Night Commuting Advice- Mtbr.com
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  1. #1
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    Night Commuting Advice

    I just got into bike commuting this summer. However, sunrise is already late enough that it is not very light when I leave, and by the end of August it will probably be dark in the morning.

    I ride all the time at night on the dirt, but am a little uneasy about the road. So I am wondering what everyone uses for commuting in the dark? Any light recommendations? I'm thinking about the Night Rider Cherry Bomb for a tail light.

  2. #2
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    One good tail lite is good; I personally go thru tail lites crazy (broken, stolen, lost etc.)so I buy a bunch of cheaper lites when they are one sale. Then, I wear one on my helmet, one one bag, and finally one on bike.
    Sounds like you have a front lite already from MTB. I suggest getting a cheapo front blinker in case of the main fails. When its really dark, I run both; a steady lite and a blinker.
    Consider some reflective tape for the bike. I got some nice black tape from lightweights.com. I put on my spokes, rack ...any where it would stick.
    Reflective vest or jacket...I see other bikers and some peds in them...they are really visable, but I'm to cool to be seen in such dorky gear. instead I cut up a reflective runners belt and safty pinned it to the cuffs on my knikkers and back of my jacket.
    And ride defensively X 10. I've had people LOOK RIGHT AT ME and still pull out. I may look like a nerdy disco...but I don't look like a car

  3. #3
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    I think Rayhead got it all covered. A good front light is a must. I use a Vega, which is nice because it's all self contained. I also use cheap rear blinkie. I don't have to worry about it if something happens and it puts out a good amount of light and runs forever on 2 AAA batteries. Reflective tape is good. If it rains a lot where you live, fenders are a huge help, and they give you more places to put all that reflective tape. One thing a lot people overlook is the being visible to cars approaching from either side. Just something to keep in mind.
    Lastly, clear glasses. Bugs in your eyes at night while riding down a dark street are no fun. Trust me!

    Kris

  4. #4
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    Lights, more is better. Same with reflectors. Reflectors in the spokes seem to be highly visible from the side, in headlights.

    If you have different route options, take a look at them from safety perspective: blind corners, high speed traffic, busy streets...

  5. #5
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    I have a Sigma rear blinky that works great and visible a huge distance. Mine was part of a set, but I think they're only $20 and make you much much more visible.
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  6. #6
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    As everyone above stated, both lights and reflection from the side are important! Don't be afraid to run spoke reflectors. I have two sets on my commuter and next time I get a new bike I'll have a third set. Also don't overlook the benefits of tires with reflective sidewalls.

    A good headlight is important, not just to be seen, but to be able to see the road surface as well. Be on the look-out for crap and debris that wasn't there the day before. If it gets foggy in your area, you can get mounts to mount lights low on your forks so they shine under the fog like fog lights.
    R.I.P. Ronnie James Dio ~ July 10, 1942 May 16, 2010

  7. #7
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    A good front light is REALLY IMPORTANT. If you are riding in traffic it has to be visible alongside cars and trucks with their headlights on. And those lights can be pretty bright these days. But that's already been said and will be said again I'm sure.
    As far as rear lights go I like to add in a bit of redundancy. Because your rear light is not easily visible to you while you're riding, it's almost impossible to know if it has failed. I like to use two lights so that if one isn't working the other probably still is.
    I also don't like running rear lights on a helmet or backpack. LEDs are pretty directional, it doesn't take much of a change in angle and they lose a lot of effective brightness (ie they shine up in the air or down at the ground and not straight to the rear).
    Cheers, Dave

  8. #8
    PCC
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    Head and tail lights are pretty much covered so I will only add this: run more than one tail light. I run two: one blinking (Planet Bike SuperFlash) and one on steady. The blinking one gets their attention and the steady on one gives them a frame of reference of how far away I am since it is difficult to focus on the SuperFlash when it's doing its dance.

    A trick for side illumination that I picked up from RBR.com's commuting forums is to mount a second water bottle cage and put a translucent water bottle in it. Inside that water bottle you drop a small LED flashlight in a translucent plastic bag. The result is that you have a waterproof glowing orb floating down the road (if the head and tail light don't get their attention first!). The problem with reflectors is that they only work when they have a light shining on them but car headlights, especially older non-projector ones, have a narrow beam that may not shed light on your reflective surfaces before you are in their path. Trust me, my commuter is weighed down by about two pounds of SOLAS reflective tape and I still shoot for overkill on the lighting. For an inexpensive small LED light I just made my own by soldering some 5mm LEDs and a 200 ohm resistor to a 9V battery connector then epoxying it all together so that it doesn't fall apart. I've built them for as little as $0.75 plus the cost of the battery.

  9. #9
    jrm
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    Light yourself up

    Quote Originally Posted by EBrider
    I just got into bike commuting this summer. However, sunrise is already late enough that it is not very light when I leave, and by the end of August it will probably be dark in the morning.

    I ride all the time at night on the dirt, but am a little uneasy about the road. So I am wondering what everyone uses for commuting in the dark? Any light recommendations? I'm thinking about the Night Rider Cherry Bomb for a tail light.
    I like lights with more then 600 lumars because anything will get washed out by the overhead and auto lights. I use my ARC HID because its so bright.

