Why don’t I dress up like a traffic cone?

7 03 2011

One of my typical high visibility black/gray cycling outfits...

Most of the time I wear dark colours cycling.  Why don’t I wear one of those traffic cone inspired bike outfits? This question has 3 answers:

  1. I mostly ride for transportation so I wear the clothes I would wear if I walked, drove or took a bus.
  2. My risk assessment tells me street clothes are safe for cycling.
  3. I want to promote cycling as something beyond a sporting activity or transportation for a select group of geeks.

Bikes are serious business...

Transportation

The ideal forms of transportation are quick, cheap and low hassle.  The more you get away from these qualities the less likely someone is to utilize them – assuming they have a choice in the first place.  I wear the same type of clothes most days. So if I decide I need to run an errand I can walk out my door and jump on a bicycle without the need to locate and put on any specialized clothing – that really simplifies the process. When I get to the other end I just hop off my bike and blend in with the rest of human society. Additionally many of my transportation needs are to get to social events. I want to get there looking normal. So I either wear my street clothes to the event while riding my bike or I have to get there and find away to change. At the very least I need to put away my neon yellow cycling jacket or my hot pink high visibility jersey.

The other non-sporting use I put my bike to is touring. I like blending in with my environment when I travel. I want to step away from my bicycle and be just one more person at my destination without some major Superman finds a phone booth to turn into Clark Kent process. That’s far harder to do when you look like a space traveler who has just landed wearing tap dancing shoes!

Cycling for everyday people...

Cycling is Safe

My comments on cycling safety only apply to places I’ve lived and travelled.  This would include most of Canada, a good chunk of Western Europe, portions of the Western US and Baja Mexico.  Cycling is safe – period. No special safety gear is required for non-extreme forms of cycling [ie. riding to get a coffee or pick up some groceries]. You don’t need to look like a traffic cone to be safe. I think the most important aspects of cycling safety are intelligent route choice and effective cycling skills [ie. where to be in a lane and how to make turns,etc…]. I don’t have regular close calls while cycling in dark clothes. Cars can see me. So can pedestrians and other cyclists. I do occasionally wear bright clothing even cycling specific visibility clothing [my rain jacket is bright orange because they didn’t offer it in black! and I own a few items of street clothing that are quite bright] and I am treated no differently when I do.

Black for visibility on a rainy day...=-)

You might think I am a high risk individual which is why I don’t take special safety precautions.  I’m 42 years old and have been to the emergency room 4 or 5 times in my life. I had two factures and never had a clean break in a bone. I don’t get hurt often. I’m actually a low risk person, but I get to that state not by a paranoid application of every possible safety measure, but rather by a reasonable assessment of the specific risks I am exposed to and a logical application of the appropriate mitigation measures.

In fact I would go so far as to suggest the fetish some cyclists have for neon colours may actually put them at higher risk of an accident if they feel over confident of their safety because they assume they have to be visible to traffic given how blindingly bright they jacket is. I feel the same way about our helmet obsession. By all means wear a bike helmet, but be honest about how much safer you are with it on and don’t forget that when that bus runs you over it really won’t matter a whole heck of a lot that your helmet was CSA approved.

Photo: Scattomatto56 on Flickr - click image to see original...

Cycling for the Masses

I want more people to ride bikes. Currently in North America cycling is viewed as a sport like football/tennis/running or as a hobby for a bunch of geeks that like to dress like traffic cones. This view of cycling limits the public’s desire to ride bicycles. They see a roadie going full tilt down a highway in a body hugging spandex number and they want no part of that foolishness. They see a hardcore traffic cone wearing bike commuter battling their way through traffic and they see a geek who is fighting for their life – not appealing. On the other hand if they see someone riding through town on a bike wearing street clothes looking relaxed they can relate. It starts to look like cycling is safe enough to try and can’t be that tough because normal folks are doing it.

Sharon commuting to work...

I drink tap water for 3 reasons:

  1. it’s cheap
  2. it’s convenient
  3. it’s what I want to see others doing

I can afford bottled water, but I think it’s bad for the environment and I know that many people can’t afford it. If everyone who made more than $30K a year drank bottled water would society really care what happened to the water supply? I doubt it. But, by being invested in the public water system for my own health reasons it forces me to ensure that it is safe and available to everyone – including those whose voices are not as well heard.

What the heck does that have to do with cycling? Well I can afford all the latest safety nonsense for my bicycle. If the only way to be safe was to spend money on cycle specific gear that not everyone has – the solution, in my mind, wouldn’t be to equip myself with the latest gear and battle to stay alive on the mean streets of my city. It would be to advocate for safe streets for normal cyclists. Just like safe drinking water there should be a reasonable level of safety for any cyclist. Not only does that make cycling more accessible to everyone, but it means my own cycling is more pleasant.

Cover your eyes!

Don’t I ever get my traffic cone on?

You got me! I do sometimes. Like in Calgary when I was undertaking a snowstorm Pugsley assault of downtown I wore a high visibility eye searing vest like the one above. At night I’ll use reflective leg bands and a reflective sash that can be removed in seconds and stashed in a pocket when I arrive at my destination. If it was densely foggy on my way to work I woud take some extra precautions. These sorts of conditions occur a handful of times a year where I live. So a prudent person need only do/wear something unusual on occasion.

Aaron gearing up for a rando training ride...

What if you want to dress like a traffic cone?

Go for it! I’m not telling you what to do. My purpose for this post was to get people to think about what they wear cycling and why. If you love eye searing bright colours and/or you feel they are absolutely necessary for your continued survival – then be my guest! You gotta ride your own ride…=-)

My high visibility black rando gear...=-)

As a pedestrian I deal with cars at every intersection I cross and every time I cross mid-block at a cross walk. I feel more at risk on my feet crossing roads than I do on my bike riding in traffic. This is because on my bike I am riding like a car going with the flow whereas on foot all my interactions are at 90 degrees to the direction cars are moving. In every city I’ve lived pedestrians get hit and seriously injured/killed by cars. I never hear anyone suggest that pedestrians should wear neon safety jackets or wear helmets. When I go downtown walking with my friends nobody sports specialized visibility gear yet we might well cross the road 30-40 times. If dressing like a traffic cone on a bike makes sense it would make equal sense for a pedestrian that has to contend with traffic. Of course nobody would go for that!





Bicycle Safety!

24 02 2011

A chuckle found on BROL...





How to keep your butt clean on tour?

2 02 2011

Keep this handy...

If you don’t want to hear about butt hygiene stop reading now.  You will be offended.

A lot of the time when people think they got sick from food poisoning they actually got sick from butt poisoning.  Your shit has all the necessary ingredients to make you sick so it’s no surprise that if you don’t follow sensible protocols you’ll end up sick from your own germs when camping. I’ll cover what I do when camping on a bike tour with no running water.  If you have access to a shower or tap or river it’s easier to stay clean and you can alter my suggestions as needed.

It’s really important to know yourself so you can plan accordingly. When I get up in the AM in camp and have a cup of tea I need to shit. So I’m already scoping out the situation as I brew my tea.  I keep a roll of TP and hand sanitizer in a ziplock bag.  If I am in a remote area like Baja I add a lighter and trowel.  I also have a small squeezable bike water bottle handy and some biodegradable soap in a small squeeze bottle.

When nature calls I’ll:

  • grab my supplies and find a suitable spot [away from streams, lakes, etc..]
  • dig a hole
  • shit
  • clean up with TP
  • burn TP [someplaces this is not appropriate depending on fire hazard]
  • cover everything in hole
  • use soap and water bottle to clean butt [be thorough]
  • use hand sanitizer when all is said and done as a final sterilization step

You’ll want to organize your supplies so you pack them away as you go.  That way when you use the hand sanitizer you are just grabbing the outside of a couple ziplocks or mesh stuff sacks. When in doubt hit the hand sanitizer again and keep in mind the outside of the sanitizer container is likely one of you dirtiest surfaces in your panniers so put some in one hand and put it away before cleaning your hands so you don’t have to touch it again.

What this accomplishes?

