Oregon Manifest Winners

Oregon Manifest

The winners of the Oregon Manifest Constructor’s Design Challenge are now posted to the Oregon Manifest website.

Oregon Manifest

A Minimalist Lighting System

Planet Bike Blaze 2W
Planet Bike Blaze 2W

A common question is, “What is a simple, minimalist lighting set-up for commuting and utility riding that provides enough light to both see and be seen by, yet doesn’t cost an arm and a leg?”

In the past, the answer was not so clear cut because lights that were powerful enough to see and be seen by were neither simple nor inexpensive. Now, with the advent of highly efficient LED light emitters (aka “bulbs”), sufficiently powerful lights have become both simple and relatively inexpensive. Unless someone is participating in 24-hour mountain bike races or on-road ultra-endurance events, both of which require ultra-high-powered lighting and extremely long run times, a perfectly functional lighting system can be had for under $100.

There are a number of alternatives on the market, but my favorite minimalist system consists of a Planet Bike Blaze 2W headlight and a Planet Bike Superflash tail light.

The Blaze 2W Headlight

The Blaze 2W is a two-watt headlight powered by 2/AA batteries*. It has high and low beams plus a blinding “Superflash” strobe. Run times are excellent at 5 hours on high, 12 hours on low, and 18 hours on strobe. It has a tight, but surprisingly bright, round beam (I prefer a slightly wider beam, but that would also diminish the intensity of the beam, so it’s a fair trade-off). The casing is made of plastic with an alloy heat-sink and a rubber seal where it comes apart for changing batteries. It comes supplied with an adjustable, quick-release handlebar mount. The Blaze is a great little headlight that gets the job done with minimal fuss.

The Superflash Tail Light

The Superflash tail light is available in three models: the 1-watt Turbo, the 1/2-watt Stealth, and the 1/2-watt original. They’re all sufficiently bright and eye-catching. The Superflash strobe pattern is so bright and distinctive that it’s recognizable from a quarter of a mile away. And recognize it I do; it has become so ubiquitous among battery-powered tail lights that I see one nearly every day throughout the winter commuting season. The Superflash is popular for good reason: it’s tiny, incredibly bright, lightweight, reasonably priced, with great run times and that distinctive, eye-catching strobe pattern.

Planet Bike Superflash Stealth
Planet Bike Superflash Stealth

The Superflash comes supplied with a seat-post style clamp and a built-in clip. A bracket for mounting down low on a rear rack is also available (sold separately). Though it’s not necessary, we sometimes run two on our commuters; one on the seatpost and one on the rear rack. As you can imagine, motorists give us a wide berth.

The Blaze 2W / Superflash combo is a great value in a minimalist lighting set-up for commuting and utility riding. The Blaze provides enough light to both see and be seen by, and the Superflash is the class-leading tail light. Sure, it’s possible to spend more and put together a high-powered battery or dynamo system, but if you’re looking for a simple and effective lighting system that’s easy to install and easy on your pocketbook, it’s hard to beat these little LEDs from Planet Bike.

Planet Bike

Disclosure: Planet Bike is a sponsor of this website. They’re also one of the most active supporters of bicycle advocacy groups in the industry. Read more about their programs here.

*Note: I highly recommend the use of rechargeable batteries. You can read my article on rechargeables here.

Adventure Cyclist Magazine now in PDF

Adventure Cyclist Magazine

Current members of the Adventure Cycling Association can now access full issues of Adventure Cyclist magazine online in PDF format.

