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tl-w.gif (842 bytes)tr-w.gif (841 bytes)Frank 'N Fred

In which Fred learns about lights.

[HONK! HONK!] Hey Frank! How's it going, buddy? Still biking, I see!

Hi, Fred. Sure, I'm still biking. How's your Rambler running these days?

Hey, she's good as ever. Oh, I gotta put a new layer of duct tape on these windshield cracks, and I probably ought to fix my left headlight, but you just can't beat the Rambler, you know? She just runs all year long. Heh! Too bad you can't say that about your bike there!

What do you mean? My bike's fine, Fred!

Yeah, but you're going to have to put it up for the winter. It's getting dark too early, buddy! Hmm - is that why you left the reflectors on your bike 'cause you're such a safety freak and all? See, I took my reflectors off to save weight.

Well, yes, I've got reflectors on this commuting bike. But I'd never rely on just those! I've got a headlight and taillight for riding after dark. See?

Are you kidding me? Bike's don't need lights! Shoot, man, what do you think a back reflector's for? It's so you don't need a taillight! And the front reflector's so you don't need a headlight, and then you got reflectors on your wheels and pedals. You're wasting money on lights, buddy!

Hold on, Fred, hold on. Don't you know the laws? It's illegal to ride a bike after dark without a headlight. In some states, you also need a taillight to be legal, but I always use one anyway. Besides, it would be really dumb to ride in the dark without a headlight! How would you see where you're going?

You keep calling me dumb.

Um... no, I'm sorry, Fred, that was just a figure of speech. But really, you've got to have lights! What if you were riding along and there was a pothole you didn't see? You'd be down in a flash! But worse, drivers of cars might not see you.

Yeah, but that's what reflectors are for. They show up in the Rambler's headlights - or I mean, her headlight. I probably ought to get that other one fixed...

Well, reflectors help, but you can't trust your life to them. They can get bent or cracked or dirty, and you can't tell they're not working. And sometimes a car's lights won't hit them in time - like when you're riding north, and a car's coming on a side street from the east. By the time he sees your reflectors, it's too late!

Besides, some cars' headlights might not be perfect, you know. Bikes need their own lights! It's common sense, and it's the law!

Well shoot, I didn't even know there were lights for bikes. But don't they weigh you down? Don't you spend big bucks on batteries?

Not necessarily. There are three kinds of bike headlights. First, there are small handlebar lights that run off flashlight batteries. They're inexpensive and they're way better than nothing, but they're kind of weak.

Second, you can spend over a hundred dollars for a much brighter...


Yeah, I know, Fred. But some super-bright lights with big rechargeable batteries cost that much. Lots of people really like them, even though they're pretty heavy.

YOU KIDDING ME??? Sheesh, why not just buy a motor for your bike!

And the third kind is a generator light. They're pretty hard to find these days, but I really like mine. It gives better light than a handlebar light, and it's always ready when I need it. No batteries to worry about!

Yeah, I had one of those when I was a kid. But it slows you down, you know? And mine broke anyway.

Oh, it doesn't slow you down much - maybe a mile per hour or so. And sure, you have to take care of it, but you have to take care of any light! If you choose a light with an expensive rechargeable battery, you have to make sure it's correctly charged, or you can ruin it. If you choose one with disposable batteries, you should carry spare batteries.

Wow, that's going to cost even more. Hah! Are you going to carry a spare headlight too? Hey, get it? A spare headlight? Pretty funny, huh?

Not at all, Fred, sometimes I do that. Bulbs do burn out, so it's nice to have a cheap headlight as a backup. And that's what reflectors are, too - just a backup for the lights.

When you think about it, most cars have a spare headlight, don't they? Except for, oh, the occasional Rambler...

Yeah, maybe I ought to get that fixed. Maybe next week, after I tape my windshield. Well, I gotta get going before it gets too dark for me to see where I'm going. Wow - headlights for bikes! What next?

Drive carefully, Fred. And hey - watch out for bicyclists at night, OK?

- Frank Krygowski

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By Frank Krygowski











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