  • you end up with a clean butt so you are not as likely to develop saddle sores
  • you can wear underwear for more than one day with less risk of problems
  • you don’t get as stinky as fast
  • your hands stay clean of butt related germs so you don’t get sick

Keep in mind:

  • your friends can make you sick through shared utensils, food or water so enforce a high standard of group hygiene
  • hand sanitize before each meal and a few times a day to keep the germ count on your hands down
  • wash thoroughly if a shower, bath tub, stream or lake presents itself [don’t put soap in a stream or lake even if it’s biodegradable]
  • I try and put on clean boxers every day or every second day depending on my clothing spares and laundry opportunities
  • urinating does not have any significant risk of making you sick so feel free to hand sanitize afterwards, but don’t break out the same biohazard kit you used when you defecated
  • I don’t like wet wipes, but some people do use them to stay clean when bathing is not an option
  • although not essential if water is plentiful that squeezable water bottle and biodegradable soap will let you have a pretty good camp shower. If you are camped with someone attractive of the opposite sex you can help each other out with refills of the water bottle and accurately aimed squirts of water…=-)




The problem with mechanical disc brakes…

28 01 2011

Avid BB7's on my Surly Big Dummy...

I must say upfront that this post is a bit of a rip off from an article Jan Heine posted in Bicycle Quarterly.  However, it’s something I was thinking about before I read that article and I’ll add a bit to what Jan discussed.

All of my initial experiences with disc brakes were with Avid mechanical discs.  This was simply because they were popular and easy to work on at home since they used the same brake housing and cables I was used to.  That meant I could overhaul my bike at 3am without a visit to a LBS for help bleeding hydraulic brakes. To their credit these brakes work well. I find the stopping power of a set of quality v-brakes and Avid mechanical discs comparable.  In the dry I can flip my bike over with both and in the wet they both stop the bike well albeit not as well as when dry.

I won’t argue there is no difference at all between a good set of v-brakes and a good set of mechanical discs, but the difference has not been in the range that it matters to me one bit which I use.

One issue I’ve had with mechanical discs is that after the initial part of the lever travel that does stop the bike reasonably well there is a very mushy feel to the lever as you keep pulling that seems to have little additional braking effect.  It’s worse on the rear wheel although that wheel isn’t particularly important for stopping the bike.  Since they work fine it’s not something I’ve spent too much time worrying about.  Then one day Bicycle Quarterly published an article that explained why I was experiencing this.

If you imagine that a rim brake is really a disc brake with a very big rotor.  This gives it a lot of leverage to stop the bike.  So that generating the same braking force  on a disc brake bike takes more pressure on the brake pads than for a rim brake bike.  Just the same as if you used a long and a short pry bar to open a wooden crate you have to push harder on the short pry bar to generate the same force at the far end of the lever.  In some ways the higher pad pressure of a disc brake system is a good thing since this is what is supposed to give it better wet weather braking as the pads squeeze water off the disc rotor more effectively than the lighter pressure from the rim brake pads on the bigger rotor that is the rim.

The problem is that the housing used for the mechanical brake cable is only able to resist the compression forces of the brake lever to a certain point.  Before that point most of the power you put into the lever gets to the disc pad and squeezes the rotor resulting in good braking.  Beyond that point more and more of the extra force you put into the lever goes into compressing the brake housing.  This means as you double the force you only get a small increasing in brake effect at the rotor.  This explains why after some good initial braking the mechanical disc brake lever feels mushy and doesn’t seem to have much effect.  It also explains why you can brake effectively with rim brakes since they don’t require the same high forces. Rear disc brakes also tend to use a long full run of cable housing which exacerbates the problem.

So what can you do about it?

  • if you want to stick with mechanical discs use some high quality brake housing that resists compression better.
  • if you’ve got $$ to spend install compressionless metal cable housing like the one made by Nokon.
  • if you are buying brakes go with hydraulic disc brakes since they don’t have this problem
  • the cheapest solution is to understand the issue and use the braking your mechanical discs provide…when you get to the mushy part of the lever’s pull don’t bother squeezing harder since you know not much will happen.




Help I can’t stop!

26 01 2011

Rim brakes?....do they still make those?

I read with much amusement people posting online that rim brakes don’t work well when it’s wet out.  If you mention you ride a bike in a wet climate like the PNW or costal BC you are advised that you gotta get disc brakes.  Apparently rim brakes don’t stop your bike well and you’ll wear through your rims at an alarming rate.  Disc brakes on the other hand stop your bike on a dime and never wear through a rotor.

It sounds great – except for the fact it’s not true…

When I look around at 10 bikes I pass riding around the wetness of a Vancouver Island winter 9 out of 10 bikes I see use rim brakes.  These folks are stopping just fine. I haven’t seen anyone ram another cyclist for lack of braking power or plow through a stop sign while pumping their brakes furiously.  Keep in mind these are not all top notch bikes tuned to within an inch of their lives.  There are a lot of beaters out there who see very little maintenance.  Even these mediocre rigs stop without issue in the rain.

My two go to rain bikes are my Surly LHT and my Bike Friday Tikit.  Both have rim brakes.  Both stop fine in the rain.  I often carry cargo on my LHT and it still stops fine in the rain.  Not just fine as is in I am barely able to avoid a problem, but fine as in I don’t really think much about my brakes since I pull the lever and the bike stops when I want it to.  If they didn’t work I can assure you I’d be riding different bikes when it was wet out.

I own a number of bikes with disc brakes.  They work fine as well.  I can’t say that there is any practical difference between the two systems.  I don’t ride my Surly Big Dummy with hydraulic discs and think to myself “…this baby stops on a dime compared to my LHT…”

Both my LHT and Tikit are on their original rims.  I’m sure they’ll wear out – someday, but it’s hardly a major issue. I just checked my LHT’s front rim and there is no visible wear on the brake track.  This is my oldest bike that has seen a ton of Kms…many of which were loaded touring in the mountains.  My Tikit doesn’t see the mileage of my LHT, but it was my winter city bike for 2 years and has tiny 16″ rims which should suffer accelerated wear.  However, my Tikit rims are in excellent shape as well.  The Tikit’s drivetrain is worn out so I do ride it a lot and I have to brake a lot for city riding, but so far no rim wear issues.

When I contemplated building up Sharon a new commuter bike one of the issues was what type of brakes to use.  To be honest I started down the “…I guess I better use discs…” train of thought myself until I really thought about it point by point:

  • v-brakes are powerful
  • v-brakes are cheap
  • v-brake are light
  • v-brakes are easy to adjust
  • v-brakes are easy to examine [condition and adjustment]
  • v-brakes allow for a more vertically flexible comfortable steel fork
  • v-brakes work well wet or dry
  • rims don’t need replacing often even with wet weather commuting KMs

Sharon won’t be getting a new commuter bike for a long time after this so I wanted to make a good long term choice. In this case that was v-brakes.

So if rim brakes do work in the wet and rims don’t wear out in a few months of riding why is there so much pro-disc & anti-rim brake nonsense going around?

The two most basic reasons are:

  1. bike companies want to sell you new brakes, frames and bikes
  2. we live in a culture where new technology is worshiped irrationally

I won’t be shocked in 10 years when most bikes sold in a LBS have discs if we see bike companies tout the advantages of the “new and improved” rim brake.

I figure I’m pretty objective since I’ve lived all over Canada and ridden all sorts of bikes year round.  I own and like discs so I’m not a technology hater.  I ride rim brakes and discs back to back on the same day so I can compare them readily under the same conditions.

Now don’t get me wrong if you give me a free bike with disc brakes I’ll happily ride it.  If I want a specific frame [like a Pugsley] that only works well with discs I’ll use discs.  Good quality discs work great.  They stop your bike fine.  My only concern is that we don’t lose sight of the fact rim brakes work great as well.  Picking discs because they are a good fit for your needs is smart.  Picking discs because you think they are the only viable brake option is silly.





Another Dinotte vs Ixon IQ Light Test…

3 01 2011

Here is one last set of light comparison videos before I head south tomorrow AM.  Sharon and I were coming back from dinner in town.  Her bike had a B&M Ixon IQ on it and a Planet Bike Superflash on the rear rack [rack is a bit tweaked so it points down slightly].  I had a Dinotte 200L-AA on my bike with a Radbot 1000 on the back.

