To flash or not to flash?
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  1. #1
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    Lightbulb To flash or not to flash?

    Now that the sun is going down earlier I am back to 3 rides per week after dark. I have always wondered if that bright red light I have on my bike is better in the strobe mode or the solid mode? What do you think? What mode do you ride with?

  2. #2
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    All light strobe

    Here in Portland you can have 5-10 cyclists riding along a stretch of road. It's easy to see that the strobe mode in a tail light is more visible. It stands out better against a sea of red car taillights, particularly during wet conditions. This is assuming that all the LEDs on the taillight are strobing off and on together.

    A pet peeve of mine are those cutesy little scrolling-strobe patterns some taillights have. I think they are DUMB, DUMB, DUMB.

    The point of those dopey lighting patterns is to create motion that catches a motorist's eye among the sea of other lights that are around. The problem with the scrolling strobe patterns is that they reduce the amount of light being transmitted back at any given instant by a factor of 3-9. Instead of turning on 3, 5, 7, or 9 LEDs at one time during a regular strobe, the dopey scrolling strobe just turns on one or two LEDs at a time. For the sake of creating visual motion, this lighting pattern dramatically decreases the amount of light being transmitted at any time.

    On top of that, the cutesy little scrolling strobe pattern that looks so dramatic from 3 feet away when you step behind your bike to marvel at it is invisible 200-300 feet away to a car appraching from behind. So, for the sake of creating visual motion that drivers can't see, you reduce the amount of light you send back to them by up to a factor of 9. Dumb, dumb, dumb.
    Last edited by PdxMark; 10-05-2006 at 08:04 PM.

  3. #3
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    yep. flashing is much better. The only reason they HAVE a non-flash mode (at least, I think) is that in many countries, like UK, it's illegal to have flashies, which is stupid. It's supposed to prevent confusion with police, I guess.

  4. #4
    Cowboy up
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    Flashing is more eye catching. I read the battery lasts a lot longer on flash mode.

  5. #5
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    For riding during commute hours, flash is probably safer. If you ride late at night, I would go solid. Flashing lights tend to dumbfound drunk drivers and they get target-lock. They'll fixate on flashing construction lights, a patrol car at the side of the road, etc. very common. But, drunks aren't terribly common at your 6pm commute

  6. #6
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    solid in the city, flash everywhere else

    Had a driver turn right in front of me tell me he thought I was turning. His demeanor when we both stopped hard was concerned, apologetic and embarassed which convinced me that he was telling me the truth. Now, in the city where there are turns every few yards I ride with the rear light on solid. There is also more light and the cars are going slower, so I feel more visible. When I get to the suburbs I switch to flash because I think I'm visible sooner to faster moving drivers and there is less confusion around turns. Front light is always on solid.
    We have nothing to lube but our chains.

  7. #7

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    I double flash. One flasher on the seat tube and one more down the seatstay as far down as I get it. Cars seem to give me a 3 or 4 feet more room when both are flashing than when just one is flashing. For the extra $10 or $20 for the second flasher it's well worth it.

    I also have to agree with the uselessness of the patterned lights. A simple flash has a lot more visability.

    A supplemental helmet mounted light, even if not bright enough to ride by on it's own is nice to be able to 'look' at oncoming traffic also.

  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by rusa1586
    Had a driver turn right in front of me tell me he thought I was turning. His demeanor when we both stopped hard was concerned, apologetic and embarassed which convinced me that he was telling me the truth.
    I was riding behind my wife Sunday in broad daylight, and, as per usual she's pointing out obstacles in the road for me. Driver in a car pulls up on our right and says to my wife "Well are you turning or not?" The missus is understandably confused; we're riding on a one way street with no cross streets, where would we turn if we wanted to? And why does he think we want to? And then we realize: he thought her pointing out potholes to me were turn signals!

    Quote Originally Posted by rusa1586
    Front light is always on solid.
    Whenever I'm on the street my front light is solid. I was told it's illegal (not just in Great Britain; I'm in NYC) to have a flashing front, so why tempt fate? But when I'm on the MUT I switch my front light to flashing, because I noticed it's always much easier for me to see oncoming bikes when their lights are flashing.

  9. #9
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    I use both on my commute. My flasher is very bright & is about seat high. I also wear a small non-flashing red light clipped to the rear of my helmet. My headlight is always non-flashing.
    Before you criticize someone walk a mile in their shoes. That way when you criticize them you'll be a mile away & you'll have their shoes.

