What your cyclist doesn’t want for Christmas

December 4, 2014 § 45 Comments

He’s already angling. “Honey, we’ll take a family ski trip again this year!”

“Oh, great! The kids will love it and we’ll have some time together,” you say.

“I’m really excited about it! Also, there’s a really cool wheelset I’ve had my eye on for Christmas.”

Or maybe it’s a new frame, or a new electro drivetrain, or whatever. But it’s not something that will save your cyclist’s life every single day: It’s not a full-bore head and rear taillight.

“Oh, Pooky doesn’t need lights!” you say. “I don’t let him ride at night.”

Well, I’m not talking about riding at night. A powerful headlamp with a 4-hour blink mode and a powerful taillight with an equivalent blink time is the single biggest safety upgrade your wanker will never make. If I had to choose between riding without a helmet and riding without my daytime lights, I’d forego the helmet ten out of ten times.

Why? Because in the daytime we are constantly dealing with cagers in front who are exiting driveways, exiting parking lots, pulling away from the curb, turning into traffic, and merging into traffic. The flashing headlamp invariably gets the attention of the few drivers who never even see us and arrests their development.

More importantly, the front flashing headbeam gets the attention of the cagers who already see us, which is the vast majority. The problem is that although they see us, the average cager has terrible depth perception and an even worse ability to judge our speed. That’s why so many drivers look us square in the eye even as they haul out in front of us. We’re on bikes. How fast can we really be?

The flashing headlight has a hypnotic effect on the cager contemplating a quickie pull-out. It pierces the multiple levels of dumb, the thickened callus of maroon, and spears deep into the tiny, pealike structure that devolved from its hominid-like brain. Once the neuron-like signal of “bright flashing light” strikes the tiny, shrunken, dessicated cager brain, it causes a chain reaction. The next thought is “Duh … ” followed by “Flashing light mean danger maybe,” followed by “Keep concrete foot on brake pedal thingy until blinky go bye-bye.”

In the six or seven seconds it takes the cager to process this complex thought, your cyclist honey has zipped on past. I’ve experienced this countless times. The flashing headlamp in daylight works.

The flashing taillight has an even stronger effect on cagers approaching from your honey’s cute and compact rear. The red light screams “DUI checkpoint!” and automatically causes cagers to slow. By drawing their attention to your cyclist’s hunky bottom, the cagers then give a wide berth, or at least the light focuses them long enough not to clip you when they pass.

Do your honey a favor and make sure that he/she gets a pair in his/her stocking.

“But Wanky!” you say. “What kind should I get?”

Glad you asked.

The power of a bike light is measured in lumens. More lumens means more light means more money means fewer purchases of neck braces and Tegaderm. For the headlamp you want a minimum of 500 lumens, but given the low cost you can easily go to 750.

Serfas has an awesome 750 headlamp that clips to the handlebar, recharges with a USB connection, and will stun the average cager for long enough to sneak past his bumper. There’s no reason to get the excellent and $20 cheaper 550. For $160, which is less than a pair of nice bib shorts, less than half a good pair of shoes, and roughly the price of two decent tires, you can equip your wanker with something that will keep him alive.

For your fanny, a great choice is the retina-searing Serfas 80-lumen taillight. This is like a lighthouse beacon combined with a fire engine light and neon strip club sign. It has a blinky mode that will run for hours and keep all manner of bad drivers alert to your existence.

Now, I can hear the objections. “My wanker already has a light!”

I know. I’ve seen it. It’s a puny little blinky thing that you can only see when you’re ten feet away. Please toss these inferior, false-sense-of-security things in the trash. Even if your biker has a good light, say 350 lumens, now is the time to upgrade. Remember, this is the person who thinks nothing of tossing $2k on a pair of wheels that will be toast in a season and that won’t even get him on a podium. When it comes to lights, think “upgrade.” The power goes up every year as the cost goes down. If you’re going to cheapass your bike stuff, cheapass the arm warmers. Don’t skimp on the lights.

The final objection will of course come from the rider himself. “I ain’t riding that during the day. It weighs too much/It looks stupid/I ride with a group/It’s too much of a pain to charge it.”

You can deal with all of these objections by pointing out that your cyclist is a bleeding maroon and telling him that the only time weight and cool matter is on race day. The rest of the time it’s his job to come home alive and in one piece. If you have to, withhold. Girls will know what I mean.

So, there you have it. Merry Christmas!

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Your LBS to the rescue

January 25, 2013 § 26 Comments

A lot of the time I write about things that never happened outside the four corners of my skull. Rarely do I write about things that really did happen, just as they happened. “Rarely” as in “Never.”

The other day, though, I posted a rant about night lights. The object of my derision was Nite Rider and the cost of replacing the power pack, which was more than the entire unit. I switched to Serfas for my headlight, as I’d had such great results with my Serfas taillight.

Naturally, a few days after getting the new headlight, the Serfas 500, and being very pleased with it, I became very displeased with it. It had the dangerous and terrifying defect of shutting off every time I went over a bump.

“Well,” said one useless biker friend, “quit going over bumps.”

It also shut off at high speeds from road vibrations. Same friend: “You shouldn’t be going fast at night.”

So I went off for a bit on Serfas in a blog post, never expecting that Serfas would get in touch with me to remedy the problem.

And they didn’t.

However, a day or so after excoriating the product, my phone rang, or my email rang. I can’t remember which.

“Hi, Seth. This is Bob down at Bike Palace.”

“Hey, Bob.”

“You know that Serfas light you’re having trouble with?”

“Do I ever.” For a few seconds I wondered why he was calling about the light. To complain, maybe, about my rash treatment? After all, I’d bought the light from the PV Bicycle Center, which was now shuttered.

“Why don’t you bring it down to the shop and let me swap it out for you?”

“Huh?”

“Yeah, we’ve got several in stock. Just drop it off and we’ll give you a new one. They’re great lights and it sounds like you got a dud. Glad to put you onto a new one.”

“Wow, Bob,” I said. “Thanks.”

“You bet,” he said.

A few days later I was down at the Bike Palace in San Pedro, where Bob and owner Tony Jabuka took back the light they had never sold me, and put a new one in my trembling little hands. “Ride safe,” said Bob.

“Thanks, man. I will.”

When’s the last time that happened with a bike shop that you only patronize on the Internet? Right. Me, either.

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