Sorry the audio is not great – this is a different camera than I normally use and it apparently doesn’t love the noise from speed induced wind….=-(

Here is what happens in the video:

  • at the start Sharon is ahead so you see my Dinotte 200L aimed for my normal speed range of 20-27kph
  • as I catch up to Sharon you can see her PB Superflash then the beam of her Ixon IQ
  • we ride together with both lights on so you can compare them [look at how much light they put on road and how much goes up into trees/sky]
  • then I turn off my Dinotte and we ride with just her Ixon IQ
  • finally I turn my Dinotte back on for the last bit

One of the reasons I got Sharon a Ixon IQ for Christmas is that on our usual rides at night her 2 Planet Bike Blaze 1W lights were barely enough for her to ride by.  She commented several times how my Dinotte 200L was much brighter and more effective at lighting up a dark MUP or road.  Last night’s ride was our first together with her new lighting and she commented how her light was so much better than mine and that now she had the most kick ass bike light – mission accomplished…=-)

One thing to consider while watching this video is that only about ~30% of the Dinotte’s beam is actually useful for lighting up the road and obstacles.  The rest goes up and to the sides in a huge cone that really is wasted.  Now imagine if all that wasted light was focused down on the road like the Ixon IQ.  You’d have a really bright light beam to ride by!

I promise this is the last bike light video for a couple months….lol…!…=-)

In this video I’m holding a camera at head height and Sharon first rides her own bike towards and then past me [Ixon IQ + PB Superflash] then she grabs my bike and rides it towards me and then past me [Dinotte 200L + Radbot 1000 on rapid flash].  You know what I think about these lights.  I’ll let you draw you own conclusions from the video.

I’d encourage everyone out there to take 5mins next time you are out riding with a friend at night to check out each other’s lights and to check out your own.

PS – as with my previous videos they get darker when uploaded to Youtube so if you want to see the originals click here. The ones shown in this post and Tikit Night 1 & 2. I’m uploading as I publish this post to my blog so it may take an hour or so for those videos to upload.





I don’t hate Dinotte…

2 01 2011

Symetric beam bike lights from Magicshine and Dinotte...

Reading replies to my bike light blog posts and similar stuff I posted on bike forums I wanted to ensure my intentions were not misconstrued:

  • I love everything about Dinottes except the light beam. If/when they fix that I will be a happy customer again. If you give me a choice I’d rather support a North American company rather than one on another continent.  Unfortunately the light beam is most of what I am buying with a bike light so that’s an issue I can’t over look.
  • Planet Bike is a great company.  Their main headlights and taillights don’t perform well, but that’s something they could fix and I’ll happily buy their lights again.
  • I’m not telling you that your light setup is wrong.  Unless you live and ride where I do it’s impossible for me to know what biking in your neck of the woods is like so I can’t pass judgement on your lights.
  • I’m not suggesting you only use reflectors when you ride.
  • I’m not suggesting you take lights off your bike or use different lights.

What I am saying is:

  • symmetric beam bike lights and uber power taillights can be blinding to the point of being dangerous and they are certainly incredibly irritating to other people who encounter them – especially on dark roads and MUPs.
  • rapid blinking powerful bike lights are far worse than steady or slow blinking bike lights.
  • blinking bike lights that go on/off are far worse than a similar light that blinks low/high.
  • more and more powerful symmetric beam lights on your bike don’t make you safer and can actually cause problems for you and others.
  • Germany made symmetric beam bike lights and blinking bike lights illegal for road use for a reason.
  • reflective material can be very useful to make yourself visible and has benefits over using more lights to increase visibility.
  • look at your existing lights from both another cyclist’s and a driver’s point of view…get a friend to help you and bike/drive back and forth past your bike…follow your bike on a bike for 5mins on a MUP or dark street.
  • use your common sense and compassion for others to evaluate your lights and your visibility.
  • where you aim your lights matters a lot so if you have symmetric beam lights and can’t don’t want to replace them try different aiming points.  See what that does for you.

Bottom line I’ll consider my posts successful if a few people out there tried my suggestion of standing in front and behind of their bikes to check out what the lights are like for others.  I had no idea how bad it really was until I was forced to do this experiment by living in a town with loads of cyclists and an unlit MUP that I ride on 95% of my bike missions.

Ultimately the great thing about this topic is that every single one of us can test out our one situation fairly easily by putting ourselves at the opposite end of our bike lights from where we usually are in the saddle.  You don’t have to take my word for anything – just try it out and see what you think.





Bicycle Night Visibility Study

30 12 2010

"Away Team - set phasers for stun!"

Andrew posted a link to an interesting study from the Journal of the Australasian College of Road Safety about how visible cyclists really are on the road.  You can read the whole study as a PDF here.

This is an abstract from the paper:

“Visibility limitations make cycling at night particularly dangerous. We previously reported cyclists’ perceptions of their own visibility at night and identified clothing configurations that made them feel visible. In this study we sought to determine whether these self-perceptions reflect actual visibility when wearing these clothing configurations. In a closed-road driving environment, cyclists wore black clothing, a fluorescent vest, a reflective vest, or a reflective vest plus ankle and knee reflectors. Drivers recognised more cyclists wearing the reflective vest plus reflectors (90%) than the reflective vest alone (50%), fluorescent vest (15%) or black clothing (2%). Older drivers recognised the cyclists less often than younger drivers (51% vs 27%). The findings suggest that reflective ankle and knee markings are particularly valuable at night, while fluorescent clothing is not. Cyclists wearing fluorescent clothing may be at particular risk if they incorrectly believe themselves to be conspicuous to drivers at night.”

Thanks to the Aushiker Blog for posting the link to the study.





Your taillight is too bright…

30 12 2010

Photo: Cool Tools...

The US Military has developed weapons based on the concept that ultra bright lights can temporarily disable the target’s central nervous system incapacitating them.  It appears that a number of bike light companies are using a similar approach to tail light technology.

Let me say categorically if your belief is the more light you are pumping out the back of your bike the safer you are – you’re wrong.  Drivers drunk and/or distracted crash into police cruisers with their flashers going regularly enough that some researchers hypothesize that bright lights cause you to look at them and you steer where you are looking:

“The “moth-effect” is a myth in one sense and reality in another. The idea that drivers may steer off the road when they fixate flashing lights is likely correct, but they are not drawn to the lights like moths to a flame. Rather, they inadvertently steer rightward, which may or may not take them into collision with the roadside vehicle. Even normal, alert drivers in daylight conditions may steer in the direction of eye position during periods of intense fixation. The cause is likely error in judging heading under eccentric fixation when optic flow cues are minimal and when attentional focus prevents sensing of the need to correct the error. Although bright lights and fascination are not required, of course, it is impossible to rule out these factors in some accidents.”

~85% of car bike collisions are from cars turning or crossing the cyclist’s path while only 10% involve a car overtaking a bike and hitting it from the rear.  So you should be far more worried about cars coming the other way than from the rear.

I’m not suggesting you don’t use a rear light or that it should be feeble.  What I am saying is buying the brightest light possible and shinning it into the eyes of drivers and cyclists approaching from the rear is not smart and is not going to increase your safety.  It may even decrease your safety as you are impairing their vision and ability to operate their vehicle most profoundly as they are about to pass you – a time when you want people in cars to be at 100% performance.

How do you know if you are doing something wrong?  Swap bikes with a friend and ride behind him at varying distances on a dark MUP or dark street.   Note how you felt as you were exposed to the light from the back of your bike.  Try the same thing, but this time in a car on a dark road and then a busier road with more lights.  Again note how visible your bike was and how the lights you are using felt from that perspective.

