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Winter Night Riding

tenbartenbar Posts: 94
edited October 2009 in Road beginners
Hi everyone

With the nights drawing in and the lack of available daylight during the week, I was considering doing some night time riding over the winter to keep my fitness levels up. Have others on the forum done this? If so is it a good idea? What are the issues? What type of lights are required? I live in the countryside so the roads I would be riding on will be totally unlit. Let me know your own experience.

cheers
tenbar
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Posts

  • Hi Tenbar.

    I love riding at night, whizzing along in a bubble of light. By far the most important aspect is to get yourself lit up like a xmas tree on steroids. On the back you need two of the brightest LEDs you can buy. I use the retina-scorching Blackburn Mars3, two 'cos one could fail & you wouldn't know. And have them both on constant. Flashing mode is great for daylight and dawn/dusk but bad at night (IMO) because it's very difficult to judge the distance of a flasher (ooer!). With the Mars3 you'll be seen, don't worry.
    On the front I use a L&M Vega 4W LED (plus a small back-up halogen). 150 quid last summer (I paid) but down to a bargain 80-odd now (doh!). Bright enough for unlit country lanes, 1.5 - 2hr burn on max, small self-contained re-chargeable unit & a strobe for daylight being-seen which stops cars in their tracks at half a mile. Of course, bigger budget = bigger output.
    Oh yeah, and cover yourself with reflective stuff.

    Hope this helps without being too obvious...

    Ecto.
    Only a Pawn in their Game...
  • alfabluealfablue Posts: 8,497
    I ride on an unlit railway path at night and I use a Fenix L2D CE Q5 (Orange Peel reflector) torch with a Twofish Lockblock mount. It takes 2xAA NiMH batteries to give 2.5 hours on turbo, or 4.5 hours on high, which is bright enough for riding at speed in these conditions. They cost £37 (£5 to £7 for the mount) and I can easily take spare batteries for extended riding. The Fenix is the brightest light available under about £100. You need a good light to be able to cycle at any speed and to spot potholes or debris before you hit it. I use a Smart 1/2 watt Superflash on the rear (£11, 2xAAA, 40 hours), also very bright.

    (I have been through many light sets including halogens with heavy bottle batteries and a Dinotte, the Fenix beats them all).
  • whyamiherewhyamihere Posts: 7,600
    I use two Fenix L2Ds for off road riding. I have one with the Orange Peel reflector which gets left on high mode, and stays on all the time. In addition, I have one with the standard smooth reflector, which is set to turbo mode, which I turn on going into singletrack etc. This set up, with Vapextech 2900mAh NiMH batteries, is awesome. It's easily comparable to my old 20W Lumicycle halogen, which cost about twice as much. I also use a Smart 1/2 Watt rear light, which are currently £8 on Wiggle.
  • BronzieBronzie Posts: 4,927
    I ride a local chaingang ride Tues/Thurs through the winter (unless the weather is really bad although we have been stupid enough to ride in the snow before now). I use a Exposure Joystick front light which does the business on dark country lanes.

    I definitely prefer riding in a group iin the dark - makes the time pass just that bit quicker - although we sometimes freak out passing cars with load of flashing LEDs on the go.
  • chuckcorkchuckcork Posts: 1,471
    I was riding home last winter on a route that included something like 9 miles of unlit highway so good lighting was essential. I was also doing it nearly every day and batteries just wouldn't be good enough, I just coudln't afford to have them cut out 3 miles from home.

    For my setup I have a SON dynamo hub wheel built, for a primary light using a Schmidt E-6 and as a secondary a Schmidt E6 Secondary. For taillights I have a B+M rear taillight that I mounted on a standard rear reflector bracket which works fine, and back that up with a battery LED. Nice to have 2 front lights, I set one closer to me and the other further away so I can maintain some speed.

    I'm also thinking of maybe getting a 3rd front light for use for distance again, one of the guys in the club says he uses 3 and I'm pretty sure that is one reason he posted a good time in the Paris-Brest-Paris. Also I find in the rain the wet road sucks up light, and its hard to see with glasses covered in spray, so it would be nice to have more light, and would help to keep the speed up as I naturally slow down.

    I also mounted a LED headtorch to my helmet as an emergency backup, in case the lighting failed (cut out a few times last year due I think a dodgy switch on the Busch and Muller light I had been using!) and so I can change a tyre in the dark if I have to, hands free.

