red/amber bike/skate lights

jeebus

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Joined
Jan 1, 2004
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I've found a few threads debating what color and brightness
to use for seeing detail while maintaining your eye's dark
adaptation, but they usually seem focused on very dark
environments and serious night vision (scotopic I think is
the term they use).

My situation is biking/skating in the city at night, so it's
not at all uncommon for my night vision to already be getting
destroyed by streetlights and occasional car headlights.
So I'm just trying to maintain decent sensitivity while
using my light (the kind that takes maybe 30 seconds to
regain after being flashed by a bright white light).

Also I need the light bright enough to make the road
visible considerably in front of me, since at 20mph 60ft
is only 2sec away. The "use as little light as possible"
philosophy doesn't do me much good when I really need 60+
feet at a glance.

Personally I'm fairly happy with my streamlight jr led,
but some of the people I skate with complain that it makes
a bad glare that ruins their night vision. They prefer to
see the road by reflections from distant ambient lights.
And I have little doubt that my bright white light takes
away from my ability to see anything other than what's
being directly illuminated by my light.

I have the impression that there's a tradeoff to make.
Using a deep red wouldn't mess up my sensitivity to the
other ambient light the way my streamlight does, but it's
also hard to really see much directly with a red light.
Moving to a more amber color gives a more useful light to
see by directly, but might be hurting my sensitivity to
the ambient light.

Is this right? Would amber be a step up from pure white in
terms of maintaining my eye's sensitivity? I understand
that a lot of the glare people don't like is due to the
blue part of the spectrum.

Anybody have opinions and experience with this type of
situation?

I'm posting in the led forum since I'm almost exclusively
interested in led lights due to their durability (the light
will hit the pavement hard plenty of times).
 

padhraic01

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Nov 3, 2004
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When you say skate, are we talking skateboarding or in-line skating?

I'm a skateboarder and bicyclist. For skating, I use two Mini-Maglite 2AAs upgraded with cyan Inretech 1 watt Luxeons on lithium batteries and harnessed together.

I chose cyan because, all other things being equal (which they never are), cyan gives the most light in LED-world, and also because "green" light is reputed to effect night-vision less than any other color except red. Some people apparently have trouble seeing with non-white colors such as green or cyan. Not me. I find cyan, in addition to putting out tons of light, is great for making out topographical detail, and from a safety point of view makes you high visible to drivers etc.

I want to distinguish green from cyan: I tried Inretech's green Mag2AA LEDs but found that they could make mud look like grass, and from a biking point of view there's a big difference. With cyan I don't have that problem.

I am also working on a bike lighting system that involves modding and podding 4 Princeten Tec Quest headlamps upgraded with Everled Lambertian 1-watt cyan LEDs. I was amazed by the Everled cyans: tons brighter than the whites, and incidentally way brighter than Inretechs. The Quest/Everled combo gives both a wide hotspot and big side-spill (almost 170 degrees)--great for biking (especially when your bars are going from side-to-side e.g. mountainbiking) and being seen.

As far as which kind of light, white or cyan, competes with glare better, it's something I've thought about while riding, but it's hard to be objective about it.

I'm also setting up a my Quest/Everled combo in amber. The amber Everled puts out alot more light than white, and when tested in fog has better penetrating ability. Ideally I think in the fog you want not just amber but really tight spot-lighting, so an Inretech/amber setup might be better for the latter (less side-spill).
 

jeebus

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Joined
Jan 1, 2004
Messages
19
Mostly inline skating and occasional biking.

I like your 2-led solution. In continuing to use my
streamlight jr led I find it just barely adequate for my
comfort most of the time.

I've also always had a requirement for rechargeable.
Hence the streamlight which runs wonderfully on nimh.

As far as green vs red, I thought the reasoning was that
green is the color your eyes are the most sensitive to so you
can see more with less green light. So you could maintain
your dark adaptation not because green is inherently low
impact on your night vision, but just by using a dimmer
green light.

But I'm not too concerned about the theory, just practical
experience. I'm particularly interested in your points about
how well you were able to discern what you were looking at
with cyan vs green. How does cyan compare to plain white
for you, and amber if you've tried that already?