How to be safe without burning out other folk’s retinas:

  1. ride predictably…cars expect cyclists to be in certain places on the road and to behave in certain ways.  That’s where a driver is looking for you.  The more predictable you are the easier it is for you to be spotted and avoided.
  2. ride intelligently…every route is different and has different pros and cons.  Your most efficient safe commute in normal conditions may be dangerous when it’s foggy due to the many business lights/signs that could mask your bike’s lights.  It might be better to take a longer slower route on side streets that day and accept the delay it will cause.
  3. signal effectively…a black glove on a black jacket may not be an effective way to signal the fact you want to turn left.  Be aware of what you are wearing and what you look like to other road users.  When in doubt wait until the road is clear before turning or changing lanes.
  4. use a rearview mirror…if getting hit from behind concerns you than keep an eye on what’s to the rear.  If you see a car swerving like the operator is drunk just get off the road entirely until they are gone.
  5. wear reflective material…it’s effective and cheap.  Ankle bands and wrist bands are awesome for low cost visibility and turn signalling.  A reflective vest is an easy way to amp up your visibility to cars without needing batteries or causing vision issues.
  6. use two lower power lights vs. one ultra powerful light…LEDs have a small window of very bright light output.  As you move sideways or up/down away from this zone the light power fades.  Two light allows you to aim at different spots [20′ away and 100′ away or aimed slightly left and right] giving you more chance to be seen but not putting excessive light into any one area behind you.  Two lights also mean a light failure or low battery doesn’t turn you into a totally black Road Ninja.
  7. Set your lights to solid mode so they aren’t as dazzling.
  8. Be considerate.  If you do use a powerful rear light on rapid flash mode be ready and willing to change modes while riding if you see another cyclist or driver following you in a situation you know they’ve already spotted you.

Just like wearing a helmet doesn’t mean you’ll be safe on your bike – using the most powerful light you can get your hands on and assuming it will mean you are safe on the roads at night is a mistake.  By all means use a bright tail light [and wear a helmet], but make it part of a bigger plan for night time safety not your only line of defense.  And when you are holding that Dinotte tail light in your hands thinking how safe you’ll be when you turn it on and aim it into the eyes of over taking drivers consider for a moment that it’s a weapon and try approaching your bike from the rear on a dark street/MUP.  If you can’t see anything, but a huge red spot for 20-30seconds afterwards maybe consider that your light may actually impair your safety or someone else’s as that dazzled driver passes you at 55mph.

Planet Bike Blinky 7...

PS – if you have any older LED tail lights like this Blinky 7 from Planet Bike consider putting them back into service.  Instead of one uber bright LED that focuses all it’s light in one intense spot they use a bunch of bright, but lower power LEDs that push out light over a wider area.  When you consider a wider viewing angler they may even be more visible than their brighter siblings.  I’ll be using one of these on my rando rig along with a bunch of reflective material.  It will be more than bright enough [on solid mode] to be seen on the rural roads/highways typical of Canadian brevet routes, but not as deadly on the eyes of randonneurs that may be following me for several hours.





You don’t need more lights…

29 12 2010

Take me to your leader Earthling...

Reflective gear has seen as many advances as modern bike lighting. It’s bright when a car or bike’s lights strike it. It’s cheap and it lasts for years with no batteries to charge or electric circuits to fail.  For some reason cyclists treat reflective material as an accessory. It’s fine for the trim on our rain jackets or a nice to have on a messenger bag, but not something we think about with the same importance and focus as we do bike lights.

That’s a mistake.

As a driver I often spot a cyclist up the road because of their reflective material before I see their lights. Pumping ankle bands are distinctively a signal there is a cyclist ahead.  My brain is trained to think cyclist, runner or road worker when I see reflective material. All of which demand some extra care as I approach them.

"X" marks the cyclist and arms signal my turns...

By all means fit your bike with effective lights, but also make sure you have made good use of reflective material as well.  Ankle bands are small, cheap and useful if you are wearing street clothes.  They really catch the eye of a driver.  Reflective gloves make your turn signaling much more effective and they’ll fit over gloves in cool weather.   A reflective vest or sash is easy to wear over anything and packs away into a small corner of your bag during the day.

You don’t have to wear all the stuff I have on in these photos, but wear a couple items to make yourself more visible without needing to add the weight, cost and complexity of more lights.





Dinotte 200L vs Ford F150 Part II

28 12 2010

Low beam on F150...Dual Dinotte 200Ls at 10m...

I was asked for more photos so here they are.  This one shows F150 on low beams at 10m. Camera is position as if passing in a car.

Same setup as above, but camera positioned as if passing bike...

In this shot I just moved 1m to right to simulate position of car passing the bike.

F150 on low beam...camera 20m away...

This is a shot with F150 on low beam from 20m away positioned as if passing the truck in a car.

Same shot as above 1m to right to simulate passing the bike...

F150 on low beams from 20m camera 1m further to right than shot above to simulate driver of car passing bike.

F150 on high beam at 10m...

F150 on high beam at 10m positioned as if passing truck.

F150 on high beam at 10m...

Camera moved 1m to right to simulate passing bike at 10m.

F150 on high beam at 20m...

F150 on high beam with camera at 20m positioned as if passing in another vehicle.

F150 on high beam at 20m...

F150 on high beam with camera at 20m, but positioned 1m  to right to simulate passing bike.

Two Dinotte 200L lights at 20m...truck lights off...





Dinottes & IXON IQ vs. Ford F150

28 12 2010

Dual Dinotte 200L lights mounted on Sharon's bike...

A member of the Bike Forums.net rando sub-forum wanted photographic proof that symetric bike lights where more blinding than a vehicle’s head lights so I took these photos this morning.

Dual Dinotte 200L lights & Ford F150 on low beam...

Dinottes are far more blinding than two full size pick truck head lights.  The truck is actually emitting far more light than the Dinottes, but this light is aimed down at the road so I can drive safely at 120kph on a pitch dark highway.  Aimed this way the light doesn’t bother oncoming traffic.

Dual Dinotte 200L lights & Ford F150 lights on high beam...

Both sets of light are blinding and quite irritating.  Note that the Dinottes hold their own against a full size pick up truck with its lights on high beam.

B&M Ixon IQ & Ford F150 on low beam...

B&M Ixon IQ and F150 on low beam – both sets of lights are clearly visible to oncoming traffic, but neither are blinding and both sets of lights put the majority of their output where it’s actually useful – on the road.





B&M Ixon IQ Initial Review…

25 12 2010
B&M Ixon IQ for Sharon’s
X’mas present…

The focused B&M lights I ordered came in from Peter WhitCycles yesterday. I don’t have my dynohub wheels setup for the B&M IQ Cyo lights, but I figured I’d test out Sharon’s Christmas present – a B&M Ixon IQ. Happily the packaging is re-sealable so I can put it back inside so she can open it up again herself. The first thing you notice is the Ixon IQ is larger than a typical bike light I’m used to. This is because the focused optic is a larger module and it holds 4 rechargeable NiMH batteries inside it. The case is made from high quality plastic and is quite light weight. It comes with a universal bar mount that’s designed to work with oversized and standard diameter bars. I tried it on two standard diameter bars and it works well. The mount can be left on your bike and the light housing slides off with a QR button for safe keeping at a stop. The Ixon IQ has one button which offers two modes:

  1. high powered mode = 40 Lux [which I tested] for lighting up the road.
  2. lower power city mode = 10 Lux for visibility not so much for lighting the road.
  3. the button flashes green for high power and alternates red and green for city mode.
  4. the faster the flashing the lower the power remaining in your batteries.

Sharon's bike setup for the light test...

Naturally being Christmas Eve I decided to run another light test. I put the Ixon IQ on Sharon’s bike with a Planet Bike Blaze 1W [she normally uses two of these for her commute] as well as my two Dinotte 200L’s….one of which has a DIY vertical cut off hacked on to it. Just looking at the lights the B&M is a lot bigger. The Dinottes are smallest with the nicest casing, but there is a battery pack req’d for each as well as a power cord between the light engine and battery pack…which taken in total isn’t as lovely or neat a setup. The buttons on all these lights are easy to use and the Dinotte and Ixon IQ both provide some useful feedback on the battery level via the lit up button.

Video note: the video seems quite dark when uploaded to Youtube. The Planet Bike Blaze has a spot beam visible to the eye and the Ixon and Dinottes are actually quite bright.

