O, wholly night

My rigid Jones 29er plays a lovely moonlight sonata.

My rigid Jones 29er plays a lovely moonlight sonata.

A neighbor couple had invited us to join them for a full-moon Christmas ride on the Sandia foothills trails (.pdf), and while the field was halved by start time last night — his wife was recovering from a cold, and mine thought her headlight gravely underpowered — Phil and I soldiered on.

Alas, the moon likewise declined to participate, and my lighting system also proved less than illuminating (an elderly, AAA-powered trinity of Cateye Opticube HL-EL450, Princeton Tec EOS, and Princeton Tec Remix). Happily, Phil was content to lead the way with his new Cygolite, so we got around and about without issue.

My "lighting system." Not pictured: The Princeton Tec Remix I wore as a headlamp.

My “lighting system.” Not pictured: The Princeton Tec Remix I wore as a headlamp.

I was reminded how much fun it is to do something different, and how good this can be for the bike industry, because you discover how woefully clapped out your equipment is.

There was the lighting issue, for starters. Also, my old Pearl Izumi winter gloves seem to have gone walkabout in the move, I have no clear lenses for my prescription Rudy Project Rb-3 cycling glasses, and my decrepit Kucharik toe covers no longer cover all 10 toes.

And which bike to ride? I ride these trails on a cyclo-cross bike in the daylight, but that seemed unwise in the dark, with old snow and ice likely to be lurking in any north-facing bits. The old DBR Axis TT mountain bike seemed an ideal choice, until I found a big hop in the rear tire that no amount of inflation, deflation, removal, replacement, and yanking this way and that could resolve.

The Co-Motion Divide Rohloff? That would have been fun, but I didn’t fancy fixing a rear-wheel flat in the freezing dark (the Rohloff hub and Gates belt drive complicate that chore a bit, and I was out of practice).

Thus, the Jones. It’s the perfect bike for this sort of outing. Big-ass Maxxis Ardent 29×2.4 tires, a Shimano XT drivetrain with a low end of 19.3 gear inches for creeping through icy rockpiles in the inky blackness, and Avid BB7 discs with 200/180mm rotors for knocking down the MPH as necessary. Plus you could hang 12 headlights on that H-bar, if you had ’em, which I did not.

Speaking of which, I’m taking recommendations for a reasonably priced headlight. Sound off in comments if you feel so inclined. And a happy Boxing Day to one and all.


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15 Responses to “O, wholly night”

  1. md anderson Says:

    My experience with lights is that you really do get what you pay for. And there is a big difference in lights to be seen with and lights to actually SEE with.

    For rechargeable, Night Rider has had a good reputation. With LED technology the size and weight of the lights are smaller for the same lumens than when I was doing 24 hour races about 10 years ago. And lights are now available that charge with a USB cable. I liked to go with a good rechargeable for brightness, but have one or two battery op lights for back ups, either on the bars or on my helmet.

    For nighttime trail riding running bar lights and a helmet light is the way to go. One to light up the area and one to light up where you are actually looking.

    But I gave up that night riding nonsense several years ago after a near broken rib experience.

    • Larry T. Says:

      When my ancient, lead-acid battery Nightrider gave up the ghost a few years back the LBS guys loaned me a current version, something like a “650” whatever that means. This thing worked amazingly well! I bought the “750” model after this experience and have used it a time or two. Reasonable price, plenty of light even on the lowest setting, easy to charge via USB. I wonder what could be better? I ran it on the handlebar and was fine for off-roading in the dark to the point I wouldn’t spend extra loot on an additional helmet-mounted, though some say they won’t go out without both.

    • Steve O Says:

      I have my wife drive the jeep in front of me. Damn thing leaks like a Russian submarine, so then I just strike a match and follow the trail, mission impossible style.

    • Patrick O'Grady Says:

      Thanks, MD, Larry. I’m not aggro’ off road even in daylight, but I think I’d like to have belt and suspenders (bar and helmet light) for the occasional moonlight ride or tour gone horribly wrong. The little Princeton Tec Remix helmet light was OK for a short outing, and suitable for trailside repairs.

      Steve, the wife must have a lead foot to stay in front of the flames. Maybe it’s the thought of seeing that weirdo Tom Cruise in the rear view that has her putting the pedal to the metal.

  2. Lisa Fischer-Wade Says:

    When I’m not recovering from a ruptured achilles tendon, I use this light for my daily commute: https://goo.gl/ca4BF0. Best bike light ever. You can buy this bad boy on Amazon, but wanted to point you to the manufacturers site, because German.

  3. khal spencer Says:

    I bought a Niterider Pro 1200 for commuting. Have not used it for off road. The 1200 provides a lot of light at full power on the downhill run past the golf course, where I can best 30 mph and where deer have been known to run out in the road. The rubber friction mount for the handlebars might take the bumps better than the Niterider 650 that is on my cross commuter. That mount jiggles a bit and looks like it would go flying on a good hit.