  10. #10
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    Thanks for all the good ideas. I figure if I don't mind leaving when it is still a little on the dark side, I can add a couple months of riding to work. It is about a 4 or 5 mile stretch on busy roads before I hit the bike path.

    There are probably only three months out of the year that it would be totally dark. I'm not planning on going year round, but I find I'm riding in a lot more than I originally though. Sure beats driving.

    Cool thing is that the county I live in has an emergency ride program, so if you get stuck at work and say weren't planning for lights, they pay for a taxi ride.

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    Oh wait....You don't live in NYC like me.

    LOL.

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    Disclaimer: I DO NOT OWN A GUN.

  13. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by nyc_zx10




    Oh wait....You don't live in NYC like me.

    LOL.
    I'm not sure how that helps at night.

    Maybe its safer to ride in NYC at night, so the drivers can't see you and aim.

  14. #14
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    Do you all leave your (expensive) headlights on your bike while its parked and you're at work? I'm thinking of going with only a light on my helmet for fear of my bike getting messed with while locked to the (outdoor) rack.

  15. #15
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    I remove my headlight when I park my bike, but my tail light requires a screwdriver to remove, so it stays put. It's not a fancy tail light anyhow, so it's not a huge deal to me. Of course, the bike gets locked up.

    Kris

  16. #16
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    Something that has saved my butt many times is my helmet mounted Dinotte 200L.

    Far and away the most common way I was almost getting his...day and night...was cars approaching my street from the right at an intersection or exiting a driveway. They would often just glance past me looking for faster moving cars and then pull right out.

    With the 200 lumen Dinotte on the helmet, I can point it right in their face and everything changed. I haven't had a close call of this type since. In fact, when I spotlight people, they get surprised and frequently stab the brakes and stop 5-10 feet short of the intersection.

    For illuminating the roadway, I have a 320 lumen Ayup which is tough and easy to remove from the bike.

  17. #17
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    Quote Originally Posted by GpzGuy
    Do you all leave your (expensive) headlights on your bike while its parked and you're at work?
    I've had cheap rear blinkies and fenders stolen from my bike while locked in a "secure" cage, so I try to never leave anything expensive on the bike while parked. I use a Dinotte with a very easy O-ring/rubber band mount.

    I'm gravity challenged, adrenaline deficient, and looking for that endorphine high. Shout out, I'll move out of the way. :-)

  18. #18
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    I use a Superflash on the rear and remove it when parking in more unsavory places. For the front I have three bikes built with dynamo hubs and I built the lights for them. 600 lumen spot lights. Stupid amounts of light. Cars actually don't know what is coming down the road and often will wait a long time for me to come instead of pulling out. They probably think it's a moped or something.

  19. #19
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    Quote Originally Posted by pogliaghi
    I've had cheap rear blinkies and fenders stolen from my bike while locked in a "secure" cage, so I try to never leave anything expensive on the bike while parked. I use a Dinotte with a very easy O-ring/rubber band mount.

    I've got the Dinotte 400L, and unfortunately it doesn't have a quick release and bolts on. I could take the battery pack with me easily enough though I suppose.

  20. #20
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    If you're going the 'daylight at the night' route, please angle your high beams downwards (10 is plenty and welcome).

    I find it very rude to have the intense glare stabbing at my eyes, making passing on 'narrow' shared-use pathways annoying. I understand maximising throw; but I still see 400 lumens of head/tail-light even if they're angled down 45, you don't have to mount it at 10 up at peoples' faces.

  21. #21
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    I use a bright headlight, both to see and more importantly be seen, and a Planet Bike "Super Flash" which is a combined LED and mini strobe. I like that the flashing light (though, not strictly legal in NYS) makes the bike stand out.

    Paradoxically, the better the street lighting is the brighter the lights you'll need. That's because on a pitch dark road, anything shows up well, but with more ambient lighting, and all the visual clutter of the city, small bike lights don't stand out very well.
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  22. #22
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    Also, be on the lookout for any situations where you're riding towards or away from the setting sun. In that situation, you should try to find a different route, because nothing you can do will guarantee you're seen against the glare of the setting sun.

    Regarding lights, reflectivity and hi-vis clothing, there's already lots of good advice given here. I'll put in a good word for the DiNotte 140L taillight if you want to get serious in the taillight department... I got the lithium-ion version and have no regrets, except I made my own mount for it.

    Also have a look at the Trek bar-end blinkies, which use one AAA each and there's both road and mountain versions: http://store.trekbikes.com/jump.jsp?...&bShopOnline=1 These give you a definite visual width and are fairly visible, check them out versus the DiNotte: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bDhwTV229E0 These would be great backup to your Cherry Bomb or SuperFlash.

    You can clip a second Cherry Bomb or SuperFlash to the rear of some helmets, too. For your bike-mounted lights, take pains to aim them directly at overtaking traffic... so many people have their taillights aimed downward where the "hot spot" of the beam is wasted.

    Oh, and go get a couple of reflective legbands from REI. The up-&-down motion is eye-catching, plus they keep your pants cuffs away from the chain.

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