Prior to running this test I aimed all the lights as I would to use them while riding. Then I setup a camera on a tripod in my yard at about cyclist/pedestrian/motorist’s head height. I’m 5’11” so I went slightly lower than my own head to capture the viewpoint of the majority of folks out there. I then used the following test format:

  • with the bike next to the camera I turned on all the lights [in this order: Planet Bike, Ixon, hacked Dinotte and unhacked Dinotte] to see what the beam looked like from the rider’s perspective.
  • then I moved to the far side of the yard and operated the lights in the same order with the bike pointed at the camera to see what the lights looked like from a road/MUP user’s perspective.
  • then I turned the bike around to test what the different modes offered by the PDW Radbot 1000 looked like to a person behind Sharon’s bike.

Planet Bike Blaze 1W

  • weakest of all lights tested
  • tightest beam pattern
  • not a good light to light up a dark road due to low light output and narrow beam
  • easily visible in solid and flashing mode
  • very bright if you are looking right into centre of beam
  • very dazzling in flash mode if you are looking directly into beam
  • $29CDN at MEC

Conclusion: effective visibility only light, but should be aimed down to avoid blinding others and preferably used in solid on mode to avoid irritating others. If all you need is a be seen light and take care with how you aim it than for $20 it’s a decent value.

B&M Ixon IQ

  • light output similar to Dinotte, but better utilized down on road
  • vertical cut off much more effective than my Dinotte hack
  • very easy to see bike when approaching from front, but spill light that enters eyes not enough to blind or irritate
  • no flash mode [illegal in Germany]
  • City mode is useful in town where lots of ambient light to see by so bike light mainly for safety to be visible to others
  • light pattern ideal for city speeds [15-27kph] I would like to test at higher
    speeds
  • high quality feel to case, button, mount and optics
  • cost $110USD at Peter White Cycles

Conclusion: Very impressive light. Very functional and easy to use. For the money the best battery powered bike light I’m aware of.

Dinotte 200L

  • powerful light, but much of the light is wasted up in trees and other road/MUP user’s eyes
  • hacked Dinotte better for reduction of glare into oncoming user’s eyes, but not as effective as Ixon IQ
  • very easy to see bike in all modes
  • lights up road okay, but not as well as Ixon IQ
  • high quality case and easy to use button
  • easy to love everything about this light, but the beam pattern
  • very easy to blind/dazzle oncoming folks…fast flasher mode is worst forthis
  • cost $110USD from Dinotte

Conclusion: A well made high quality light, but performs poorly when compared to Ixon IQ. Given they cost the same amount I can’t recommend this light.


Video note: this video is also darker one Youtube than actual light beam was to eye.

This video shows what it’s like to ride with the Ixon IQ on a dark MUP as well as some sections with additional ambient light. My speeds where between 15-20kph mainly because riding faster with one hand in the dark isn’t a great idea! Note that the people I pass are visible, but not blinded. With my Dinottes they would look away as I passed or cover their eyes and their tone when greeted would be somewhat irritated [I’ve been yelled at because my Dinottes were so harsh on other cyclist’s and ped’s eyes].

Video note: the brightness of the Ixon IQ’s beam pattern in this video is more representative of what it looks like to the naked eye.

I shot one last video to highlight how effective the Ixon IQ’s beam pattern was at putting light exactly where you need it, but not blinding people. Also note that there is more than enough spill light to see the bike. Riding through town I found the Ixon IQ did an okay job of illuminating street signs, but for a brevet I might want a second light [perhaps helmet mounted] that I could use specifically for this purpose.

Accurate representation of how bright Ixon IQ is – Photo:
Peter White Cycles…

The photo above shows how bright the Ixon IQ is to the naked eye. My video camera loses a lot of the brightness and when uploaded to Youtube it gets dimmer again.

Overall Impression of the Ixon IQ

Awesome. This light exceeded all my expectations. The thought and careful design that’s gone into the beam pattern is impressive. You get exactly the light you need where you need it and nowhere else. One reason I didn’t buy this type of European light earlier was that I assumed it had to cost a fortune, but at $110USD it’s the same price as a Dinotte 200L and out performs the Dinotte handily. Until I get a dynohub sorted for my rando bike I’ll have to “steal” this light from Sharon for my longer brevets…=-) Two of these lights would be a great rando setup that could be swapped to a commuter bike during the week. If you need a high quality battery bike light for street/MUP use I can’t recommend anything better. A few final points:

BTW – my original test videos are brighter and easier to see than once uploaded to Youtube. If you’d like a copy of the original videos click here. Videos are being uploaded as I post this so if you can’t download them quite yet give it an hour and try again.





DeLorme GPS with Spot Communicator

19 12 2010

DeLorme PN-60W Earthmate with Spot

Update: this unit is $100 – $150 [varies with model] until 31 Dec 2010.  I’m very tempted, but must restrain myself!

I’ve used my buddy Kurt’s SPOT satellite locator beacon a few times.  It’s a handy way to keep folks aprised of where you are and even summon help when in remote spots.  I’ve been thinking about getting one myself, but it hasn’t worked its way to the top of my priority list yet…especially when I can borrow Kurt’s!  Well this new version is paired with a DeLorme GPS so you can transmit not only your position, but a one way text msg back to civilization.

Specifications...

That’s awesome!  If I’m kiteboarding at a remote lake and want to let other people know conditions are great I’d be able to do that so they can drive out. If I’m on a bike tour in a remote spot and need to set something up for my return, like ordering a spare part or arranging to meet someone for a pick up, I can now do that in the middle of nowhere.  Sweet!

Features...

I won’t be buying one when they first come out because I have a GPS I like and I don’t really want to spend $550USD to get the SPOT functionality.  I’m hoping they’ll make a SPOT that I can hook up to my iPhone or something like that to type a msg.  I’m not sure that will happen, but if it did I’d be ordering one tomorrow!  For now I’ll see how people like this product when it gets released this summer.  It may not be a sure fire acquisition, but getting a SPOT has moved up my priority list a bunch!

If anyone out there buys one let me know how you like it.

SPOT’s DeLorme PN-60W Eathmate Page

DeLorme’s PN-60W Product Page





Focused Lights

16 12 2010

B&M IQ Cyo...

I can’t complain about unfocused lights and then spend my $$$ on anymore lights that blind other cyclists, pedestrians and motorists.  As I noted in my 2011 To Do List post I want to upgrade the lighting on my bikes.  So I have ordered a B&M IQ Cyo from Peter White Cycles.  When I get a Shimano dynohub wheel built up [probably not until Feb 2011] this light will go on my Surly LHT.

B&M IQ Cyo beam pattern...

This light is made for faster riding as you’ll note there isn’t a lot of light up close for slowly picking your way through pot holes, but there is lots of light further away where you need it at 30kph+.

B&M IQ Cyo R...

I also ordered a B&M IQ Cyo R for my Surly Big Dummy.  I have a 26″ disc Shimano dynohub wheel built up from my Thorn Nomad so this light will go into service immediately.

B&M IQ Cyo R bam pattern...

As you can see this version of the light has a slightly tweaked beam pattern with more light up close for slower riding – especially on poor roads. This will be an ideal fit for the Big Dummy as an urban cargo bike and expedition touring rig.  This level of attention to detail and thoughtful design is why I’m spending my $$ on a German light vs. buying anything from North American bike light companies.

B&M Ixon...

I ordered Sharon a B&M Ixon IQ [same shape as above, but black and improved power output].  This is a battery powered version of the same series of bike lights.  She’ll use this on her commuter mountain bike for now and her Surly Cross Check in 2011 when we get it rolling.  For her birthday I’ll see about a dynohub wheel and a dyno headlight for the Cross Check. Then this light will live on her #2 bike.

B&M Ixon IQ beam pattern...

Note a similar beam pattern to the IQ Cyo R with lots of light in the foreground.  This will suit Sharon’s slower riding speed and urban commute/transport missions.

Dinotte on a RANS crankforward...

What about my Dinottes and Sharon’s Planet Bike lights?  We won’t throw them out.  I usually have a ~10 bikes on the go at any given time.   With the LHT, Big Dummy and New World Tourist dyno’d up I’ve got my go to night bikes.  I’ll use the Dinottes on the other rigs when I need to take them out after dark.  Same with Sharon.  In 2011 she’ll have a Cross Check, commuter mountain bike and a Dahon Speed to light up.

When these unfocused lights wear out they won’t be replaced.





