29 Oct 2015

28th October 2015 Now you see me. Now you don't!

Wednesday 28th 47F, 8C, windy but threatening to be dry and bright. It stank of my neighbour's chimney smoke as I left for my 3 mile walk around the rural block. Fuel unknown, but it reminded me of burning rags. Later, from across the fields I could see grey-brown smoke belching horizontally from their chimney. Later still, their stink was on the wind from 500 yards or half a kilometer away! The gulls were putting on quite an air display today. The usual field was still white with birds but a busy cloud of their brethren were circling over a stretch of several hundred yards. If they keep this up they might have to start guano mining!

Mid to late afternoon ride and I needed lights to get home. A piece of advice: Don't put your lights under the shopping! Doh! There I was, risking a £70 fine, but with my huge bag stuffed full to the brim with mixed stuff. I had only put the lights in the bag "just in case" at the last moment before leaving. Then the recent change to Winter Time and the rapid progress of dusk caught me out completely! Unloading shopping on the grass verge on a busy main road, with nowhere to put anything down, is an exercise in [enter expletives of your own choosing here] frustration. I quickly discovered another problem: The Smart front light, handlebar clamp won't go around my heavily taped bars. The aero-bar extension clamps also block access to the only place a front clamp might have fitted. Luckily I had the Scream front light in the bag too. If only I could find it! This just fitted but left little room for my left hand on the corner of the bars.

LEDs do make superb lights though! I particularly like my Smart rear light. Not only for its incredible brightness but the complex flashing pattern which makes it incredibly visible. The flashing still works in tightly packed traffic. Where it bounces off the road and all the vehicle paintwork around the cyclist. It also draws the somnambulant driver's eye on the open main roads. Where approach speeds can be very high and every drop of light is extra insurance against a rear-ender. Except in Denmark, where two out of three accidents after dark involve more than a drop of alcohol. Not so much a heads up as a bottoms up! Skol!

It's a slight shame I so rarely get to see my lights in action. The matching Smart front light, of the set I bought as few years back, was a huge disappointment. Bought at dusk just before LED power soared the beam is hardly visible on the road and worthless for avoiding potholes much above walking speed. This is despite being emblazoned with 1/2W graphics. It is more of a flashing indicator of the presence of a cycle and cost a ridiculous amount of money considering its pathetic light output.

You can now buy superb torches for about sick squid [in Aldi] these days which are blindingly bright compared with the Smart front light. A 5 year guarantee is offered. Note the side switch button and not the fault-prone rear switch of the multi-LED torches of similar appearance.

The Scream was much more expensive [a present] but excellent and even has beam width/focus adjustment. Its flash mode is so rapid that it doesn't affect my eyes like the cheap "miner's" headlamp I bought from a supermarket and only used once on the road. Another nice touch with the Scream is the off-switch between each lighting mode. This saves having to cycle rapidly through all the modes to find the one you want and then [usually] overshooting.

On the open road it can be nice to have main beam when I am traveling quickly. Then the moment a car headlights appear up ahead its back to flashing for visibility and to get them to dip. Many drivers will continue on main beam until right on top of a cyclist when they ignore a steady white beam. Flashing is seen from miles off, ensures they know a cyclist is there and produces a rapid dipped beam response. I've tested this response myself frequently.

By law I ought to have two rear lights to show the tricycle's width. However the "squashed plum" Smart E-lines, rear lights I bought for the rear axle were a bit of a disaster. Not only were the half length, AA batteries all but unobtainable locally but one of the lights proved unreliable. There are cheap copies of my better Smart rear light in the Coop supermarkets. [Image below] The problem is not being able to try them to see if they are any good before buying. The sealing against rain of some cheap lights is absolutely laughable but only discovered when the bubble pack is finally opened. The mixed metaphors for light power output are also a source of consumer confusion and utterly dim, IMO! Watts, Lumens? £10 to £250 for a single front light alone? Crackers!

I liked to use the Smart as a saddle level light for superb long distance visibility. With the two neat little squashed plums for the seat stays. Except the bags were always getting in the way of all three lights. This needs much more thought if I am going to find myself riding regularly after dark. The 'goth' bag is huge and overlaps the rack all around. Perhaps the Trykit rack has potential for rear lighting clamps? Higher than the axle and less likely to be blocked thanks to the extra rear projection. Though it would need much smaller clamps than those usually designed to fir a variety of seat stays.

The images show I have reverted, yet again, to the Carradice "Bijou" Longflap Camper saddlebag to see how I get on. I was using a sports bag hanging over the top of the leather 'goth' anyway so should seriously rethink my shopping storage capacity. If only the Carradice was the actual size mentioned [for years] in their sales hype it would actually be useful! My Junior saddlebag isn't very much smaller.

A lightweight crossbar fixed across the tips of the aero-bars would make sense for the front light. Expansion plugs  for the undersized aero bars bars would ensure stability and a neat finish. If only they were available and the end of the bars were not sharply converging. I can feel another project coming on if there is still room for my hands on the aero bar extensions. A crossbar would also make a better site for the computer head. At the moment I have to look straight down to read the computer while on the aero-bars. Which is a bit daft considering I am probably traveling faster than usual and can't  continuously monitor the road for mud, rocks, deer, pheasants, cats, refugees, stray dogs and potholes. There's a joke in there somewhere about my being constantly in the dark but it is evading me for the moment. Only 12 miles.

Thursday 29th 46-50F, 8-10C, light breeze. Weak sunshine through rather a lot of cloud. Did a loop in search of a new sports bag in the charity shops. Returned with two. Bought another Smart rear light to match the other. So now I'm legal and bright! Rethought my front light strategy and bought some bar ends to mount the "Scream" light under the aero-bar extensions. Instead of an ugly crossbar on the tip of the extensions I shall have an under-slung "stealth" light support bar where I won't ever need to put my hands. I just hope the bar-end clamps are loose enough to go over the extension bends! 23 miles. They weren't. Not remotely!

So I re-fitted the Scream 'Kree' LED front light bracket as close as it would go under the left tri-bar elbow pad. I can now hold the bars normally without needing to remove the tape and silicone padding just to fit the light. The second Smart bracket was fitted as high up the nearside seat stay as it would go before touching the bottom rack support bar. Then I found a ridiculously over-sized and padded, cycling sunglasses hard-case which held the three lights perfectly. All safely nestled without risk of damage or switching each other on. The last Smart E-lines, squashed plum was fitted high on the saddle pin and left in place.

No more worries about being caught out without lights on afternoon shopping trips. Which offers far greater flexibility in doubtful winter weather. The yellow spoke reflectors are also a legal necessity after dark so I leave them on full time. By the time the drunk has broadsided you at a junction it is far too late to worry about fitting wheel reflectors! The papers regularly report habitual drunks driving after being banned numerous times and even having their cars crushed. It must be a basic human right to be able to drive repeatedly while drunk despite not being able to show a driving license, tax, MOT or insurance. Why are these not cross checked using modern technology and number plate recognition? Probably because any software designed to do so would never work despite spending literally billions of taxpayer's money!

Click on any image for an enlargement.

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