Monday, November 23, 2009

Lighting for Randonneuring, Newbie Style, Part 1: Headlight

This is a headlight primer for newbies. Simple, I hope. Also enticing I hope for any newbie randonneur, even if you haven't ridden through the night. I don't pretend to be an expert, because I've only ridden through the night once, in summer. But because I'm not an expert, perhaps I'm coming in right where newbies need it. At least that is my aspiration.

Here's my recommendation. It ain't cheap, but it's reasonable and from what I've found, a pretty good value. The IXON IQ by Busch & Muller has met my needs as a newbie randonneur attempting his first night brevets.

Here's what I like:
  • good beam, two settings
  • rechargeable batteries
  • ability to use regular AA batteries if needed
  • acceptable battery life
  • no wires
  • easy removability
  • capacity for charging from dynamo, if needed
  • simplicity
  • reliability
  • seems to be rugged
  • can be used as a handlight for repairs, etc.
Now I will have a dynamo lighting system on my randonneuring bicycle, but for the present, the IXON IQ is a pretty good solution for me.

You can certainly find lots and lots of posts and listserve threads all about the best beams for this or that condition with photos, diagrams and plenty of compare/contrast. Good stuff that, and I'll be poring over it when I start deciding about my new randonneuring bicycle lighting system. But for an easy way to light up a first nightime brevet, I like the IQ.

But there's another advantage the IXON IQ has for lighting the way for newbies. You can loan it out to a certain friend who you're luring into randonneuring so that he or she can have good, dependable, much-better-than-commuting lighting. Once they try it out and discover for her/himself the joys of a well-lighted, extended nightime ride, then you've got a potential, recruit. They don't need a dynamo hub, just a place to clamp it on.

The photo above is from the Harris Cyclery website, though I got mine (and DartreDame's) from Peter White Cycles.

As for mounting, I first mounted it on my handlebars. Works well except that the glare from my handlebar bag cue sheet holder (top flap) was very annoying. I fashioned a black veil that I pinned over the cue sheet cover, and that worked fine. But...and here is a sign of the true spirit of randonneuring...never satisfied with randonneuing equipment, I procured a Low Down Type 1 Light Mount from Velo Orange.

No glare. The light is lower down, but it is also exposed to splash. And if one reads the instructons carefully, the B&M folks warn about spash. We'll see.

I augment the headlight with the Cateye HLEL-450 Helmet Light pictured below. Good for cue sheet and road sign reading. Again, there are plenty of others out there.

There it is: one guy's recommendation. There are plenty of other good battery lights that will go the distance. Explore lighting; explore the night.

For a description of what I found (surprising critter sounds and such!) when I rode through the night that very first time, check out this post about my first 400k.

For more on Tail Lights, see Lighting for Randonneuring, Newbie Style, Part 2: Tail Light.

Keep it low down (maybe),