Dinotte Glare Reduction Hack…

14 12 2010

 

Dinotte 200L-AA with DIY 1/3rd vertical cut off...

Bike lights that shine as much light up into the sky and other people’s eyes as they do on the road are a problem.  The glare they produce is painfully blinding and potentially dangerous for everyone since you are making it hard for oncoming drivers and cyclists to see where they are going right when they are close to you.  Germany mandates that bike lights don’t do this so they have some great lights with focused optics that take the wasted/blinding light and push it down in the beam pattern so it’s shining way down at the road the furthest away from the bike.  This is handy since it adds light where needed most and doesn’t bother other MUP/road users as much.

Unfortunately North American light manufacturers don’t offer these types of focused bike lights.  I assumed Dinotte didn’t offer such a light because of the expense and hassle involved, but I was shocked to find out when they posted on a related thread on BROL that they don’t think there is a problem.  They even go so far as to say the German style focused lights might be unsafe because they don’t pump light out in every direction.  My initial reaction was what planet do they live on?  I get blinded by symmetrical unfocused bike lights every night ride and I have to cover or change the aim on my Dinottes every night ride to avoid blinding people.  German laws are there to enhance safety and if anything the Germans are hyper-safety conscious when it comes to cycling.  Given that many randonneurs sing the praises of the focused European lights after using them at high speeds on a variety of roads all night when extremely tired you have to wonder how dangerous they could be?

 

Various bike light patterns...

 

Have a look in the image above at the symmetrical Dinotte 600L light pattern compared to the Scmidt Edelux pattern.  The difference is dramatic.  Peter White has an excellent set of photos showing what various lights he sells look like when shone down the road.  His images are also very instructive.

So the obvious solution is if you have $$$ to spend on a new bike light get one of the European style focused lights that Peter White sells.  What about the existing lights you have that are still working fine, but you are tired of blinding people with?  Well I faced exactly that problem with my 2 Dinotte 200L-AA lights.  They work fine and are worth about $300 so I don’t want to throw them out.  The discussion on BROL got me thinking and I tried a DIY vertical cut off using electrical tape.  This blocked the upper part of the light beam.

In this video I did the following:

  • pushed a bike away from camera with stock Dinotte 200L-AA aimed as I normally would and had Planet Bike Superflash on back aimed normally
  • pushed same config back towards camera
  • replaced stock Dinotte with same model light [same battery pack] that had a electrical tape vertical cut off covering 1/3 of the top of the lens
  • replaced Superflash with Radbot 1000 on rear
  • pushed bike away from and back towards camera

What I see in the video is:

  • stock Dinotte is very bright in the camera with a lot of light pumped into the lens causing glare [easy to spot]
  • Planet Bike Superflash is very bright [easy to spot]
  • with 1/3 vertical cut off is easy to spot, but much less light at the camera
  • is extremely bright

This simulates riding on a MUP…something that I do every ride in Victoria and given the lack of daylight much of this riding is at night. With this DIY cutoff I can ride the MUP and the streets without blinding anyone, but still getting all the light I need on the road to see and still enough light spilling upwards to be seen by. It’s not a great solution since I’m wasting a lot of the LED’s light, but given a focused optic isn’t an easy DIY hack this seems reasonable so I can use my Dinottes responsibly until they die.

The difference is noticeable and I’ll be modifying both my Dinottes in this way to reduce the blinding effect on other cyclists.

The downside is that you lose a bunch of light power from the LED by simply blocking it. The Euro lights like the Edelux take this light from the upper part of the lens and push it down below the cut off. This not only avoids blinding on coming riders/drivers, but it makes the top part of the beam below the cut off much brighter – ideal since this is the part that must light up the portion of the road the furthest away from the bike. This evens out the light beam so you get equal illumination far away as you do close up.

 

Unmodified Dinottes...

Are your lights a problem?  Trade bikes with a friend on a dark street and see how your bike looks to others. You can also jump in your car and have a friend ride your bike as you drive past them. If you have no problem when passing your bike on the MUP or street than you don’t have anything to worry about.  You can repeat the experiment on a street with cars and other light sources.  If you don’t enjoy the experience of passing your own bike then it’s a problem you need to deal with.

Can’t you just aim a symmetrical light down so it doesn’t shine in the eyes of oncoming folks’ eyes?  No. The reason is that the light beam from a symmetrical light is brightest in the center and fades to the edges.  If you pointed it down to avoid blinding others the part of the beam you would have left to illuminate the farthest part of the road from you would also be the weakest part of the beam.  This would result in a ton of glare off the road close up and very little light far away.  It would be hard on your eyes and you would have to ride slow to not out run your light’s area of illumination.

The solution I propose in this post is not ideal since it wastes the light that is being blocked by the tape, but it does allow you to shine what remains of the bright part of the symmetrical light beam where you need it further down the road and it reduces the blinding effect considerably.  The fact it’s free is a bonus.  For now it will have to do.

It’s not surprising that a Dinotte light would be illegal for road use on your bike in Germany.  The cops would pull you over and give you a ticket for being dangerous and a nuisance to others.
Just like they would in Canada/USA if you decided to drive around with your car’s highbeams on because they are safer for you.

Since Dinotte doesn’t care about this important issue I’m sad to say I won’t be able to buy any more of their products nor can I recommend them to other cyclists.  If you want a good battery powered or dynohub headlight look at the European options sold by Peter White.  They don’t cost anymore than a Dinotte, but they offer improved performance and safety.

 

 

 





I’m warming up to the Radbot…

5 12 2010

Aaron's custom fender Radbot 1000 mount...

Since my initial review of the Radbot 1000 I’ve used the two units I have a bunch and I have to say I like them more than I did at first.  My criticisms remain, but the sheer power of the LED and the various intermittent blink modes has impressed me more than it did when I wrote that review.  I’ll be keen to see what Portland Design Works comes up with next product cycle.

LHT got Bot!

When the aging Cateye red blinky that has been living on my LHT died recently I replaced it with one of the Radbot 1000’s.  I ride this bike a lot and it only has a single rear light so I’ll get lots of opportunity to put the Radbot through its paces.





Solidlights 1203D to XB2 Upgrade

3 12 2010
Great light, but time for an upgrade...

Great light, but time for an upgrade...

Update: I missed the boat on this upgrade.  Solidlights appears to be shutting down slowly.  They no longer sell lights nor do upgrades, but they still sell accessories and will do service on existing products.  I’m happy with my light as is and I’ll use the $$$ I would have spent on the upgrade to get a new dynohub light for my LHT so I have two bikes setup with dynohubs & lights.

The Solidlights 1203D dual LED dyno hub headlight has been a solid performer for me. However, the older K2 emitters and unfocused optics look dim compared to current European lights.  I was very happy to see that they are offering an upgrade to new emitters and a focused optic for $100USD.  Not free, but you also get a 1 year warranty on the upgraded light so it’s like getting a brand new unit with modern performance at a significant discount.  I’ll be doing the upgrade just as soon as it’s not so dark in the AM and early evening.

A significant improvement in light output.

A significant improvement in light output.

The difference in performance should be quite impressive.  I hope we see other light manufacturers join the focused optic bandwagon – Lupine and Dinotte to name two could really improve their product with this design change.

It’s nice to see companies offering upgrades to keep their existing customers up to date with current technology at a lower cost as well as keeping their old products out of the landfill.





The bike helmet myth…

1 12 2010

Click on this image if you want to get beyond the bike helmet myth...





The trouble with Bern helmets…

7 11 2010

They seem to be replicating...

So I did some investigating.

No wonder!

I hope there is a market for helmet porn…=-)





Planet Bike Rack Bracket

22 10 2010

Superflash mounted to a rear rack...

At the end of September I was trying to be helpful when I mounted a 2nd Superflash to Sharon’s rear rack with a ziptie.  It worked, but the light was stolen within a week…=-(  John commented that MEC sold a Planet Bike braket that fit rear racks with a Euro style light mount at the back – thanks!  So I ordered one and installed it.

Simply useful...

Now Sharon can have a 2nd light mounted somewhere useful and she can remove the light when locking the bike up in a sketchy spot.

Nothing to steal now...

