A couple of days ago a co-worker said that she was heading to MEC, and did I want her to pick up a new headlight for me? I had been mentioning that I needed one, if only so I didn't have to leave work at 4:00 in order to catch the light, but it's hard to find the time to get all the way across town. So I said, yeah, sure, and went online to figure out which one to send her off to get.
I used to have a Planet Bike Beamer. A little LED that could be quick-removed from the mounting on the handlebars and double as a flashlight. But I discovered that it didn't really throw enough light to make the trip home along the path very comfortable. I remember midnight runs home, peering into the darkness, with a faint little circle of light on the pavement, failing to show me the potholes, rocks, and branches until I was basically on top of them.
I needed something that would provide light to see by, not just visibility to cars, like a Turtle light, but you can spend upwards of $90 on a commuting headlight, and MEC had one - "for 24-hour races and competitive night riding" the catalogue said - for about $400.
Then I spotted these (MEC brand "Sharks"), and the catalogue suggested that for $12.50 each, you could get two and double up. Well, of course! So, I did. They're super-bright: the day I got them I headed home around 9:30 PM from an after-work meeting, and was astonished. They cover the whole path. They're bright enough to light up the ceiling of the highway underpass. And it was actually quite beautiful, getting on the bike path with the city lights across the river all shining on the water, and putting on my headphones and zipping along in the dark cold, listening to "Ideas" on CBC as I pedaled.
It was even better last night, when I went out for a drink with some friends after a reading in the Market, and we suddenly looked up to realize it was 2:30 AM. It wasn't raining anymore - it had been earlier in the day - so I packed my rainpants into the pannier, flicked on my lights, and headed off for the canal. I had the whole canal path to myself, and it was still warm enough out that I didn't even need to wear my mittens, and at that hour of the night there's no stress. The streets are all yours. And I had plenty of light to see by on the pathways, and I knew that the cars that were out could see me. Freedom! I no longer have to scurry home before dark like some sort of small diurnal scavenger!
And come on, doesn't it look like Mike's got beady little eyes? Aren't they cute? Doesn't he look like WALL-E?
(The friends I was with last night think I should get four or six more and line them up along the handlebars like deerjackers. I'm half tempted. It would make Mike look like the low-tech version of a truck from a post-apocalypse movie. Which would be awesome.)