Muscles Not Motors Gear Guide Sept. 2011
Light and Motion Urban 300
As the days get shorter, and darkness comes earlier, it is time to reflect on the fleeting summer that has once again slipped by like the shadow of a Canadian goose across the parking lot of a creemee stand. It is also the time to start using lights on your bike commute, assuming of course, you’re a bike commuter. When darkness starts to fall upon you and your bicycle, it is very important that you can see where you are going and equally, if not more important, that those who are going somewhere can see you, especially if they are in a vehicle. And it is now required by law that you use front and rear lights, so no more riding like a ninja wearing an invisibility cloak.
The Light and Motion Urban 300 is a powerful, handlebar mounted light designed specifically for the needs of the bike commuter. It blasts 300 lumens, so it is plenty bright for city commuting and at 108 grams, it is plenty light. For additional safety, it features innovative side lights, ensuring that you’ll be visible to motorists and Canadian geese from all angles. And it uses a USB rechargeable, single-cell, lithium-ion battery with a handy battery charge indicator. To conserve your battery life, you can switch between three settings: low, medium, and high, with a maximum burn time of 10 hours. $149.
Every year at this time, I try to convince people that after-work mountain bike rides don’t need to end in the fall simply because it gets dark way too early. With a high-powered light system, you can ride after work long after the flocks of Canadian geese have flown by seeking warmer climes. You can continue riding until the snow flies or the cold rains of November render the trails too wet for riding, whichever comes first. In addition, nighttime mountain bike riding is super fun, and it makes the trails that you’ve ridden a hundred times seem like fresh singletrack. To do it right though, you do need to invest in a good light.
I’m a fan of helmet-mounted lights when it comes to night riding, since your handlebars aren’t always pointing in the same direction as your head. Other folks prefer handlebar-mounted lights because the beam starts out closer to the ground, putting a brighter spot on the trail in front of you. The Serfas TSL-1500 is a 180 gram helmet-mounted light that can produce more than 1,500 lumens in its brightest setting (there are five settings, including flash mode). 1,500 lumens is a serious amount of light, enough to put a very bright spot on the ground in front of you as well as throwing a beam of light down the trail that you’ll never outrun, no matter how fast you decide to go. That much light also produces a significant amount of heat, so the light features a unique ram-air cooling system to keep from overheating. The lithium-ion battery can be charged in four hours and will provide a maximum of 11 hours of burn time when in the lowest (350 lumens) setting. $390.
Princeton Tec Byte
So now that you’ve got your new, high-powered lighting system, and you’re out on a solo night ride, what do you do if your bike light stops producing light and suddenly you’re stuck in the middle of the pitch-black woods? Well, you have two options: you settle down under a tree, fashion a pointed stick, and plan for a long night of getting eaten by bugs and spooked by ghosts, or, you pull out a backup, such as the lightweight Princeton Tec Byte, and you turn it on and ride out. The Princeton Tec Byte weighs in at a scant 64 grams and is small enough to easily fit in your seat pack or hydration pack while leaving plenty of room for your spare tube, mini tool, and delicious energy bar. But despite its small size, it is plenty bright, using a Maxbright LED that produces 35 lumens, which is a far cry from higher powered systems that blast over 1,500 lumens, but is plenty to guide you safely out of the woods. The Byte also features a red ultrabright LED that you can use to preserve your night vision, if you decide, once you’ve made it out of the woods, to head to the lake and search for Canadian geese that have bedded down for the night. $19.95.