Saturday, November 10, 2012

Trans Iowa V9: Thoughts On Lighting

Trans Iowa is an event that starts in the dark, and usually you will be riding at least a couple of hours in the darkness, maybe a bit longer than that if the cloud cover is thick. So a good lighting set up is a must for every starter.

Figure in that several riders will also see the nightfall on Saturday evening, and may possibly ride up to 10 hours in darkness, it doesn't take a genius to see that a really good set of lights just might be your friend out there. But what constitutes a "good set" of lights for something like Trans Iowa?

Well, here are some things to consider when you start putting together your lights for T.I.V9, (or any night based gravel grinder).

  • Power: Unlike, say- a 24 hour mountain bike race- gravel roads do not demand high powered lights in terms of lumen output. If you can muster 120-150 Lumens from a system, you will be good for most gravel riding. * (More on this later.)
  • Run Times: Obviously, your light run time is a critical figure that you need to consider. How you replenish battery power, (or if you want to avoid having to do that), becomes a major consideration here. 
  • Light Placement/Type: Not only will you need a good light, you may want to consider three good lights. One to see by, one down low to reveal ripples, pot holes, etc, and one to aim at signs and read cues by. Of course, lets not forget that all important tail light. 
  • Reflective Materials: It also is a wise thing to use reflective tape, Scotchbrite or similar clothing, and  small flashers to make sure you are seen by motorists, especially going through towns and cities.
    Night riders with lights and reflective bits.
*NOTE! Any lighting system you consider for use at Trans Iowa V9 should be able to show you objects far up the road, and preferably allow you to read the surface of the gravel well. This is imperative since you will be traveling at speeds of up to and exceeding 35mph many times going down gravel pitches in complete and utter darkness. I can not stress enough how important this is, since almost all of you will certainly not know these roads and speeding down gravel which may be loose and treacherous in the daylight is bad enough. Add in the darkness of rural Iowa and you may find yourself in a pickle you wish you hadn't gotten into with a poor lighting system.

Plus, as if that weren't bad enough, if the gravel the morning of the event's start is wet at all- it will be like thick, gooey peanut butter that will be getting sprayed up into everyone's faces with the exception of the leaders. Add in darkness, bad lights, and could be in big trouble before ten miles go by. 

Finally, Lumen power output is one thing, but you can find lights that will throw a beam far up a road, or flood the road way without spending yourself into the poorhouse. Of course, if you can afford, or if you want, the best, it will get the job done with aces. I'll be revisiting this subject next week on Saturday, so stay tuned for more. In the meantime, add any questions you have in the comments section.


Hook said...

Does anyone run a dynamo setup on events like these? Seems like it would make a lot of sense... (of course, so do fenders, and they seem pretty rare, too, so i might be missing something here...) Looking forward to the next post GT!

Guitar Ted said...

@Hook: Sure they do. I've seen generator light set ups at T.I. since T.I.V3 forward.

The costs, proprietary nature of the parts, and the past availability/versatility issues probably have kept a lot of folks from these. (Not to mention the drag issues, which sap power.)

Some of these things have been addressed or overcome, but I think it seems easier to be able to add on a light system, and be able to remove it, than to commit to a dedicated, integrated lighting system.

Exhausted_Auk said...

Rayovac do a really good, inexpensive head/helmet LED light you can buy at Menards for about $30. It takes 3 AA batteries, has a 4-setting headlight (H/M/L/Flash) and a 2-setting tail light (Steady/Flash). The battery pack is at the back with the tail light, making the setup sell balanced. Run time, even on high, is long enough to get you through TI. I have used one of these for winter commuting for a few years now.