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Bicycle Taillights That Work

Taillights have been a big topic on several cycling forums lately, so I decided to document the taillights I have on my Trek 1220 before I move them to my soon-to-arrive Surly Long Haul Trucker.

I use three taillights mounted to my Jandd Expedition Rear Rack. The first is a RealLite, a 4″ x 6″ 18-LED 4 AA-battery operated light. The vendor claims that the batteries will run about 60 hours on flash. I’ve never timed it, but it does run a long time. I use it in flash mode.

Trust me, it puts out a LOT of light. I’ve had more comments on it than any other light I’ve owned. Here’s what others say.

Check out the warranty. You don’t see many like that. I’ve bought a couple of his lights and only had to return one because of something dumb I did that caused it to break where it was mounted. I don’t recall exactly what I did, but the vendor replaced it with no hassle.

My brother sticks his in his rear jersey pocket instead of mounting it to his bike.

Generator light with battery backup

The middle light is a Busch&Müller 4DToplight Senso Multi from Peter White Cycles powered by a SON generator hub. Flashing taillights are illegal in Germany where these are made, so they are steady-on. Some folks claim that flashing lights are harder for motorists to judge distance with and there are others that think flashing lights attract drunk drivers. I have a mixture of flashing and steady lights, so I guess I’m either more visible and easy to read or I’m a drunk magnet.

Since the generator stops working when the bike stops, this taillight automatically switches to battery power when it senses that the bike has stopped. That also provides a backup if there would be a problem with the wiring.

It has a huge built-in reflector that is highly effective.

The NiteRider is visible in bright daylight

I saw my first NiteRider taillight on Matt’s infamous Full Moon Ride. Matt had just bought his and was firing it up for the first time. It was amazing how far you could see the light in the daytime. I run with mine on any time I ride, day or night. If I could find a way to power it without the heavy waterbottle battery, I’d even forgo the headlight that you need with it.

Bro Mark had one that he had quit using, so I hooked it up as an auxiliary brake light mounted on the top of my bike rack on my van. It’s the brightest thing on the back of the car.

What holds them on the bike?

The challenge was how to mount them. I had an old piece of aluminum that I bent 90-degrees and attached to the underside of the Jandd rack with two nuts and bolts.

It’s not pretty, but it does a good job of holding them on the bike. I haven’t seen any signs of metal fatigue in several thousand miles.

So, how do the look in the dark?

Here’s my first forray into the world of YouTube. After coming home from a ride the other night, I knocked off a quick video of my taillights. It’s sloppy, makes Sarah Palin sound smart and took me half a day to figure out how to edit and upload it. (Any 12-year-old kid could have done it in 10 minutes, but there is a shortage of 12-year-old kids at my house.)

The next one will be better, I promise.

7 comments to Bicycle Taillights That Work

  • SLM

    I still put the ReaLite in my jersey pocket when I need extra “awareness”, but since I am always looking for a lighter (no pun intended, wait, yes it was) way to be seen, I swear by this little light. The Best Tail Light on the Planet, Superflash which can be found at http://ecom1.planetbike.com/3034.html – it is small yet VERY bright. It has a nice clip that fastens nicely under your bike seat (I attached a plastic tie wrap under my seat and hang it from there) and it is BRIGHT and LIGHT. Perfect if you want to be seen and don’t want a heavy light. And let’s not forget that I’m all about NOT adding weight to my bike, unlike someone else who just recently stop carrying a railroad jack with them because they like to be prepared for the one time they come across a train that has derailed…

  • kls

    I have seen that light and was impressed. LED technology has come a long way.

    Who started that rumor that I had stopped carrying the railroad jack? You just wait. We’re due for a train derailment any day now and I want to be prepared.

    I AM thinking of getting a second one, though. Riding with just one unbalances the bike.

  • Jan

    I think this light would be the one that would finally spur me to ride faster than you – as though that would ever happen. Or drop back even more. Sunglasses and a night ride do not mix.
    But with all these cataract-prone Bentley drivers around here, I’ll back you up when you say more, bigger, brighter is better.
    Question though: Why do they use red (stop) as opposed to yellow (caution) for blinkers? Especially when red/green is the big color blindness pair? Just idle thoughts…

  • kls

    You CAN buy some flashers in amber, but here’s what the FL statutes say:

    “(8) Every bicycle in use between sunset and sunrise shall be equipped with a lamp on the front exhibiting a white light visible from a distance of at least 500 feet to the front and a lamp and reflector on the rear each exhibiting a red light visible from a distance of 600 feet to the rear. A bicycle or its rider may be equipped with lights or reflectors in addition to those required by this section. ”

    To be legal, you’d have to have a red in addition to the amber. Tradition, I guess.

  • I had a RealLite. Well, it was something that I found a Tractor Supply Company that looked just like a RealLite. The real problem was making a mount that did not break. One light broke twice before it was retired. The second one broke once, then was run over.

    After that, I started using the previously mentioned SuperFlash. Here are some pictures…

    http://my2mile.blogspot.com/2008/09/more-on-lights.html

  • kls

    my2mile,

    Looks like you and I have the same philosophy about lights: you can’t have too many of them.

    I bought a couple of those Reallite wannabes myself. In fact, they may even be the same basic light, but Dick Janson, they guy who makes them beefs up the back.

    I tried to hang one of the cheapies on the back of a friend’s bike, but it bounced off. I keep one in my car now as an emergency light since it has a magnetic base on it. It’s just an added piece of safety when you’re stopped on the side of the road and it’s independent of your car battery.

    I’ll have to poke around on your site a bit more. Looks like you’re doing a nice job with it.

  • I once had one of those RealLites, but the mount kept breaking. I had thought the company that made them was no longer in business, though. I’m glad to see it’s still around.

    Recently I was talking with my 90-year-old father about bicycle visibility. He has macular degeneration and is on a very restricted license — no longer allowed to drive at night among other things — but he asked if I have reflectors on my pedals. I don’t, but my regular bicycle shoes have them. He remarked on how he liked those — it enabled him to make out bicycles from a long ways away (when he used to drive at night).

    Now that I have Mallet Eggbeater pedals, I sometimes ride in my regular street shoes, which means no such reflectors or lights. I’m thinking of getting to something to strap on my ankles.