Thursday, March 23, 2006

Red means go

Perhaps I have too many red blinky lights. But I’m all too willing to shell out another $15 on something that may save my life. And besides, they break, or you lose them, or a friend needs one. You really can’t have too many red blinky lights.

Now that I’ve removed the rear rack on my road bike (and the ride is nicer), I can put a red light back on my seatpost. It’s nice to have a light there as there’s no perfect place on a bike bag to put a light. They should build the bags with a little strap on the button. Because when you attach a light to the back of a bag, it ends up pointing up and not back when you’re riding with drop handlebars.

But I think I’ve finally found the perfect red blinky light. It’s the Blackburn Mars 3.0. It’s on the bottom left. It’s perfect combination of bright, easy to turn on and off, and well-built. It takes AAA batteries, which I think is the best weight and size to power option. Planet Bike's red blinky light (not pitured) is also excellent.

Other lights aren’t bright enough or have too many different blinky options. I mean, come on, who really needs anything other than off and flash blink? The Blackburn still has three different on options, but the flash blink is the middle option. This means to turn it on you press the button twice. And to turn it off you press the button twice. Perfect.

The other great blinky light is the reflecty band blinking light (on top). These are relatively new. You should get a couple. They’re great as an extra light. You can put them on your arm, leg, or if you want to be way cool, your neck. They don’t quite work too well as a pant leg band, so I usually put on my arm. Or both arms if I have two. Then I blink like a friggin’ Christmas tree. But is that so bad?

The lights are (going clockwise from the bottom left):

The perfect Blackburn 3.0.

Smart brand light. Perfectly good. My second favorite. But it’s not nearly as bright (or as expensive) as the Blackburn. Great side light action, though. And it’s blink is a little slower and more soothing.

The circular one with the string. Horrible magnetic-based on-off system. What the fuck? I like the strap, good for hanging off my bag. But bad because if it flips around no light comes out the back.

Cateye: Horrible dual on-off bottoms. And a gazillion of on options. I don’t want to have to think when I turn my lights on or off.

Specialized: I like it because it’s small… but it takes a watch battery and isn’t bright enough.

Blackburn Mars 2.0: Not bad. But bigger and less bright than the 3.0.

My front light, which I’ve used for years and strongly recommend: a Streamlight Stinger. Yes, the exact same light I used as my cop flashlight. I was very happy to give it a second life. I recently upgraded to a Stinger HP. It’s a little bigger and therefore a little more bulky. But it does give off more light. Enough light to serve as a real headlight.

You have to buy a simple velcro holder separately. Buy an extra because the velcro wears out after a while. But it’s easy to take on and off your bike. And equally important, you can use one light and holder for all your bikes. I thank the French guy at Ace Wheelworks in Somerville, Mass, for turning me on to that holder system years ago.

On the left is my old Streamlight. Tested on the eyes of many a-hoodlums on the streets. The middle is the new one. I guess the bigger head makes it brighter. But I like the size of the old one more. And the rubber casing. But I use the brighter one. They both take the same rechargeable battery. You can only charge the battery when it’s in the flashlight.

The Streamlight Stinger isn’t cheap. But it’s good. Hell, like I said, cops use them. You can drop them and they don’t break. The battery lasts about an hour. But when it goes, it goes quickly. The battery itself lasts a year or two before it only lasts a half hour and it’s time for a new one. I have two batteries. I bring the spare with me when (like in the winter) I might ride for more than an hour in the dark. You can swap batteries in seconds.

I don’t rant much, but I do want to say that I don’t understand bikers who ride at night without lights. Think lights aren’t cool? Well have I got bad news for you: biking ain’t cool. And no biker is going to think you’re less cool because you have a light.

(Well, just to be honest, I do think lights on a helmet look really dorky. But if you’re more secure in your manhood than I am, go for it. I do make some concessions to not wanting to be a bike dork. Like I don’t wear spandex. Even though pretty much all my clothing is geared around biking, I like looking like a normal person when I get off my bike. But of course normal people’s shoes don’t go crunch when they walk down the street.)

I especially hate seeing helmet-clad bikers with no lights. The point is to avoid getting hit by a car. A helmet ain’t going to save shit if you get run over by a truck. I mean, I’m not even pro-helmet. I hate helmets. They’re horrible to wear and they scare people away from biking. And if there were enough people biking, we wouldn’t need them. But I do wear one… usually. I do want to live to bike another day.

It’s far better to have a light and no helmet than a helmet and not light. What kind of idiot has a helmet and no light? Use lights.

And wheel reflectors. Don’t believe the hype: reflectors work. Sometimes you forget that they work because you can’t see them work when you’re riding. But you sure can see them when you’re in a car. If it matters (and I think it does), use two per wheel on opposite sides so they balance each other out. They’re actually so old school they can take a little effort to find. But they’re worth the search. Bike Tools Etc sells them. They’re $2 a pair, for crying out loud! Get 12. That's enough for both your bikes and you can still give four to a friend.

1 comment:

AV said...

I am a fan of planet bike blinkies.
They're compact, fairly bright, and have a built-in attachment system (the front ones, anyway) so that you can switch them from bike to bike without having to have a mount.