By Sue Halpern
No one is taking bike safety for granted—not this year, when at least four people have died in high-profile collisions with cars in Vermont. Yes, drivers need to be sober, not speed and pay attentions. But as a cyclist or a runner, you want to do everything you can to enhance your safety on the road.
As the days get shorter and darker, the first step is to be visible. Bike lights are nothing new, but the advent of LEDs has made them brighter and lighter. Take, for instance, the Streak 310- HotShot SL30 combo set from CygoLite, ($29.95). As dusk falls, turn on the powerful 310 lumens headlight to see where you’re going. With a run time of about 90 minutes per USB charge, that should be enough to get you home. (Please note that we do not recommend cycling in the dark.) Just as crucial to riding safety is the flashing red rear “blinky” light, which alerts drivers that they should be sharing the road with you. This is crucial in low-light conditions, but even when the sun is shining, its “DayLightning” mode sends a flash that’s visible even on the bluest of blue sky days, letting approaching motorists know you are there.
And if something bad happens? The Fly6 ($139, www.cycliq.com) is one of those inventions, like an avalanche probe, that you never want to need. It is not just another powerful red blinky, it’s also a rear-facing HD video camera, good enough to capture license plate numbers if someone is buzzing you or record a collision if they come closer. The unit mounts and unmounts easily from the seat post, runs for six hours in any weather, and when you’re done with your ride, you can download the feed to your computer. It’s called evidence.
Of course, there are moments when you want light precisely because there’s no one else around. Headlamps for running in the backwoods have been evolving quickly in recent years: the flood of light that a cheap headband can produce should make them ubiquitous occupants of the top pocket of any daypack, just in case. The Black Diamond ReVolt ($59.95), which casts a bright wide path more than two hundred feet down the trail, is our current favorite because, it is one of the few that indicates how much battery power remains and can run on both with standard triple-A batteries as well as a rechargeable NiMH pack that plugs into anything with a USB adapter. Which, at the moment, is just about everything.
Besides the ReVolt, we also recommend tossing a reflective Buff ($25) in your daypack or cycling jersey. It weighs next to nothing, rolls up smaller than half a pair of socks, and comes in a variety of stylish patterns and colors. Call us unstylish, but we prefer the neon yellow or blaze orange Coolmax stippled with reflective fabric paint version. Use it as a neck warmer, a head band, or a face mask. It is ideal for hunting season, trail runs or brisk autumn rides. See and be seen. (For half the price, you can get a matching reflective Buff for your dog.)
Light in the outdoors tends to shut out the beauty of the world around us. But sometimes the light itself can be a beautiful thing. The Luci Lantern is a super-light, inflatable, solar-powered lamp that was originally created as a low-cost, solar-powered light for the developing world and to be used in regions hit hard by natural disasters. There are now five models, including the Luci Aura, solar mood lighting that cycles through eight different colors. We, however, are partial to soothing white glow of the Luci Outdoor ($14.99), which can light up a tent for 12 hours on an 8-hour charge, and packs down to the size of a hockey puck. All Luci lanterns manage to be utilitarian and cool at the same time—they’re the Jambox of solar lights, in fact, set them up next to each other on a tree stump for instant backwoods party. —Sue Halpern