I’m really glad John told me that MEC sells these brackets, because I had seen them on the PB website, but it maks no sense to order a $3 braket and pay $10 shipping.  Since MEC had them I paid $0 shipping…nice!  BTW – these mounts will work for a Radbot as well.

Two rear blinkies...sweet!

Unfortunately none of my racks have this type of light mount so I can use it on my rigs…=-(





CETMA Light Upgrade

16 10 2010

Thorn Accessory Bar...

My bikes are, for the most part, all weather day/night machines.  Mounting a taillight to my CETMA cargo bike was no problem. I used one of the Radbot lights I reviewed a few weeks ago.  a front light was a bit more hassle.  Putting a light on the bar didn’t work very well as the cargo box and passenger [if I had one] got in the way.  So I mounted a Thorn Accessory Bar I had in my spares bin above the front wheel.

Wheel's eye view...

This worked great.  There is room for two Dinotte 200L-AA lights or just about any other bike headlight that attaches to a handle bar.  The mount is very secure and doesn’t get in the way when I don’t need to use it.  You can of course achieve the same effect with an old stem and a cut down section of handlebar.

Ladies can't resist a well lit cargo bike...

Dual Dinotte LED lights provide a ton of light up front. I added a some battery powered glowstix for some bling.  The CETMA was a total chick magnet…=-)

CETMA lighting in full effect...





Sexy First Aid

17 09 2010

As an active outdoors person I like to keep my first aid skills up to date….you might want to watch these videos and brush up on them as well…

I advise getting as much practice as possible. It never hurts….=-)





Not so RadBot 1000 Review…

16 09 2010

RadBot and Superflash...

I had read several good reviews online about the Portland Design Works Radbot 1000most notably on Kent Petersen’s blog.  So when I needed some new lights and I saw the RadBot 1000 for sale at MEC for the same $17.50 as my usual goto lights [Planet Bike Superflash] I got two of them thinking I would be stoked by them.  A month later I am here to report that the RadBot isn’t as Rad as I had hoped…=-(

Before I get into its lack of Rad-ness I should say that:

  • it’s not actually a bad taillight
  • it works
  • it’s bright

Side view...

If you gave me a free case of them I’d use them – something I wouldn’t do if they were junk.  If the Planet Bike Superflash didn’t exist I’d probably be using RadBots and be happy about it.

Would I do this with RadBots?...no!

However, you can tell I didn’t love them because:

  • I put them on bikes I ride at night the least
  • I won’t buy more
  • I didn’t recommend them to a friend when she was buying lights at MEC recently…I helped her buy some Superflashes.

What didn’t I like?  Well compared to my PB Superflashes:

  • the RB is huge
  • it’s damn ugly
  • the mounting clip flexes more and seems flimsier
  • I don’t like the two blinky options it has
  • I don’t think brighter is better [at some point] when it comes to bike lights
  • I can’t operate the function button while riding the bike and get reliable results like I can the Superflash’s much simpler switch [yes I do vary how my lights are working on the fly!]
  • I do think more lights are better and I tend to run 2+ lights aimed at different spots down the road so all of these issues are exacerbated for me
  • I wear reflective material on me and don’t want to have big ugly reflectors on my bikes
  • requires tools to open and swap batteries

Top view...

I should also point out that I’ve never had my Superflashes turn off nor have I had them malfunction due to getting wet. They have never jumped ship on me. The Superflash is so bright and the flashing mode is so similar to police and emergency vehicle strobes that I have had cars slow and stop on more than one occasion when I was pulled over to the side of the road fixing something.  If I mis-aim my Superflashes it’s easy to blind drivers and other cyclists.  Do I need a light that is twice as bright?  Not really.

You may then ask if I don’t need brighter lights why do I use two Superflashes on many of my bikes? :

  • LEDs shoot light out down a narrow cone so they are at peak brightness only from a small angle which makes have two different aiming points [typically I use a near and far setting] valuable.
  • having two lights means one can stop working/fall off/run out of power or I can lend one to someone I’m riding with and still have some lighting back there.
  • sometimes I’m in the mood for a taillight freak show and 3 lights pulsing away is more freaky than 1 or 2!

Just to reiterate although I prefer the Planet Bike Superflash the RadBot 1000 is not a fail…It’s just not as good as I had hoped. I own two and will continue to use them [until I manage to give them away to needy friends!!] so I may change my mind…if so I will report back.

Some RadBot tidbits:

  • RadBot 1000’s will clip to your bike using the Planet Bike Superflash mounting bracket if that matters to you.
  • There is a fender mounted version of the RadBot.
  • the RadBot comes with a mounting bracket that will fit European [ie. Tubus] racks.




Dunsmuir Bike Lane – Vancouver BC

21 07 2010




900 Lumen LED Bike Light

28 05 2010

Power in Motion 900 Lumen LED bike light...

Ken at Power in Motion gave me this 900 lumen LED bike light to try out.  Naturally I said yes!  My reference lights are a pair of Dinotte 200L-AA that are rated at 200 lumens each and run on 4 AA rechargeable batteries.  I’ve always thought the 200L’s were very bright so I was interested to see what 900 lumens was like.

Light engine, battery and charger in box...

This light kit consists of a LED light engine, proprietary rechargeable battery and AC charger.  The box the light comes in is easy to open with a flip top and magnetic latch.  That’s nice because typically I recycle product boxes because they aren’t very easy to open/close for day to day use.  I’d actually keep this box to store the light when not in use and reuse is better than recycling by a long shot.

Business end of light engine...

The light engine features a SSCP7 LED and simple reflector.  Note that the optics are not focused so you get a cone of light that extends from the light engine.

Heat-sink and control button...

The light engine case is waterproof and features a integral heat-sink to keep the light cool.  There is a single control button on the back that cycles between high power steady, low power steady, flashing high power and off.

Battery pack...

I have no specs on the proprietary battery pack other than a stated runtime of 3hrs on high steady.  I tested this and managed 3hrs 10mins with my unit.  Low steady should run for a lot longer and in flashing mode I imagine it will be a week or more of night riding before you would have to think about charging.  It took me 4hrs to charge the battery from empty to full with the included AC charger.

I should note it looks like the light engine may draw a small amount of current when off [same as the Dinotte] so I’d recommend you unplug the battery pack if you aren’t using it so you don’t drain the battery unnecessarily.

The plug is waterproof and easy to use.  Both the plug and the wiring look solid and should be robust enough for long term use.  Ken mentioned that this light can be connected to one of his e-bike kits so you can run it from the main e-bike battery. That would be a convenient option for a electric bike commuter.

The battery come with a nylon case that can easily be attached to your bike via a velcro strap.

My test light on the left and my Dinotte 200L on the right...

The test light engine mounts in a similar fashion to the Dinotte 200L using a rubber o-ring.  This is a very versatile mounting method that has lasted several years of regular use.  This means the light can be swapped from bike to bike in seconds without tools and the beam can be aimed up and down on the fly.  Of course this type of mount means the light can be stolen easily so you’d be advised to take it with you when locking the bike.  You get a large and a small o-ring with the light kit so you should be set for just about any diameter bar.

On the whole I really like these o-ring mounts.  The convenience of use outweighs the security issue for me.

Top view...

The test light is attractive and looks well made.  As you can see from the photos it’s quite a bit bigger than the Dinotte 200L, but at 4.5 times the rated lumens maybe that’s a necessary thing – the Dinotte 800 lumen light is much bigger as well.  The Dinotte case is a work of art to be sure, however, it comes at a cost.  The 900 lumen LED tested here sells for $145 CDN at Power in Motion compared to $229 USD for a 200L – LI proprietary [lithium battery version] or $351 USD for a Dinotte 800 lumen light.

Rear view...

The 900 lumen test light is controlled from the rear via a single button that is illuminated to show it has power and switches to red to indicate a low battery.  The button is not as easy to use as the Dinotte button because it doesn’t protrude from the case as much, but I was able to change settings with a gloved hand no problem.

The light engine and battery weigh 340 grams [12oz] – light enough I didn’t notice them on my bikes.

Dinotte 200L...

