How to Setup your Bike for Night Riding

So this week I went 1/2 time at the day job which is affording me *gasp* time to ride during the day. There are more details on my setup below.

Night Cycling

Bike setup for night riding

As a tribute I made this video of a little bit of my night training escapades (mostly to scare my parents).

The video makes it look a lot darker than it really is (your eyes acclimate a lot). There are a few shots of the Swamp Rabbit Trail, riding through Furman, Climbing with lights off (surprisingly easy, and incredibly cool to do under moonlight), and finally the Paris Mountain Descent. Paris mountain is a pretty primary staple of the night training routine mainly because it’s close to home and there’s virtually NO traffic at night.

As far as Lights go, here are my setup:

Cycling Head Lamp

Light and Motion 1500

Headlamp: Light and Motion Seca 1500

This light is SUPER bright. I usually use it on the med or low setting. The high power is almost too much and kills any low light acclimation your eyes might have. Honestly I can’t think of any reason to have something more powerful. I’ve had cars flash me for high beams, and it seems like if there’s enough light for rainy mountain descents, it’s probably got enough juice for anything.





Light and Motion Urban 400

Light and Motion Urban 400

Handlebars: Light and Motion Urban 400

The handlebar light, for me at least, is best for seeing stuff you’re about to run over. Most of the time I think the eyes are focused pretty far down the road (as they should be), and only glance down occasionally for small obstacle avoidance. Because of this I have this one focused to a pretty narrow area of 5-30 feet ahead of the front wheel. Again this one is USB rechargeable which is REALLY nice for riding into work so you can charge at work.


Serfas Thunderbolt

Serfas Thunderbolt

Finally the Tail Light: The Serfas Thunderbolt

This is a great little light. It’s USB chargible (which I’m a huge fan of) and most importantly for me, it’s really waterproof. The reason why this is an issue with me is that I, like a lot of cyclist I see get the Planet Bike SuperFlash. This is a very bright inexpensive light…but as I’ve found in this case inexpensive = cheap. I’ve personally gone through 3. Not only are they AAA battery powered, but more importantly they are NOT WATERPROOF. I’ve fried 3 in the rain (and one literally fell apart after really nailing a rough bum in the road). Trust me, a rainy night time ride, is not a great time to have a tail light go out on you.



Hopefully this helps anyone curious about how to prep their bike for night riding. I HATE riding indoors, it’s the perfect way to suck the soul and joy out of cycling. If you ride at night there’s a ton of very cool experiences to be had.


What was I thinking

I haven’t had a blog post in a while, and the past few posts I’ve had have been kinda junk.

I’m not going to say I was too busy or had no ideas for utterly awesome blog posts. Mathmatically optimizing riding a hilly TT is my current project post, there’s Matlab involved so it’s pretty intense (my matlab skills have pretty much withered into nothing in the past few months). I had ideas about making a tumblr-type blog just with crappy pictures of cycling (dime a dozon), an incogneeto blog where I wrote my “true” thoughts about amateur cycling (way to much of a landmine field).

Then I started thinking why I haven’t been writing anything for a while, besides the fact that the past 3-4 days I’ve had cold from hell. I started thinking about all the things I wanted to blog about and all the reasons I shot them down. I nixed them because I thought they’d be too inappropriate, no one would like them, not technically thorough etc. I started going through my old blog posts searching for inspiration and I realized that it wasn’t that I didn’t have any good things to write about it was that I was writing for the wrong person: not me.

As selfish as it may sound, hear me out. I went back to the first few posts and realized I wasn’t trying to convince or prove anything to anyone (it may sound like it but, that was just me spouting off…trust me I know such things). Instead I was just writing to get my thoughts and experiences on some permanent medium. To document them, in you know, a Journal.

Growing up I was obsessed with everything related to space, airplanes, and Star Wars. I went to Purdue for Aerospace Engineering and currently design aircraft engines. I only started mountain biking in middle-school but really didn’t start seriously cycling until college. In those past 6 years I’ve meet every single person that I consider a close or distant friend and cycling has become a permanent part of my life. So Rockets 2 Sprockets IS my life. Not this blog per say, but the entire ideal behind this blog is me trying to bridge the massive canyon between these two passions of mine.

So that is what I will now try and return my focus to: a blog/journal…or blournal. I will put down my thoughts and experiences about cycling and airplane stuff at least once a week. The posts obviously public because I’m happy to share my thoughts, experiences, and knowledge with everyone (except the Russians or Chinese…Export Control and all) in the hopes…no I actually have no hopes of anyone reading anything. If a person reads some posts of mine and finds them helpful or insightful, great, if not, I won’t care….anymore.



