Biggest Bike Headlight I’ve Ever Seen

I was scanning photos of the visit of the Delta Queen steamboat to Cairo, Ill., in 1968 for my other blog when I spotted this bike. I thought he had a bowling ball attached to the handlebars.

When I blew it up, I could see wires hanging from it. It was the world’s biggest bike headlight. I’d love to know what he used to power it.

Delta Queen

Go here to see vintage photos of the Delta Queen before she was turned into a floating boutique hotel in Chattanooga.

Other posts about bicycle lighting

Here’s a year-end review of cycle lighting I did at the end of 2009.

FlashBak Bike Safety Light

Right after I read a review of the Flashbak on the Bike Commuter blog, I wrote the folks who make them and asked if I could have one for review.

Within a couple of days, one arrived in the mail.

Is this a garter belt for my Camelbak?

My first thought was, this looks like some kind of kinky garter belt for my CamelBak M.U.L.E.. The square nylon strappy thing has 10 BRIGHT LEDs embedded in it. The four alligator clips are to attach the device to your hydration pack, jersey, panniers or whatever.

The solid square box in the middle is where the three AA batteries live. It has a power switch on it. I leave mine on all of the time because the other wire on the right is a remote switch. The neat thing about it is that it blinks in time with the LEDs on the back to confirm that it’s turned on.

How well does it work?

As a photographer, I hate to admit that sometimes 1,000 words ARE better than a picture.

It works MUCH better than the video indicates. For some reason, the FlashBak is much more visible to the eye than you would think from looking at the video. Inventor Brad Beneski said that he had the same problem when he tried to shoot his videos.

FlashBak video

I can see the light reflecting off stuff on the sides and behind me when I’m going down the road. Cars seem to give me more room. One night I wore it under my orange Campmor Rain Cape and I looked like a big orange pumpkin. That doesn’t come through clearly on the video.

What was the setup?

If you look at the video or my lighting reviews, you’ll see that I love lights and reflective devices. Some of the videos were taken of me on my bike, which has a Planet Bike Blinky Super Flash strobing away and a generator-powered B&M 4DToplight Senso Multi burning steady. On the back of my Camelbak is a highly-reflective Slow Moving Vehicle triangle. Other sequences were shot when my riding partner, Osa, was on her bike, where she has a blinky and pedal reflectors. (She was wearing my Camelbak.)

I have a SON generator-powered Busch & Muller Lumotec IQ Cyo R N Plus on the front of my bike. It puts out a great beam of well-aimed light. It also tended to cause the SMV triangle to light up so much that it overpowered the FlashBak.

Would I ride with one all of the time?

If I was a touring rider who didn’t plan to ride in dark, foggy or rainy conditions often, I’d probably pass on the FlashBak, particularly if I didn’t wear a hydration pack. On the pack, it’s pretty much put it on and forget about it. It would be a hassle to put it on a jersey.

If I was a commuter riding under those conditions, I’d definitely consider it. It puts out a lot of light that’s highly visible from both the back and sides. It also has a great, “Hey, Maude, What’s That?!” factor.

Where can I get one?

If you live in Texas or Louisiana, you might find a bike shop that carries them. Otherwise, go to the FlashBak web site and tell ’em that I sent you.

What do other reviewers say about the FlashBak?

Any other FlashBak videos out there?


I was given a FlashBak for review. You may read my policy about reviews and advertising here.

Flashlights for Bike Headlights?

14 Days Eczema Curen-bottom: 10px;” title=”Flashlight used as bike headlight” src=”×373.jpg” alt=”” width=”500″ height=”373″ />Kid Matt shot this picture in front of a local supermarket the other night with his cell phone. He was questioning whether or not this was better than no light.

I’m going to have to vote for low-tech over no-tech any day. What I DIDN’T see in this or any of his other photos was a taillight.

Quick-and-Dirty bike lights

Here’s what I keep in my Surly LHT’s Arkel Tailrider Trunk Bag for backup and loaner lighting.

I like riding at night and I particularly enjoy introducing newbies to the experience. You can read about my lighting choices here. My failsafe lighting equipment consists of a generic flashing taillight, a Maglite, and a spiffy Velcro strap device to hold the flashlight onto the handlebar.

Here’s what it looks like with the Maglite attached

The mount is simple to set up, holds the light securely and has never failed on me. My LBS used to have a jar of them next to the cash register. I’ve bought half a dozen over the years for less than $5 each. I guess a significant number of my friends have liked them better than I did, because I’m down to my last one.

I’d love to tell you where to find one, but my LBS said they haven’t been able to buy new ones for quite a while.

Don’t underestimate the tiny Maglite

I used to keep one attached to the side of my helmet to read my computer in the dark, shine at cars who looked like they weren’t going to stop and to act as a handfree flashlight. The pinpoint of light is an effective be-seen light. It also does a pretty good job of lighting up the road right in front of you if you don’t have anything better.

Review of Flashbak coming

I’ve been putting off writing a review of the FlashBak since the Fall because I could never shoot a video that does the product justice. I promise I’ll have it up in the next few days. This may be one of those cases where a picture ISN’T worth 1,000 words. The darned thing works much better than my pictures show.

Year in Review: Bicycle Lights

Truck Lights near St. Louis, MO[Editor’s note: This is part of a series of year-end reviews of reviews I’ve written throughout the year.]

I have “friends” who claim that my Surly Long Haul Trucker is lit up like this 18-wheeler Bro Mark saw in a St. Louis truck stop last year.