Here are two pictures to try and compare the 900 lumen test light and the Dinotte 200L.  This is not an ideal test as my camera adjusts settings differently between pictures, but it was the best I could muster on short notice.  In real life the difference is even more dramatic.  I have no way to measure the brightness of these lights to verify the stated lumens, but I can tell you the 900 lumen light is much brighter than the Dinotte 200L and illuminates a much wider area.  This means you’ll see more of the road both close and far than you would with the Dinotte 200L.  For higher speed night riding I often use two Dinotte 200L’s one aimed low and close to illuminate the near section of road and one aimed higher to illuminated the road further away.  With the test light only one light would be necessary to achieve the same result.

900 lumen test light...

Keep in mind I’ve only been testing this light for a couple weeks so I can’t speak to the long term durability of the unit although the construction leads me to believe it will be robust.  I am thinking about buying one to test over the next year, but I have a some existing lights that meet my needs and other bike spending priorities…not to mention living so far north it’s already light until 10pm+… so I haven’t made a decision yet.  This light is definitely a great value which is making me think it’s worth owning.

In summary:

  • the test light is well made
  • the price is excellent
  • the light is exceptionally bright
  • the battery provides 3hrs on high steady
  • the mounting system works well

If you are interested in one of these 900 lumen lights contact Ken through his Power in Motion website or call the store at 403.233.8841. Power in Motion ships to Canada and the US.

Now this is where I would typically rant about the need for focused optics in bike lights like they have in Europe.  However, nobody selling bike lights in North America seems to care so I’ll spare you the diatribe!…=-) I will say this – be responsible with your high powered bike lights.  Consider other MUP/road users and don’t blind people with poorly aimed lights.

10 min shower test...

Update:

Adrian [a blog reader] mentioned he has some waterproofing issues with his battery pack in a similar LED light.   So the investigative reviewer in me wanted to try out my test light in the wet.  So I placed it on a shelf in the shower and hit it with a full force water barrage for 10 mins.  I occasionally picked up the light engine and ran it through the various modes to ensure it was working fine.  The light worked great and exhibited no problems from being wet or sitting in a puddle of water.





Protect Yourself…

18 05 2010

Slickrock Trail, Moab Utah...

I’m not a proponent of mandatory helmet laws and I don’t wear a helmet every time I ride my bike.  I do think it’s important to understand and evaluate the risks of any  potentially dangerous activity you do so that you can protect yourself adequately.

When it comes to mountain biking I used to wear only a helmet and gloves when I rode my XC bikes around.  That was partially because I was young and didn’t injure so easily and partially because the trails I rode were not uber difficult so falling off didn’t happen very often.  Now that I am riding steeper more challenging terrain and I’m 20 years older I’ve been converted to wearing bike armour for most mountain bike rides.

Initially I bought the heavy duty hard plastic pads shown in the photo above – from Troy Lee and 661.  They provide a ton of protection from the knee to the top of the foot and from the elbow to the wrist.  The downside is they are bulky and can be hot on a warm day.

The problem of course is that you don’t always need to be armoured like a gladiator.  I tried wearing the pads above on a really hot day last summer on a trail that wasn’t super challenging and I nearly gave up on them entirely due to the discomfort of overheating.  I also felt a bit silly wearing them for less demanding rides as they were clearly overkill.

Lighter duty pads...

So I picked up a set of 661 pads shown in the photo above.  They are soft and protect just the knee/elbow joint.  They are cooler to wear and their low profile fits easily under my clothes [see photo below] so I can have protection without looking like an extra from a Mad Max movie.

One benefit to the smaller 661 pads is that they work for other sports. I wear them under my snowboarding clothes for example.

Under cover 661 pads...

I tend to bring both sets of pads with me when mountain biking and dial in which I use based on the type of ride, the weather and how much protection I want that day.  For a shuttle or lift served run down a big mountain I’ll always grab the heavy duty pads.  The hotter it is and the more I have to pedal uphill the more likely I’ll grab the lighter pads. Having a choice is nice and since they won’t wear out as fast when you swap between two sets the cost of owning two sets of pads isn’t any greater.

As any motorcyclist will tell you the best set of leathers and pads in the world are no good to you if you feel so uncomfortably hot you can’t actually ride your bike.

If you are in the market for pads the Troy Lee and 661 pads shown in this post are excellent, but I’d recommend you try on 3 or 4 different models and brands before deciding.  Just like shoes not every pad works well with every rider.  Comfort will go a long way towards making you happy on your bike.

Kurt getting airborne...

Besides not getting hurt as easily wearing adequate protection when you are mountain biking will make you feel more confident riding technical sections and let you try stuff you just wouldn’t want to tackle otherwise.

You do need to keep in mind that even the most burly pads, gloves and helmet won’t prevent you from getting hurt in all cases.  Your brain and common sense are always your best safety mechanism!  When in doubt dismount and walk your bike or at least check out a techy section from both sides if your spidey sense is tingling.





Dinotte Battery Pack DIY

22 03 2010

Topeak Battery Case

I rec’d this handy tip from Jim B:

“Hi Vik,

I was experiencing unreliable DiNotte battery connections like you were. For my trunk light, a rubber-band cut from an innertube and holding down the connector to the battery holder terminals solved the problem.

For the front lights, I found that the 4-cell battery holder fits just right into a Topeak cell-phone case. The stretchy sleeve on the side holds the light’s power cord. I have not experienced a single accidental disconnect since adopting these cases several months ago. The battery removal from the case is easier than with the DiNotte-supplied floppy bag. Also the whole battery and case can be quickly separated from the mounting hardware if need be (like theft prevention).

Take care,
Jim”





Dinotte 200L-AA 2 Year Update

8 03 2010

Dinotte 200L-AA on my Tikit

It’s been over 2 years since I got two of these Dinotte 200L-AA LED bike lights so I thought I’d provide an update on how they are working.  Just so I don’t have to repeat myself see my 4 month review for more details about these lights.

What I like:

  • lights are in perfect condition and have given me no troubles.
  • construction is robust and wiring seems quite tough.
  • I have used them on pretty much all my bikes at one time or the other.
  • I really like how versatile the mounting system is while being so simple.
  • they are more than bright enough for use in the city to be seen by.
  • one is enough to see by on dark pathway at slow to moderate speeds.
  • at higher speeds you need two aimed at different spots in front of you for good visibility up close and down the road.
  • buttons are easy to use with gloves on.
  • lights are waterproof.
  • colour of button lets you know when batteries are getting low.
  • I’ve gone through two sets of rechargeable batteries.
  • I’m really glad I got the AA version so I’m not stuck with proprietary batteries.
  • run time is good for commuting and errand use.
  • for brevets or longer night rides you’ll be carrying several sets of batteries.
  • you can pre-load batteries into spare cradles for super fast battery swaps.
  • helmet mount is versatile.
  • excellent customer service.

Top view...

What I don’t like:

  • optics aren’t focused so a lot of light is going up away from road into the trees and driver’s eyes.
  • I have to cover lights with my hand when passing pedestrians or other bikers as there is so much light aimed up into their eyes that would be more useful on the road.
  • batteries tend to vibrate loose so I end up taping them into their cradle which makes replacing batteries a bit of a pain.
  • you have to remember to detach the power cord from the batteries when not using them as the light seems to drain the batteries after a couple days plugged in even if they aren’t being used.
  • helmet mount works well, but with the short power cord and battery pack on helmet it’s a lot of weight which isn’t fun for too long.
  • short power cord and cold temps = short battery life.  If you ride in winter get the longer power cord and insulate your batteries.

Helmet mounted...

The future:

  • I’ll keep using these lights as they have proven to be reliable, rugged and effective.
  • If they fail I bet it will be damage to the power cord from excessive bending and I bet Dinotte will fix that for a modest repair fee.
  • I’ll probably be posting a 5yr update about these lights!
  • I hope Dinotte incorporates some focused optics in their lights.  When they do I’ll buy a couple new ones and probably be even happier!

Dinotte 200L-AA website.





Bern on sale at MEC

25 02 2010

Bern Brentwood

FYI – Men’s Bern helmets are currently on sale at the Calgary MEC [I assume other stores as well, but not online] Brentwood and Watts models ~$49-$59. Sorry ladies yours seem to still be at full price ~$80.