuting in Texas for the past year, where when it rains, there's usually a lot of lightning. I don't ride in that stuff. So my commuter bike has had relatively few wet days. Mostly hot and dry weather.

    I bought whatever it was that walmart had in stock in the automotive section and it's been fine for the past year. no signs of peeling. it might have even been the 3m stuff, which is highly regarded.

    On my frame, I put electrical tape underneath because the package had warnings about the adhesive being strong enough to peel off paint. elsewhere, however, I didn't bother. I put some on the bare metal of my cranks and on some plastic bits.

  27. #27
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    I'll add another vote for a bright taillight such as the Magicshine MJ-818. I got one and am very pleased with it. It is very bright and I use it on my dedicated commuter during daylight and night time rides. Did I say it is bright already? I may get another one or some other taillight with at least .5 watt for use on my other bikes. The Magicshine that I have is sort of a permanent fixture on the dedicated commuter. I have other bikes that I sometimes use and would like a brighter taillight on them when riding at night. In fact, only one has a rear blinkie, but it's such a toy compared to the MJ-818.

    As others have said, I'd recommend passive "lighting" such as reflectors and reflective tape and active lighting in the front and rear. Highly recommend something with some serious lumens.

  28. #28
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    I forgot to mention that I have reflective rims and tires with reflective sidewalls. I also have blinkie spoke lights that spin round and round as I ride. This time of year I ride with reflective velcro straps around my ankles to keep my pants out of the chain, too. But I also wear one on the non drive side since that is the traffic side

  29. #29
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    It was dark. I was driving. A vehicle approached going the other way, I thought it was a motorcycle with those winking headlights used to gain extra attention. It was a bicycle. I was impressed. I do not know what kind of bar light it was, it seemed to be a slow flash, or maybe not really a flash but a pulse to higher power.

  30. #30
    weirdo
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    ^^Images of the Duchess reflected off cloudcover from Indiana.
    Recalculating....

  31. #31
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    ^^ Yes, I should have known.

  32. #32
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    ^^ Ha Ha. Very funny. I wish. Here I was wondering if you'd taken a wrong turn in Montpelier and ended up here in SE Indiana. Then I remembered, my headlights don't pulse. Maybe it was variable cloud reflectivity.

    A pulsing headlamp would be good.True flashes leave you unmarked for too long. The guy who builds the electronics I used for my light periodically upgrades the software. That will be a request from me.

    BrianMc

  33. #33
    since 4/10/2009
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    The Magicshine flash setting is more like a pulse. If you look at the light head, it is somewhat seizure-inducing. But if you look down range from it, the light output appears more consistent. This is why I use that setting on my commutes. Pedestrians hate it, but as long as it's aimed down a little bit, no cars have had an issue. I have also been mistaken for a motorcycle at times.

  34. #34
    Squeaky Wheel
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    My Dinotte headlight has a very distinctive flash pattern...the light never goes completely off, it flashes from the low setting to the highest setting five times. It takes about two seconds to get all five flashes out. Then it pauses on the low setting for a second and starts over. It's a real attention getter.

  35. #35
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    Quote Originally Posted by NateHawk View Post
    The Magicshine flash setting is more like a pulse. If you look at the light head, it is somewhat seizure-inducing. But if you look down range from it, the light output appears more consistent. This is why I use that setting on my commutes. Pedestrians hate it, but as long as it's aimed down a little bit, no cars have had an issue. I have also been mistaken for a motorcycle at times.
    My MS headlight has five settings, three steady modes and two flash modes. The fifth mode has an interesting flash pattern, which I don't think is very optimal. It has a few quick flashes followed by a few slow fashes. I use this mode for daylight riding. The pulsing flash that sort of resembles "slow motion" lighting that one might see at a concert is what I normally use for night riding. I never bothered to look at it head on, but I think I will just to see if I have the headlight at a safe angle so that it won't bother people. As you said, it doesn't bother the eyes when looking from the cockpit. I would normally use one of the steady modes fpr night rides, but the headlight is sharing the battery with an MS taillight, so I want to make use of battery power.

    Btw, speaking of the MJ-818 taillight, does yours seem to change settings by itself during operation? It has three modes: steady, flash1, and flash2. Say I set it to flash1 (main central LED flashes) and later when I look at it I see that it is on flash2 (with the auxillary LEDs flashing). Is this normal?

  36. #36
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    ^ Looked them up. The newest LED drivers have this feature now. You can set lower and upper intensity and their durations.

