Thursday, 15 January 2015

That's a bright light you've got!

"I can certainly see you coming!"

"You won't get lost with that!"

Etc. etc. You get the idea. I wish I had £1 for every time I'd heard it. I think they are backhanded compliments. I like my bicycle's front light. It's CNC machined from aluminium, feels sturdy, waterproof, can be charged at work, on full whack it lasts an hour and a half and has 3 constant brightness modes plus a flashing mode.

It's a Lezyne Superdrive and it's a couple of years old now. They don't make them any more, but this is the latest equivalent.
Lezyne Superdrive (2012) - pen for scale
For regular readers, you'll know about my commute. If you don't, here's a brief description: it's an old railway line between Bishop Auckland and Spennymoor, called Auckland Way.

This track is unpaved, no Tarmac in sight - just mud, puddles, stones and in the recent windy weather, branches and twigs all over. Enough obstacles to keep your concentration levels up. It also has to be noted that there are no street lights and it's tree lined in places, so a clear moonlit night doesn't do much to illuminate your way.

These are the reasons that I chose my front light. It needs to be bright so I can see what's lying in wait. At either end of the track I'm on the roads to either home or work, so I dim the light to it's lowest setting. And that's a key point - a front light on a bicycle has to either be bright enough to see by, or bright enough to be seen. This light ticks both boxes in one beautiful aluminium box.

The problem is when I approach people walking along the Auckland Way at night. I really don't understand it. They must struggle to see where they are going. Perhaps they know it really well, navigate using the stars or maybe their eyes just adjust to the darkness. That's all well and good at walking speeds, but when travelling 4 or 5 times faster than that (maybe more), it's paramount that I can see what's ahead.

So with that in mind, I'd like to share with you 4 images I took on my commute home tonight. A compare and contrast if you like. All taken on my Sony Xperia Z1 phone in automatic mode (it set the camera to night mode, unsurprisingly) with the flash deactivated.

What I see when I switch my light off. Pitch black!

Lezyne Superdrive (2012) on minimum brightness - 150 lumens

Lezyne Superdrive (2012) on medium brightness - 300 lumens

Lezyne Superdrive (2012) on maximum brightness - 450 lumens
It's no surprise that I use my light on full brightness.

Now, I do know that the light is far too bright to look at. So when I do see that I'm approaching a pedestrian along the track, I'll dip the light on to minimum, just as you would when driving your car along a country road at night. By that point it's probably too late however, because they've already seen the light from a greater distance than the distance between us when I spot them and they usually look directly at the light.

That's the best I can do. I can dim it as soon as I see anyone, to allow us to safely cross. But please don't complain, I need to see where I'm going! Also, try not to look at the light, to the side of it instead.

How about you and your night time commutes? Which lights do you use and do you have any problems with it? Leave a comment below!

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