To flash or not

Commuting, Day rides, Audax, Incidents, etc.
Posts: 238
Joined: 21 Apr 2013, 4:10pm
Location: Swindon

To flash or not

Postby LondonBikeCommuter » 1 Nov 2013, 8:34pm

Thought a search would have found something but it hasn't...... SO!

Do you set your lights to flash mode or to constant?

Are there any benefits to either mode for a city bike commuter? For the record I currently flash.

Posts: 86
Joined: 20 Sep 2013, 2:19pm

Re: To flash or not

Postby xcalibur » 1 Nov 2013, 8:44pm

Blinking lights are very noticeable, and I think at least the red rear light makes a difference if only just a bit.

User avatar
Posts: 19355
Joined: 1 Feb 2007, 9:37pm
Location: Caerfyrddin (Carmarthen)

Re: To flash or not

Postby meic » 1 Nov 2013, 8:47pm

Personally I flash whilst it is still light until it gets dark enough that the flash annoys me.

The flash draws attention to you but I have on a few occasions managed to look at other cyclists at exactly the moment that their lights were in the off phase. As the batteries flatten that phase gets longer (though I suppose such batteries would no longer manage constant any more).

I would normally not be on flash mode as my urban riding is just a small break in my normal rural biking and the flashing is unbearable out in the dark.
If the lamp was bright enough it would be unbearable (even more so for others) in town too.
Yma o Hyd

Posts: 4912
Joined: 17 Jul 2012, 8:47am
Location: Chester-le-Street, County Durham

Re: To flash or not

Postby Mark1978 » 1 Nov 2013, 8:54pm

Always flashing unless your using the headlight to illuminate the road then steady.

User avatar
Posts: 17971
Joined: 26 Sep 2008, 4:12pm

Re: To flash or not

Postby [XAP]Bob » 1 Nov 2013, 9:32pm

I think the general wisdom is that a flashing light:
a) attracts the eye (our brains are wired to detect motion - which is what flashing is)
b) identifies a cyclist (we're the largest road users permitted flashing lights)

However, a steady light:
a) is easier to keep track of
b) is easier to estimate distance and speed

My rear light is constant - it's a dynamo light that is just always on. I do however have a battery powered blinking light, which I switch on in conditions of low visibility (i.e. fog/rain rather than darkness) on it's least obnoxious blinking setting.

I am considering a pair of mudguard mounted lights for each of my front wheels, and am considering some 12V fog lights for "weapons grade" lighting at some points.
Also worth thinking about the brakeTec lights from B&M - I will outbrake most cars in the dry, especially as they have no obvious warning that I'm slowing.
A shortcut has to be a challenge, otherwise it would just be the way. No situation is so dire that panic cannot make it worse.
There are two kinds of people in this world: those can extrapolate from incomplete data.

Posts: 18646
Joined: 19 Jan 2009, 3:34pm
Location: Not there ;)

Re: To flash or not

Postby Vorpal » 1 Nov 2013, 9:44pm

I tend to use my rear light on flash and my front light on steady. Flashing at the front bothers me. Though I might consider using a second front light flashing.

On the back of the trailer, I use two steady lights at the lower left & right extremes of the frame, then a row of flashing red frog lights on the buggy handle. :)
“In some ways, it is easier to be a dissident, for then one is without responsibility.”
― Nelson Mandela, Long Walk to Freedom

User avatar
Posts: 351
Joined: 20 Jun 2013, 10:55am
Location: Londinium

Re: To flash or not

Postby ArMoRothair » 1 Nov 2013, 9:53pm

If I'm alone on quiet road I'll set both front and back to intermittent to attract attention, it also defines me as a cyclist; a constant red light can easily mistaken by an approaching motorist for a motorbike way off in the distance rather than a cyclist in imminent danger of being run over.

But recently I rode my motorbike down Kingsway, around the Aldwych and over Waterloo Bridge in busy evening rush-hour and with the volume of cyclists, the internal reflections in my visor and the flood of flashing rear lights, I realised I was having trouble discerning one bike from another; they all became a fast moving sea of blinking red. It gave me a shock. I was trying to take care but I was simply blinded by the confusion. And it would only be worse when raining.

Another time I almost had my own SMIDSY incident when I looked before pulling out and just happened to catch the approaching cyclist when his front light had blinked off, luckily something made me glance again and the second time I saw him.

Both incidents gave me a fright and now when I'm in traffic I make sure at least one light, both front and back, is on constant.

