02 July 2018

A Mission To Be Seen

Bicycles with integrated lighting systems are usually associated with touring bikes and randonneuses from the constructeurs and, to a lesser degree, high-end builders in other countries.  A few production bikes have been supplied with generators built into a bike, or more commonly, a hub, and lights built onto racks and fenders, if not the frame itself.  

Such bikes usually have wires routed into the fenders or racks so they are not only not visible, but not vulnerable to being snagged and snapped.  A few bikes have wiring built into the frame itself.

While it's nice to have lights built into a bike that's frequently ridden in the dark, they are vulnerable to theft if the bike is frequently parked on the street, particularly in the same spot.  Also, light technology has improved dramatically (though, I admit, I prefer the styling of old lights) and a built-in system might tie its rider to an inferior technology.

The latest technology in bike lights, and lighting generally, is Light Emitting Diodes (LED).  This makes smaller, sleeker and lighter (in weight as well as luminosity) units that can fit more easily on different parts of the bike.  They are as much an advance as halogen lights were when they appeared about 35 years ago and displaced the incandescent bulbs that had been in use almost since their invention. (A few lights were made with fluorescent bulbs, but the idea never caught on because they're not good at throwing a beam forward, even through a lens with the best of optics.)

Apparently, someone out in San Francisco wanted a built-in lighting system with the advantages of LEDs.  The result is that Misssion Bicycles, a local company, has just introduced a bike with LEDs built into the inside each fork blade and on the rear of the seatpost.  They are powered by a rechargable battery inside the headset that can be turned on by a cap on the stem.  Thus, the bike shares one characteristic of those custom bikes with integral lights:  wires that run through the frame.

Such a system, to me, makes sense on a bike used for commuting in an urban area.  The lights wouldn't do much to help a rider see the roadway ahead, but they will help him or her be seen in traffic--which I know, from experience, is far more useful for night riding on city streets.  And they would be more difficult to steal than other kinds of lights when the bike is parked.  The one downside I can see is that if the lights need to be replaced and a new technology displaces LEDs.


  1. Those rear lights are going to be great when my 40 year old Carradice saddle bag finally wears out in about another forty years... Integration of lighting and general cleaning up of routing for lights, gearing and brakes makes a lot of sense for city dwellers, I loved the clean if a bit chunky line of Vanmoof bikes in Amsterdam though all the best looking ones were custom painted sets for hotels rather than the dull standard factory offerings.

  2. Coline--If I were going to buy a bike strictly for commuting here or in some other city, I might go for something like the Vanmoof. Still, I'd rather have a Carradice bag and adapt the lighting to it, and the bike!