As the season turns to Spring, Chicagoboyz turn to wholesome fresh-air pursuits such as bicycle riding. Unhappily we must share the road with motorists including various drunks, hotheads, incompetents, text messaging fiends and other menaces. A friend of ours who is a lawyer has taken to yelling at drivers who buzz him, advising them of the law requiring them to give cyclists at least three feet of space when passing. We have great respect for the law but prefer more active measures. To somewhat improve our survival odds we now limit our hours of operation, have increased the proportion of our riding done on off-road trails and, when we do go on the road, light ourselves up like a Christmas tree. (To those who are troubled by bright flashing lights in traffic I can only say: Yes, such lights are troubling, that is why they are used on police and other emergency vehicles that are at high risk of collision.)
In this regard the following products are ones that I have used extensively and recommend:
This is one of the best daylight-visible tail lights and probably best for the money. (The best, cost-no-object tail lights I have seen are made by Dinotte. However, the current Cygolites aren’t much dimmer, are smaller and you can buy five or six of them for the price of one Dinotte tail light.)
These little Cygolite headlights are great for daytime use as front-facing white flashers, and if you get caught out after dark they have a very respectable steady headlight beam for getting home. Their main limitation is a small battery that only lasts for an hour or so in steady headlight mode. You’ll need a brighter light with a bigger battery to ride at night. (Here’s an even brighter version of this light.)
MagicShine is a line of relatively inexpensive Chinese LED headlights of decent quality. The MJ-872 is an older model but still available. (Here’s a list of MagicShine products, including newer models, available on Amazon.) I’ve used an MJ-872 for a couple of years and it’s been reliable. It has a crude rubber-band mounting system that works well as there is little to go wrong with it. These lights are wicked bright, the newer ones no doubt even more so (an Amazon review of a similar product said it’s so bright it kills vampires and will burn a shadow in your drywall, which is exaggerating but not by much). While this light is adequate for night cycling on dark roads the beam is too wide for night trail use unless you use it in conjunction with a similarly-bright narrow-beam headlight. One weakness of the MJ-872 is its lack of a flashing mode, which makes it less useful during the day, which is why I bought the Cygolite headlight mentioned above. Other MagicShine models do have flashing capability. Overall, in my experience and the experience of my friends MagicShine products are good values.
I just started using these. They are very bright and reflective when new but can get grimy with use. We’ll see how well they hold up.
These mirrors are excellent. (Click the Amazon link to see a clearer image of the mirror on the Amazon site.) I prefer the standard model as the compact model sat too close to my face, but YMMV. They stay adjusted and the company will replace your mirror for a few bucks if it breaks. Not everyone likes these mirrors as they block part of the forward view on the side of your glasses the mirror is mounted on, but for the price it’s worth trying one to see if it works for you.
There are also many reflectors, spoke- and pedal-mounted reflectors, reflective tape and similar products, too many to list. Many of them are cheap and work well at night. It may be worth experimenting with such things if you ride much. I am mainly concerned with visibility during daylight hours and around sunset, when bright headlights and flashers seem to work best.
Whatever safety equipment you use, keep your head up, ride defensively, don’t wear headphones, and avoid public roads as much as possible. Self-driving cars can’t come soon enough.