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Auxiliary Tail Lights Again

Blog Date - 20 February 2017

You may recall in November (CBF 125 No Lights - Again) the stator on the CBF125 gave out (again). You may also recall I was able to complete my journey because I have auxilary lighting connected directly to the battery. I would also like to point out that the CBF125 has but one tail light bulb.

Having lights powered directly from the alternator and only having one bulb at the rear is a concern for me. What if that solitary, lonely bulb at the rear should fail? I do wear a high-viz jacket. I do have a reflector as required by law. I do have some reflective tape on the rear of the top box. Despite this the notion of unwittingly riding without a tail light down a dark country lane or indeed a dark motorway worries me.

For some time now I have been running with an auxiliary tail light in the form of an LED array. This has served its purpose however it was very cheap and its cheapness has finally caught up with it. In layman's terms...the wires have fallen out the back. Much like motorcycles tend to run better with petrol in the tank I find lights work better with wires attached to them.

The original LED tail light, now failedThe original LED light served me well but has now passed over to the rubbish bin.

Ebay has once again furnished me with not one or two but FOUR little red LED lights for the kingly ransom of £8. These are slightly different and they at least look more robust. These are the kind of lights you'd fit to your truck as running lights. I have duly fitted on of these little red lights to the rear of the 125 and once again additiional luminescence is visible. 

The pack containing 3 of the 4 red LED running lightsThere were 4. Not bad for £8. Includes screws!

I would NOT suggest this is a suitable replacement for a proper and approved rear tail light. I wouldn't continue to ride any further than necessary with just the LED light alone. This auxilary lighting is merely there in case of failure of the charging system or the bulb. 

The new LED light fitted to the rear of Ren's 125And there we go, all ready for service.

Have you done anything to improve your lighting? What do you do to make yourself more visible? If you fancy putting together an article for our site click here.

Reader's Comments

Garth said :-
Is that a piece of wood the light is mounted on?
20/2//2017 10:20:47 AM UTC
Bob said :-
I'm a little strange on this front.
I don't wear high vis, I don't ride with my lights on (except at night) and I've never added auxiliary lights to my bikes.
It works for me and I think there might be voodoo involved, it's like the more risky it looks the safer I am.
There is evidence that cyclists wearing helmets are more likely to be knocked off than those not wearing helmets - the drivers subconsciously take less care around the riders they perceive as being more protected.
20/2//2017 12:21:23 PM UTC
Ren - The Ed said :-
Ermm...er...Yes Garth it is a piece of wood. It was the best part for the job. Erm. It was the best part for the job that was lying around in the shed looking useful.

Bob you makes ya choices. I do wonder if there is perhaps some risk compensation factor at work here. Drivers feel safer with seat belts and big cars so they just drive faster. Perhaps you feel more vulnerable without lights and high viz and alter your riding to compensate.

I'd never considered risk compensation factor when applying it to other road users but it does make a logical sense. If I spot a child at the side of the road I know they are vulnerable and take measures to reduce risks - typically slowing down. I would barely notice a child in a big metal cage - I mean car - so wouldn't consider their safety too much.

My choice is to be as visible as possible. Of course it does NOT ensure other drivers see you, even if they do they occasionally choose to ignore you. In the event of a coming-together though I hope my gaudy presence makes the "sorry mate I didn't see you" look rather silly. 'Tain't no guarantee though.
20/2//2017 12:45:53 PM UTC
Ian Soady said :-
The problem with hi-viz, extra lights etc is as you suggest risk compensation in that people think "I'm so visible everyone MUST see me therefore I'll be OK".

Of course they often don't (or don't look carefully enough).

I've been guilty of riding in the dark with no headlight and I can tell you it does make you very careful about assuming what other people will do. But I have survived to tell the tale. I have also covered many miles on bikes with headlights so poor I can see my bike's shadow from the car behind in the beam.

What always interests me is how easy it is to spot the car whose driver has forgotten to switch on the lights. They're actually very conspicuous!

I have read the research Bob mentions but am not sure whether it would apply to motorcyclists who are possibly not seen as being so vulnerable.

I never use lights in good visibility (except when the manufacturer has chosen not to give me the option) nor do I use hi-viz clothing, and do not believe it has made me any less safe. In fact there is research to suggest that a single point of light like a headlamp, because it subtends such a small angle at the eye, makes it more difficult to assess speed and distance.

