The darker the shadow …
…. or so goes the melancholy song sung by the Australian singer Stephen Cummings.
When one lives in a mostly hot place, as I do in summer, sometimes the only time to have a pleasant long ride is at night.
I use both dynamo and battery lights and mostly ride in suburban back streets with patchy lighting, in well lit city streets for short distances and for long distances on unlit bush cycle paths. One would think that the unlit areas need the brightest lighting, but in reality I find that less light is needed, for example, on the very dark Fernleigh Track than for areas with patchy street lighting or city streets with car traffic.
The reason why appears to be that the eyes become adjusted to the relative darkness and can perceive the headlight’s beam faintly enough to see at a further distance than when it is washed out by patchy light/dark ambient lighting in the suburbs or by dazzling distractions in the city. Rabbits, small tree branches, the occasional dangling spider web and light-less walkers (rare) are the only likely dark obstacles to passage on the track at night, and there aren’t many sharp corners either.
I recently tried an experiment with a helmet mounted headlight to see if that would improve my city and suburban riding ease, and it did work well there, however in uniformly dark areas like the Fernleigh Track, I found myself wanting to turn it off. Why ?
The beauty of riding the Fernleigh Track at night is the sense of peace, quietness and alone-ness, with just an adequate envelope of light around yourself and the bike, in my case adjusted for speed variation via the 3 brightness levels on the Cygolite 170 lumen that I use on my Road King bike for night commuting ). Oncoming riders with super bright LEDs in your face can be extremely disorienting and I don’t want to be another of those. For the same reason I don’t ever use the “epileptic” fast flicker modes (if I may be so unkind), as they are that annoying to me it’s like asking to be run over ( lol ).
Listening to frogs and crickets in the dark while the wind rustles by is one of the joys of this ride that can be spoiled by visual overload. With the helmet mounted Lezyne Power Drive (400 lumen – usb) light running as well, I felt as though I was ‘roo spotting or something ! Also, the particles of moisture in the air were lighting up in the beam causing an obscuring and unpleasant bright fog in front …. sigh.
Where the helmet mount does excel though, is on winding paths like the Stockton Hunter River side where one can then see around dark corners before taking them, avoiding the need to quickly wriggle the bars to get a peek around, as well as for pot-hole spotting on suburban streets in the darkness between street lights.
As an aside, there is a certain poetry in the dynamo lighting systems that automatically brighten up as one travels faster, and modern dynamo hubs like the one on my Gazelle have very little pedalling resistance compared with my 1950’s Millers for example. And, of course, they are virtually maintenance free. I merely take a good head torch on long dark rides on this bike in case e.g. puncture repairs are needed.
Also, while the modern single LEDs are very bright they often seem to concentrate in a narrow beam, perhaps by design and perhaps because of the tiny reflector area and the pinpoint LED source. My halogen B&M Lumotec gives much more light spread to the sides. Sadly you can’t easily swap bikes with these, but if you have only one “night bike”, it may be the way to go.
Incidentally, the main reason that I bought the Lezyne was because the retro Soma “Torpedo” that I fitted is not sufficiently bright for a potentially faster bike like my Cecil Walker, although it does look beautiful. It’s more suited to lower speeds, as one might have guessed !
If you buy one of the Lezyne lights, try and get it with the “loaded” kit that comes in a padded hard case with the light, q.r. bar mount, helmet mount, usb cable and an extra battery – and also lash out on a couple of extra quick release bar mounts for your other bikes. Almost essential, if you have several bikes as I do. The bar clamp allows a small amount of side to side “parallax” type adjustment that is very handy too. This should be the last light that I buy for a long time.
I also have the Lezyne “micro drive” USB rechargeable tail lamp, its brightness is excellent, and I really like the slow pulsing mode that has no flicker. The mount is a simple silicone strap that so far has caused no problems, but it would be worthwhile getting spares of these too, methinks !
There are plenty of customer reviews for the Lezyne on the Wiggle UK site.
Happy Riding !