In my case mud and grass are both undesirable so I wouldn't
care much about distinguishing them. My use is mainly
seeing the condition of the pavement and road debris.
Was cyan also better than green at that?

Sometimes on certain roads we know well we'll turn off all
our lights and skate a little ways in the dark. It's pretty
peaceful, and you get a feel for how much your flashlight was
impacting your ability to see the ambient light. I'm sure
that's unavoidable, but I'm curious if certain colors have
a discernibly lower impact than others. Do you ever switch
your lights off to get a feel for that?

Interesting everled setup you're describing btw.

Which lights offer the option of colored leds (without
modding)? Most of the bulb-only things like everled do of
course, and I've noticed peak sells in all colors.
 

padhraic01

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Nov 3, 2004
Messages
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[ QUOTE ]
But I'm not too concerned about the theory, just practical experience. I'm particularly interested in your points about how well you were able to discern what you were looking at with cyan vs green. How does cyan compare to plain white for you, and amber if you've tried that already?

[/ QUOTE ]

Yeah, experience rules. The hardest thing when comparing gear is when you can't change just one thing, you have to change several variables. E.g. color, side-spill, & raw lumen output; hot spot width, ect.

I'm pretty convinced that cyan affects nite vision less than white; but compared to amber, I need to do your shut-down-in-motion test. IMHO the cyan shows big and little topo detail just great: everything from bottle caps to rocks to waves and ruts in the road, and larger. The only drawback is when you might need white to distinguish what an object is ("Is that a Bud light or a Pepsi bottle-cap?") Seriously though, I find that in practice you don't need color that often to negotiate topo and distinquish hazards. Also, with cyan you can distingish your own light from the competing glare better, it seems to me, and this helps because your own light is revealing objects from your own vantage point.

With regard to who makes powerful colored leds that don't require major modding, to my knowledge there's Inova, Peak Solutions, and Inretech. I think other forum members can add alot to the list.

Lately I've been field testing Peak Solutions McKinley CR123 7 led stainless, Inretech Mag2AA, and EverledLambertian/PT Quest. Everything in cyan, everything on lithium.

The McKinley has a very tight hot spot, but hardly any sidespill, not enough to skate whatsoever.

The Inretech puts out more light than the McKinley, plus enough side-spill to skate, especially with a UCL-LDF lexan coated lens which completely eliminates rings and diffuses the light a little wider. Also, the Maglight is bombproof when you bail, especially because I installed a Flashlight Friend acrylic tube (with the legs cut-off) on all my Mag2AAs. It's a little hard to describe without a picture, but I harness two Mag2AAs in such a way that they are about the size of a typical lithium-ion flat pack, plus I do some, shall we say, "special contouring". With this shape you can literally take a roll, smack the pavement with the mod, and keep the unit in your hand without damaging either yourself or the flashlights. It helps if you know how to roll. Because of the shape of my mod-harness, you can rotate the flashlight without closing your palm, and while turning over your wrist, etc. So it's easy to direct the light in the direction you are about to go, rather than just straight ahead, and without much changing your body posture, especially because, in skating, we use our arms as tools for rotation etc. This is really useful in skateboarding. These are also points which I've never seen anyone address in flashlight and gear forums--so maybe this is "on the cutting edge" of design--or is it just vanity? /ubbthreads/images/graemlins/wink.gif

But nothing really comes close to the Everled/Quest, which has a nearly perfect combination of raw output, hot spot, and wide side-spill. The outside edge of the side-spill--the very edge of the penumbra, if you will, is particularly bright. This puts a bright ring of light (~2ft. wide) right in front of your feet when you are walking, skating, etc. Need I say more? I also want to add that the Quest is really high quality polycarbonite construction, and although the Quest can be had for ~$16 at Karst Sports or Moosejaw, it appears to be the same housing that goes into PR's $60 headlamps. So Quest + Everlead cost about $51. The only thing is, I've never crashed a Quest. I imagine it's do well though. The bezel is tacky and thick, and easy to ensure it won't turn on in your pack by giving it a few extra outward turns.

If I had the beam of two Everled/Quests in the body of my Mag2AA X 2 harness, that'd be the closest thing yet to my ultimate skatelight.

I'll do your night vision shut-off test with different colored leds and see what happens.