Posts: 18646
Joined: 19 Jan 2009, 3:34pm
Location: Not there ;)

Re: To flash or not

Postby Vorpal » 1 Nov 2013, 10:15pm

My rear light has lots of little LEDs, and a selection of patterns to flash through. I think that at least one of the lights is always on.
“In some ways, it is easier to be a dissident, for then one is without responsibility.”
― Nelson Mandela, Long Walk to Freedom

User avatar
Posts: 2142
Joined: 29 Jun 2009, 6:49am

Re: To flash or not

Postby Tigerbiten » 1 Nov 2013, 10:15pm

I run both as needed.
I always run with my steady dynamo lights on, so I always have a solid front and back.
Then .........

Daytime dry:- just that.
Daytime wet:- dynamo lights plus back blinkers.
Daytime very wet/foggy:- Dynamo lights plus front and back blinkers.

Night time urban:- Dynamo lights plus front and back blinkers.
Night time country:- Dynamo lights plus solid front and back blinkers.

User avatar
Posts: 1804
Joined: 19 Sep 2008, 10:25am
Location: POOLE Dorset

Re: To flash or not

Postby MikewsMITH2 » 1 Nov 2013, 10:29pm

I would never use a flasshing front light. I frightened myself recently at a junction when a ninja cyclist appeared out of nowhere. On my first look he wasn't there and on my second look he was. I now always look at least twice (like the posters say "think twice think bike"). I always use a steady front light now. My rear light allows me to have both steady and flashing rear lights.
S.O.S - Save Our Steel!
1971 Raleigh Mercury
2010 Condor Fratello
1980 Peugeot Tandem
1989 MBK Aventure MTB
195? Viking Severn Valley
1951 Raleigh Lenton Sports
See them here

User avatar
Posts: 2814
Joined: 24 Jan 2012, 1:44pm
Location: somewhere in Bolton

Re: To flash or not

Postby Vantage » 1 Nov 2013, 11:57pm

I always have the front set to steady. I've two rear lights, so one set to flash and the other set to steady.
I like the idea that a flashing rear light is more visible but I also read somewhere (might have been here actually) that its difficult to judge the distance of a blinky light hence the steady aswell.

“Ride as much or as little, or as long or as short as you feel. But ride.” ~ Eddy Merckx
It's a rich man whos children run to him when his pockets are empty.

User avatar
Posts: 2332
Joined: 8 Mar 2010, 8:58pm

Re: To flash or not

Postby Redvee » 2 Nov 2013, 12:02am

Four lights at the front, a Magicshine on the bars on contant, a Knog led on the headtube flashing and fibreflares on the fork legs on solid. The rear has two Magicshines, one solid, one flashing and a fibreflare on the helmet on solid.

Posts: 459
Joined: 5 Feb 2012, 10:01pm
Location: Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada

Re: To flash or not

Postby Mistik-ka » 2 Nov 2013, 2:33am

I commute daily from the country, through and increasingly hair-raising section of three-lane (each direction) road through suburbia, and then into the central part of a Canadian prairie city. Since my cycling cut-off's are –10º C. or ice on the road, my cycling season is almost at an end. Usually I get in 6 to 8 weeks of dawn, dusk, and downright dark riding in the autumn, and in years past I've always gone with one flashing light in the rear and one steady light in the front. After a couple of malfunctioning rear lights that I didn't discover until the end of the ride, I added a steady light at the rear "just in case." :wink:

Did I mention that I work in an Intensive Care Unit? It tends to install an attitude of caution. :?

I'm retiring in two weeks, and I've added a flashing front light to the ensemble — there is just too much irony to the thought of getting run over on my way to work this close to the end of needing to commute through rush hour. :roll:

User avatar
Posts: 16585
Joined: 20 Jun 2011, 7:06pm
Location: Norfolk or Somerset, mostly

Re: To flash or not

Postby mjr » 2 Nov 2013, 8:17am

Flashing rear and a steady front at the moment because it can't flash. When I had a flash-capable front, I set it to flash in town. Simply to extend battery life. The bike with dynamo lights are both steady because battery life isn't a concern. I've read conflicting things about what's most visible, so battery life decides.
MJR, mostly pedalling 3-speed roadsters. KL+West Norfolk BUG incl social easy rides
All the above is CC-By-SA and no other implied copyright license to Cycle magazine.

Posts: 46
Joined: 12 Mar 2011, 7:10pm

Re: To flash or not

Postby BearOnWheels » 2 Nov 2013, 9:10am

I prefer a mix. At the rear I use a flashing light (its combined with a BS compliant reflector) with a constant 'Fibre Flare' fitted to the offside rearmost arm of the rack. I swear that the 'Fibre Flare' makes all the difference when it comes to passing motorists!

On the front I run a 3 LED MTB light on mid intensity setting and constant. On my helmet I run a much smaller single LED set to flashing for areas with streetlights but when it comes to pitch black country roads I set it to constant. If its really murky or dark I can set both lights to maximum power and see a long way ahead. Oh and if its foggy the flashing helmet mounted front light comes into its own for being seen by other road users!