Archive for the ‘bicycle lighting’ Category

We cyclists all know the dangers of the one we didn’t see coming … well, this could be the essential device you may not know you need – until you actually get hold of one, and use it.

a neat vertical unit with small side lights

The Varia RTL 510 makes a lot of sense if you already own a recent Garmin computer ( I bought an Edge 520 a while back ). Buying the version that comes with its own dedicated head unit may seems harder to justify, as it’s quite a bit more expensive.

I’d think of that extra cost perhaps as money better spent toward part of payment for a Garmin computer, unless you really, really don’t need one at all, or you feel that the dedicated unit might be a bit easier to read. I haven’t seen that yet, so I can’t really say.

typical small garmin (520) on an “out front mount “

The radar + light has to be a better primary safety feature than the alternative ‘tail light + camera’ combos on the market, which may only be useful after an unpleasant event occurs. One can, and should, use eyes, ears and common sense, simultaneously with the radar, to help prevent such an event occurring in the first place.

As keen as I am, I don’t intend to do a technical review here, there are plenty of those to be Googled and YouTubed, Have a good look at the ‘DC Rainmaker’ review if you’re interested in the idea.

I’m just here to say how clever and useful I find it. Think of overtaking a parked car, and being able to watch the door opening distance without looking back – or zooming down a hill with the wind in your ears, yet also being aware that there is a vehicle bearing down behind.

There may be an oncoming vehicle near you that drowns out the sound of others following you – you now know that they are there, usually from beyond 100 metres back !

Your Garmin computer gives a warning beep, and a simple linear display of the relative distance appears, via moving dots travelling along the edge of your Garmin’s screen. The beep is clear, but not annoying, and the dots disappear as the corresponding cars pass by. The radar won’t, and shouldn’t, stop you from looking over your shoulder when necessary, but it really helps in instances where concentration ahead is required, and it’s less safe to look back.   

On a busy road there will be a constant stream of dots, which is admittedly less useful, though at least you can see how many cars there are, however, in this situation you also get an indication when the road behind is well clear, and that’s handy too, say when there may be roadside obstacles coming up ahead.

I often ride on local back streets, and this is where the radar also shines, as a further reminder to take care.

Occasionally there may be a false reading, e.g. cars crossing at an intersection you have just gone through, but these mostly drop off the radar quickly. Of course if you are on a cycle path next to a main road, you will also still get readings from the road behind you.

simple mount for the rtl510

The tail light can be put on constant, pulse, and daylight flash modes, with the latter giving a claimed 15 hours battery life. It uses the same type of quarter turn mount as the computer, is simple to set up initially, and one button operates everything on the light. The light is easy to transfer from bike to bike, as are the Garmin computers, which is one of the reasons I bought one, having as many useable bikes as I do, including the old classics.

Sure, it’s one of the more expensive tail lights on the market – but what price the extra safety ?

Check it out …

See Ya !


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The darker the shadow …

….  or so goes the melancholy song sung by the Australian singer Stephen Cummings.

city street


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.


swansea rsl

swansea rsl from the bridge

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.


two horizons, swansea

two horizons, swansea channel

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 ?


dark maybe, but not as dark as it looks !

fernleigh – dark maybe, but not as dark as it looks !

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 ).


with bar clamp on the cecil walker

the lezyne with bar clamp on the cecil walker

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.


stockton shared path - a beautiful ride, but tricky at night

stockton shared path – a beautiful ride, but tricky at night

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.


lezyne helmet mount with velcro strap

lezyne helmet mount with velcro strap is in the “loaded” kit

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 !


the soma torpedo is beautiful and clever - but not at speed

the soma torpedo AA headlamp is beautiful and clever – but not at speed – the lezyne micro drive usb rear is on the seat post


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.


the excellent "loaded" kit, with spare battery and protective cylinder

the excellent “loaded” kit, with the spare battery and its protective cylinder

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.


bench seat, swansea channel

bench seat, swansea channel

Happy Riding !


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