27 Dec 2012

27th December 2012 & Cycle light recognition.

27th 40F, 4C, grey overcast, breezy. Rain forecast. Rain duly supplied in more than adequate quantities. The Cateye computer still hasn't gone to sleep overnight. Perhaps it is supposed to show the time when not in use? Is it so small it thinks it's a watch? Whoops! (Finally read copious instructions to the very end) Power saving mode is showing the time. Auto restart on receiving a signal from the motion sensors. Perhaps Cateye could be persuaded to do a simpler "Pensioner" model? The speed sensor and magnet are supposed to go on the back wheel. I wonder if they do a 12" chain stay spacer for trikes? And, will I still be able to pedal?

I finally left mid afternoon. The Cateye computer had been easy to fit but the digits proved to be too small to read without bifocals. Since cheap cycling sunglasses aren't usually provided with a reading segment it was almost impossible to see my speed in such poor light. Let alone the even smaller cadence reading! Perhaps I should tape a magnifying glass over the tiny screen? I was wearing very light, neutral grey glasses and peered under and over them to see if it helped. It didn't. The dealer has promised to send me a new battery to replace the flat one. I have no idea if the "petrol coloured" screen was an attempt at lighting up the screen on the way home in the dusk. Due to the upward slope of the stem I wasn't able to find an angle which enhanced the apparent brightness of the display unless I stopped. I didn't. Only 13 miles today.

On the way back from the shops I had to get my Smart lights out of the bag. So it was a good job I'd fitted new batteries all round. Back to blinding the poor old traffic again. Nobody ever fails to dip when you have a flashing Smart light on the front! It used to drive me mad when I had to ride home from work in the dark with normal (dirt cheap) diode lights and hardly anybody bothered to dip. I couldn't see where I was going either. Not even at a walking pace.

The Smart rear light with reflections from saddle rails. It works just as well on the Carradice saddle bag loop but may be illegal in Denmark! Lights must now be fixed by law and not dangling. This is an attempt to outlaw silly little single diode lights swinging wildly from cords.

As a driver myself I know how hard it can be to identify a low brightness light approaching out of the gloom. Particularly when it is competing with other lights. Only a cycle light flashes like a cycle light. This is a handy first clue as to the presence of a cyclist. But, sheer brightness heaps mountains of evidence on top of the flashing to provide a definitive identification. Drivers dip their lights automatically without having to worry their tiny little brains with a prolonged cyclist recognition test while texting, reprogramming their GPS to another country out of boredom, or chatting inanely (and insanely) on their mobile 'phones.

I remember when I was commuting to Middelfart along the old main road. Straight as a die for many miles, the road undulates gently but still provides incredibly long viewpoints. Several miles in many places. It has a cycle path protected by a strip of grass along each side of the roadway. This road is notorious (to me at least) for having to drive at the national speed limit on dipped headlights because of oncoming traffic. It is hardly ever possible to drive on main beam on this road. So the attentive driver is constantly searching beyond the reach of their limited dipped beam for oncoming but dimly lit traffic. Or any other obstructions.

Bright and flashing cycle lights were easily visible at extreme distances along this road. Probably well over two miles or perhaps much more. Steady beam, cycle lights, even very bright ones, were very difficult to recognise as such. Even as they approached at only a hundred yards distance. The normal weaving effect of the cycles involved did not seem to improve the ease of recognition as a cycle light. It only gave the impression of a much more distant (and supposedly brighter) light. One which was being intermittently blocked by moving vegetation due to the wind. Or the draft from passing traffic. It could just as easily have been a fixed house number light. Or lights to mark a driveway in the dark along this almost featureless road.

Cheap, ½W supermarket rear light with reflection from black mudguard.

I confirmed these observations again and again over some weeks of commuting in many different light and weather conditions. A fixed beam, front cycle light (however bright) may help the cyclist to see but offers very poor visibility (indeed) to approaching drivers. In fact I wouldn't stop using flashing cycle lights even if they were made illegal for some outrageously illogical reason.

The Smart lights combine brightness with flashing in a particularly noticeable, rapidly flickering pattern. This really grabs the attention at any distance. The downside is that they lack the absolute power, despite their relatively narrow beam,  to clearly show the road ahead at normal cycling speeds. It would be sensible to add more, or more powerful lights, to act in company with the brightly flashing Smart front light. Both to see and be seen.

One Smart ½W (in the middle) and two ½W supermarket lights from a distance. Not much to choose between them on brightness. The Smart is much better made and doesn't repeatedly turn itself on in the saddle bag. Nor does it fall in half regularly. Nor fill with rainwater!

A trike offers the advantage of plenty of places and extra width to fix more lights. Even for my rare forays out in the darkness I have a number of rear lights to draw attention to my being an unusually wide load ahead. When drivers are routinely tailgating on main roads they need all the warning they can get to avoid your joining the road fatality statistics at remarkably low cost and inconvenience to themselves. With an array of flashing rear lights many drivers pause briefly before passing me even on clear roads. As much as I enjoy being an attention seeker in daylight I consider the extra visibility of a trike has real survival value in all conditions. The cost of diode rear lights is now so slight that there is really no excuse not to turn your regular mount into a mobile fairground ride if you so desire. If you really want to splash out on your commuting trike then the choice of lights is even wider. Reading the online reviews will help to separate the overpriced glow-worms from the brilliantly good value. Not all lights are made equal.