    I also had some LED's on the rear of my helmet, that I bought at the cycle show.
    'Twas Mulga Bill, from Eaglehawk, that caught the cycling craze....
  • APIIIAPIII Posts: 2,010
    Hi there,
    This spring was the first time I've really embraced night riding, and it is great fun! As someone said earlier, you ride along in your own bubble of light. Rural roads seem to take on an eerie charm after sundown. You hear a lot more of the wildlife and occasionally see them too. I had a short soiling experience careering down a tree covered lane only to come across some lights in the road glinting at me. It was 4 or 5 deer in the road and they weren't moving!
    On the practical front, It makes sense to get the best lights you can afford, there are plenty of options. I've got Lupine Wilmas on the front, and a Smartlight LED on the rear. I usually wear my Altura nightvision softshell as that has loads of reflective tabs. I'll also take pair of warmer gloves with me and put them on later into the ride, as the temperature really drops.
  • This is great stuff, keep the advice coming. I'm getting excited about the dark nights now.
    the only question I have at the moment is Rechargeable vs Batteries - discuss.

    tenbar
  • http://www.wiggle.co.uk/p/Cycle/7/Catey ... 360025771/
    i use them, they work great and i go on country roads with no street lights and they light up the whole road
  • Thanks Nick they certainly look good for the money. In reality, what battery life do you get with the front light?
  • it takes 4 AA batteries, if you put Duracell batteries in then they last a very long time, you could use rechargeable but they lose power, also bringing them in when you but your bike away saves on batteries, i have never had to change batteries in mine and i used it all through the winter
  • I have a couple of these, http://cgi.ebay.co.uk/Mini-Tactical-CRE ... m153.l1262
    They probably offer the most light for the cost of anything on the market. I'm not sure how they compare with others for field of view but they work well for me. Seem to be a cheap copy of the highly rated Fenix with similair build quality, the same LED but without the ability to change the power. I like the AA option as rechagables are cheap and non rechargables readily available if you are stuck. With 2 on the bars and 1 similair 5W on the helmet with the little velcro and rubber mounts I have a pretty good setup without breaking the bank. When I demo'd this little torch to my colleagues at work 4/6 ordered 1 immidiately and the seller has a number of interesting looking bigger brighter alternatives.
  • whyamiherewhyamihere Posts: 7,600
    gavmac wrote:
    I have a couple of these, http://cgi.ebay.co.uk/Mini-Tactical-CRE ... m153.l1262
    They probably offer the most light for the cost of anything on the market. I'm not sure how they compare with others for field of view but they work well for me. Seem to be a cheap copy of the highly rated Fenix with similair build quality, the same LED but without the ability to change the power. I like the AA option as rechagables are cheap and non rechargables readily available if you are stuck. With 2 on the bars and 1 similair 5W on the helmet with the little velcro and rubber mounts I have a pretty good setup without breaking the bank. When I demo'd this little torch to my colleagues at work 4/6 ordered 1 immidiately and the seller has a number of interesting looking bigger brighter alternatives.
    That one only takes one battery as opposed to the 2 used by the Fenix L2D. It gives out 60 fewer lumens, and won't last as long. The L2D really is worth the extra.
  • alfabluealfablue Posts: 8,497
    Nick6891 wrote:
    http://www.wiggle.co.uk/p/Cycle/7/Cateye_EL530_And_LD1100_Light_Set/5360025771/
    i use them, they work great and i go on country roads with no street lights and they light up the whole road

    Sorry to be contentious, but it has about 1/5th the power of the Fenix, costs more and is much more fragile - okay, you get a rear light too. Of course the very long run time is at the expense of power (brightness) which is really important on unlit roads.
    Nick6891 wrote:
    it takes 4 AA batteries, if you put Duracell batteries in then they last a very long time, you could use rechargeable but they lose power, also bringing them in when you but your bike away saves on batteries, i have never had to change batteries in mine and i used it all through the winter

    LED's generally work much better with NiMH batteries which give out a flat power curve until the last few minutes. Alkalines will steadily decline so output at 50% of the run time will be about 50% of what they put out when fresh. Cost is much less with NiMH also (4 2900mah batteries are £5 at Vapextech, and should be good for (conservatively) maybe 100 recharges.
  • NiMH batteries will keep not charging up as much unless you charge them when they are completely dead, Duracell batteries work better and last longer, i gave up on NiMH rechargeable's, they don't keep there power for as long, and the lights are more than bright enough for most cyclist
  • alfabluealfablue Posts: 8,497
    Nick6891 wrote:
    NiMH batteries will keep not charging up as much unless you charge them when they are completely dead, Duracell batteries work better and last longer, i gave up on NiMH rechargeable's, they don't keep there power for as long, and the lights are more than bright enough for most cyclist
    Sorry I'm not picking on you but I have to disagree, on unlit roads lights such as the Cateye are not good enough for me, and I suspect many others would enjoy the enhanced safety from decent output lights. On the battery issue, I think this so-called memory effect is a myth with NiMH (see this. What can happen is the cells can get damaged by overcharging partially discharged cells (cheap chargers merely use a timer to regulate the charge so can easily overcharge cells), or overheating with the use of rapid chargers. If you use a smart charger it will have various modes of detection to prevent overheating or overcharging and will protect the batteries and ensure long life. An occasional full discharge (but not over-discharge) can be beneficial. I use a MAHA WizardOne charger, this is overkill for most people (cost £50), but it does let me analyse the state of my batteries, and this shows that there is no memory effect. For a more reasonable £14.55 the Vapextech LCD,WORLD (110v/240v) ,ULTRA FAST 1 HOUR CHARGER does a very good job, charges each bay individually, protects the cells etc. Although it says it is a 1 hour charger, four cells take about 4 hours, this is probably as fast as one wants to maintain the longevity of your cells.

