I can see you from a mile away…

Every time that a co-worker tells me that, I know that I’ve done my job at being as visible as possible. With daylight savings time over, I see more than a few bike commuters riding in the dark. Unfortunately, most of these commuters rely on bike reflectors and wear dark clothing.

I think that it is easier to see a properly lit bike commuter during the dark than during the day, I think that blinkies and decent headlights really catch the attention of motorists.

The Planet Bike Superflash is a favorite or ours, extremely bright and very affordable. In fact, I compared it to other rear blinkies and in my opinion, the Superflash won the comparo.

For headlights, there’s 2 kinds of lights; those that flash and let you be seen, and those that let you see. My headlight of choice is the NiteRider Solmate, very compact and bright enough to see and be seen. With helmet or handlebar mounts, this light is very versatile. NiteRider now offers a cheaper light called the NiteRider Minewt USB for under $100 bucks. Cool thing about this light, you can use your PC to charge it while you work!

Clothing is also essential to be seen. I like to wear bright yellow, white or fluorescent green jerseys and vests. Yeah, I know, these colors make you look like a bike geek, but at least you will be a safer bike geek.

Now, if you really want to increase your bike geek factor, you can always add more lighting to your bike. Lights like the Down low Glow and the Monkeylectric are really fun to add to your bike and the do make you more visible.

39 Comments

  1. Tony Bullard November 11, 2008 3:43 pm 

    The Down Low Glow isn’t waterproof, so I wouldn’t recommend it to any commuter.

    I have the same rear blinky. I cover my messenger bag with a big yellow reflective vest, since wearing a jacket is mostly covered by said bag. Then my helmet has some reflective tape on it. Luckily most of my streets are well lit, and I haven’t had any issues of cars coming too close yet.

  2. Lance November 11, 2008 4:26 pm 

    I’d HIGHLY recommend the down low glow…just for dry commutes. I’ve gotten tons of compliments on it and it keeps you extremely visable. Mines been running great for two years…no issues.

    Moving lights are the best I’m finding. That is, blinkies or moving reflectors(on shoes or ankles).

    I like to think of my lights/reflectors as Idiot Repellant.

  3. Ghost Rider November 11, 2008 4:31 pm 

    Fossil Fool advertises the lights as waterproof (there’s a bunch of stuff on their site about their testing procedures — immersing them in a trash can full of water). If you had a DLG leaker, you should send it back for a replacement.

    Here’s an interesting article on choosing colors for cyclists — yellow and fluorescent yellow-green are definitely the best choices, especially when you consider how many folks out there are colorblind:
    http://www.dartmouth.edu/~sullivan/bike/colorbv.html

  4. LJ November 11, 2008 4:56 pm 

    I’m also a fan of the PB-SuperFlash and of the NiteRider Minewt. I also mount a PB-Blazer 1W which has similar hi-low blink setting to the SuperFlash that I use on foggy or rainy pre-dawn commutes.

  5. Marla November 11, 2008 5:26 pm 

    I can’t say enough about the PB Superflash. It attracts the eye better than anything I’ve seen.

  6. Marrock November 11, 2008 6:05 pm 

    Any idea how the Superflash compares to the Stealth?

  7. Dominic Dougherty November 11, 2008 6:11 pm 

    The Superflash and the Stealth are the same light, just different outside.

    I had a DLG two years ago and it died after the first rain storm. Before it died however, I had been told twice by police officers that it is an illegal lighting system for all vehicles. It is a distraction to other road users.

    If it’s illegal in your state for cars to have those lighting ground effects, then its most likely illegal for your bike too.

  8. Xavier November 11, 2008 8:44 pm 

    I use two Planet Bike Superflash Extreme blinkies on the rear of my commuter bike. I picked them up at amazon.com for $17.80 each.

    They are so bright that alley cats go into epilleptic fits as I pass. Extremely bright. Retina roasting bright. The best deal on the blinkie market if you ask me.

  9. Lazy Bike Commuter November 11, 2008 9:02 pm 

    One thing about selection of lights for seeing:

    I would recommend against a head-mounted light for commuting. It’s far too easy to blind oncoming drivers, who won’t appreciate you looking at them.

    Furthermore, in adverse conditions (rain, snow, fog), they can actually be detrimental to your vision since the beam runs so much closer along the line of sight.

  10. Raiyn November 12, 2008 12:57 am 

    @ Moe: Your “comparo” link is busted. Here’s the fixed link

    @Dominic: Ask yourself if a judge is really going to back a ticket written for a DLG.
    The whole point of the device is to make the rider safer by making him more visible. The donut eater with nothing better to do saw you – mission accomplished.
    That said, I’d stick to yellow, green, orange, or red (in a rear mounted DLG) to avoid any “emergency vehicle lights” color crap. They tend not to allow red and blue in any light that can be construed as “forward facing” for any class of vehicle that isn’t on govt. business.