Oh, yeah, I returned my green leds to Inretech, so I can no longer compare them to cyan with regard to night vision. Sorry. But I think on the basis of raw light output alone, it's better to stick with cyan.
 

padhraic01

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Nov 3, 2004
Messages
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[ QUOTE ]
scudinc said:
Just out of curiosity, why are you skating for fun in the city at night? This seems like a bad idea to me. Go find an abandoned building; use that.

[/ QUOTE ]

Just out of curiosity, why are you skating for fun in abandoned buildings at night? This seems like a bad idea to me. Go find a city street; use that.

Some of use skate just to get around--for fun--anytime--

Cops and general public will not like you, regardless.
 

yellow1

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Joined
Jun 17, 2004
Messages
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Location
San Francisco, CA
[ QUOTE ]
scudinc said:
Just out of curiosity, why are you skating for fun in the city at night? This seems like a bad idea to me. Go find an abandoned building; use that.

[/ QUOTE ]

i don't know about Jeebus, but here's why i skate at night.
http://www.cora.org/nightskates.html

if you're interested, i carry a Nuwaii Q3 or Pelican M6 LED or Vistalite Bike light (mounted to helmet) for front, and a Vistalite red LED flasher for the back.

of course the lights for the front do get heavy, and i do experience washout when trying to figure out what in front from time to time... but for the most part, it works better for automobiles to see me, when compared to a colored LED
 

jeebus

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Jan 1, 2004
Messages
19
I'm slow, but still around.

Street skating is a fun way to exercise socialize and
site-see. And sometimes I commute to work on skates too.
A confined area like a building would probably be okay
for doing tricks and such, but that's not what I'm into.

But back to the flashlights, I sympathize with not being
able to isolate just one variable when comparing diverse
gear. Your (padhraic01's) observations about cyan make it
an interesting choice. It sounds like its key features
are 1. you can see what you need to see on the road, and
2. it's an efficient color for led's to produce so you can
get an extra bright light from it. And it's possible but
not certain that it has less impact on your dark adaptation
than pure white.

As far as combinations of throw vs spill, it's hard to pick
a perfect light since it depends how fast you're going.
At slower speeds I find the spill from my streamlight jr
is about ideal, it makes a very usable light.

Prior to getting the streamlight, I never realized
what might be the point to ucl-ldf and the other
lenses/reflectors designed to give nice smooth spill.
Now I better appreciate what good spill looks like.

But I hate to sidetrack onto that too much. I mainly want
to focus on color. Like does amber let you see the road
conditions okay, and I'm curious how your vision feels in
those lights-off tests.

I guess it's debatable how important that second part is,
but I feel like it's a good thing to maintain as much
sensitivity to the ambient light as you conveniently can.

I may bite the bullet and get myself a colored led one
of these days to play with. I hear mixed reviews on
the diamond led's, but I think the complaints are mostly
about heat in the 3/5w versions, and I'm just interested
in their regulated 1w. They come in cyan or amber too.

(to greenlight) Oh, and sometimes people use led wheels
on things like the halloween skate, but I don't recall
anyone who uses them regularly. Not sure why, other
than price.

(to yellow1) As far as blinkies, aren't the vistalites
kind of expensive? I got a nice 5-led 2aaa blinkie at
Fry's for $4 I think it was. I also have a 2aa version
I got at Academy that I'm lukewarm about -- the batteries
fall loose from the connectors too easily unless you jerry
rig it (which I'm generally quite bad at).
 

padhraic01

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Joined
Nov 3, 2004
Messages
12
[ QUOTE ]
But I hate to sidetrack onto that too much. I mainly want to focus on color. Like does amber let you see the road conditions okay, and I'm curious how your vision feels in those lights-off tests.

[/ QUOTE ]

I'll do the lights-off test soon once I get subjectively "equivalent" cyan and amber lights (PR Quest/Everled, above) set up side-by-side, which I can compare.

The nearest thing I've done is compare helmet spotlights (2 X Mag/Inretech 1watt, see above) in white, amber, and cyan, by waving my hand in front of my face and seeing how much the light that reflects back in my face immediately effects my night vision. The results: white clearly effects the most, second amber, least cyan. But I haven't compared other any other colors this way.
 
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