    BrianMc

  37. #37
    weirdo
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    Good a place as any to post...
    I see REI has Fenix LD-22 on sale for $45. If anybody is thinking about a backup light or an inexpensive, durable single light for occasional streetlit wanderings, I`ve heard good things about this one. Just might get one for myself.

    Fenix LD22 Flashlight - Free Shipping at REI.com
    Recalculating....

  38. #38
    since 4/10/2009
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    Quote Originally Posted by djork View Post
    My MS headlight has five settings, three steady modes and two flash modes. The fifth mode has an interesting flash pattern, which I don't think is very optimal. It has a few quick flashes followed by a few slow fashes. I use this mode for daylight riding. The pulsing flash that sort of resembles "slow motion" lighting that one might see at a concert is what I normally use for night riding. I never bothered to look at it head on, but I think I will just to see if I have the headlight at a safe angle so that it won't bother people. As you said, it doesn't bother the eyes when looking from the cockpit. I would normally use one of the steady modes fpr night rides, but the headlight is sharing the battery with an MS taillight, so I want to make use of battery power.

    Btw, speaking of the MJ-818 taillight, does yours seem to change settings by itself during operation? It has three modes: steady, flash1, and flash2. Say I set it to flash1 (main central LED flashes) and later when I look at it I see that it is on flash2 (with the auxillary LEDs flashing). Is this normal?
    My MS headlight is one of the older 4 ones with high-med-low-flash settings. I don't have those issues with my taillight. I am not sure what the settings are, but I'm pretty sure mine has more flash settings than what you describe for yours. Some of the settings go back and forth between the central LED and the outer LED's. the one I use has an irregular pattern of fast and slow flashes from the central brighter LED. I can't remember if the outer ones light up, too. I'll look next time I use it.

  39. #39
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    Quote Originally Posted by NateHawk View Post
    My MS headlight is one of the older 4 ones with high-med-low-flash settings. I don't have those issues with my taillight. I am not sure what the settings are, but I'm pretty sure mine has more flash settings than what you describe for yours. Some of the settings go back and forth between the central LED and the outer LED's. the one I use has an irregular pattern of fast and slow flashes from the central brighter LED. I can't remember if the outer ones light up, too. I'll look next time I use it.
    Maybe my taillight has more than three settings. I may have the dial set to a mode that gives me the flash pattern I mentioned. I just prefer the main central LED to flash but somewhere the outer mini LEDs give outb a burst flash followed by a burst flash of the main central LED. But in any case I'm happy with the MS taillight.

  40. #40
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    Lots of good ideas in this thread. I have a Planet Bike Superflash on my rear rack, a high-vis vest/gloves/ankle strap and a Niterider Mininewt up front. Not quite as much illumination as I want (need moar $$$) but I feel safer at night than in daylight.

    I guess if people have my blinky lights to focus on, they realize I am a live thing they should avoid. knock on wood...

    Also, on days that I ride in, I wait till 530pm to leave as I find it avoids a lot of the crazies.

  41. #41
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    I've been using a Bike Glow in blue as as 'light me up' light, along with a 7" long red tube shaped light I just got (forgot the brand) that straps to the downtube. That gives me side lighting. Also Nathan reflectors and LightWeights on the wheels, but lights don't require the correct angle to a light source to function as reflectors do.

    In back, I just got a new Serface strap-on red blinkie that is very bright and USB rechargeable, the Thunderbolt. It is awesome. Use that and a Magicshine rear light, and a Denotte 300r. (Is this overkill??) I am contemplating getting another Thunderbolt and retiring my Magicshine, as it weighs a lot less and is self contained. The Denotte is daylight visible so I use it on my ride home, as it is still light when I leave work. I highly recommend it for daylight commuting, those superflashes really aren't so super until the Sun goes down.

    Up front, I use a NR mininewt 600 on the bar and an L&M Stella 150 on the helmet in blink mode. Having a helmet light is really useful. Up high, you can shine it into a driver's eyes over the top of parked cars, say if someone is exiting a parking lot on the right and is just not paying attention. If I think someone is not noticing me, I just look at them .

    Of course, those reflective leg bands and a reflective jacket and vest. and reflective tape on the helmet round out my holiday light parade. It's part fun and part serious, and I usually get odd looks and people making comments as I wait at the light so I am getting noticed by drivers.
    Tzvia.

  42. #42
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    Quote Originally Posted by djork View Post
    My MS headlight has five settings, three steady modes and two flash modes. The fifth mode has an interesting flash pattern, which I don't think is very optimal. It has a few quick flashes followed by a few slow fashes.
    The fifth flash mode is morse code for S.O.S.

  43. #43
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    Tzvia, I think we need a pci or vid of that setup.

