Night Rider

Unlike Ed, I’m not welcoming the onset of standard time. The days are far too short around winter solstice on this side of the Atlantic. But it does give me an excuse to try out some shiny new products that can help a randonneur, however.

My approach to safety this year is motivated by the following three names: Benny Vansteelant, Simon Doughty, and Vince Golding. One is a world champion, no longer with us. One is an experienced long-distance cyclist, coach and author, who, if I’m recalling correctly, had been moved to a nursing home at last report. And one is a top age-group triathlete, who we’re thankful is now on the mend. I have no knowledge of the role visibility or lack thereof played in their particular mishaps, but I think I’ve gone into the winter with the desire to make clear to motorists that they’re not to hit me, and if possible, not even come near me. In other words, if it shines brightly and can be seen from a long way away, you are likely to see it on me or my bike.

Like Ed, I’m trying out the DiNotte lights–in my case, the ones driven by rechargeable AAs, for their versatility. I’ve amassed quite a collection in a short time: Two headlights, two taillights, and the helmet light. I was persuaded by Peter White that having one on the helmet is a good thing to have when riding at night to “look back” riders coming in from the side. I think it’s probably also very useful to switch on in flashing mode while riding during gray days to alert drivers turning across your lane (right-turners here, left-turners there). Just that added bit of safety against drivers having a momentary lapse of attentiveness.

There are a lot of things to love about these lights. They’re simple to mount: No special not-compatible-with-any-other-light mounts, just two rubbery bands. They’re bright. The taillight is piercing. I run it on “steady pulse” mode, which is about medium intensity with a maximum-brightness pulse. Seriously, as Peter White says, if somebody can’t see you with this thing on, they may be legally blind. Lightweight and small, the headlight throws out a pool of light wide enough and bright enough for nearly any setting. Two, or a single with a helmet light, I think would be more than adequate for audaxes of 600K or longer. Since I started randonneuring using the venerable Cateye HL500II (and still have some knocking around my parts closet), these things represent a huge advancement in battery-driven lighting technology.

I have two concerns. One is runtime. I’ve read runtime ratings of 100 minutes or two hours with their rechargeable batteries. I’ve not tested their runtimes with either the rechargeable AAs they come with or lithium AAs. Assuming the lithium AAs have an equivalent runtime, stretch that over three nights of a 1200K, and you can see how you could run up some serious dosh using these lights. My other concern is the relatively open architecture of their power cell. After an hour of rain, I think these will be wet inside and out, potentially leading to short-circuits. It seems like you’d have a couple of options: Stowing the battery in a bag, or smearing the battery connections with dielectric compound. Or both. Or maybe wrapping it in plastic.

Another item I’m using is the Exelite Lumisash. It’s a lightweight, self-illuminating Sam Browne-style belt driven by AAA batteries. Its manufacturers claim the sash is visible for 800 meters, which, if true, gives a motorist plenty of warning you’re on the road. I don’t know how randonneur safety officials would feel about this, given that you could run down the batteries. For safety’s sake, maybe you can just put it over a reflective waistcoat.

There’s risk in anything, even getting out of bed (or going to sleep, for that matter). But whatever I can do to limit my risk and still enjoy this sport I plan on doing.

3 thoughts on “Night Rider

  1. I have always passed on the Dinotte’s that require AAs, but the sealed rechargeable Li-Ion batteries extend the run time greatly. The 4-cell pack on the 200L it is rated at 8 hours high 16 low. One of the packs can easily suffice as a supplement light on a 1200K. Two would make it possible to run it most of the time at night mixing low power on ascents with high on descents. The AA is to my eye a commuter option; the li-ion is the randonneur option.

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