  10. #10

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    I flash all the time....

    The Flash.....

  11. #11
    Clyde-o-Matic
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    Rear - one flasher on helmet, one small flasher on seatpost, one large non-flash on rack
    Front - headlight - non-flash and as bright as it goes, one clear flasher as well

  12. #12
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    Rear - Flasher on seatpost, flasher on rack
    Front - Flashing white headlight, flashing yellow blinkie

    This is on my commuter. All four lights on no matter the conditions (dark, light, rain, sun). All four lights flashing.
    "Wind doesn't suck, it blows." - my friend Bill
    "Knowin' the time ain't gonna get me there quicker" -Fear

  13. #13
    I am not aero
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    Both!

    One flasher (with lights on the sides as well for visibility from cross-streets) and a solid in the back. I find that it is much harder to judge the distance to a cyclist with a flasher only. Also, I have a 20 W halogen bar-mount headlight and a helmet-mounted white flasher forward. Still need to get some reflective tape for the bike frame.

  14. #14
    al0
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    Yes, flashing is much more visible, but it has one major drawback - research have shown that driver estimates distance to light much less accurate if light is flashing.

  15. #15
    Lemur-ing
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    Flashing white cateye in the front and a red flasher at the back. Thinking of getting a helmet red light and setting it on solid.. Good idea? Why do people not flash in the front? I notice that flashing fronts make cyclists more visible in the dark.

  16. #16
    wim
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    yep. flashing is much better. The only reason they HAVE a non-flash mode (at least, I think) is that in many countries, like UK, it's illegal to have flashies, which is stupid. It's supposed to prevent confusion with police, I guess.
    Not all that stupid. There's a well-established pattern in Europe which makes it easier to instantly categorize what's up ahead: steady red means taillight of a moving vehicle driven or steered by a person. Anything flashing other than blue (which means police or ambulance) is supposed to be stationary.

    As someone has said, flashing red will get seen, but could be (and often is) misidentified at first sight as some sort of road construction barrier. Sometimes drivers have no idea at all WTF that flashing light is until they're within a few seconds of passing you. Not good, in my view.

  17. #17

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    I flash, just because the batteries last longer that way.

    Quote Originally Posted by SPDu4ea
    ....Flashing lights tend to dumbfound drunk drivers and they get target-lock. They'll fixate on flashing construction lights, a patrol car at the side of the road, etc. very common. But, drunks aren't terribly common at your 6pm commute
    I will go riding late at night but I don't ever go out until at least 3:00 AM or so. The bars all close at either 1:00 or 2:00. ....The reason suspected that drunks tend to hit parked cars is that they think that the back end reflectors are another car's taillights, and they steer into them thinking that they are following another moving car.

    I'm not real sure there's a lot you can do to "protect" yourself from drunk drivers really, aside from stay inside on the trainer. They end up driving cars into all kinds of wrong places.
    -----
    By the by--I just got a pair of Serfas TL-2000 rear lights, $30 each but they're Pretty Darn Bright.
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  18. #18
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    As a driver, I've found it's easier to see a cyclist but not be distracted by them if they use a "chase" style pattern. Look up "target fixation" for why you don't want too much attention from cars. However, I usually run a solid red light as well (on a jersey or camelback) for the extra brightness and visibility.
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  19. #19
    bas
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    Quote Originally Posted by rcarbs
    Now that the sun is going down earlier I am back to 3 rides per week after dark. I have always wondered if that bright red light I have on my bike is better in the strobe mode or the solid mode? What do you think? What mode do you ride with?

    Where do people get the green flashies for the front?

  20. #20
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    Flasher on the rear - much more visible :
    HID on the Front - great when you are in a pack cause it makes others much more visible too.

  21. #21
    Alien Musician
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    15 red flashers attached to my helmet,
    20 red flashers pinned to the back of my jersey,
    4 antiaircraft strobes on my seatstay.
    and a 200 pound generator to run it all.

    I've actually been using two Cateye taillights that were 5 led
    flashers from several years back. One was attached to my
    seatpost flashing and another was further down on my seat-
    stay flashing also.

    I also found that my camelbak has a little compartment that
    would allow a flasher to go into it so I've thought of using a
    third for that purpose.

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