BikeCommuters.com

Reviews

Just Ask Jack — Lights At Night?

A reader sent in the following question:

If you ride at night, what would you consider to be most important:

1. To be lit on the front
2. To be lit on the back
3. To be lit on the sides?

My gut feeling tells me that if I only had one light to choose from (let’s say a freak occurence disabled all other lighting choices or drained all but a couple batteries), I’d pick the light in the back as most important. My reasoning is that to a certain degree, we have more control over events that happen to the front and sides of us as we ride at night — we can see cars coming from the other direction and can (hopefully) watch out for vehicles turning, road hazards and other perils. That’s really not the case with cars coming up from behind us; a cyclist never knows just how close an overtaking car is until it’s pretty much right alongside!

It turns out, though, that crash statistics don’t bolster my “gut feeling”…overtaking collisions between motorists and bicyclists happen a lot less frequently than you might think (between 4% and 10%, depending on the study).

A couple of studies have suggested that the overwhelming majority of car/bicycle collisions (nearly 80%!!!) come when crossing or turning events occur. Here’s a diagram of two of the most common collisions in question:

bicyclesafe.com

I spoke to Julie Bond of the Center for Urban Transportation Research at the University of South Florida about this. Julie looks at crash statistics (among other things) for a living, so I thought I’d get her input on this question. Her response was:

“You probably know that in Florida [as in most other states], it is the law that you must have a front light and back light between sunset and sunrise. I wouldn’t want
to use crash statistics to try to justify one light over the other.

In my opinion, if you ride between sunset and sunrise both lights are
mandatory for safety and to abide by the law. I turn my lights on during
the day also. I think it makes me more visible on my ride to work.”

Good points, Julie…but where does that leave us? And how do we defend against turning or crossing collisions? We’ve got lights that point to the front and to the back…but there’s not a whole lot of choice or emphasis on side lighting, right?

There’s hope on the horizon! In addition to Hokey Spokes and RL’s favorite, the LED Spoke Light, Moe sent me a package of Nikko Starlights, an ingenious and inexpensive wheel light from Japan:

Nikko Starlight

The Starlight attaches to the spokes of your wheels and serves as both reflector and motion-activated light. Inside the plastic case is a tiny screw floating inside a magnet…as you roll down the street or bounce over rough spots, this tiny screw makes an electrical connection and fires up the light. I’ll try to shoot a video of it soon.

The light is surprisingly bright, and at cruising speed it creates a red “hoop” effect that’s pretty darn visible. This might just be the neatest solution to side lighting that I’ve seen in a while!

starlight mounted

So, in order to be prepared riding at night, I always preach redundancy: multiple lights both front and rear, spare batteries in your bag or repair kit, reflective tape or other reflectors everywhere you can squeeze some in…and now side lighting to help protect yourself against those turning or crossing collisions. You CANNOT be “too visible” out there!

We’d sure love to hear if any of our readers have other side lighting solutions or additional considerations for nighttime safety. Just leave your comments below!

Have a cycling-related question? Just Ask Jack! Click on the link in the right-hand column to send me your questions.

Product Review: Zogics Citra Wipes

The folks of Zogics sent us some Citra Wipes to review.

Here’s some info about the wipes:

citra wipes

CitraWipes are portable, non-toxic degreaser hand wipes with natural citrus oil extracts for removing tough grease and grime.

CitraWipes have a pleasant mild citrus scent and are enriched with aloe vera and lanolin. These handy wipes are self-drying and require no water for use.

CitraWipes are individually packaged in 2.5 x 4 heavy-duty foil pouches that can be conveniently kept wherever life’s adventures might get dirty: bicycles, motorcycles, dirt bikes, ATVs, boats, cars, toolboxes, and much more!

CitraWipes retail $2.49 per two-pack. You can purchase FOUR (4) two-twin here for $9.96 (for a total of EIGHT individually packaged wipes).

FREE SHIPPING!

CitraWipes are made in the USA, and like all products offered by Zogics, a portion of their sales is donated to environmental organizations.

To review these wipes I tried to look at my dirtiest chain, but since I’m pretty anal about cleaning my chains on a weekly basis…yes I do…I couldn’t really find one that was super filthy. So I used the next best thing….Bearing Grease.

I made sure I spread the grease all over my hands.

I then opened up a packet of the Citra Wipes and used one towelette to clean off my hands.

After thoroughly cleaning my hands, the grease came off. My hands were clean and they smelled great!

