Answers to tweets

Because I am the single most important bike blogger in America’s smallest state, people often ask me questions about their bike needs. Since I don’t bother with things like a contact link on this blog, nor do I publish an email address, my minions must contact me via twitter with their questions (or, I suppose they could use the comment feature of this blog, whatever works).

Here are two recent twitter questions or as they are sometimes called, “twestions.”

Okay, so these are the only two twestions I’ve received in a long time, but they came on the same day, so I figured I should answer them. I’ll answer @matthewcoolidge’s question first:

I don’t use any route apps for smart phones. Occasionally, I’ll check out or for route ideas. I’d been out that way before, so I kind of know the lay of the land. Before I set out, I looked at google maps and made a general plan of where I’d go. I then stopped frequently and looked at the map to check where I was and make adaptations based on how tired I was and how much time I had left. For this ride, I had hoped to do 62 miles (aka 100 KM, aka a metric century), but I was quite feeling up for it, so I opted for 50 miles instead.

For those who missed the previous post, here’s an overview of my route:

I went back to and re-plotted the route to reflect the route I should have taken. That is, I should have not made that wrong turn off of Plainfield which led me to an interesting section of Silver Lake. It wasn’t bad, just kind of slow. Map My Ride indicates that this route is merely 38.69 miles, but it doesn’t know about the couple of wrong turns I made, plus I took a long way home at the end to insure I got up to 50 miles because… it was important to do so. My route is available for all to enjoy HERE.

After plotting out that route, I spent about an hour plotting various options for longer rides out into western RI. I’d like to have a ride that includes a pit stop at some sort of pancake-serving establishment. Any suggestions?

On to @stephaniedoes’ question. Tonight, I participated in the Rhode Island Bicycle Coalition’s “Light Up The Night” event. I stood on a street corner and shouted at passing cyclists that they needed to put some damn lights on their bikes installed lights on bikes for cyclists who did not have lights. It was fun, and it helps to reduce the number of “bike ninjas” out there. I don’t like bike ninjas, I like to be able to see other cyclists and I want the motorists to see them as well.

So, @stephaniedoes, what kind of bike lights do I recommend? Well, there’s really a whole range. First a recommendation of what not to get. I am not fond of the little rubberized single LED lights that wrap around the handlebars, like these made by Knog:

Tonight, we were handing out the Planet Bike Blinky Safety:

These is a decent, basic “be seen” type of light set. It won’t help you see anything on a dark street, but it will help motorists see you. There’s a single LED in each light, but it gets the job done. These cost about $20 for the set. They run on flat watch-type batteries that can be purchased in any drugstore.

A few years ago, I bought the Planet Bike 1/2 watt Blaze/Superflash Combo.

This is probably one of the best values out there at about $55 for the set. The headlight on the flashing setting will get you plenty of attention from motorists, or you can turn it to a steady beam on darker streets. It won’t give you a great light pattern, but it’s good enough for most city streets. The taillight has two small flashing LEDs plus one mega-bright strobing LED. Motorists can see these a mile away, and they should definitely notice you up close. These lights have seen plenty of abuse from rain & snow, and I’ve dropped them a few times and they are still going strong. However, I’m a bit of a geek, so I opted for a stronger headlight last year and got the..

Planet Bike 2 Watt Blaze headlight. It’s 4 times as strong as the 1/2 watt!

I know, it’s silly, but I do like this light better. If I’m not careful about how it’s aimed, motorists will flash their high-beams at me because they think it’s too bright. Too bad, I like to be seen. This can be set to low power steady, high power steady, or strobe which flashes twice at low power followed by a bright flash at high power. It’s awesome. So awesome, that somebody stole it off of my bike while it was parked in the vestibule of my office building. I immediately ordered a new one.

There are many light options out there. As you can see, I’m partial to the Planet Bike brand. Other brands that seem to be good are Princeton (makers of the Tec Swerve), Portland Design Works, Blackburn and CatEye. There’s a few that are rechargeable via USB, which is kind of neat, and others that work off of external battery packs. I think those are more for the people who ride in places without streetlights. Of course, the retrogrouches in the audience would be disappointed if I didn’t mention dyno-hub generators and the lights that go with them. These work off of a generator in the front hub that uses the spinning wheel to generate electricity to power the lights. They’ve improved greatly in the last 10 years, but are still far more expensive than battery powered LEDs.

So, who’s up for a metric century later this month?

17 responses to “Answers to tweets

  1. Thanks for the light recommendations!

  2. I use the Blaze 2w light as a backup light when I ride my wife’s bike. For primary, I’ll use the mighty P7 to burn up any darkness in front of me.

