Randonneur Light Rant…

3 04 2011

Awesome a brighter bike light - just what we need!

The Curious Randonneur posted a fender rant recently which is a sentiment I fully share. I also would add flashing rear lights to the list of rando rants. I’ll give civilians a break because they may not have ever had to follow someone on their bike for a few hours who has a flashing ultra bright rear LED light. But, I would expect everyone on a brevet to know that a flashing rear light is hard on the eyes of everyone behind them and that in many cases the folks to the rear have no choice, but to follow them for a good while. Unless you are well and truly on your own please run your rear lights on steady.

One time you know you won’t be alone is at the start of a brevet where the group may spin along for 10-20kms before they split up and there will be many people behind you to enjoy your flashing light show.

I position my rear light below the seat so that I can toggle from steady to flash to off without missing a pedal stroke. That way if it gets dark and cloudy during the day I can turn on my light and then turn it off when I don’t need it.

BTW – flashing ultra bright LED front lights are equally irritating when looking into your rearview mirror at someone who is following you for mile upon mile.



12 responses

4 04 2011
Todd S

Sadly, many places here in the US require that rear lights be flashing. I believe it is also a RUSA requirement. I know several people who have a normal light mounted on the bike and carry a flasher to clip to something for the dark hours on a ride. Once the sun is up, they just remove the flasher. It still doesn’t make things better for the rider behind him.

4 04 2011

@Todd – this is from the RUSA rules page:


“Article 10

For night riding, vehicles must be equipped with front and rear lights attached firmly to the vehicle. Lights must be turned on at all times during hours of darkness or other low-light conditions (rain, fog, etc.).
At least one of the rear lights must be in a steady (rather than flashing) mode. All riders’ lights must meet the requirements of local laws. A rider is not permitted to cycle at night or in other low-light conditions without working front and rear lights attached to the vehicle; therefore backup lighting systems and/or spare bulbs are strongly recommended in case the primary system fails and cannot be repaired on the roadside. Each rider, whether riding in a group or alone, must fully comply with this requirement. Everyone must use their lights!”

The requirement seems to be for a steady light not a flashing one.

Do you know of one jurisdiction in the US that requires a flashing light on a bicycle? I’ve never heard of that and in fact I was under the impression lights on vehicles [incl bikes] were not supposed to flash as that was strictly for emergency vehicles.

If you give me a couple areas that you think require flashing bike lights I’ll look into it and confirm.

4 04 2011
Steve Williamson

I too can switch my rear battery lights on and off while cycling. I do like flashing lights if I’m on my own (I have a steady generator tail light too), but I set them all to steady if I’m with others. Is it true that the Europeans don’t allow flashers, or is that my imagination?

Fenders and Lights, man I’m getting grumpy!

4 04 2011

@Steve – Germany doesn’t allow flashing lights on bikes.

4 04 2011

I don’t like the trend toward high intensity flashing lights on the road. Super-bright lights should be solid when it’s dark. Coming up on a rider when driving on a rainy night who’s got a PB Superflash flashing can make you almost blind. That flashing can be extremely useful in the daytime when it would ordinarily be missed, but in the dark it’s really unnecessary. These lights are bright as hell.

Same goes for headlights. Flashing high intensity headlights should be outlawed. Especially when they’re not even properly beams.

4 04 2011

@ Steve – No flashing lights allowed in Holland neither… Lights must be attached to front and rear of bike… or, only allowed recently… attached to upperbody (Coat, bag, etc.) …. must stay pretty steady and not allowed to attache to helmet (When used) or arms, legs.. white or yellow front, red back

4 04 2011

Thanks Vic, your posts about lights over the past year or so have really made me rethink my own bike lighting in relation to others.

Sometimes, as a cyclist, you are pre-programmed to always be the one who’s on the defensive… the prey of reckless or inattentive drivers, the potential victim. It is easy to disregard everyone else when you already feel so small and insignificant.

4 04 2011
Todd S.

Vic, you’re right. I had it backwards. I looked at my local laws (in Florida) and flashing lights on bikes or any vehicle are prohibited except for turn signals or emergency lights. This leaves me scratching my head though as to why (and how) they have become so ubiquitous.

4 04 2011

I totally agree with you about flashing lights. I use them in the city because it’s care that see them, and also the runtime on the flash mode is great. However, I could see that on a randonneuring event, the flash would be really impolite. I think that it’s a shame that the new wave of 1W taillights only last 5-6 hours on steady. Planet bike seems to have good power management on their Blaze 2W headlamp, so if they were smart, they would just add a 1W and a 1/2 W steady mode on their new superflash turbo in addition to the flash mode. That way everyone would be happy. The 1/2W superflash runs 12 hours on steady.

5 04 2011
Dolan Halbrook

Amen. Not only is it distracting to other riders I think it’s actually distracting to drivers as well.

6 04 2011

Flashing lights were a good idea back in the day when there were no LED lights and a solid bright light ate batteries by the handful. It is time to change, with the new bright LED lights you don’t need to flash. If I am going to use a flashing light, I aim it at the road. It lights up the road (and a little of my bike) so car drivers know WHERE I am but doesn’t blind anyone.

26 04 2011

Probably just coincidence, but I’ve chosen to blame this rant on self-appointed light cops shouting out of cars about what they deem inappropriate flashing.

In my case, 6:30 P.M. at 37 deg N latitude on April 25th is well before a nearly 8 P.M. sunset, so shouting “noise noise flashing noise noise” is doing nothing but strengthening my resolve to use my lights as I please & to consider the shouter an idiot.

The 2W Planet Bike Blaze *is* a powerful nasty light on flash, no doubt. I’ve been noticing more very visible commuters around town with strong non-blinking lights & I nearly bought a li-ion one-piece Cygolite when I misplaced my Blaze this week.

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