Bike Friendly Richardson

From The Suggestion Box – Let’s Talk About Lights

Posted in Suggestion Box by dickdavid on December 3, 2011

Sunrise

A couple of years ago, we opened up the BFR Suggestion Box. This is a place where the Richardson bike community can voice their opinions and suggestions for other Richardson cyclists. It’s been a while since our last posting, so I thought we should share another.

Fellow bike enthusiast, Nick F., sent us a great email sharing his innovative lighting solutions on a budget. He also asks what other folks do for lighting solutions during the darker days of winter. We thought it would be great to share it on the site:

Jenny’s cold-weather-clothing post got me thinking about another season-related topic: lighting, especially on these non-daylight-savings rides home in the dark.

Sure, most bike stores will sell you a nice 700 lumen kit for $300 and a blinky for another $30, but I’m thinking more about what’s possible in the $30 range (which is still exorbitant mounted on a $75 bike…)

So right now I’ve got a 4W 360 lumen LED stuck into a sawed off plastic flashlight housing and powered by a pack of 12 rechargeable AAs in the front, and a $2 blinky in the back. It works OK (which is to say I haven’t been hit by a car at night).

My favorite place to shop for cheap bike lights/parts: dealextreme.com. For $3 you get a rear blinky shipped to your door, (earth-hating) alkaline batteries included. Or ~$7 shipped for a 360 lumen LED.

I also like Altex Electronics in Addison because they will order you $1 plastic battery holders and not charge you for shipping them to their store.

As far as mounting equipment goes, sometimes the simplicity of a 100-pack of hose clamps for a couple of bucks from harbor freight gets the job done. Plus, harbor freight is conveniently located off of the duck creek biking trail. [Speaking of which, does anyone need ~90 hose clamps?]

But what I really like is re-using junk from around the house. This is where the real fun (and ghetto-fabulousness) comes in: I’ve found that the perfect source of mounting brackets is drilling/bendiing those little metal PCI slot fillers in the back of your old PC tower. I feel like Michelangelo drilling into those things.

Other re-usable bike light material: old flashlight cases that happen to fit newer LED bulbs, that mount from your old bike light that light fell off of, (and I’m *pretty* sure this is absolutely commonplace for everyone) the underwater pond light casing that the previous owner of your home left you.

So what other cheap suppliers, creative repurposing, or expensive-but-worth-it equipment has the BFR community been using to survive out on the roads in the dark?

Night Riders

Of course, our stance on the topic is that you need to get lights if you are riding after dark. Not only is it safer for you, but it’s the law (551.104b). If you’re not crafty like Nick, this could be a big investment – but well worth it.

We really appreciate comments, emails and suggestions from cyclists to share with other Richardson riders. Thanks, Nick, for providing us with some interesting and innovative solutions on a budget. We’d also like to ask anybody else who has an idea or suggestion, to please send it in to us. We’d love to post it.

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6 Responses

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  1. […] From The Suggestion Box – Let’s Talk About Lights by dickdavid        Bike Friendly Richardson A couple of years ago, we opened up the BFR Suggestion Box. This is a place where the Richardson bike community can voice their opinions and suggestions for other Richardson cyclists. It’s been a while since our last posting, so I thought we should share another. […]

  2. howardmaher said, on December 3, 2011 at 8:57 am

    First off, as the article shows, there are two types of lights for bikes in my opinion, ones to help you be seen, and ones to help you see by.

    Ones to see by: I have tried various lights over the years, most corded with battery packs so large that they take up a water bottle cage. I have even run cords up my back so that I could have a helmet light. I hate cords, and find them dangerous, as they can get snagged, esp. when attached to a helmet. Then, last winter I discovered the Serfas True 250s, which are very light in weight, self-contained, USB-rechargeable, battery-swappable, comes with both helmet and handlebar mounts (both superb BTW), with run-time on high of about an hour and a half. They have 5 modes, 4 from high to low, and a powerful blinking mode. They include the wall charger and a USB cable so you can plug this into your computer at home/work. RBM has the Serfas True 250s for around $100 (you do belong to a biking group that RBM recognizes and gives a 10% discount to, don’t you?). Anywho, I have one of these mounted on my helmet and one on my handlebars, ride year-round in the dark with them at a pace of about 15 mph on very dark bike paths thru the woods and dimly-lit backroads. They light up the night! One probably doesn’t need two, but I’m a belt and suspenders type of guy who likes to always have a backup available. The bar mounted does a good job straight ahead, and the helmet mount lets one look around curves and wherever ones eyes are looking… BTW, I’d choose helmet mounted if I had to choose only one… Bike paths are notoriously dipsy-doodle as I call it, made for recreational-riding and almost never straight… I’m always looking around a bend or curve on my 15 mile commute to work.

    Lights to help you be seen: Planet Bike makes the best blinkers IMHO. Their Superflash, and now available in a Turbo model, is outstanding! Two AAAs and I’m good for 2 and 1/2 hours a day, 5 days a week, for about 2-3 months…. Incredible battery life, and now I use the Sanyo rechargeable batteries that are 1500 times rechargeable. And talk about bright, these puppies will sear your eyeballs up close. I put as many of these on the back of my bikes as it takes to make me feel safe. And I also have one on the back of my helmet… I also believe in having more than one since just one doesn’t help drivers judge how far away you are, and there is also some question of how the blinking affects distance judgement as well. And, I’d hate to be dead because I chose not to spend $20-30 dollars on another blinkie. Planet Bike also includes mounts for seat tubes and seat stays in the box, so you can easily mount these anywhere you want, and the integrated clip allows for easy attachment/detachment, and for clipping onto the back of a helmet or backpack. Again, I’ve tried many, many brands, and the Planet Bike Blinkies always win for both brightness and battery life!
    Ride on!

  3. yoderman said, on December 3, 2011 at 6:07 pm

    To add to the “lights to be seen by” is lights for side visibility like the Down Low Glow and other similar items on the market now. These give great side visibility, very important when riding in the dark as most head lights and tail lights are directed to the front and back. Talk about being noticed.

    And as an added plus, it is like riding on a cloud of glowing bike love.

  4. jennyrilling said, on December 4, 2011 at 12:23 am

    Great post, Nick – I like this tail light a lot:
    http://www.amazon.com/Serfas-TL-SSR-Stop-Sign-Taillight/dp/B001MK1SFI/ref=sr_1_3?ie=UTF8&qid=1322979237&sr=8-3
    It doubles as a reflector and also will mount to a rack mount if you remove the plastic clip. But I’m still making do with a rather pathetic blinky headlight. I will probably get the Soma Torpedo headlight, which is about $40-50, and is in keeping with the retro look of my bike. I’m also thinking about getting some reflective tape to apply to my spokes and jacket.


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