11 Jun, 2015

The Bike Whisperer: Show me the light


Mother nature is doing her thing again at this time of year, bringing around what most people dislike. The cold, the frost and a very bright, yet barren countryside.

With it, there is less daylight, which for most of us means less ride time. I take my hat off to those brave enough to ride before the sun is up and after it has gone. It respresents determination and fearlessness and they are more than likely not to stop at anything that comes their way.

Now its one thing to dress up warm enough to brave those conditions and times, but another to know that most other road users generally don’t expect athletes, or just bravehearts for that matter, to be on the road. To those brave souls, they will need to accept that wearing bright neon clothes will not be enough to be visable to other road users and realise that some form of battery powered light will be required.

This is an interesting one to observe as I see some bikes with lights so useless that you may just as well go without, but others tend to want to kit them out with floodlights and blind anything that comes their way.

If you rather choose not to light up the way for whatever reason, perhaps you don’t justify the need for it as you don’t really ride when its dark, I must stress that you should, at least, invest in a flashing tail light. These are small, compact and very affordable. These little life savers usually only cost between R50 and R200 and can be the difference between life and death in a busy situation.

There is no real difference in brightness or function between a cheap light or and expensive one, but rather just styling and longevity. In a nutshell, there is really no excuse not to have one.

There are a vast variety of choice regarding headlights. Anything running from R100 up until a few thousand rand. Personally I’d choose to stay away from the less expensive front light as they tend to stop working in a very short period or the attachment bracket breaks off after a few jolts and you’re left with nothing but a cheap pocket torch.

Adding to your misery, the battery life is very poor, usually six to eight hours, and they use about four penlight batteries to do the job. Now if you’ve seen what batteries cost these days, you’ll find that at every reload you could actually almost pay the replacement of a whole new unit.

So cheapies aside and onto the premium. These are not just bicycle lights, but rather, an investment that will last a lifetime. Firstly, expect to fork out anything from R1000 to R3000 for one of these, and if you wish, even more. But every cent is worth it if you can afford one.

These are far sturdier and even impact resilient. Even hard crashes that would send you off the bike can hardly effect these. They are usually made out of aluminium casings with lenses as thick as bottle tops and dare I say even waterproof.

They no more come with Halogen globes or even Diode LED’s, but a much newer technology called “cree”LED. This type of LED is the same technology used in more recent and premium cars, giving that “white light”effect, rather than the old yellow beam from the ‘80s.

This type of light floods the path in front of you as opposed to having a concentrated dot that keeps shaking around, which actually makes it usable. Battery life is also improved tremendously as they run on lithium iron batteries, much like a cell phone does.

This is where the lifetime comes in, literally thousands of recharges are capable with adapatable power sources, from your standard wall socket, to your car chargers and computer USB or even a powerbank, which is very handy in the bush by the way, which brings us to the daddy of lights, the DYAMO Light.

These are so not the same as we remember from back in the day, but rather a combination of modern tech run in an old school way. Aquiring one of these is even more expensive than the previous one as you need to replace your bike’s front hub with a power generating unit. Talk about hybrid technology moving onto bikes. Not only do you not have to waste money on batteries, nor on time charging the unit with these awesome front dynamo hubs.

Conversions not only constantly light up your way, but can even charge your GPS, cellphone or iPod on the go. However, these nifty and versatile gadgets run at the cost of around R6 000 to R12 000, so for some of us it will still stay on the Birthday or Christmas Wish list for now …
Till next time, safe cycling.
The Bike Whisperer

The Bike Whisperer

The Bike Whisperer

Bike Mechanic Supreme |

The Bike Whisperer has worked on, fixed and built more bikes than there are kilometres of singletrack in South Africa ... well ... almost. And he often shares his knowledge with us.