The cycling industry likes to pride itself in being cutting edge when it comes to Aerodynamics. For many companies this sense of elite technology is what moves their goods. This is a slight exaggeration of the truth, the cutting edge that bikes ride on is more like the edge of a dull plastic butter knife. What’s worst about Aerodynamics in the bike industry, aside from producing some really dumb bikes:

is that it seems like research for bike aerodynamics is done completely backwards. For instance; in most industries that deal with aerodynamics (or any other technical designing), trade studies are first completed, followed by the creation of an initial design based on already proven knowledge. Computer models then run simulations on the design producing data to help optimize the initial design. Then finally, after several design iterations based on computer and analytical analysis, the wind tunnel is used as a proof of concept, since very complex fluid phenomenon cannot be modeled in the computer.
The cycling industry seems to work in reverse. Go on any website and look for some claims of aerodynamic advantage that are backed by any research or legitimate science and you will be looking for a long time. More likely you’ll find something like this, from a Purdue Cycling Club alumni I might add, that makes the design process sound like it STARTS in the wind tunnel and is more like the process of sticking random shit in a wind tunnel (check out 0:50).
Speaking of Purdue Alumni taking over the bike industry, check this out:
Greg is such a Boss. Anyway the point I’m getting as is that when bike companies allocate their R&D funds (which I imagine is way smaller than their marketing budget), it seems like they just blow it all renting a wind tunnel for a day.
What would be more efficient (and cheaper to everybody), would be to do a little research. It’s no secret, except to bicycle manufacturers, that low speed fluid dynamics has been figured out for the past half century. There is a wealth of information and papers published on the subject. So instead spending all their time and money of re-discovering some great aerodynamic phenomenon for reducing drag that was actually used before WWII, they could instead learn about it when they complete their trade studies. That would allow them to figure out better designs to test in the first place, and possibly cut their wind tunnel time dramatically (which is VERY expensive).
Here’s a great example of a Aero tidbit of info that cyclist have just seemed to discover: the Kamm effect. It’s basically a very simple bit of optimizing the already very aerodynamic teardrop shape. Developed in the 30’s, the basic idea is to chop off the end of the teardrop at 50% of the maximum thickness. This will produce a relatively small increase in the drag, but reduce a large amount of the surface area (and thus material which = WEIGHT). It was originally applied to cars

This design concept lead to some pretty iconic cars including the original Ford GT and this classic ’62 Ferrari.

Finally, in the past year, the Kammback has made it’s way into the cycling industry in the form of helmets from not only Giro, but also Louis Garneau:

This is a good concept for helmets in particular. Most likely the design concept came from the idea that most TT guys will ride head down, and having a huge teardrop shape sticking up in the air is bad for drag.
The design is also making it into bike design with Scott, who apparently uses full aircraft wind tunnels for their tests. They’ve incorporated the idea into their new F01 bike for 2011

More importantly they’ve hit the nail on the head for why this type of design is important:
“achieve aerodynamic performance with a light and stiff profile”
By reducing the long tear drop tail of most aero frames you gain a few key benefits. Not only does this reduce a lot of weight, but it also makes the tubing closer to circular, which is much more structurally sound. Finally this chopping of the tail will reduce poor performance that a lot of aero bikes have in cross winds.
As with most other disciplines of designs, the name of the game is optimization. By giving up a little aero performance, the bike (or helmet) can have great gains in other design areas.
Anyway this is all just the opinions of someone who has never actually worked in the bike industry…so Zipp, I know I’ve insulted you in the past, but if you give me a job I’ll take it all back.

Team Camp + Bike

This was the official first team meeting of the Panther/Competitive Cyclist racing team. We all meet up in Cincinnati OH for some riding and getting of the free bike stuff. It was good to get back with what was pretty much the exact same crew as last year’s Panther/RGF team. We had all the usual formalities of the first team meeting, going over the contract, expenses, major target races, and thanking the primary sponsor, Andy Clarke of Panther who is really setting our squad up nice. Then it was on to the good stuff, all the sweet swag we got! Competitive cyclist shipped all our stuff in gigantic bike boxes.

Each box had a persons name and all their stuff: kits, bikes, etc. It was like Christmas opening up the bike boxes, you don’t really know what’s inside, what if we all got Panther team puppys?
Unfortunately I asked my bike not to be built so I didn’t get to ride it around Cincinnati, which turned out to be a bit of an error on my part. First of all, because my rear shifter broke, turning my winter bike into a 2×1 road bike, and secondly because Cincinnati is hilly as crap.

I’m not going to give my heart rate for that ride because it was just downright embarrassing. In all we had two decent 3 hr rides in probably the hilliest country in the Midwest. Got some good team bonding in too:

Once back home I was finally able to build up the Ridley, which by the way is only sponsoring one American racing team: Panther.

Notice the brand new Crank Bro’s Quattro pedals, these are a rarity now and I will sell them to anyone willing to pay me $300.
So I learned an important lesson with this bike, no matter how much I love my 32 hole low profile wheels, deep dish carbon wheels defiantly make your bike look way cooler.
Have only had 2 rides on her so far but the final build weights in at 16 1/2 pounds and runs real good (to steal a saying from NASCAR)

Winter is almost done!!

So winter is almost over, so in her memory, I’m going to post a bunch of epic pictures from my winter riding escapades, and complain about how much it sucks living in the Midwest.

This last picture looks oddly alien for Indiana…yet somehow familiar: