Monday, February 2, 2009

Bike Headlight

It gets dark early up here in winter, so I've got a little more to say about flashlights. About a year ago my wife and I sold my old Nissan Altima and I used the proceeds (and then some) to buy a nice bicycle for commuting to work. At this time of year, when I first got the bike, it's just getting bright enough when I come home from work that I didn't need much of a headlight, so I thought I was all set up with the cheap headlight from Fred Meyer. As winter came this year I quickly learned just how dark it gets by 5 PM up here in the northwest. I needed a better headlight.

Being the cost-conscious engineer that I am, I did my due diligence researching and looking around before I decided on a solution. There was no way I wanted to pay upwards of a hundred dollars for a headlight. For a while I thought about making my own headlight, but then I found a website that talked all about using flashlights as bicycle headlights (UPDATE: safer for work link, with more ideas). These were cheaper than the parts lists on instructables, more robust, and with this setup you could still easily use it as a regular hand-held flashlight when you weren't biking. I was sold. I headed down to our new Lowe's and got the Task Force 3 Watt LED Flashlight and some conduit hanger and rigged it all up:

I used some JB Weld to make sure the two hangers held together (at the enthusiastic recommendation of the Lowe's guy) and it works great. The flashlight is really bright, especially for only $25. The downside is that it rattles. It's not just the batteries, as the website states, it's something inside the on/off switch endcap. I haven't taken it apart to see if I can figure it out. I love having a light that bright and the rattles don't bother me very much. I worry more about blinding oncoming drivers. It's awesome.

I found a nice addition to my lighting system at Walmart not too many weeks later. They sell a bunch of different Coleman flashlights using Cree XR-E LEDs (the instructables people concur that those are the best). I bought a headlamp for $25 that is even brighter than that Task Force from Lowe's. I seriously could get by with just that on my rides home from work, but I use both now. The Task Force is more focused and goes farther, the headlamp beam spreads out more and lights up the road right in front of me better. With them both blazing I feel ready for the darkest of dark. Lights are cool.

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