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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Dec 2006
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    Blessed to be all over the place!
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    3,434

    Reflections on my first darkness “commute”

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    Today, I found myself in a scheduling bog with a jammed calendar and a need to get one of my cars to the mechanic for repairs.

    So, I resolved to drive the car to the mechanic at 5:30AM with my bike in the trunk and then “commute” the 5 mile return home in the dark to get ready for work.

    I was a little intimidated, but I’m thinking – “I’ve got my LCI, what’s the big deal”.

    Conditions: Low 60’s, Dense Fog

    Well, it went fine, but here are my reflections:

    • 1) Canari Hi Vis Jackets are worthless for darkness commutes without some serious reflective tape. I opted for my much less ventilated and more reflective Nike Storm-Fit jacket on the assumption that being uncomfortable from being too hot was preferable to being in pain from getting hit.
    • 2) Lighting: Fresh batteries make a BIG difference in brightness. I had a fiz’ik seat light, a Blackburn front light, two glowing bracelets on my left leg, and two flashers clipped to the back of my jacket. One flasher was barely visible because of older batteries.
    • 3) A bright Blackburn with flashers may make me more visible, but considerably more lumens are needed to enable me to see the road clearly
    • 4) Even well lit areas have very dark places due to trees, space between street lights, etc
    • 5) EVERYTHING LOOKS AND SOUNDS DIFFERENT IN THE DARK!
    • 6) Fog on eye glasses is treacherous! VERY TREACHEROUS! The droplets reflect all light and severely restrict visibility Fogged up glasses are even worse!
    • 7) There are no races when commuting in the dark! Steady and carefule gets to the finish.


    This was a good experience to make me comprehend what it really takes to do a real commute.
    If you don't grow where you're planted, you'll never BLOOM - Will Rogers

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Feb 2005
    Location
    Concord, MA
    Posts
    13,143
    I experienced the same thing last fall, when I commuted home from the train station, at 8:20 PM, about the same distance as you. I had a blinkie on the back of my bike and one clipped on to the top of my screamingly reflective safety vest. A flashing band on my left leg and arm, too. For the front I had had a fairly good mini-Newt on flashing mode and the first time, I also had my headlamp on my helmet.
    Well, once I got out of Concord center, I could not see at all! The streetlights are few and far between and they were all on the other side of the road. That made a huge difference. I wore my clear lenses in my sunglasses and they also fogged.
    Next time I got another front light to add to the mini-Newt. It was more of a light to see, rather than "be seen", as the headlamp wasn't bright enough. It was an improvement, until the night it started raining, apparently only along the path I was riding...
    I haven't done any night rides since then, but you are right, it puts everything in a different perspective.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Jul 2008
    Location
    Delaware
    Posts
    528
    Good for you Mr. Silver!

    I have a front headlamp on my helmet, a back flashing self-leveling helmet light, two front headlights on the bike, one very bright tail light set to blink and pointed a bit down, two blinking red tail lights on my rear bike bag, a long flashing strip hanging from my back pack and the usual reflectors I never took off the bike. I look like a Christmas tree.

    From October to March I bike home every night in the dark but it's only about 4 miles. Lots of traffic but when they see me coming they flinch out of the way. I'm sure they think I'm crazy.
    "The important thing is this: To be able at any moment to sacrifice what we are for what we might become." Charles Dubois

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Feb 2008
    Location
    San Antonio, TX
    Posts
    756
    Quote Originally Posted by Mr. Silver View Post
    [*]5) EVERYTHING LOOKS AND SOUNDS DIFFERENT IN THE DARK!
    So true, LOL. The sound of lawn sprinklers coming to life in someone's yard is one of the scariest sounds at 4 a.m.!

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Apr 2006
    Location
    where the wind comes sweeping down the plain
    Posts
    5,269
    Good for you, Mr!
    Now that it's getting darker earlier, I'm riding for a bit in the semi-darkness. I actually find it more peaceful in the dark, but I'm only riding on very lightly traveled roads. I once rode on a very high traffic road in pitch dark and it scared the beejeebers out of me!