More info at Adventure Cycling

New York Doctors Support Complete Streets

NYC Separated Bike Lane
Photo © Spencer Thomas, CC 2.0

A group of 140 New York area medical professionals have signed a letter urging Mayor Bloomberg to continue his efforts aimed at improving bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure in the city. The letter, co-sponsored by Transportation Alternatives and the New York State Academy of Family Physicians, was released yesterday. The complete text follows:

Dear Mayor Bloomberg,

We, the undersigned medical professionals, write to acknowledge and encourage your efforts to calm traffic and make New York City streets safer for bicyclists and pedestrians. As a result of your efforts, from re-envisioning Times Square to building the first protected bicycle lanes in the U.S., more New Yorkers are biking and walking than ever before. Mayor Bloomberg, we urge you to continue to set ambitious goals for how our streets and public spaces can help make all of New York City more healthy and safe.

Considering that streets and sidewalks make up 80 percent of New York City’s public space, the pedestrian plazas, car-free spaces, neighborhood bike networks and world-class bicycle lanes you have created are vital to the public health of our city. In piloting Safe Routes to School and Safe Streets for Seniors programs, reducing car hours in our largest parks and producing events like neighborhood play streets and Summer Streets, you are pioneering the redistribution of our public space for health’s sake.

These changes help pave the way for a city that breathes cleaner air and is in better physical condition. Commuting to work by bicycle or increasing the distance of daily walks has been shown to promote weight loss better than any exercise program or medication we could prescribe. Vital to fighting the epidemics of asthma and obesity is the opportunity for children to have safe places to play and clean air to breathe. The traffic calming infrastructure you have built is as valuable as a playground toward encouraging active youth and instilling healthy habits that will last a lifetime.

Thanks to your leadership, bicycling is the fastest growing mode of transportation in New York City and pedestrian safety is at an all-time high. Mayor Bloomberg, we enthusiastically support your efforts to improve bicycling and walking in New York City. As you shape your legacy, please continue to make safe, complete streets part of the prescription for a healthy New York City.

View the Letter

Happy Autumnal Equinox

Autumnal Equinox 2011

In the northern hemisphere the autumnal equinox occurs at 9:04 a.m. UTC today. An equinox occurs twice a year, when the tilt of the Earth’s axis is inclined neither away from, nor towards the Sun. I always look forward to this date because it marks the change of seasons and the impending arrival of the cool breezes and lovely colors of fall. It also means it’s time to start playing with bike lights again, which happens to be one of my favorite fall/winter pastimes.

Bike Theft Social Experiment

Changing Perceptions


As I was riding home the other night, with cars streaming by and not another bicyclist in sight, it suddenly dawned on me that we have a long way to go before we bike commuters “own” a significant portion of the urban/suburban landscape. Sure, there are bright spots such as Portland, Davis, Boulder, Minneapolis, and a handful of other unusually bike-friendly cities, but in most places, the reality on the ground is still fairly bleak. However you choose to spin it, it’s difficult to get past the fact that bicycles still only account for around 1% of the trips made in the U.S.¹.

There are many people working to improve that number, but everyone agrees it’s going to be a long time before our bicycle share approaches what we see in the bike-centric European countries. To put things in perspective, according to the same source cited above, the Netherlands has a bicycle mode share of approximately 30%. Education, political action, improvements in infrastructure, and rising gas prices may help to increase bicycle use in the U.S., but ultimately it’s going to take a profound change in the way we Americans think about personal transportation to break the spell of the automobile.

So what can we do as individuals to help move along this process? Supporting organizations such as The Alliance for Biking and Walking, the League of American Bicyclists, Bikes Belong, and the myriad other regional and local advocacy groups is a great start. These organizations work in the political and public realms to further the interests of all bicyclists. But on a personal level, perhaps even more effective is the act of simply riding our bikes everyday to set an example for those who have never considered using a bicycle for transportation. By using bicycles for transportation in our local communities, we demonstrate that bicycling is a simple and effective way to get around and get things done. The sight of average people doing practical things on bikes is a powerful image that helps to dispel the myth that bicycling is only for children, athletes, or the less fortunate in society. Changing that misperception is arguably one of the most effective things we can do to get more people riding.

1. Source: John Pucher, Transportation Quarterly, 98-1

© 2011 EcoVelo™