I work on bikes ALL the time, and I can’t stand the smell of grease. Its a mix between fresh tar, some petroleum product and B.O. I do like how the Citra Wipes work and how they get your hands clean and smelling great. I didn’t even need water. With that said, and with the pictures showing you how well this works, then I can confidently recommend the Zogics Citra Wipes. Since they come in individual packets, I’d recommend you keep on in your pannier, or your seat/tool bag just in case you have a mechanical while riding.

Ergon BD-1 Backpack Review

A couple months back, we posted our first impressions of the Ergon BD1-M Team Edition backpack. I’ve had a chance to ride with this pack for all the time since (about 300 miles worth) in all weather and carrying a wide variety of loads.

First, a bit about the bag:

BD1-M

Gender • Male / Female specific
Capacity • 12 liter
Main fabric • 420 D Nylon
Hydration Pack • optional

As mentioned in the earlier article, the whole suspension system revolves (pun intended) around the novel “Flink”, or Flexible Link. Basically, this is a plastic half-sphere that allows the bag to move with the wearer, keeping the bag centered and floating without undue sway. After riding with this bag for those 300 miles, I’d say that the Flink really works!

And, as with other load-carrying backpacks, the hip belt is crucial for keeping the weight off a wearer’s shoulders. I subscribe to the Colin Fletcher method of adjustment.

“…hunch your shoulders so that the pack lifts a little, and cinch the hipbelt tight. Really tight. To achieve that end, pull firmly. Then shrug the pack even higher and tighten again. Now take a deep breath and pull even harder. If the belt hurts a little it’s about right.”

— From Colin Fletcher’s The Complete Walker III, originally published in 1968 and revised in 1984.

This method is a little extreme for the Ergon pack, but let’s just say the tighter the hip belt, the easier the load is on your shoulders. If the hip belt is nice and tight, you absolutely WILL NOT notice any appreciable weight on your shoulders, and that is truly comfortable. The tightness of the hipbelt, along with the sternum strap, the nicely-contoured shoulder straps and the Flink means this backpack stays right where it is supposed to with no wobbling or swaying. Towards the end of my “to work” commute, there is a nice downhill and then a sharp left turn into the edge of downtown Tampa. With this pack fully loaded, I can burn a high-speed turn at a very sharp cornering angle and the Ergon backpack would not shift an inch, even with a heavy load. Now THAT, I like!

high-speed cornering

The same goes with out-of-the-saddle sprints. When I tried either of those with my old messenger bag, I would have to reach back and adjust the location of that bag as it swayed and slipped all over the place. Not so with the Ergon.

sprint

As I mentioned in the earlier article, this bag is packed with features. There is one external and one internal zippered pocket, another open internal pocket and a large, spandex-y pocket for a hydration bladder (to go with the hose-routing loops on both faces of the shoulder straps). I emailed Ergon to ask their recommendation for an appropriate hydration bladder that would fit, as I had tried an older 70 oz. Camelbak bladder and it didn’t fit in the pocket so well. I never got a response from them, so I chalk it up to “lost in the mail” or perhaps less-than-stellar customer service. Oh well…that’s not a deal-breaker.

Here’s the internal pocket for the bladder:

water pocket

One serious drawback that kept coming back to me as I tested this bag is the capacity. It just isn’t big enough to rate as a truly serious commuting bag. Granted, Ergon does not market this bag as such — it is designed for extended mountain bike expeditions where a rider might need to bring spare tubes and tools, a rain jacket or extra warmth layers and some snacks. Nevertheless, it is something to consider. If your daily commuting load is only a few items, this bag would be a dream. If you have to carry a laptop, nice clothes or different shoes, this might not be the bag for you. My typical load for this bag was my lunch, a sweater and a hardcover book or two in addition to my mini-pump and a couple small tools. That’s about all this bag will carry without cramming items inside.

I got to test the built-in raincover a couple times, too. While the raincover doesn’t keep the bag totally dry, it does ward off the worst of the wetness. To be extra safe, it might pay to wrap sensitive items in plastic bags if you’re expecting to get caught in a downpour.

Overall, for the bike commuter who can travel light, I give this bag a resounding “YES”. It’s comfortable as can be, it is strong, and most importantly it is stable with a load. But, if you have a lot to carry, you might consider another brand bag that can handle a bulky load.

Check out Ergon’s complete line of bicycling products here.

Read this review in Spanish at ciclistafanatico.com here.


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