    Do you think that commuting is something you'd try to do regularly?
    Check out my running blog: www.turtlepacing.blogspot.com

    Cervelo P2C (tri bike)
    Bianchi Eros (commuter/touring road bike)

    1983 Motobecane mixte (commuter/errand bike)
    Cannondale F5 mountain bike

  6. #6
    Join Date
    May 2009
    Location
    Minnesota
    Posts
    96
    I guess that is the difference between an occasional dark / foggy ride and a regular commute. I got a set of 400L DiNotte lights (400 lumens front, 200 lumens back), and also have a "backup" generator light and a strong Blackburn blinkie in back. I also have an amber down-low glow tube to install when I am regularly riding in the dark at night (at high latitude, it stays light past 10 at the beginning of the summer here). I am also deciding what to install on the wheels to be more visible -- I am leaning towards tire stem lights, since they come in red / white for the back and front wheel, and won't throw off the wheel balance. I also just purchased a solar rechargeable amber light, which I am going to wear on my left wrist to make turn signals more visible. If I like the light, I will likely get two additional ones to wear as ankle straps -- this is what they are designed for, since clipless pedals do not have reflectors.

    In any case, since I am set up for night commuting, I haven't had any issues or fear during the night or during storms (not much fog here!). Half of my commute is on a 4-lane road with almost no stops, where the traffic is light (so they can easily move over to give me the entire lane), but is moving at 45-50 mph in places (speed limit 40 mph). I haven't had any problems or fear with this setup. However, my light setup cost about the same as my bike... this is only going to make sense for a dedicated commuter.

    Check your lights -- rechargeable batteries are better than regular batteries these days, so it makes sense to get re-chargeable AAs and AAAs and swap out for fully charged batteries regularly. And I am planning to get ski goggles to deal with cold/condensation in the winter here -- I'm sure you could get something similar for fog. Good for you, the next time out will be even better as you keep tweaking things.

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Apr 2006
    Location
    where the wind comes sweeping down the plain
    Posts
    5,269
    man- yelsel- you are seriously pimped out for the dark!
    I'm impressed!
    Check out my running blog: www.turtlepacing.blogspot.com

    Cervelo P2C (tri bike)
    Bianchi Eros (commuter/touring road bike)

    1983 Motobecane mixte (commuter/errand bike)
    Cannondale F5 mountain bike

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Jun 2006
    Location
    Newport, RI
    Posts
    3,834
    Thanks for posting this. I'm going to try easing into a dark commute soon, with twilight quickly approaching during the time it takes me to reach my car at the park and ride. I'm hoping that by easing into it I'll be able to adjust my riding and my vision, and not feel out of control. If I don't adjust, I'll know before it's really dark, and stop commuting until spring.

    One of my many fears is flatting in the dark. I'm sure it happens more in the dark than in daylight with the loss of visibility (although, maybe the lights reflect glass more, and flats are less frequent?). Also, the deer are already becoming more active. I rode past some, right in the road, after work the other day. I guess whether in car or on bike they're scary to pass.

    Anyway, good to know about the fog. I'll be sure to carry an extra cloth for wiping off my glasses.

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Aug 2005
    Location
    Perth, Western Australia
    Posts
    5,318

    road

    Mr Silver, since I know you're a professional & prefer quality, i'd like to suggest some Ay-Ups. THey now have lights designed for roadies.

    http://www.ayup-lights.com/

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Jul 2007
    Location
    Rhode Island
    Posts
    1,365
    I only use three lights: a headlamp, a front spot, and a rear tail light that I set to blink. But I do have reflective stickers on the back of my helmet and on my commuter bike, on the back fender. On my road bike, my seat bag has a reflective tape. I wear a reflective ankle band.

    I use hardware store safety glasses. This sounds gross but it works: spit in them and then wipe them completely. It will keep them from fogging up.

    Most of the roads I ride on have no streetlights - they are rural and full of potholes. The commuter bike does much better on winter / dark roads than my road bike, as it has better tires. I will be switching to the commuter pretty soon now that it is darker at night and in mornings. Redrhodie, the investment on the commuter of tough (but heavier) tires was worth it.
    I can do five more miles.

  11. #11
    Join Date
    Jul 2007
    Posts
    403
    Indi, I have been doing the slobber/wipe thing for years with swim goggles and ski goggles. I need to get some more 'side lighting' for my bike. The nearest collision I had last year in the dark was someone trying to turn left into me... any opinions everyone? I saw those spoke wrap lights or reflective tape or whatever that were posted recently, but it seems like they may throw off the balance of the wheel - what else have people used?

  12. #12
    Join Date
    Sep 2006
    Location
    Toltec, Arkansaw
    Posts
    514
    Quote Originally Posted by Mr. Silver View Post
    I was a little intimidated, but I’m thinking – “I’ve got my LCI, what’s the big deal”.