    My favorite helmet light, for observing fields for deer or side streets for idiots, was a 500 lumen Light and Motion HID lamp. It was very light since the battery was on a cable in my back jacket pocket so I hardly noticed it was on my helmet. But it just died and I have to send it back to see if they can fix it. Meanwhile, I piked up a Light and Motion Viz 360 on sale at REI. What I like about it is the large rear LED lamp. The front lamp is OK as an auxiliary, but at 120 lumen, you would have to be insane to depend on it alone to dodge potholes, logs, or large items on a singletrack.

    Its been a while since I shopped for lights, since my old ones were OK. A lot of great stuff out there and LEDs draw little power and are practically indestructible unless they fall off and you lose them.

    • Patrick O'Grady Says:

      Heard good things about Light & Motion and NiteRider, K. And yeah, looks like that Vis 360 is more of a “be seen” than seeing light. But the rear LED is killer. I usually rock a saddlebag full of tubes and tools and a seatpost tail light gets blocked.

  4. DownhillBill Says:

    I lead a Wed. night dinner ride year round. Most of our regulars order lights from http://www.dx.com or from Amazon; they are more powerful, more up-to-date, and far cheaper than LBS, Performance, etc offerings. The downside of these sources is that shipping from Hong Kong takes a month or so, don’t expect instant gratification. The DXSoul option on their website does use air shipping rather than slow boat, same price.

    It’s hard to suggest a particular light because the options change frequently. The state-of-the-art options change about once a year at the bike shops. They change continuously at DX & Amazon. Look for the latest generation of emitter ( i.e. the LED) from Cree or SSC. These are the 2 companies that make essentially all of the LED’s in bike lights. In headlights, I prefer to run 1 from each, a spot and a flood, both powered by 4-3.7v lithium ion rechargeable battery packs. If I had to choose only one, I’d go for a flood. Prices mostly run ~$40 to $~30 for these. You can’t touch anything remotely comparable from a bike shop for less than $100+ more. I have recently been using a $20 unit with 2 (small) XML-T6 emitters, which is fine for riding a rural bike trail at night in cold weather. I have also been running a helmet light lately, great for spotlighting who- or what- ever, confusing cars, and dealing with mechanicals.

    IMHO redundancy is better than carrying spare batteries. I also use 4 to 6 rear blinkies. It’s good to look like an ambulance, less chance of needing one.

    Happy Boxing Day to one and all!

    • Patrick O'Grady Says:

      Thanks, Bill. I agree on redundancy, being the kind of dude whose road trips include taking two computers, two cameras, two notepads, etc. If I wanted to go shopping, I’d go shopping for something I didn’t already own two of back home, dagnab it.

  5. Pat O'Brien Says:

    I don’t know squat about front lights. But, I wanted to point out that you and herself seem to attract the best neighbors in Duke City and Bibleburg.

    • JD Dallager Says:

      Speaking of Herself…..how is the gentler side of the PO’G Clan doing? Great I hope. Give her our best wishes.

      And The Mad Dod Media Menagerie are prospering as well I hope.

      Watched a brief portion (3 minutes) of the Sun Bowl from El Paso where it was snowing! Actually that was while on the trainer for another 50 minutes of character-building discipline and self-flagellation. 🙂

      Wonderful weather here in the Black Forest north of Bibleburg…..should only reach 0 tonight and a chill factor of -20.

      Stay warm and comfy all…..an advance best wishes for a safe and Happy New Year!

    • Patrick O'Grady Says:

      Pat, you’re right, we have been astoundingly fortunate as regards neighbors. We have two willing dog-sitters in the cul-de-sac, one on either side of us, and the local neighborhood-watch guy is two houses away. Lots of friendly faces, which beat the other sort.

      JD, Herself is enjoying an extended break from her chores. Sandia shuts down for a stretch this time of year (to patch up the Death Star, I guess), and this afternoon she flew off to Las Vegas with a gal pal to have some fun. Just beat a snowstorm out of Dodge.

      It’s 27 at the moment, ’bout the same as it was when I went for a ride 3-ish. The Boo was not amused and pooped on the patio bricks. Turk and Mia are delighted to have a large plastic box indoors for that sort of thing.

  6. dbjones Says:

    I like the Light and Motion VIS 360. Works well, bright and I like the side illumination it provides. I am partial to a helmet light, nothing says “stop” like shinning the cab of a pick-up. I also like that there is a head strap available so that I can use this light of my helmet- either running, hiking or what not.

  7. veloben Says:

    Big fan of the Night Rider Lumina 750. Good run time even on high, excellent flood like pattern with a very white light. It gets lots of (good) comments from pedestrians and motorist including an Evanston cop – “That’s one hell of a bike light.” one 3am. Generally run it on medium at night and on flash in the day time. I like USB charging lights, there’s always a charger around somewhere.

    On the Sutra and Mundo which have hub generators the B&M Lumotec IQ Premium Cyo with daylight running light and standlight. Not as bright as the Lumina 750, but it’s always ready to go and is bight for our low light level streets. On the Sutra I am going to pair it up with a Trout Plug 3 for touring.

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