Of Lighting and Dark Morns

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I realize that in more southern climes, it gets dark every night and therefor darkness is literally an everyday occurrence. But up here in the far north, where it only gets dark for half of the year, darkness is somewhat of a novelty. And buying lighting for my bike is darn right exciting.

Last winter, I hastily attached a dozen or so of those small round lights that vendors give away at conferences to my backpack. The lights said things like “No on 3”, and “Save the Salmon”. Don’t ask me what proposition 3 was. I couldn’t tell you. I had red ones and blue ones and they diligently flashed all winter long. What they lacked in lumes, I made up for in volume. They were literally hooked onto every free strap on my pack. As far as function goes, I think they did more for me psychologically than actually making me visible on the road. So as the stars made their inaugural appearance this fall, I decided to make an investment in my illumination.

Purchase #1: Serfas 1-Watt Tail Light. The guy at the bike shop gave it a great review and at $30, I passed over my credit card. Wow, my very first non political tail light. It comes with a seat post bracket and a release to (supposedly) remove it easily from the bike. I find it such a pain to remove it from the bracket, that I’ve just taking my chances and leaving it on my bike all the time. Besides the obvious threat of theft, this will likely cause problems with battery life. While the morning temps are in the single digits already, it has been warming up to 30 or so every day. I’m assuming the double A batteries won’t hold up as well at -20. The package does say it removes from the bracket in 3 seconds–a feat I only possible if you rip the whole thing off as hard as you can thus disabling it all together. Serfas sports a steady, flashing and alternating flash mode and these are simple to move between. They say the light can be seen from 1 mile away. I’m taking their word for it.

Purchase #2: Cygolite-Hotshot rechargeable tail light. I picked up this little gem at REI for another $30. While it comes with a seat post bracket, I use it on my backpack. At 2-watts, it is brighter than my Serfas light. I love the rechargeable feature. I plug it in along with my head light to my computer via USB port while I’m at work. Cygolite’s claim to fame is their adjustable flash speed. This allows the user to have a fast blink or a slow blink. I know, whatever. But don’t let silly features sway you. This is a great little light and I would buy it again in a heart beat.

Purchase #3:  Bikeglow Safety Light. This is $25 of so much fun and practicality, I just can’t believe it. It comes in all sorts of colors but I went with sensible yellow. The flexible light tube can wind around your bike however your heart desires. I even seen videos of night skiers with Bikeglow lights wound around their legs and arms–very cool. I suppose I am easily amused, but some mornings, I find myself just staring down at the lights instead of the road. Yes, it is that exciting. The battery pack can be attached to your seat post or tossed in your seat bag. It is easily detachable from the light tube if you want to bring it inside with you. Like the Serfas light, I wish it was rechargeable, but this wouldn’t stop me from buying another one. In fact, I’m asking for some more from Santa this year.

Including my headlight I bought last year, I now have invested over $200 in lighting for my bike. My bike –that I picked up for free from a friend that would probably go for $50 on Craig’s list. But if any car hits me, they  will have a hard convincing the judge they didn’t see me.

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