    This was a good experience to make me comprehend what it really takes to do a real commute.
    Preston should have taken you guys out in the dark for a bit to play with the lights and reflectors ;-) I remember though that when I got my LCI, the night ride turned out to be around 9 miles, because that's how far we had to go to find somewhere that was really, really dark. It was good though, since Chris & Barry took the time to teach how to lead night rides for the Commuter course.

    I ride a lot in the dark, and with a lot of rednecks motoring around here, I like lights that burn holes in the ozone layer. Typically I run a Stella or a Dinotte 200 in the front, with a Dinotte 140 and/or a SuperFlash in the back. Then I like reflective stuff, too ;-)

    Lights be good...

  13. #13
    Join Date
    Dec 2006
    Location
    Blessed to be all over the place!
    Posts
    3,434
    Quote Originally Posted by Tri Girl View Post
    Do you think that commuting is something you'd try to do regularly?
    Nope, it's just not practical when I have to wear a suit and have nowhere convenient to shower...but, if I did, as Indi said, I'm convinced that I wouldn't have been as nervous on a commuter with more suitable tires.

    Tom, Preston did take us out...but sunset here is a 8:20 right now meaning that it's not dark until close to Saturday's finish time of 9PM...but, that man has some serious lights! I was also amazed at the difference that the reflective sidewals make!

    CC: those look like outstanding lights and I like the idea of having something attached to my head where I can better direct the beam. I think that would have given me more comfort - particularly since we have a serious URBAN DEER problem...
    If you don't grow where you're planted, you'll never BLOOM - Will Rogers

  14. #14
    Join Date
    May 2009
    Location
    Minnesota
    Posts
    96
    Quote Originally Posted by ginny View Post
    Indi, I have been doing the slobber/wipe thing for years with swim goggles and ski goggles. I need to get some more 'side lighting' for my bike. The nearest collision I had last year in the dark was someone trying to turn left into me... any opinions everyone? I saw those spoke wrap lights or reflective tape or whatever that were posted recently, but it seems like they may throw off the balance of the wheel - what else have people used?
    I have reflective sidewalls for a start - the Vittoria Randonneur tires are great for commuting, and I haven't had a flat after a year of commuting and weekend rides. This is even after being lazy and not trading out the back tire for a trainer tire.

    I have an amber Down Low Glow from Rock the Bike.

    I was considering getting valve stem lights -- my LBS has ones that are very bright and robust, with 3 batteries, and they are like large christmas bulbs (a lot of visible light, especially on the sides), and don't turn off like the novelty lights. They come in two packs of white or red, so I could mix and match and get white on the front wheel, red on the back. I don't remember the manufacturer and couldn't find them when searching.

    I just found this bike safety light online, which is produced by a bicycle safety group and appears to have some research behind it. I am not sure about the light being blue though; I find blue-tinted headlights to be very annoying, and running blue lights might be technically illegal since it is reserved for the police. I like that it is small and will fit in a seatbag; I did just buy one to play with and might stick it with the around-town beater bike as an additional light if I happen to be out on it past dark.

    The ankelite was produced to replace the missing reflectors from clipless pedals with amber lights on an ankle strap. I want one to put on my left wrist for signaling though; supposedly they are visible during the day as well. They are solar-rechargeable, which is pretty neat. I have two rechargeable batteries on my commuter to worry about already, and will be adding a third with the downlow glow.

  15. #15
    Join Date
    Jul 2009
    Location
    Alabama
    Posts
    71
    I ADORE riding in the dark/wee morning hours! Much less traffic in my area, which is key for me. My setup:

    - 2 headlights - these are cheapy Scwinn's but work great as long as I'm diligent about keeping fresh batteries in them
    - 2 tailights (one flashing, one static)
    - 1 firefly on my camelback
    - 1 firefly attached to each wheel (zip tied to the spokes)
    - reflective tape on my helmet and bike
    - reflective ankle straps

    Riding in the dark makes me feel SAFE. With my rearview mirror I can see cars/headlights way earlier than I can in daylight. Barely any traffic means I can be seen by cars WAY in advance as well. It's also rare that I would have cars passing me in both directions at once. This means cars coming up behind me usually pass all the way into the other lane which is really nice. Some people think I'm crazy when I say I'd rather ride in the dark, but I love it! If I'm not on the road by 4 or 5am, I don't go.

    ETA: The silence of darkness is also great. I love being able to hear a car coming before I even see headlights.
    Last edited by GulfCoastAmy; 09-10-2009 at 07:34 AM.
    Amy

    Kickin' it old school on my Huffy, but hey, I RIDE!

 

 

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