by Matt Gissibl
Building Lights with All Around Visibility
It’s that time of year again, when the short days force most of us to ride to and from work in the dark. Wisconsin state law requires bicycles to have a white light on the front and a red light or red reflector on the back. There is a blinding array of lighting systems out there. How do you choose between systems with different kinds of batteries, varying lumens vs. watts, helmet mount vs. handlebar mount vs. seat post mount?… well you get the picture.
Over the years, I have tried many different systems, but my current favorite set-up for commuting comes from LIGHT & MOTION. I use both their Vis 180 and Vis 360. The VIS 180 is a seat-post mounting taillight that gets its name because it can be seen from 180 degrees, not just from the rear like most rear blinkie lights. The light comes with mounting hardware so you can put it on your seat post, frame or a seat bag. This light has two special features that I really like. First, it has a tool-free mount, locking mount clip for your frame or bag so it is really easy to get on and off.
Secondly, it has a convenient cell phone micro USB charging system. No more running out to the drug store to get batteries on the way home because your light was going dead on your morning commute, just plug it into your lap top and it charges while you are at work.
My “head” light is the VIS 360, perhaps the ultimate commuter light. No prizes if you guess where it got its name. Joking aside, I don’t know of any other light that is visible from 360 degrees, so you are seen by all, in all directions. This light mounts on top of your helmet, and works as both a front and a rear tail light. This light has the same two key features of its smaller VIS 180, the tool-less mount and the a convenient cell phone micro USB charging system.
Light & Motion’s suggested retail for the systems are $99 for the VIS 180 and $129 for the VIS 360. The Vis 360+ is twice the brightness at 250 lumens has a button on the tail light to toggle it off when riding in a group, it sells for $189. This feature will also be added to the Vis 360 later this year.
In addition to lighting up the road, the VIS 360 emits light in all directions so you can see and be seen.
I cannot begin to tell you how much I appreciate the safety and good lighting I get from the Light & Motion 180/360 combo. I call these two lights the “diffusers” because when I use my VIS 180 or VIS 360 on my day commutes, as well as night commutes, they really seem to defuse road rage. I just don’t seem to have motorists yelling at me when I use these lights. I don’t miss hearing those familiar calls to “get on the side walk” or “get off the road.”
Perhaps it is because I have the 360 on my helmet, so it shines at motorists when I look toward them. Maybe it is just because motorists are hypnotized by all my blinking lights. I don’t know the reason, but I’m curious; do you find that you seem to get more respect from people driving motor vehicles when you are all lit up?
Matt Gissible is the Bicycle Federation of Wisconsin Development Coordinator www.bfw.org