28th 24-33F, -4+1C, cold, sunny, almost still with an occasional breeze.  More windy towards the end of my ride. The first decent day this week for a proper ride. I was determined to do a longer ride to try and increase this year's mileage. The roads were covered in an incredible amount of water ice. Every dip in the fields and woods was full of water, usually frozen. One minor country road was flooded to a depth of 6" and extended out on both sides into the adjoining fields. No hope of working my way around and returning would have added many miles to my journey in a completely wrong direction. It was icy for a hundred yards on both sides where cars had churned up the water and carried it further down the road. I rolled slowly through, hoping my feet would remain dry before I had to pedal up the slope beyond. Luckily no cars came while I was negotiating this hurdle. After that I just kept patiently pedalling from village shop to village shop until I finally reached home. With only 40 miles to show for virtually a whole morning out on the trike. Though there was never any tiredness or pain involved. Hardly surprising with an average speed of only 10mph.

The Cateye computer screen is more visible in good light but still rather small for my near vision without my usual +1 dioptre reading glasses. Or +1.5 when reading product descriptions and instructions! Another problem is that the screen is tipped backwards towards me by the sloping stem. So I don't see the sky reflected in the screen background for maximum contrast. The provided strap is much too short to allow a rubber wedge under the computer base on my Scott stem. The rocking body, mode change seems to work well enough. Though I nearly slid the computer right out of its docking station at one point while fumbling in my winter gloves.

Brooks B17 'Select' at very nearly 2,000 miles. 
A thing of beauty or hideously deformed? 
Seats you, Sir.

My ideal computer screen would be tall and thin to strap onto the stem. With only Mph, Cadence, Distance and the Time showing from top to bottom in large, clear digits. If there was room enough then average speed, Trip distance and elapsed time might be useful for somebody competing in a TT.

I have no idea why Cateye chose to make the lower digits so small. This matter has been raised in a number of online comments. One also needs a microscope just to read the tiny code letters alongside the numerals. Ironic, then, that the manufacturers warn against concentrating on the screen to the exclusion of the road ahead! SMIDSY on the other foot? Sorry, Mate, I Didn't see You, I was trying to read my cadence on my Cateye 'Cadence' computer without the use of a scanning tunnelling atomic microscope.

Perhaps there should be a law against it? Cycling and reading one's bike computer simultaneously: Prohibitions for the use of. I got so fed up with struggling with my tight sleeves to see my watch that I took out my mobile phone to look at the time on the screen saver. With a cycle computer right in front of my drippin' nose this is just plain daft! Wot no reading specs?

29th 45F, 7C, breezy, grey overcast, still very wet from overnight rain. The forecast is for a grey day, rather windy but dry. It took forever to get light today. I think I'll go out after coffee. It stayed mostly dry but there was a strong side wind. With misty drizzle now and then. A three shopping bag day. I was much too hot in the Aesse jacket. Complete strangers were wishing me a happy new year! 17 miles. I may be allowed out again after lunch. Plus 14 more miles.

30th 43F, 6C, overcast, windy. Rain forecast all day with gusts to 35mph. Just another day in paradise.It started raining before I left so I had put on the Aldi jacket. Not a great choice for a day like today. It stopped raining almost immediately and stayed dry except for about 5 minutes. I would have been more comfortable and warmer in a proper cycling jacket rather than a waterproof one. I stopped to take off the cardigan and then later to put it back on again. Not a good day to try and build mileage. It was blowing a gale. While descending a long hill on a main road (at barely 20mph) I was hanging right off the side just to keep everything in a straight line.

I had no plans when I left home so had taken nothing to eat. Still managed 35 miles though I felt very tired and achy today. I am within 102 miles of my 10k target with only one day left! Grr? I saw a flock of Goldfinches, several birds of prey, a string of noisy Whooper swans,  and finally, a load of even noisier geese out on the fields.

31st 45F, 7C, heavy overcast, gales. Last chance to reach 10,000 miles. Only another 102 miles to go. 20m/s winds? That's over 45mph! I could ride flat out with the wind until I reach the sea at Nyborg. Not far enough and the bridge is motorway only. Drat!

I left after coffee with fierce and gusty side winds. Every time I passed a gap in the hedge I was bopped by a huge pillow. Where there was no hedge I was hiding under the top tube with my nose dripping onto the chain in bottom gear. I am exaggerating of course. (as usual)  All the supermarkets were open and busy. 12 more miles leaves me with  a total of 9910 for the year. Just 90 miles short of a set. Hmm. Must try harder. The Winter Edition of the Tricycle Association Gazette has just arrived in the post. 52 pages to read. Happy New Year! :-)

Click on any image for an enlargement.



  1. Chris - this is Mike R (mtbdudex), I'm a MTB mostly rider, though some road also.
    Happy 2013 to you

  2. Hi Mike


    Happy New Year!