Today was the first of the fall days where I left my office with dark descending. It took me back to the times when I had just started commuting (on my fixed gear which I sold six months later as I determined I was a danger to myself), and the uncertainty I faced with riding in the darkness.
For my first evening commute endeavors I purchased a clunky light from a store named Performance that had the wattage of a small votive candle and constantly fell off my bike at every bump in the road. (I live in DC, and I can assure you the potholes and bumps are plentiful!) I never wore reflective gear and was certain that because I was keenly aware of my existence and the streetlights sort of lit up the street that everyone saw me. Ha ha ha ha! What was I thinking???
Fortunately, I soon fell in with what a friend of mine calls the “Army of Randonneur Experts,” and I was able to kick that sad light to the curb, upgrade my luminosity factor, and invest in reflective sashes and ankle bands. It may not be sexy to commuters, but lighting and reflective gear are essential to the sexy lifestyle we randonneurs all seek to lead.
Nowadays, as I wander around town, I check out the lighting (or lack thereof) of my fellows commuters and feel just so proud that I have the Army of Randonneur Experts to advise me.
On brevets, frequent chatter about E3’s, LED’s, Dinotte headlights and taillights, and many others abound. One little battery light? You’ve got to be kidding me! You’ll never get anywhere with that little light! No, you need this light, powered by your generator hub and bright as the light of a thousand suns! YES, that’s what you need. I’ve noticed that taillights don’t generate (ha ha) the same sort of buzz, but everybody has one (or ten or twenty), and I am witness to seeing someone be pulled over during a brevet for not having a working taillight.
This level of concern does not permeate the commuting scene. It continuously perplexes me that people think they can see anything on the road when using a quickly strobing tiny blinky light. A randonneur would never stand for that! I’m astounded that people ride around sans lights and with maybe a reflector or two. I appreciate the devotion randonneurs have to adequate lighting. Sometimes this devotion may seem to delve into an obsession, but at least people make the effort to stand out in the darkness.
As I see it, the only down side of randonneur lighting is that it makes taking early morning and evening photos trickier. How many photos do we all have of little lights riding off into the darkness, and photos of our reflective sashes leaping off the frame as we stand dimly lit behind them? Ed has created the “randonneur salute” in hopes of partially addressing the latter photographic nuisance. Riders cover up the reflective sash with their arms extended across it and smile broadly for the camera (or whatever you can muster at 4 a.m., or 11 p.m., or… you get the idea).
Thanks, Army of Randonneur Experts. It’s because of all of you that I am more visible on the local roads and making even greater strides in achieving that sexy randonneur lifestyle of mine.