  11. Ghost Rider November 12, 2008 4:15 am 

    Raiyn, thanks for the heads-up…I edited the original link.

    I’m with you on the DLG color choices. Although choosing a non-standard color like blue might help you stand out from traffic more, in Florida it is illegal for a non-emergency vehicle (including bicycles) to display any blue lights visible from front or rear…as covered in chapters 316.2397 and 843.081 of the Florida Statutes.

  12. gear November 12, 2008 5:45 am 

    The PlanetBike superflash is bright but not as bright as the Dinotte tail light.

    I use the Dinotte tail light and a Lupine Betty head light. Lupine makes the best bicycle head lights hands down. Compare any part of Lupine’s head light system to any part of any competitor’s head light system and you will see why Lupine is the best.

  13. Chip Haynes November 12, 2008 6:13 am 

    I ride in the dark with two strobing headlights on the handlebars and a constant-on helmet headlight with a blinking red helmet tail light. I also have a blinking red tail light on the bike and a monster (4″ x 6″) 18-LED blinking red tail light strapped to my waist over my bright lime yellow jacket with reflective stripes.

    Paranoid? No, why do you ask?

  14. Iron Man November 12, 2008 7:20 am 

    That USB system sounds interesting. Battery life never seems to live up to what the manufacturers claim in my experience. So having a charging system at work would be a plus.

    Bright neon yellow jackets just scream in the fog too. Everyone at work seems to chime in with a “Gees that’s bright!” Whenever I walk by. I tell them that’s kind of the point and besides they were sold out of the asphalt color with the white stripe up the right side.

  15. Ghost Rider November 12, 2008 7:40 am 

    Superflashes are such a hit with the Bikecommuters.com crew that Planet Bike has linked both of our reviews (Stealth and comparo) on their product page — those guys at PB absolutely ROCK!

    My nighttime strategy is two Planet Bike Superflashes on the rear, two white headlights (one blinking, one steady) up front, two Monkeylectric M133s on the front wheel, a string of LED Christmas lights around the stem/headtube/toptube and front of the Xtracycle frame…plus three DOT truck reflectors on my rear mudflap and about 200 square inches of DOT “conspicuity tape” (way better than standard reflective tape).

    I need to get a yellow jacket, though…my winter riding jacket has a lot of reflective accents, but it is black and grey-colored fabric.

  16. tadster November 12, 2008 8:42 am 

    I think blinking lights are annoying and distracting… especially when I am approaching somebody with blinking lights. I keep my lights on solid-on mode.

    If battery life is a concern for you, switch to rechargeable batteries and make it a point to charge them every few days–that way you can always keep maximal light output from your lights.

  17. Travis November 12, 2008 9:10 am 

    I have the dual down-low glow on my bike, in red, and it has been semi-permanently mounted on my bike since July. No problems with running the lights in the rain.

    A blinky up front, a blinky at the back, plus the down-low glow is my setup, and I get plenty of room from drivers and lots of looks (and comments) from other bikers and pedestrians.

    I like the down low glow, but I am looking for a similar LED based system. LEDs would probably be brighter and the battery would last longer.

  18. Dominic Dougherty November 12, 2008 9:41 am 

    Raiyn, I’m pretty certain a judge will back the law, and bust me for breaking it. Just a hunch.

  19. Iron_Man November 12, 2008 9:56 am 

    Having lights that are blinking or flashing, if I’m not mistaken, has some roots in how the brain and eye process information. Our eyes and brains are more attracted to movement. We recognize moving objects much quicker than stationary objects. A flashing light mimics that movement on a relatively stationary bicycle. Yes the bicycle is moving, but to a driver it’s not moving that much, especially in low light, especially if the rider is coasting. Cyclists coasting are more easily ignored or their speed harder to determine than cyclists pumping the legs up and down. The movement forces the eye to pay a little more attention. I may not have the science completely nailed, but it’s something to think about.

  20. Dominic Dougherty November 12, 2008 11:25 am 

    Iron Man,

    I remember reading something similar to what you’re getting at. I’ve heard of highway patrol officers telling broke-down drivers not to put on their emergency flashers at night because it “attracts” the eye and some drivers may focus on it and steer towards it. (Like in MTBing, if you don’t want to crash in to it, don’t look at it)

    I would be really interested in reading some scientific data on this topic if anybody has a link?

  21. Lock Master November 12, 2008 2:29 pm 

    I use a small Topeak White light on strobe up front on my stem and 2 5 LED flashlights facing forward. I augmnet this with a helmet light because I like to look around. I have a Topeak Red light on my rack and a blinkie mounted on my Camelback. But can anyone recomend a good light for the back of my helmet?