    • If I had a longer (or darker) commute, I’d probably invest in a stronger light, but the Blaze 2W does fine by me right now.

  3. FYI – Folks may want to know that the East Bay bike path is closed from Riverside Square to the hill near Providence at Veterans Memorial Drive. Very sad for the few of us who commute on that route. Riding on Vet’s means traffic (often in the dark for the evening commute) and hills. I understand they are putting in new sewer pipes heading toward the treatment plant that’s in that stretch. There signs say its closed November 2011 to April 2012.

    For recreational riders hauling their bike with a car – there is some parking at Riverside square and one can still bike to Bristle and back.

    • Yeah, I’d heard about that closing. mentioned it on their site too. That’s crazy that they aren’t providing any sort of effective bike detour for a 6 month closure of the most popular bike path in the state.

  4. Heh, light is my specialty. I’m currently in the planning phase but it includes 200 LED’s, and some EL wire.

    I don’t just want to light the way. I want the whole damned bike to glow.

  5. i love the part about you yelling at ninja bikers to get some damn lights. i’ve always wanted to do that! (even cooler that you actually handed out lights…)

  6. man u just nailed it for me ,cm is so bunk in my town i quit.the last ride the group decided to ride 2to3 miles up a oneway with traffic of course ,but the rode chose was on a very bad side of town,at dusk with a lot of uneducated drivers.The rider in the back told me he would watch for any drivers following too closely and simply lay his bike in front of them and walk up to the window to yell at them.t
    This being said something similar happened to me 2 miles up that busy oneway road the same guy was in the back and a super d bag was on his ass ,he was yelling and carrying on out the way bitch things like that well the guy in the back was being antagonistic the guy in the car launched a half full beer can that hit him right between the eyes ,so he tried using the bike in front of the car bit again and got his custom single speed run over. I just dont see how this is helping bicycle awareness to piss off the same riders we share the road with is not the answer..half the riders didnt have tail lights let alone are u going to be a mass if u cant be SEEN! One guy who was from Amsterdam had a pant clip on the wrong leg and a taillight on the inside of his hoodie with it on his head. what good is that .There was even kids under ten without lights or helmets. Why not drive in the middle of a bunch of drunks with all of our headlights off .It is so wack in smaller cities with a bunch of posers who only ride cm and are never on the road anyways. I over the wackness

    • Sorry for the delay in approving your comment. My thoughts on Critical mass can be found here along with my thoughts on the other two controversial topics in the bicycle blog-world: bike lanes and helmets. It has been said that Critical Mass is different things to different people. As I said in that post from March:

      The most often expressed point of CM is that it is a “celebration of cycling.” I suppose that’s true in the same way a loud, drunken tailgate party is a “celebration of school spirit” in that it makes everyone who’s not on your side hate you even more, and embarrasses the people who are ostensibly rooting for the same team.

      In other words, I too am over the wackness.

  7. How long have you been biking to work and in general? Did you walk places then eventually want to bike everywhere? I like walking places myself.

    • I started biking to work sporadically in 2002 when I lived in Somerville, MA, and worked about 3 miles away in Cambridge. (see this post about my years in Boston). When not biking to work, I usually drove because I was basically in a car-centric mindset (plus I had free parking at the office). I occasionally took transit as well (this required some walking). When I moved to Edmonton, Alberta, I started commuting almost exclusively by bike, walking occasionally if the roads were especially slick (see this post about my years in Edmonton). Biking was more a replacement for the car than a replacement for walking. I occasionally walk places, but if I have biked that same distance, I can’t get over how much longer it takes to walk somewhere compared to biking. For me, for any trip over 3/4 mile, I’d rather ride my bike. My Spouse’s break-even point is more like 1.5 miles (depending on the route).

      • Thanks for the reply! I found this blog because I was interested in taking RIPTA and wanted to look up fares and such. I took RIPTA today for the very first time actually. I usually get rides from friends because I rarely drive. I’m not comfortable driving because I don’t have much experience behind the wheel, so I considered biking, but I’m keeping my options open I guess.

  8. This year I started using a SRAM iLight hub dyno with a Busch and Muller LED head and tail light. I like fact that the light runs as long as I do. No battery to run down. I also have a fistful of Planet Bike Beamer lights to use in different combinations on the bike with the generator or on any of the others in my fleet if I think I might get caught out on one of them.

    My commute is mostly on rural roads and highways. Late in the year I do a park-and-ride path commute that is almost entirely in the woods. Major lighting really helps.

    • I know that the folks who run hub dynamos swear by them, but major lighting is not something I need for any of my riding. Of course, I also used to say that I didn’t really need fenders so… who knows what future bikes will bring!

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