What I do believe (though have absolutely no proper evidence to back up) is that wearing an open face helmet which allows other road users to actually see there is a person there not a robot, as might be the case with multi-coloured visors on full-face jobs, does help to create a connection and possibly make them more sympathetic. Or maybe not.
20/2//2017 5:15:33 PM UTC
Bob said :-
Some good points Ian, I wear a Roof Boxer and unless it's cold or wet I ride with the chin bar at the back, effectively it's an open-face in this mode.
Making eye contact is a life saver, I'm convinced that being 6'2" and having a grizzly beard helps by intimidating some of the drivers.
Being a cyclist I'm used to being treated like filth in the rush hour commute, not that I let them get away with it (but that's not for here).
On the motorcycle in traffic I tend to go for the move so fast they don't know you're there option, I don't mean speeding, I mean just reacting fast, moving fast and slipping in and out before they've had a chance to react.
Out on the open road I put myself in a commanding position and if there's a car at a T junction I flash my brake light to make the car behind aware that I might brake suddenly, I usually do slow down approaching such a junction and ready myself. I remember my test instructor telling me "just assume every car is going to pull out" and I ride like that now.
21/2//2017 9:59:52 AM UTC
Ian Soady said :-
"On the motorcycle in traffic I tend to go for the move so fast they don't know you're there option, I don't mean speeding, I mean just reacting fast, moving fast and slipping in and out before they've had a chance to react."

Also known as "stealth riding".

"Out on the open road I put myself in a commanding position and if there's a car at a T junction I flash my brake light to make the car behind aware that I might brake suddenly, I usually do slow down approaching such a junction and ready myself."

One trick is to use the so-called "Z line" where you approach close to the centre line then move to the left then out again as you approach the junction. This has you moving across the line of sight of any vehicle waiting in the side turning so avoiding "looming" - see below.......

21/2//2017 2:34:31 PM UTC
Ren - The Ed said :-
I still maintain for myself at least the greatest key to avoiding incidents is a lack of excess speed. Road position is important, perhaps a big manly beard helps, perhaps bright lights help or hinder, maybe a wink as you approach makes things personal, perhaps hi-viz makes a difference. However we all seem to agree that no matter what someone somewhere will NOT see you despite our best efforts.

As and when that happens I'd like to be slowing down from 30mph not 42mph.
21/2//2017 4:18:08 PM UTC
Ian Soady said :-
Absolutely. Stopping distance from 30 mph: 14 metres (say 3 small cars). From 40 mph: 24 metres- an extra 10 metres or 2 car lengths. Both of course ignoring "thinking" distance (or more accurately thinking plus preparation distance). In fact it's amazing how short a distance you can stop in when you need to.

This is one reason I try to practise "emergency" stopping when it's safe so it becomes embedded in muscle memory although rarely actually need it.

The other thing I do (as well as slowing down slightly as Bob says) is to cover the brakes and be ready to slow / stop rather than assuming I'll be able to carry on, in which case you need to do all the stuff about adjusting hand & foot positions etc before you actually do the braking.

Of course on the Sunbeam the brakes are about as useful as dragging my feet on the deck so anticipation and planning are the key. But I wouldn't try to fight my way through rush-hour traffic on that.

21/2//2017 4:41:57 PM UTC
Liam said :-
I had this concern on my ANF125 a few years ago. I drilled the reflector to take two red LED bulbs so the rear now had three bulbs and lit up all the way across instead if just in the middle.

A simple program was compiled and a driver board knocked up to run the lights using PWM dimming in tail light mode and in full brightness in brake mode. Worked a treat

New tail light array ANF125I
23/2//2017 8:38:20 AM UTC
said :-

ANF125I reflector on
23/2//2017 8:39:13 AM UTC
Ren - The Ed said :-
Blimey Liam! Circuit board, drilling, programming? I think you're too smart for your own good.
24/2//2017 7:22:33 AM UTC
Kevin said :-
Hi, A good simple idea. I'm thinking of doing the same. Where did you connect the LED wires to ?
14/4//2018 11:42:13 PM UTC
Ren - The Ed said :-
Hi Kevin. I'm not qualified to give you advice regarding motorcycle electrics...but you may find a suitable switched live wire somewhere behind the left side panel. The earth goes to the frame.
15/4//2018 4:55:47 PM UTC

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