Lighten up, dummy

Dear Wife of Cyclist:

Your husband is a dummy. Not a bleeding idiot or a complete maroon, but a dummy. That’s actually a good thing because dummy is repairable. Dummy can be taught. To be sure, he can’t be taught much, but a few simple tricks are within his feeble mental range.

And this trick will keep him alive.

Wife, I’m writing you because he has read this lecture a bunch of times but it hasn’t sunk in because after scanning the first couple of paragraphs and seeing that he’s not mentioned, he goes back to This inability to focus is related to that thick layer of concrete surrounding the somewhat smooth cerebral cortex which in turn covers his pea-sized brain.

Wife, here’s what happened yesterday, and it’s the same thing that happens every day. I showed up for a bike ride and I was the only one with headlights and taillights. That probably doesn’t mean a lot to you because it was, you know, daytime, and we know that no one ever gets hit during the day.

But consider this: Among the countless cyclists I’ve represented for being hit by cars, only two were ever hit while Christmas treed. That’s right. Except for two people, all the others were hit while riding without lights.

That’s an ersatz stat, I know. Personal experience. Anecdotal. But it is common knowledge that most bikers get hit because the cager doesn’t see them. And you know what? It’s a lot easier to be seen when you’re riding a Christmas tree. Please don’t send me links to lit-up riders who’ve been hit and killed. This is a question of probability. Just like you’re more likely to smash into something when drunk, you’re more likely to get creamed when the cager doesn’t see you until the last second, i.e. the moment your head is coming through the windshield.

If your hubby drank a fifth of bourbon and then asked for his car keys, would you let him drive? If he loaded his 2nd Amendment Accident Device and suggested that the family sit down for a fun game of Russian roulette, would you agree?

But that’s what happens on practically every ride I’m on. Your husband shows up without lights. What’s worse, he gives me shit for having them.

What’s worsty-worst, when pressed he admits he actually owns lights!

“I use them when I ride to work,” he proudly but stupidly says.

“I use them when it’s dark,” he explains, even though he only rides during the day and even though he ignores the fact that dusk and dawn are notoriously dangerous times to be cycling.

Why is your husband such a dummy? It’s simple. He doesn’t ride with lights at all times for these reasons:

  1. He is cheap. He’d rather buy $2,000 wheels for the races he’s never going to do than spend $500 on something that will keep him unmaimed, alive, and able to waste the day watching football.
  2. He is lazy. Lights require charging. He can barely keep gas in the car. How’s a dummy like that supposed to keep a front AND back light powered for bike rides? He’s almost always late to the ride anyway, scurrying around like a crazy person trying to find the other matching armwarmer and skidmark-free chamois.
  3. He is a sheep. The people he admires and fears don’t ride Christmas trees. Why should he?
  4. He is an aero nut. Lights aren’t aero.
  5. He is a weight weenie. Lights add precious grams and he’s already pouring out his water bottles at the base of all the climbs.
  6. He is vain and lights look goofy. (Remind him that feeding tubes and wheelchairs are even less fashionable.)
  7. He is a dummy. Dummies would always rather pay a lot more later than a little bit now.

Wife, can you help me in this endeavor? Before Dummy leaves the house can you please say, “Hey, Dummy, where are your lights?”

When he retorts with “It’s daytime,” tell him to either lighten up or he’s not going.

Better yet, the night before can you please say, “Hey, Dummy, are your lights charged?”

Best, can you please put your foot down and refuse to let him out the door unlit? He may be smelly, talk too much about bikes, be inconsiderate, drink a bit too much, be occasionally impecunious, etc., but he’s your dummy and he deserves to live. More importantly, you deserve to not have to spend the next year rehabbing him out of a fucking wheelchair and teaching him how to walk again and not having to carry his turds out of the bedroom on a tray.

In the event that he really doesn’t own any lights, make the next birthday the equivalent of receiving socks and a tie. Buy for him:

  1. The Diablo headlight, made by Exposure.
  2. The Serfas Orion taillight, made by Serfas.

Lights work, honey. So help a brother out, willya?



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48 thoughts on “Lighten up, dummy”

  1. I’m not weight weanie, an aero nut or someone who cares what cycling snobs think….I’m just a dummy. I will use my lights. Thanks for the safety message.

  2. Another good lesson Mr. Wanky. I need to take them out of summer storage. I guess we get lulled in to this false sense of belief that people are actually looking out for us.

  3. I’ve been using lights all the time for over 2 years now. I’m a 50+ woman who trains mostly solo, and I need to be predictable and visible, so I also signal all my turns and stops and warnings. I used to think that lights and hand signals would make me a Fred, then I realized that an alive Fred is a goal to which to aspire. Drivers have slowed down to thank me for using lights, especially at dusk and dawn. My husband has lights but doesn’t always use them. I’ll forward this to him. Thanks for a cracking good blog.

  4. I have been making much more of an effort lately. First, I started by simply not turning the lights off after my early morning ride when I set out for another morning ride with a different crew. Even when they said “Hey Bird, your lights are still on”. Now more recently I keep my light charged and on the bike, and I put in strobe mode during daylight hours. On a recent 4 day trek guiding a friend, who we intercepted from a PAC Tour ride, home to the Jersey Shore, I rode with my lights on all day long.

    What I need to do now, is get rid of the bulky external battery light I have now, and get this Diablo as it will certainly get less scrutiny from my friends, and is likely to be less of the leg and thigh obstacle my external battery is when it begins to rotate around the top tube.

  5. I was riding to the coffee ride Friday earliesh morning, glanced over my shoulder to make sure it was clear to cross Catalina Ave, as I turned my head, I saw a car coming toward me with the lights on and thought, “Wow, he is REALLY easy to see!” Then the light bulb over my head went on. “Ah! Now I SEE what Seth has been talking about. Good advice. Thank you.

