Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Lighting Nerd Chronicles: The Philips SafeRide In Theory

First, if you're saying, "What exactly is a Philips SafeRide?" don't feel bad. You won't find these things on the shelves of your typical bike shop. In fact, I've never seen one in a bike shop. I only found mine because I was tipped off to a good deal on (yes, again) Amazon. Now that I got mine, Jack, I'll also share:

Moving up the obligatory disclaimer to make it painfully obvious, because I'm feeling guilty about being too spammy: My SafeRide was a gift... from my lovely wife.And while she did allow me to marry her, I've done my best not to let that color my judgment in this review. If you follow that link to Amazon and buy something, I'll get a cut. Thanks, I feel better now.

So anyway: What's the deal with the SafeRide, and why did I feel the need to get one rather than buying any number of perfectly good lights in ye olde LBS? The hook on this light is that it gets a stamp of approval under the German rules for road vehicles (StVZO for short, which, if I know my German heritage, is an abbreviation for a word of approximately 93 characters and 14 umlauts). "But Jason," you're asking, "why do I care, since I don't plan to ride my bike in Germany?" Here's why: The StVZO rules say that it's not nice to blind people with your headlights, whether you're a four-wheeled internally combusting engine or a two-wheeled, schnitzel-powered one. So a bicycle headlight meeting these rules has to have a defined top cutoff to keep the light on the road rather than in the retinas of an oncoming driver.

If you look at some of the beam shots in one of my old lighting posts, you can see what I'm talking about. Most bike lights (including all the other ones I've tested to date) have round reflectors, which shoot light out in a big cone. Some of that cone hits the ground, helping you. Some of it hits other people in the eyes, enraging them. And a lot of it just shoots up into the air for no good reason. The SafeRide (and other StVZO-approved lights) have shaped lenses that cut off the top of the beam like a car headlight, as shown in this recent photo from our lighting test bathroom... er, lab here at The Cycle:

"Big deal," you're saying. "I like blinding people." I get that. I'm as antisocial as the next fella (okay, maybe more antisocial). But what I don't like is all that light blasting up into the sky, wasting my batteries without doing me any good. An StVZO-approved light won't do that. It's putting all your photons down on the road where you need them.

So there you have it: An introduction to the obscure world of European traffic regulations. Sorry you asked? Next up will be some actual hands-on stuff about the SafeRide, I promise.


Anonymous said...

ummm... schnitzel.. (drool...)

oh, what were you saying?? Something about bike lights? oh yeah..

So how did the missus know that she should get you the Saferide? Was the marketing that good, or was she just aghast at the feeble lights that you had been using?

And changing subjects again, if you decide to return your optical lab back to its original function, you might try a blank wall elsewhere? Or fall back to that cycling classis, the garage door??

anxiously awaiting the next installment of the headlight chronicles...

Steve in Peoria

Jason T. Nunemaker said...

Steve -- while dear spouse is quite the mindreader (16 years of marriage will do that), I kinda had to tip her off to the SafeRide in a, "hey, I have a birthday coming up, hint, hint, are you wondering what to get me?" sort of way. Not that she doesn't get me awesome gifts on her own... just in this case, I had a very specific need in mind.