    So NiMH cells are cheap (if you buy good quality ones), reliable, long lasting, deliver steady output and beat alkalines. For £25 you could get the above charger and 8 2900mah AA batteries that would give 18 hours output from the Fenix L2D CE on high, so you could have 4 in use (2 in torch, 2 spares) and 4 on charge every day. I reckon you would get 2 years use out of the batteries. If you buy cheap cells or a cheap charger - you get the results you found.

    To illustrate the different performance of alkalines versus NiMH in regulated LED lights:

    runtime.jpg
  • doyler78doyler78 Posts: 1,951
    I totally agree with alfablue re: the Cateye 530. I bought this last year as my first winter commute light for unlit roads. It was ok when you were going slow but when I picked my speed up it was useless. I used it 3 times and scared the life out of myself because I just couldn't see far enough in front of me to be able to judge the road properly. I bought a set of ayup lights all the way from Austrailia as they were the best value lights at the time. You can now get these in the UK.

    http://www.ayup.com.au/uk-shop-kits.html

    They are a great set of lights. Lightweight, stylish and come with a 6 hour rechargeable battery which lives up to its promises. Yeah it costs £150 however how much is your life worth?

    The advice about 2 sets of lights on the back is something that you must pay heed to as it is very easy to be cycling along not realising that your light at the back has gone out.

    As regards rechargeable batteries. I use them on my rear light sets and have experienced no problems in using them. I converted all my nimh batteries to the hybrio technology batteries because they hold their charge much better than traditional nimh batteries and therefore if don't use your lights for a few days and forget to recharge then you are less likely to find yourself in diffs because the nimh's have discharged a lot of their power just by sitting about. I have used these and they do definitely hang on to the charge much better so worth paying for.

    Check them out here:

    http://www.batterylogic.co.uk/hybrio-mu ... attery.asp
  • alfabluealfablue Posts: 8,497
    I would probably go for the Ayups too, if my pockets allowed.

    As for the hybrio batteries, I agree, given the long run time of the rear light I don't need to recharge often, so want the batteries to hold their charge. I have bought Vapextech "Instant" batteries which is their version of hybrid NiMH. They seem to be good, and cost just £4.25 for 4, delivered free.

    For the front I use conventional NiMH as they get recharged often.
  • A good rear light can be helpful.

    The Dinotte tail light is one of the best things I ever got for biking. It can be seen from a great distance - making cycling country lanes much safer - since it casts a massive pool of red light onto the floor - that can be seen from around bends etc - gives drivers chance to react.

    http://store.dinottelighting.com/shared ... =165534615

    This completely blows the Blackburn - Superflash lights out of the water - I have used these these lights - and whilst they are fairly good - they don't make me feel as noticed on dark country lanes.
  • Thanks for the extremely informative responses. As usual with these kind of threads it's opened a can of worms as to what makes/type of kit people prefer. It looks like you get what you pay for.

    So, are there any non-commuters who go out regularly on their own into the countryside for rides after dark? Is it worth the hassle of getting an expensive light set-up? Or is it a bad idea and riding at night on unlit roads should only be a last resort? What do you / would you do? Night riding or turbo training?

    tenbar
  • alfabluealfablue Posts: 8,497
    I actually like being out in the dark (and even the rain) on the bike. Just go equipped properly for repairs, the weather, and with a mobile phone.
  • woody-somwoody-som Posts: 1,001
    I ride back from the swimming pool once or twice a week, and 3/4 of my ride is on unlit, quiet country lanes. On the back I use two 1/2w smart 3led lights, and on the front a smart 1 watt led (LUM107U) and while not the brightest of lights, it's more than adequate for the ride home. Also as a backup on the road bike a smart 2.4w halogen (LAM107UH), bot came as a set for under £20, and I would expect to pay far more than that for just 1. I do have a 10W halogen system with the bottle cage battery, but not used it on the road bike yet.
  • keef66keef66 Posts: 13,123
    Night riding is definitely more stimulating than sitting on the turbo so unless it's icy or torrential rain, that's what I'd do.
  • I really like being out on the bike at night.
    My front lighting set-up is a SON dynamo powering a Supernova E3. Backing this up I have a flashing "city" LED for when I'm stopped (the E3 standlight is quite dull) and a Fenix torch fitted on the bars for extra illumination on fast bits. I can also use the Fenix for looking at road signs.
    On the rear I have a large battery LED, a smaller LED on my helmet (gets the light above the headlights of approaching cars) and an LED in my offside bar end.
    I also have a small blue LED stuck on my helmet visor- I use it for map-reading or repairs.
    In addition to the lights, I also wear reflective clothing and bands.

