We’re now halfway through November, so I’m once again riding home at dusk. I leave UMBC at 5:00 and get home around 5:45. By Thanksgiving, the sunset will be pushing back towards 4:45. At our latitude/longitude, the earliest sunset is about 4:44pm and usually falls around December 9-10. So the next few weeks will be my darkest rides home of the year. I’m riding with the same lighting setup as last year: a Planet Bike Blaze 2w and 1w both mounted on my front bars; a Blaze ½w on my helmet; 3 red flashers (various brands) mounted on the back of the bike (1 on each pannier and one on my rack); and a flasher on the back of my helmet. I’ve been really happy with this setup. In particular, the helmet-mounted headlight is great. It’s not enough to light up the road ahead by itself, but it lights up wherever I happen to turn my head. It’s great for making turns, because I can turn my head to light up the section of road where I’m about to turn, before it’s illuminated by the main headlights. It’s also good for lighting up objects to either side of the road, looking at my cyclometer, chain/drive train, etc. I find it particularly useful in areas without a lot of ambient lighting. The Planet Bike lights have a very user-friendly mounting bracket, which makes them very nice for commuting. It’s easy to move them back and forth between bikes, take them off when locking up the bike, etc., and if necessary, I can use one as a flashlight. The lights also use standard AA batteries. I use NiMH rechargeable batteries, which work great. I steer clear of lights that use proprietary battery packs, because they tend to be expensive to replace.
In other news, I bought a new jacket this year too. It’s a Novara Conversion Jacket (REI house brand) with removable sleeves. I’ve always been a fan of removable sleeves, particularly in Spring and Autumn. I had a similar jacket that I bought from Performance, but one of the sleeve zippers broke after about a year. The REI jacket was about $15 more than the Performance version, but it’s better made in almost every way. The zippers are higher quality, and it also has front pockets and a hanging loop on the collar, all of which the Performance jacket lacked, and the material seems higher quality. I’ll be sure to post more about it after I’ve ridden with it for awhile.