Got a Light? If Not & You Ride At Dusk, Get One!!!

bikeatduskIt’s common-sense savings time.  You know, the few weeks that precede the end of day-light savings time when cyclists who ride in the evenings seem oblivious to the fact that the days are getting shorter and they’re essentially riding at twilight, dusk or in the dark.  You may or may not have seen any cyclists who do this because, well, they’re hard to see if they’re not using any lights.  Hell, you may not even see the ones who ARE using “lights” because the lights they’re using are pretty much worthless.

Riding home from work on my motorcycle, I’ve seen a few of these intrepid riders who seem to have no problem dropping $3,500 on a bike, $235 on a helmet, $250 on a pair of shoes and $300 on their euro team kit but won’t drop $45-$300 for a decent light that might save their life.

However, it really hit home tonight when we were out on our tandem for a weeknight ride and encountered about 5 other cyclists.  Even as early as 6:15 these other riders were pretty hard to see as none of them had lights. Well, OK. One of them had a little red blinky light on their seat post that was about as bright as the red LED on my battery charger.  But, here’s the dealeo:  if you’re a cyclist and you’re having a hard time seeing other cyclists, you can bet those cyclists are nearly invisible to motorists who certainly aren’t looking for cyclists as they speed  home with their attention moving back and forth from the road to their smart phone.

Now, it certainly wasn’t dark enough that anyone would need a headlight so they could see the road, but that’s the wrong way to think about lighting.  The reason you want to put some bright-ass lights on your bicycle is so that you can be seen by motorists… motorists who may be driving into the setting sun, driving on heavily shaded roads without their lights on, or being only somewhat attentive to the road ahead.  In any of these situations, you want to give yourself the best possible chance of being seen, and the only way to do that is with a GOOD light that’s putting out some serious lumens.  To do that means the battery needs to be charged and the light needs to be aimed correctly, especially if you’re using the very direction LEDs.  Here’s a short video that demonstrates the directional nature of some tail lights in our collection:


For our late afternoon / twilight rides we use the original 140 series DiNotte lights, all  of which have been purchased used off of ebay for mere fractions of their original cost.  The one in the photo at right is a relative new addition.  I have a really awesome Lights in Motion headlight that I use for night rides, but the battery is pretty massive, so I wanted to get something that Debbie could use on her Calfee single bike or that we could put on the tandem. Given we’ve been using the DiNotte 140 series tail lights since 2009 for daylight rides with great success, I went in search of the rechargeable, Lithium Ion headlight version and scored one quickly on ebay for $75.  It’s AWESOME. Very compact, but bright as can be: a perfect light for rides at twilight and dusk.

You can read a bit more about our daytime tail light experiences at these previous blog entries:

So, just how much of a difference does a light make?  Here are some side-by-sides of our old-technology, 140 lumen DiNotte lights (newer models are in the 400 lumen range).

DSCN0013 DSCN0015

DSCN0018 DSCN0016

….and another short video on the effectiveness of the DiNotte tail light.

And one last photo of our headlight from about 180′ away; yeah… lights = survival in a world that doesn’t pay attention unless something grabs their attention.


Oh yeah, and this also applies to you folks who get up early for those dawn patrols / early morning rides.  Dawn and sunrise + motorists trying to get to work or going home from the late shift are every bit as deadly when then run down invisible cyclists in the morning as they are at night.


About TG

I've been around a bit and done a few things, have a couple kids and a few grandkids. I tend to be curmudgeonly, matter-of-fact and not predisposed to self-serving chit-chat. Thankfully, my wife's as nice as can be otherwise we'd have no friends. My interests are somewhat eclectic, but whose aren't?
This entry was posted in Advice & Commentary, Advocacy & Access, Health & Fitness, Technology & Equip.. Bookmark the permalink.

9 Responses to Got a Light? If Not & You Ride At Dusk, Get One!!!

  1. Edward Gifford says:

    Very timely article Mark, thanks for posting. BTW the top video comes back as “private” and won’t let me view it.

  2. robert rothfield says:

    Great piece. There are very few pieces of equiptment that can proactively increase safety. I ride with the Dinotte rechargeable tail light on all my rides, day and night. I also use a rechargeable niterider 650 day and night….in daylight I just use the flash mode.

  3. Dave Snope says:

    Great advice! I ride with a Knog Blinder in front and a Planet Bike SuperFlash Turbo Light in the rear on ALL rides, both flashing a strobe-like pattern, regardless of time of day.

  4. biker says:

    I have a Chinese light with THREE Cree XML T6! The third is over_kill and the batteries and switch and wire and heatsink all can’t really handle the third emitter but OMG, 1-2 XML is enough on solid, and all three flash mode. It was under $40. I think waterproof flexi LED strip material has great potential — and the color controllers, the mini ones that fit inline…they are meant to flash R G then B but imagine them flashing the pure white “zones” of your LED strip material, saving power, and animating the side-view of the bike. I would use low-density 30 LEDS/Meter 5050 waterproof LED strip material [eBay], a ~$20 Lithium 12V pack with charger, a cheapo $3 or so INLINE color LED controller only, again, flashing just zones of bright white. I would stick the LED strips on flexi magnetic strips for a steel bike, or zip-tie on a carbon or ALU bike. Or wrap the tubing with LED strip is another way. Side vis is a big deal!! 3M tape is also cheap.

  5. Shirley says:

    Wow! What a great demonstration of the lights and the importance of having them!
    Your garage is so clean, it glows too!

  6. Peter Leiss says:

    You hit the nail on the head. I always have lights for all of my bikes and use them. It just makes sense. A friend of our uses the Dinolite tail lights even during the day and it is bright. See and be seen!!!

  7. Peter Leiss says:

    BTW I want your garage too!

  8. David Brooks says:

    I looked and used many lights, but settled on two mini maglites and DKG Moni-Mounts. I put them on high intensity blink mode and get comments all the time about how visible we are. At $45 per set you can’t go wrong. Just saying.

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