Now that we’ve switched our clocks for the fall, many of us are finding our ride home is a lot darker than it used to be. For all you cyclists out there: Please, please, please use lights and reflectors. Reflectors are only useful when you are sitting in the beam of a car’s headlight or another light source. If you share a trail with other cyclists and dog walkers, lights are very important. Also remember, on roads with bike lanes (like Rhode Is Ave near campus) you really want to be visible from the side too! Trick your bike out with a flashy tail light or two. The PlanetBike Super Flash is a personal favorite.
If you are riding on poorly lit roads and trails, consider a rechargeable headlight that will light your way much better than a white blinky one. Rechargeable lights are designed to put out a lot of light for 4-5 hours, rather than squeeze a 10+ hours out of a few AA’s. New models have small battery packs are integrated into the light or strap to your top tube. These systems typically cost $100 and up, with a sweet spot around 120-180. Look for something that is at least 120 lumens, with 200 lumens being ideal. Trail lights frequently pack more of a punch and offer a wider field of view. Good quality lights can be found at area bike shop and outdoors stores. Several safe brands to check out are NiteRider, Light & Motion, and Princeton Tec.
For fun, inexpensive lights in a variety of colors, check out Knog – they make stretchy rubber lights that fit a number of places on your bike. While the smallest ones are not bright enough to stand alone, they are a great addition to, say, your left fork blade, for side visibility. Take small lights with you everywhere as a “just-in-case” insurance policy. Keep in mind that in the state of Maryland a white light and a red reflector are required on bikes from dusk to dawn.
Look for a special bike light promotion on campus in early December. Join bikeUMD for a bike light giveaway, hot chocolate and a ride to try out the lights.