  6. While daytime lights may help, it’s important to keep in mind that they can have no effect if an edge riding position puts you in the blind spot of right-turning motorists or hide you from left-turning motorists until it’s too late.

    So it’s important to know and practice the behaviors will make you safer in addition to using things that may make you safer.

  7. Even for cars, it has been shown that daytime running lights help reduce accidents. That’s why some cars come equipped with daytime lights.

    If daytime lights are good for when one is protected by a steel shell, they might just also be good when one is protected by only a thin layer of spandex underwear.

  8. The uglier the lights, the better. Bright, ugly lights help to keep not only motorists away, but also the vain, ego-maniacal cyclists who would otherwise judge you for your sunglasses or your helmet choices. It’s a double whammy!

  9. Gary from Toronto

    Thanks Seth, I was recently hit buy a truck and only had a rear light on. Once back on my bike will be running both front and rear.

    1. Make sure rear light is super bright. Many run tiny red blinkers that are almost invisible. Sorry about the collision, glad you can still ride.

      1. My favorite rear light, the Princeton Tec Swerve. 25 bux on Amazon, bright as hell, EZ to mount. On, off, blinking, waterproof. Works for ever on triple A’s. Can’t wait to fire me up when I can ride again! 2017, my comeback year!

  10. Michelle Landes

    I ordered both lights and plan on lighting it up like Christmas tree everyday!!! I made it to 50 riding with no lights consider myself lucky!

  11. I’ve had great luck with Serfas Thunderbolt’s front and rear, 8+ hrs flashing, charge via USB. Very visible.

  12. Been using them in daytime since you first brought this up. But still ride a bike on occasion so Wife says that still qualifies me as a dummie. Passed this on to my no-lights-unless-it’s-dark fellow dummies, maybe they’ll at least listen to you. Thanks.

  13. Worsty-worst is only surpassed by crushedy-crushed. Lights and video front and back. Except for Telo….Like it would make any difference!

    1. I run my headlight at Telo. Coming around the corners and especially through the chicane it is absolutely worth having.

  14. I got a load of poop the other day from a fellow cyclist who turned around and claimed to be blinded by my front light. Dude – for gawd’s sake don’t stare into the light. His claim is that I was in a large group and don’t need lights. Of course, when I’m off the back I am no longer in the group.

    Oh, and love to see that slam-brake-stop from cagers. You know, the ones who are about to pull out in front of you, get shocked by your flashing FRONT light and slam on the brakes. Very effective.

    One suggestion (if it’s not already been suggested) is not to have those rear lights on fast flashing. Drunks love to drive straight into flashing lights. And they’re out there mornings after a hard night of drinking. Ask Cece Krone’s friends and family. Cygolight hotshot has a slow fade flash.

    1. When people tell you to turn off your lights you can ask them to take off their seat belts.

      I know that riders have been hit by drunks with lights, but many more without. I’ve also heard that drunks are prone to drive into blinking lights but it’s all anecdotal. Of course when it’s your anecdote that got hit …

      This “moth effect” has not been scientifically proven to exist, but it has been studied quite a bit. Some studies show that bright lights at night attract drivers, others show the opposite. Here is some quick reading on it:

      After a brief review of what’s out there, if there is a moth effect, it’s not limited to drunks. Moreover, having no light at night is clearly worse than being invisible.

  15. “2nd Amendment Accident Device” – good ol’ merka.
    And those Exposure & Serfas lights are both excellent choices.

  16. Pingback: Morning Links: KNBC jumps the gun with complaint over NELA safety project that hasn’t been built yet |

  17. For a rear lite I use a Blitzu Cyborg 168T:

    50 LEDs, 168 Lumens, 5 hours on Flash Mode, $19 (not a typo)

    Compares favorably with your Serfas Orion Blast:
    42 LEDs, 150 Lumens, 8 hours on Flash Mode, $90

    I leave the recharger in the garage, charge it after every ride. My lights lasted from 7:45 – 5pm at the Cool Breeze ride 8 days ago. I’ve received nothing but positive comments from fellow riders about how noticeable my rear light is.

    Can we *please* encourage _slow_ flash instead of fast strobe settings?

    There is plenty of scientific evidence showing that strobing can induce seizures in photosensitive people (drivers, cyclists, pedestrians – anyone). We don’t need to contribute to that problem for these folks.

  18. East Coast baby seal

    Since I started running a front light about 3 years ago, there have been at least 3 incidents of drivers suddenly noticing me and not executing that left hook, or pull-out. The distinctive acceleration, followed by braking hard is unmistakeable.

    I’ve also had a number of oncoming drivers holler out the window “It’s daytime, idiot!” or the equivalent. At which, I just smile. If you can yell at me, you can see me.

    I run a stupid bright rear blinky, a mirror (a very slender bar-end, most people don’t even notice I have it), and radar. In rural/suburban New England, it’s possible to ride without seeing a car for minutes at a time, sometimes many many minutes. That makes it easy to forget that you’re sharing the road. The beep of the radar is an excellent reminder, with plenty of time to check the mirror and make sure I’ve been seen, or plan my escape route. The radar probably isn’t as useful in an urban area where cars are always behind you, but the mirror can at least tell you when they’re a threat.

  19. yup…i’ve been converted…and it is your fault…not from this blog, but for months of blinding me with your stupid flashing headlight while we sip coffee at the Center of the Known Universe.

  20. Amen to that! I was hit by a motorcycle on Rock Store a few years back – almost killed me. Now I run $500 of the brightest lights Dinotte sells front & back. Wish I’d spent the money before…

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