An admitted shoe geek waxes philosophical about running, triathlon, and life in general.
Comments welcome!

Thursday, September 6, 2012

By the liiiiight... Of the silvery moooooon...

I rode my bike, the acoustic one, to work this morning. Acoustic meaning no motor, other than the organic one that is me. Like the difference between an acoustic guitar and an electric guitar.

Anyway, I rode yesterday, too, but had started later so that it would be lighter outside on the way to work. Of course that also pushed the end of the work day to a later time as well. Coupled with taking some 45 minutes to schedule a medical procedure, and I didn't get home until after 5. I hate that.

So this morning I left the house at just a couple minutes after 5. Meaning it was dark out. The remnants of the waning moon cast a dim glow that at times was visible, but otherwise I was left to the illumination cast by my cheap (and very old) Cateye that uses two "C" cells and a standard flashlight bulb, and the blinking light I have to get drivers' attention (I also have two red blinking lights in back and reflective ankle bands). That blinking light is actually brighter than the steady headlight...

So I've also got an old Nightrider light, halogen something or other, that I'm going to use as soon as I get the handlebar bracket that I must have purged in a moment of rare "cut the clutter" mood. That should improve things greatly, as I was vastly under-lit whenever the street lights got too far apart. At least for anything close to 22 mph.

Ideally, I will be able to go with two lights eventually -- one on the handlebars, and one on the helmet.

I've ridden with this combination in the past before, and it's FAR the superior set-up. Especially of you do any riding off road. Why? Two reasons.

(1) Handlebar-mounted lights point where the handlebars point, which is great if you're riding in a straight line and on a flat track (or road). Once that track takes a turn, there's a tendency to want to oversteer the turn to get the light to shine over the track where the bike is going to roll -- the light will be far outside that line. And when you go over a rise, you're doing a great job of lighting the heavens instead of the road, and you get a feeling of dropping off the end of the earth into an endless abyss. A helmet light takes care of both of these issues by pointing where your head is pointed. Look through the turn and your path is lit. Look over the hill to the trail and the abyss disappears and is replaced by... the trail.

(2) So why not just go to a helmet light and be done with it? Because you lose all shadows when the light is above your eyes, and the terrain becomes "flat". Shadows are what you see that indicates undulations in the terrain ahead (holes, rocks, etc). If the light is above your eyes, the shadows are short and your eyes won't see them. Having the handlebar light casts appropriate shadows that you'll be able to see, so you can avoid things that will make you go bump in the night.

Current LED systems (using the CREE chip) are very efficient, create far less heat, and require far less battery power (and thus smaller battery packs) than the older halogen or other filament-bulb lights of yore. And they're (for the most part) no more expensive, especially when you take into account inflation from the last 15 years (they're retailing for much the same now as they were then).

I'll be looking for another light to add to my current system, especially if I'm going to continue riding the commute into the fall. And I'll let you all know what I settle on for the additional illumination.

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