heck knows how many years ago, i used to have a commute, a distance undertaken on a bicycle on a regular basis. those were the halcyon days of yore, when my abode wasn't but five minutes up the road from a cosy office. those were the days when men were men, and i was ill-equipped for the wind and rain usually blasting in my face as i pedalled less than serenely down the latter part of the a77. in the dark mostly, because work started early and scotland has always been wall to wall winter, except when it's not.
however, on one of those dark mornings, as i made my way gingerly from quiet country road onto the busy even at that time, dual carriageway, some distance ahead was a red flashing light. if i may put this in context, my employment situation of the time revolved around prestwick airport, and places with runways have a tendency to be speckled all about with flashing lights of one hue or another. the flashing light in question, however, was not immediately connected with the airport runway the end of which i was about to cycle past, but moving in a similar direction to my own.
bicycle lighting of the era amounted to little more than large plastic boxes and a round reflector unit on the front containing a small bulb. the size was dictated by two separate conditions: firstly, bulb technology wasn't what it has become, and perhaps more tellingly, batteries were sizeable artifacts that weighed as much as some of today's carbon bikes and needed their own space, which was often quite considerable. the disappointing part, as many of you will know to your cost, was that these batteries rarely lasted long enough for a return journey, so it was often necessary to carry a spare set should the work day last longer than intended. on one or two occasions the batteries didn't last even long enough to get to work in the first place.
the red flashing light, as you will all have realised, was not one of these ever-ready forms of illumination. it says little for my prowess on the bike that i never caught up with that flashing light, so for many a long day, i had no idea to what it had been attached, and the thought that it may have been on a bicycle didn't occur.
move forward to the current century, when safety is uppermost in the minds of most cyclists, particularly those who have an early morning or late evening commute, and the physical equivalent of blackpool's illuminations are now available to have that bicycle seen by not only other cyclists, but buses, cars, taxis and trucks. unless your commute traverses similar to the wide-open spaces that surround the villages on islay, or any other substantially unlit roadway, it's possible that a retina-ripper, as i have seen advertised, will not need to grace your handlebar, nor empty your wallet of the substantial amounts that those command. more often than not, the simple act of being seen is enough to decorate the seatpost and handlebar, but there's still the not inconsiderable consideration of size; don't kid yourselves, it matters.
the more regular offerings of front and rear led lights are still often constrained by the need to function from at least a couple of batteries; and while those batteries do seem to last for longer than common sense would dictate, if the batteries were even smaller, wouldn't that just be compact and bijou? and perhaps allow for easy recharging. the problem with the latter option is the perceived need for a charger at each end of the equation; usually one at home and one at work, to save carrying a bulky, black plastic brick around in that brooks leather saddlebag. unless there's an easier way?
well, not that i would have believed it had i not actually fitted a pair to the cielo, just such an animal(s) actually exists in the tiny shapes of moonlights. these consist of a vertical rear with a cluster of four leds at the top, and a horizontal front light that looks like a scale model of a real one. both fix to either seatpost or handlebar by means of integrated notched rubber straps, and switch on via an incredibly small and very gloved finger unfriendly rubber switch. but the really clever bit is in the cable that comes with each unit; this plugs into a shielded socket on each light, while the other end plugs into the usb port on a computer. thus, when sitting in one of those glass fronted offices in docklands, viewing far more computer screens than is appropriate for any human being, you can be safe in the knowledge that your lights will have a full charge ready for the homeward journey in the dark. i can attest to the brightness of their beam having comprehensivley dazzled myself by switching the rear light on while trying to figure out how to switch the rear light on.
you will not be missed.
the rubber covered switches are the only minor downfall, being very difficult to depress if wearing gloves of any description. and there is precious little chance of switching the rear on while cycling, such is the miniatureness of it. but those are minor foibles hardly worth quibbling over; with the ease and convenience of recharging, it makes perfect sense to switch the darned things on the minute you leave the house or office.
a very nice bit of lateral thinking and keeping up with the technology of the day. now if they could just incorporate a few gigabytes of memory, we could save our homework at the same time.
moonlights should be available from fine examples of modern bikeshops and cost approximately £24 each including the cable.
posted wednesday 27 october 2010..........................................................................................................................................................................................................