I wish.

I love lights

Half a century ago, when I got my driver’s license, Missouri pushed a safety slogan, “Lights on for safety.” The campaign must have worked, because I run with my car and my bike headlights on.

I started out with a NiteRider Trail Rat

When I first started riding at night, I bought a NiteRider Trail rat for about a hundred bucks. I liked the size, weight, output and the plug-and-forget charger.

What I didn’t like was running out of battery power on a long ride.

Next light: NiteRider Pro-12E

The NiteRider Pro-12E used a bottle-cage battery and had longer run time on low power settings. It powered the brightest taillight I’ve ever used. But, it, too, left me stranded in the dark and having to rely on a backup light on long rides. A ride’s not fun when you see the battery charge indicator dropping and you have a bunch of miles yet to go.

A SON generator was the answer

Wayne lacing spokes into SON generator hubA generator hub was the perfect solution. I had light as long as I had legs. I never had to worry about charging batteries or whether I remembered to pack the charger or the cost of replacement batteries. (That’s why I finally quit using the NiteRider Pro-12E: the battery pack needed replacing and I didn’t want to put the money into it.)

I used the SON on my Trek 1220 and then had a wheel built to move it over to the Surly Long Haul Trucker.

You can see the wheel being built here.

DLumotec Oval N Plus

Lumotec and DLumotecI used several different types of lights with the SON. I started out with two halogen bulb lights and found them “OK.” I was happier when I switched the primary light to an LED version, the DLumotec Oval Plus.

  • It came up to full brightness almost immediately.
  • It had a standlight that would glow when you stopped pedaling.
  • Because it was LED instead of halogen bulb, it didn’t darken as it aged and bulb life wasn’t a factor. You could run it all the time.

B&M IQ Cyo R N Plus

Surly Long Haul Trucker with Cyo IQ and Flare5 headlghtsWhen I read a review of the Cyo IQ on one of my favorite bike blogs, EcoVelo, I just had to try one. It’s the best generator light I’ve owned. I didn’t even consider trying to hook up a secondary light with it. It’s just not needed.

Here’s a description of how I installed the light, including a video.

Cheap be-seen light

I bought a couple cheap Viewpoint Flare 5 LED Headlights from Performance before Kid Matt and I took off for a cross-Florida trip. I figured they’d be good backup lights. We were about 20 miles around and he had about a 1/4-mile lead on me. Just for the heck of it, I put the Flare in strobe mode. He was really impressed with how visible it was.

I’ve kept it on the bike as a be-seen ever since. Battery life is excellent. It pops off its mount quickly if you need a flashlight, too. Matt and a lot of other reviewers have had problems with the switch. I wouldn’t count on it for a primary light.

How to be seen from behind

Three taillightsEven though statistics show that the odds from being hit from behind are less than most folks would guess, I still like to be highly visible.

I use passive relectors and taillights.

I moved my RealLite, NiteRider taillight and generator-powered B&M 4DToplight Senso Multi from my Trek 1220 to my LHT, even though I quit using my NiteRider when the battery died. One of these days I’ll get around to stripping it off.

Here’s how I have them mounted and a full description of each.

Flashbak Safety Light

When I get over the cold that’s laid me low, I’ll be doing a review of the Flashbak Safety Light that the vendor was kind enough to send me. I had hoped to have someone shoot it in action on this week’s Freakbike Militia Ride, but the skies opened up two blocks up the road and I had to cover it with my bike cape. The thing was bright enough that it lit up the whole back of the cape from underneath. I was impressed.

UPDATE: Here is the review of the FlashBak.

Slow-moving vehicle triangle and Flash Flag

Slow Moving Vehicle sign attached to Camelbak MULEI have a Slow Moving Vehicle triangle on the back of my Camelbak and one on my left rear pannier when I’m using one. It’s just another way for me to send the message, “Treat me like a tractor.”

I experimented with a Flash Flag for one ride. The jury’s still out on this. I may fool around with a better way to mount it.

NiteRider MiNewt Mini vs Trail Rat

NiteRider Trail Rat versus NiteRider MiNewt Mini-USBSon Matt, who inherited my original NiteRider Trail Rat has migrated to a NiteRider MiNewt Mini-USB with Li-ion Battery.

He’s convinced it’s the greatest thing since sliced bread. [Editor’s note: sliced bread is great for sandwiches, but it doesn’t work very well to light the road.]

You can read his full review here.

Glo Gloves help my hand signals stand out.

Way back in 2003, I tested the prototype for the current version of the Spor Glo Glove. I liked it well enough to use it when I’m riding at night when conditions are a bit iffy.

You can read my full review here, but the thing you may find most interesting is the video of what I look like riding down the road at night.

Other Bike Reviews

You might like to read some of the other year-end reviews I’ve done recently;

Freakbike Sports 480 LEDs for Halloween

Reader Michael Getzie commented, “I really enjoy your site, just wanted to say thanks for all of the great info you provide. check out my ride on youtube, search for; frozenpeasandcorn, hope you like.”

The YouTube description says, “Covered my bicycle with 480 LED Halloween lights, Powered by 3 Sealed Lead Acid 8.5AH batteries and a 175 watt inverter.”

That’s a lot of juice. About one notch below an Iranian nuclear reactor.

I am humbled

I thought I was the brightest manmade object on the globe (we’re talking lights, not IQ).

I bow before the master.

Thanks for the link, Michael.