    I'm contemplating a brighter rear light (Dinotte as mentioned above or, more likely, the Supernova dynamo light) and a headtorch- on a recent ride, some of my friends had headtorches and they were excellent for looking into bends.

    Having said that, I hit 39mph with my existing setup and I didn't feel under lit.

    For me, the convenience and endurance of the dynamo makes it worth the expense, especially now the performance of LED lights can make good use of the 3W the dynamo puts out. I don't seem to notice the extra drag and the bike seems to free-wheel downhill as well as those of friend's bikes even with the light on.

    A very important point, IMO, is redundancy- have at least 2 of everything just in case.

    Finally, I'm surprised that no-one has mentioned the 3W LED torches from Tesco. For £10 (with batteries) they are an amazing bargain. I fitted one to my GF's bike for Dunwich to supplement an Ixon IQ and it was 90% as effective as the Fenix.
  • alfabluealfablue Posts: 8,497
    You seem to have it totally sussed out Chocolatebike.

    I will take a look at the Tesco lights. Another source of cheap powerful lights is Ultrafire lights from Dealextreme. They are pretty much Fenix copies, this one has the same Q5 as the Fenix and claims 230 lumens output. Build quality is poorer, and they are in Hong Kong, but you can get near to Fenix performance for around £13. They take about 8 days to ship to uk, prices include postage and there are no customs issues at this price.

    For one with multi-modes (so you can get more runtime), this one is pretty close to a Fenix, slightly less output. It costs around £10 delivered. This is what I carry for my backup.

    Dealextreme are very good and efficient to deal with, occasionally the products are faulty , and although a hassle they deal with such issues very well. For what you get for the money it is well worth it. Buy now before the pound falls further!
  • alfablue wrote:

    Another source of cheap powerful lights is Ultrafire lights from Dealextreme. They are pretty much Fenix copies, this one has the same Q5 as the Fenix and claims 230 lumens output. Build quality is poorer, and they are in Hong Kong, but you can get near to Fenix performance for around £13. They take about 8 days to ship to uk, prices include postage and there are no customs issues at this price.

    For one with multi-modes (so you can get more runtime), this one is pretty close to a Fenix, slightly less output. It costs around £10 delivered. This is what I carry for my backup.

    Dealextreme are very good and efficient to deal with, occasionally the products are faulty , and although a hassle they deal with such issues very well. For what you get for the money it is well worth it. Buy now before the pound falls further!

    Don't !
    I must resist the lure of bright shiny things :roll:

    Actually, there's a Supernova E3 triple now. No doubt I will have one by Christmas.
    I can't resist, I'm addicted.
    You should see the front of my car :oops:
  • alfabluealfablue Posts: 8,497
    Actually, I couldn't resist either and I ordered the first of those lights I linked to just after posting. The price after currency conversion was £13.99 delivered!

    Yeah, bright shiny things...once you've seen the light you just can't help it!
  • alfablue wrote:
    Actually, I couldn't resist either and I ordered the first of those lights I linked to just after posting. The price after currency conversion was £13.99 delivered!

    Yeah, bright shiny things...once you've seen the light you just can't help it!

    A fellow addict.
    Is there a self-help group ?
    "My name's Andrew and I keep buying lights."
  • alfabluealfablue Posts: 8,497
    I don't know if it is a self-help group, indeed they are more like pushers: http://www.candlepowerforums.com/

    My name is Richard and I keep buying lights
  • jjojjasjjojjas Posts: 346
    I only commute at night...rarely ride after dark on my road bike or my MTB. I can't add much to this thread, but I will state the obvious if you don't mind. I happily ride the tourer in the dark with £30 cat eye lights...but I'm only doing 10/14mph. Once I get up any higher then I can't see far enough ahead. I borrowed some £250 light pack when I did some night riding in a forest trail about two years ago. Boy were the needed :lol: I think I'll invest in some of the lights mentioned in this thread. Then I'll be able to speed up a bit on the way home at night. :D
    good thread. cheers for the info.
    Jas
    it looks a bit steep to me.....
  • alfabluealfablue Posts: 8,497
    You hit the nail on the head, weak lights are okay at low speed, but if you want to cycle like you do in the day you need something better.
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