  44. #44
    Unhinged Aussie on a 29er
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    Quote Originally Posted by NateHawk View Post
    I bought whatever it was that walmart had in stock in the automotive section and it's been fine for the past year. no signs of peeling. it might have even been the 3m stuff, which is highly regarded.
    I don't know why I hadn't thought of the automotive section for reflective tape... that's a damn good idea. The other place I've heard of getting them from is marine or sign suppliers, which supply a sheet rather than a strip. We have guillotine paper cutters at work though so that makes it easy to convert these sheets to whatever size we want.

    Quote Originally Posted by djork View Post
    I'll add another vote for a bright taillight such as the Magicshine MJ-818.
    I talked to a few people RE: the MJ 800 lumen lights (as in, people in the industry) and the illumination is less consistent than other lights - as in it will start off at around 787 lumens and be around the 687 lumens mark at 50% charge on the battery. L&M put the discharge illumination on their advertising material for the Urban series lights to make their lights a selling point over the cheap knockoff lights. That's the main difference between the MJ lights and something like Light & Motion.

    For a tail light, I think this is perfectly fine, considering my current lights do that anyway! Headlight, that's personal opinion, but I do remember switching mine from low to medium to high as the ride progressed with my old MJ lights.

  45. #45
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    Quote Originally Posted by hunter006 View Post
    I don't know why I hadn't thought of the automotive section for reflective tape... that's a damn good idea.
    The Walmart reflective tepe works well. Both White and Red. Here is the errand bike with the red and white tape red on fender and back of ghetto panniers wrapped around the corner and while for there wrapped around the front though it does not show in this light. While on the front rack struts, too. In use for three years.



    Quote Originally Posted by hunter006 View Post
    I talked to a few people RE: the MJ 800 lumen lights ... will start off at around 787 lumens and be around the 687 lumens mark at 50% charge on the battery. ...For a tail light, I think this is perfectly fine, considering my current lights do that anyway! Headlight, that's personal opinion, but I do remember switching mine from low to medium to high as the ride progressed with my old MJ lights.
    Watch the old Superflashes ass they will drop to a glow. They will run over 100 hourw on alkalines but the output after about 20 hours is not what I'd bet my life on. The new Turbos and the Radbot 1000s are very bright for about 10minutes then settle on a slow drop for about 7 hours then crash on NiMH cells. The self contained ligths shut off to protect the batteries. A recharging regiment is advisable to make sure you are as well lit as you intend to be.

    Some interesting products a previous post enticed me to look for:

    Fibre Flare

    N-Vison Single Stick Night Safety Lights

    The Container Store > Bike Brightz™ Light Stick & Glow Brightz™ Tubing

    Adding weight to wheels is not my favorite from a speed standpoint. If I took off another 20 pounds, I could easily handle the extra load. A light stick on a fork, seat stay or fender stay would light a shiny or reflective rim and may do well enough lighting up a wheel.

    BrianMc

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    I really like my cat eye wheel lights, not too much weight. On steady orange, the circular pattern of the lights are very clearly, on a bike.

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    Those fibreflares are cool. I might have to give them a look.

    Quote Originally Posted by NateHawk View Post
    On my frame, I put electrical tape underneath because the package had warnings about the adhesive being strong enough to peel off paint.
    A hairdryer should get that stuff off without damaging the paint. I've removed a bunch without any problems.

  48. #48
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    Quote Originally Posted by jetta_mike View Post
    The fifth flash mode is morse code for S.O.S.
    Ah, who knew! I use that mode for my morning commute when it's already bright.

  49. #49
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    Here is what I have done.

    <iframe width="420" height="315" src="http://www.youtube.com/embed/B0G6o4bjl7U" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe>

    Note that I am wearing a reflective vest and have reflective tape on the wheels. I am in a parking lot with some lighting. There are some head lights and tail lights to compare them to.

    Most of the parts to make the wheel lights came from hobbypartz.com

    LED strips

    11.1 volt 800mAh Li-Po battery O-ring mounted to the hub.

    Battery charger

    Connectors

    I used a carbon arrow shaft to wrap the LED strips around, if you are careful you can get the LEDs to line up in a row. The shaft mounts to the spokes using zip ties.

    I feel that it is important to introduce a color other than red or white, because of all the light pollution in an urban setting.
    James
    "My mountain bike needs a new motor; the current one is fat and lazy."

  50. #50
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    ^^ Shows better than I hoped. Why not the front wheel since it gets there first? Night vision? Do you notice the rotational mass much climbing or accelerating. What sort of run time are you getting?

    BrianMc

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