  22. Moe November 12, 2008 2:53 pm 

    @gear: Dinotte and Lupin??? Can you say KACHING!!!!!

    @Lockmaster: I use the firefly (you can see it on my helmet on the picture) from http://www.roadid.com. Very small, very light, inexpensive and bright enough.

  23. Laura November 12, 2008 4:36 pm 

    My favorite thing at this time of year is a strand of battery-operated christmas lights. I wrap them around the top tube which makes me visible from the side.

  24. Raiyn November 12, 2008 4:52 pm 

    @ Dominic: I respectfully disagree.

  25. Ghost Rider November 12, 2008 5:07 pm 

    Raiyn,
    you’ve got to remember that Dominic lives in California, where they might take those kinds of traffic infractions more seriously than we do here in Florida.

    That being said, I’ve been pulled over and ticketed by police officers in Gainesville for displaying forward-facing blue lights on my bicycle. ..couldn’t even talk my way out of it!

  26. Elizabeth November 12, 2008 8:50 pm 

    I’ve got the superflash mounted to the back of my helmet and on the top of my helmet a cateye strobing. On my handlebars I have a 1-W constant light. And I wear the brightest screaming yellow jacket I can. Despite all this visibility, I still nearly got clipped by a car desperate to make that left turn right in front of me. :-( Argh. Thankfully I’m hear to write about it.

  27. Raiyn November 13, 2008 12:33 am 

    Ghost,
    Was it the UF cops or actual G-ville PD? I know the UF cops can be real jerks.

  28. gear November 13, 2008 3:41 am 

    Moe,
    What good is money saved if you get run over and can’t spend it?

    I’ll spend more money for more safety.

    Also Lupine lights might cost more than less expensive lights but once those less expensive lights fail and you replace set after set, you will eventually have spent more than you would have if you bought the Lupine lights to begin with.

  29. Ghost Rider November 13, 2008 4:22 am 

    Raiyn, it was the Gainesville Police. You’re totally right about the UF Police, too…man, they are total jerks!

  30. Chip Haynes November 13, 2008 5:43 am 

    Ok, so am I the only one here old enough to remember “French arm band lights”? These were the hot-ticket item for night time cycling in the big bike boom of the 1970s. (OK, so I’m the only one here old enough to remember the 70’s.)We’d strap them on our left leg, just below the knee, and they would bob up and down as we pedaled. Useless to see a brick wall right in front of you, but great for visibility.

    Man, I wish I still had mine.

  31. Clancy November 13, 2008 2:24 pm 

    I have a PB Super for the back and a cheap led blinky on the front. I just ordered a P7 flashlight that is fairly bright and inexpensive. It has had good reviews at bikeforums.net. Burn time can be short on high mode but the light output rivals car headlights.

  32. Lock Master November 13, 2008 3:18 pm 

    Hey Moe,
    Thanks for the recomendation, I just ordered one. A co-worker just came in with the Planet Bike Superflash. Wow, that is bright. But the firefly won on it’s lack of weight on my helmet light strap.. However, I see stocking stuffer hints for one or two Superflashes for elsewear on my ride.

  33. Peter T November 13, 2008 9:40 pm 

    Hi, Down here in Oz we are just going into summer. However, I have spent the last winter riding with the Lumivest which is a bright blinking vest, in addition to my Planet Bike Super and Denoitte Headlights. It has stood up well to all weather and I recommend a look.

    http://www.exelite.co.uk/purchases.html?action=lumivest

  34. Raiyn November 14, 2008 2:23 am 

    @ Ghost
    snickers knowingly
    UF cops :p

  35. 2whls3spds November 14, 2008 4:51 pm 

    PB Superflash is mounted on ALL of my bikes for night riding. All of my bikes that I ride at night have generator lighting systems installed. From what I gather the best bet on rear lighting in particular is a flasher and a steady light. The steady allows the person a fixed light to judge distance from.

    I also wear an ANSI Class 2 or 3 reflective vest or jacket, depending on the weather. The vest is Lime with orange stripes with the good silver reflective stuff. Jacket is Lime with the silver stripes.

    Aaron

  36. Be Predictable; Be Seen « In The Spin January 22, 2009 9:10 am 

    […] 11th, 2008 by Moe · 31 Comments Every time that a co-worker tells me that, I know that I’ve done my job at being as visible as […]

  37. Paul February 11, 2009 10:17 pm 

    My motorcycle is registered in Fl and according to statue 843.081 a blue or red light cannot rotate or flash. It doesn’t say anything about steady lights. If you were stopped in Gainesville and they were steady, you have a case.
    I was stopped in Ga. for having steady blue accent lights and ticketed. I told the cop I thought it couldn’t be flashing, but the Ga law is different than Fl. I will go to court.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *