Posted by Chip Hemmel on 10 December 2017

Cold and damp this morning s Sandy and I headed out. The last quarter moon hangs quietly in the icy mists; a few stars wink through the haze but the view is steadily closing as we walk. It's still and Sandy, after a string of long walks, senses something that makes her turn back early. I, having picked up some passing malady that kept me inside all day yesterday, am just happy to be back out in the cold air...I can feel my spirit lift with each cold lungful and am hesitant to return to the warm house. My dog wants in; while I am Tom Sexton's "Numen;" embracing the icy darkness; lost in my reverie...

Good morning everyone. 

Yep; we DID come back. Sandy's curled up, snoozing quietly at my side as I revel in the light blue fingers of lake effect on the Weather Underground map, reaching out for us...

Today's "Stocking Stuffers for Syclists" Selection is appropriate to this season...it is the gift of light.

Now I'm not talking about the little blue Christmas Lights that the "Mystery Cyclist of Oxford Road" festoons his bicycle with this time of year...though they are festive and I appreciate his sense of whimsy...I'm talking about the "HEY CARS; HERE I AM!" lights that are the single best thing you can add to your ride.

We think of lights during the time of shadows--early morning; late afternoon--but the fact is many drivers of automobiles don't understand why we're not "...on the sidewalk where you belong!" They don't realize we're vehicles and, as such, must ride in the road right alongside them. 

They also aren't looking for us...they're listening to tunes, or texting their friends; or talking on the phone; or eating food and drinking coffee and sodas. If they do see us up there ahead of them they're usually picking us up moments before they overtake us. We NEED to get their attention early and often.

The good news is that there are some lights out there these days that are as bright as the sun and with a nice intermittent pattern setting will grab and hold the attention of all we share the road with.

Bontrager's Flare R taillight and Ion 800R headlight don't just light up the shadow world but work excellently as daytime running lights...and this is what we need the most. Along with the originals of these two items they also make a "City" set now that are small and compact and easily fit on your handlebars and seat posts. At about $160 for the originals and $70 for the City set they're not cheap but neither is a trip to the ER.

Blackburns Flea 2.0 set is similarly priced; compact and easy to install and will charge off a USB connection while you do other things...such as type the morning report for Training Wheels or the ride site blog.

There are many quality options out there and many less expensive ones; but keep in mind you give up "lumens" and tend to get into battery life issues as you drop in price...which, of course, ADDS to the ultimate cost of using them. 

Now, if these prices are making you gasp, and you're thinking about going without them; STOP RIGHT NOW! 

Don't get left in the dark...

Asher makes a set that also charges off a USB connector and may be purchased through Amazon for $16...yup; no 0 after the 6. They're bright and easy to install and remove and are amazingly sturdy for such an inexpensive option. My ride friends gave me a set two seasons ago and they're in constant use and abuse in all types of weather and still holding up. These lights are not going to...ahem..."hold a candle" to the brightness of the Bontrager and Blackburn options, especially during the daylight hours, but they WILL get you seen and along with a helmet should be the first thing you reach for when you go out to ride.

So, during this season of light, add two more to your list and, if you find them in your stocking, make sure to thank the giver in a special way: For you're not just receiving the gift of Light; you may just be receiving the gift of Life.

SO, as I said, I was channeling Tom Sexton's Numen this morning. Here's the poem. 

Enjoy your Sunday gang!


It was cold enough for down coats and our
woolen boots from Norway that made us
feel like reindeer herders from the icy
steppes. A good night to stay inside,
but our old dog needed its evening walk.

The mountains that lift our eye all summer
were deep in winter’s glacial dark.
Cold enough for dark thoughts of a failing
mind and then the random seal of death.
Still we followed the path toward the lagoon
where the city cleared a rink for skating.

Near the bench where the skaters rest,
a fire was blazing in a fifty-gallon drum.
We heard music coming from the dark
beyond the fire before we saw a figure
bent at the waist and playing a wooden flute
as he glided in and out of the light:
numen of breath and wood and icy air.