Thursday, October 15, 2009

Let's Get Visible, Visible

Good grief, what is it with the 80s music references? And how much of my brain is devoted to bad lyrics anyway?

But I digress, as usual. With the days getting shorter and shorter, it's time for the cycle commuter to start thinking about lighting up. Will a good set of lights keep you from getting mowed down by a text-messaging teen in Mom's Canyonero? Probably not. But assuming your lights survive the crash, they might help bystanders find where your bike ended up. "Well, would you look at that? The neighbor's dog must've treed a Schwinn!"

When it comes to making a good target on the roads, I am a huge, unapologetic fan of the Planet Bike Superflash LED taillight. Now, there are new rules out there for bloggers about product endorsements and whatnot, so let me state this with absolute clarity to keep the G-men off my back: I WAS NOT GIVEN ONE THIN DIME OR ANY FREEBIES FOR THIS REVIEW. In fact, I own three Superflashes: Two I paid for (full retail pop) out of my own pocket, and the third was a gift from my in-laws (who are NOT employees of Planet Bike). That said, if you click on the Amazon links below and buy a Superflash based on my glowing (pun intended, sorry) recommendation, a few pence trickle back to me. Everyone feeling sufficiently disclosed? Good!

There's some debate among my commuter pals (virtual and otherwise) about the prudence of a flashing rear light. Some tremble at the thought of a drunk getting fixated on the flasher and driving into it like a Buick-cocooned moth being drawn to the flame. Others claim that the flashing prevents people from judging distance, making it more likely that they'll mow you down while their pea-sized brains try to compute advanced calculus at 70 miles per hour. Still others find it inconsiderate to blast trailing cyclists with the equivalent of a phaser on stun.

Thankfully, I was an English major, so matters of human psychology and physiology (and calculus, for that matter) are beyond my grasp. And if you're riding behind me, well, get up front and take a pull once in a while, why don'tchya? So I run at least one (sometimes two) Superflashes on strobe mode when things get dark. And in my limited pseudo-scientific experiments (see English major above), I find that drivers give these things a VERY WIDE berth. I hear the car coming, brace myself for the close pass, and all of a sudden, the car backs off and swings way around me. And that, as they say, is priceless.

(If you ARE concerned about target fixation, depth perception, or enraged wheelsuckers, the Superflash has a steady mode. Happy now?)

There are reports about the interwebs that Superflashes aren't completely weatherproof, though I can't corroborate that. Mine live on seatstays, below the fender line, getting hosed quite a bit, and they still do their thing. If one would ever quit, I've had very positive experiences with Planet Bike customer service, so I'm not too worried there.

I will say that the pop-off case, convenient though it may be for battery changes, can pop off at inopportune times (like when a clumsy rider kicks it) leaving behind just a belt clip and useless clamshell as everything that makes the light a light goes clattering down the road with the back half. And while hipsters may dig the white case (to match their Deep-Vs and Ourys), I could do without it. I even went so far as to swap in the back half of a Planet Bike Blinky 7 (which shares the same shell) for a more subtle look. Planet Bike must have heard the gripes from oldsters like me, since they now offer a "stealth" version with a black case, clear lens, and the same retina-scarring red LEDs.

So, there you have it. The Planet Bike Superflash: Probably the most protection you can get for under $25 -- unless you buy condoms at Costco, of course.

1 comment:

Steve Fuller said...

Love the PBB as well. Best inexpensive light out there and runs forever on a couple of batteries. I have to say that my Dinotte tail light (which defines the "retina" scarring category) only sees use on my Long Haul Trucker these days, mainly because the PBB is just to handy to use on the rest of my bikes.