When I first got my Catrike Pocket it had an inexpensive lighting setup already on it. This consisted of a mount that held a small flashlight and also held a computer on the accessory mount up front, and a flashing rear light mounted on the rear frame.
I started out simply using this setup. I don’t typically ride at night. However, I suspect like most people who ride on the road regularly, I am concerned with being visible to others as much or more than helping with what I can see. Having lights, in addition to a flag, seems a good call on the open road.
My first change was not planned. The taillight apparently was not happy in its relationship with me, and chose to leave me in early August. To be fair, there had been warning signs that things were not going well - it had fallen off the trike on a particularly rough patch of the Perryville Road trail in Rockford, making me stop and pick up the pieces. But when it left, it was truly gone, which is to say it fell off somewhere along a trail and I have no idea exactly where. I noticed it missing when I got back - it didn’t even leave a note.
I replaced the taillight with the Blitzu Cyborg 168T. This light had good reviews on Amazon, looked to have a nice, stretching, adjustable mounting system1, and it was rechargeable. It came from Amazon as advertised, and I added it to the back of the Trike. The one change I made here was to put it up on the horizontal crossbar rather than the vertical, which put it a little higher on the trike, hopefully in a better sightline for drivers coming up behind me.
I’ve been pleased with how it works thus far. The only situation in which it had failed on me was when I rode in the Farmondo in Sterling, IL. I rode the 43 mile course and somewhere in the 3 hours and 24 or so minutes of the event the taillight gave up the ghost. It must have been near the end of that time, however - there were two stops along the course, and I don’t recall it being out on either of those.
As the days have been getting shorter, I also started to think about the lighting up front. The original setup has been fine for riding during the day, I think. But, while I don’t really plan to do nighttime rides per se, it’s becoming a more common occurrence that the daylight is running out before I get home. Given this, it seemed like a good idea to have something that would make me more visible at night, and would let me see things better in the dark as well.
I returned to Amazon2 to see what they had to offer in this department. My primary criteria were brightness, a good mounting system, and that it be rechargeable. There are a lot of bike lights on Amazon. Ultimately I landed on this light by INBIKE. It’s bright - brighter than most of the lights I looked up, has side markers, is water resistant, and can also be used as a flashlight. And the mounting system looked convincing enough on the site1.
I didn’t want to remove the old light, mostly because I wanted to keep the computer mounted there, so I also ordered a Minoura Accessory Holder to mount it to. This also has a couple of additional benefits:
- It puts the light up higher, further enhancing visibility; and
- It has space for at least one additional item to be mounted to it. I’ve considered putting my iPhone up front rather than off to the side, for example, so this would offer that option in the future.
Everything came together well - things mounted as expected, and seem to attach appropriately. This is the initial setup I’ve put together:
(I adjusted the angle of the top light after I took that picture)
Probably the most fiddly part of getting things right was the Minoura Accessory Holder. I’m still not certain the angle that it sits at is perfectly vertical (this is a need I have - don’t judge me). In addition, the screws in it take three different sizes of Allen wrench, and you have to use all three to get everything tightened down. However, once it’s in place it seems to work well.
Of course, once I had it all in place I had to give it a try:
Out in the dark of the open prairie this brightens things up pretty nicely. I rode about a half mile in each direct to try it out, and I certainly felt comfortable that I was seeing far enough ahead of me to judge the road - I was not able to outrun my headlight.
I noted that being rechargeable was an important criteria for me with both lights. I’m sure opinions vary on this point - I am old enough, and geeky enough, to remember the debates over whether it was better for a cell phone to have a removable battery. But for me, being rechargeable has multiple benefits:
- I can plug them in after each ride to be sure they are fully juiced up for the next trip. With regular, removable batteries you are left with whatever is left from the last usage, with no way to know how much that leaves you, which means...
- I don’t have to carry spare batteries with me. AA and AAA batteries aren’t especially heavy or bulky in small quantities, but they do take up some space, and remembering to replace them as you go is something that is easy to not do.
- I can charge them in my car. In most cases, my car also doubles as my bike prep station. I keep my air pump, helmet, gloves, chain oil, etc, in there. I also typically plug in the lighting items in the car (I have a separate battery for this purpose), so I always have them with me, fully charged, and ready to go.
- I can plug them into my power pack if they run out while I am riding, and recharge on the go. While I don’t want to carry AA/AAA batteries with me, I pretty much always have the power pack on the back of the trike. This would also be a benefit for folks running with hub generators.
The debate over removable phone batteries seems to be resolved, so maybe this isn’t the question it once was. Still, there seem to be plenty of bike light options that still have removable batteries out there, so...
In my experience, the mounting system is at least as important as the product itself when it comes to bike accessories. I’ve had excellent lights, for example, that have been nearly unusable because it’s too difficult to get them to strap properly to the handlebars or other mounting points. ↩
For the record, I absolutely believe that you should support your local bike shop whenever possible. I do this where I can for repairs, tune-ups, and so on, and I find them to be great. Unfortunately, our most local bike shop is a half-hour away, and not in a location that I routinely travel to for other things. ↩