I got a few new toys for the bike just recently.

Firstly a pair of Shimano A530 SPD pedals to replace the old M505 which came with the bike. The old pedals had SM-PD22 clip-on platform adapters, pretty ugly, but handy before I went clipless. I know there are purists out there who will tell you that once you go clipless you never go back, but find that I like having the choice of being clipped in or not, especially in town when there are a lot traffic lights. Anyway I really like the A530s they feel very smooth, and although they need a wee bit more force to clip in, when it comes to clipping out I find them much easier (I am still using the same old cleats). Overall I am really pleased with them.

Secondly and probably more exciting I have bought some more lights, oh yes more lights. Back before Christmas DiNotte had the 400L Road Rider’s experience on sale at what looked like a bargain price and in a moment of weakness I decided to go for it. The price was good as it was, but would have been even better six months ago when the pound (£) was worth $2, even at an exchange rate of $1.49=£1 it still looked a good deal. The bit I forgot is that the exchange rate the credit card company charges is never as good as the official exchange rate. The ordering process was very straightforward and I was sent the url of a page to track the progress of my lights in shipping. They crossed the Atlantic in good time, cleared UK customs and made their way to the local delivery office. Then it show delivery attempted, but as I had had them sent to my work address I knew it hadn’t been, what was going on?? After a couple of days of being told that my parcel hadn’t arrived yet every time I passed reception, I received a letter from Parcelforce (much to the relief of our receptionist) telling me that I had to pay VAT and Duty before they would deliver. Now VAT I had expected, I had forgotten about Duty, but I wasn’t expecting an extra charge (of £13.50) from Parcelforce for collecting the VAT and Duty. Oh well that is just one of the joys of buying stuff from abroad over the internet.

Anyway now that I have the lights, what are they like? Well the first impression as you open the box is, wow there is a lot of stuff in here! It is not just the two lights (front and rear) and two 2 cell batteries, there is a Worldwide smart charger, a helmet mount, numerous other mounts to mount the lights on handlebar, seatpost, rack, seatstay, chainstay or any other location you can think of, also a headband (for those like me who regard helmets as pointless), then there is the cabling and straps, and last but not least a lens kit is also included to add some beam pattern flexibility for the front light. The only thing that was missing was a word of warning, which should read: DO NOT be tempted to look at the lens as you turn on the lights for the first time. By the time you switch them on for the second time, you know why. If you were tempted then the thought of lying in a darkened room for several hours waiting for your eye sight to come back again is enough to put you off doing it again. Yes, these lights are SERIOUSLY bright.

Having got them home and played around with them for a wee while, the batteries started to go flat, so time to recharge. Now on the DiNotte web site it says the lights come with a “Worldwide smart charger (just add your country’s plug)”, from that I expected a laptop style inline power brick, instead it is a mobile phone type charger with a moulded in two pin American plug. So I set about digging out a travel adaptor, only to find that all our travel adaptors were to plug a British three pin plug into a foreign socket and not the other way round. Not to be beaten, I took it into the bathroom and plugged it into the shaver socket, and within a short time the red light on the charger turned to green telling me that the battery was fully charged. NB the batteries are only partly charged on delivery, so don’t expect to get the full run time straight out of the box.

Next puzzle, which of the ten brackets supplied to use to mount the lights on my bike? The range of options is wide, or on the back would be if I wasn’t using a Trek pannier rack and Karrimor EH20 Global panniers which limits the options to the seat post. Even so, I still had a choice of vertical or horizontal. At the front end, after trying a range of different configurations, I opted to use the headband for the first outing.

Ok, so what are they like on the road I hear you asking. Well, for the first test I only used the rear light, as I was cycling to work and it was just before sunrise and I didn’t need a light to see by (I did have my collection of old lights to be seen by). As I wasn’t sure how long the battery would last and wasn’t going to be able to recharge it at work, I set the light to flashing mode. Cycling through the rush hour traffic, I found that I was getting more space than I was used to, this has to be a good thing. On the return journey it was fully dark, so I deployed the front light. Having it on the headband is very handy when trying to unlock the bike and re-attach the battery for the rear light in a semi darkened bike shed. Getting on the bike, I found that I had set the angle of the light too low (adjusting the angle of the light needs a screwdriver) and had to tilt my head up a wee bit more than I would usually do when looking straight down the road, but this was only a minor issue.

I set off with the light on full blast, and cycling out past the Vet School where the street lights stop I found that I could now easily see the hedges on both sides of the road. Before the new lights I had had to slow down to avoid riding into the hedge on my side as the road curved. Even better, I saw the loom of the lights of an oncoming car dip before the car came round the corner! Normally they just come flying round in the middle of the road, but this time it had slowed down and was on its own side of the road, which was much safer. When I reached the street lit road again, I turned the light down to its lowest setting, as I didn’t feel I needed as much light, and still found I had plenty. I also noticed that car drivers turning out of side roads were far more aware of my presence, they all looked at least twice and none tried to cut out in front of me. As for the rear light, this time I had set it to high and constant. As with my morning ride, I found that drivers were giving me more room than I would normally expect to get, and none of them tried a last minute overtake or a close pass. Great result.

Having gotten home safely, I wanted to check to see what the battery levels were like, my commute is about 30 minutes out and 20 minutes home (not including time in the bike shed). So I followed the instruction manual (one sheet of A4) which came with the lights and found that the rear light was reporting 50-75% battery power and the front 75-100% battery power. Want to see them in action? See here!

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