BEHOLD! The lowly Turnsignal.

Recently I have been considering the turnsignal. "Recently" means this year. Early in the spring when my morning commute was mostly in the dark, another rider signaled for a turn. I knew that his front turn signal was on as the flash off the cage in front of him showed that he had a bright light and a proper flash rate. Yet, I could not see any flashing rear turnsignal?

As he rode away in front of me, his bike looked stock. But I could see no sign of his rear turnsignal. About twenty feet out, I finally spot what looks like a lone yellow/orange LED flashing at his front turn signal rate. Because I had to make the same turn, we met at the next red light and exchanged a few words about his turnsignal.

Me: "Hey! you know that your rear turnsignal (T/S) is barely visible in this gloomy light?"

Him: "Sorta"

Me: "Traffic doesn't act weird around you because they can't see the T/S?"

Him: "Not that I notice."

Me: "I got LED signals on the back of my bike and, I swear, traffic must find them impossible to see. It looks like you only have one bulb to my 16. And one of my LEDs has only 3 bulbs still working in it. You say that your's are adequate for your riding?"

Him: "Yep."

Me, as the light was about to change and he was turning but I was going straight, "Ok. Have a good trip."


Later (a coupla months), I ride behind a similar bike in the sunny noontime that makes a left. Sure enough, he too has a lone LED for a rear T/S. If I hadn't known what to look for, I never would have seen his T/S blinking. Both bikes were pure sport bikes. And the lone rear T/S was located about 12-16 inches forward of the end of the tailpiece, one on each side. This placement means that following traffic must be a long way to the rear to see the T/S on the off side of the bike. Neither of these riders were using turning handsignals. Even the custom bike builders put better (read, more visible) rear T/S LEDs on their creations.

My "Previously Owned" Sprint ST came with LED lights on the rear. Who knows why the stockers were discarded? The taillight/brakelight has about 20 bulbs that may or may not be barely adequate. Traffic rolls up behind me pretty fast and gives me every belief that I am not seen very well. My reflective gear may be saving me more than the tail/brake light. I do not want to take off my reflective gear for experimental purposes. But, I am given to flashing my brake light at red lights while traffic rolls up behind me. Likewise, my rear T/S have 16 LED bulbs per side.

As noted, my left T/S had 3 bulbs in working order. It was obvious to me that 3 bulbs were in no way enough to get the job done. Traffic would roll up behind me at speed as I slowed to make my turn. I doubt if many cagers ever saw this signal. I had to resort to using hand signals to get traffic's attention, especially in daylight, and mostly worthless after dark. At least twice this year, I had to accellerate away from waiting out a chance to make a left because following traffic gave no sign of slowing  while I was stopped in lane.

So, I bought a new matching LED T/S and got 16 bulbs to do the job. And my biker budds tell me that my T/Ss are not visible in bright sunlight. And they appreciate my handsignals on the occasions. So. I have been looking at T/Ss (and taillights) to see what really works. I like the size of my lights. But I could really use something a lot brighter. And as reliable as LEDs are touted to be, I can't just pop into the autoparts store and buy new LED bulbs. I will probably buy lights with good old 1157/1156 bulbs when this neato-keeno LED stuff goes bad. Or when I can't stand the riding problems and safety issues of wimpy lights. Lots of bikes are notorious for having poor rear lighting. Those single bulb taillights on Harleys and BMWs come to mind. But a biker can buy brighter bulbs for those. Those of us stuck with LED stuff either have to replace it or add extra lights. (Granted those extra flashing LEDs, ala Hyper-Lites (TM), are pretty good if installed correctly or advantagously.).

Moral of the story: Check your lights to see how good or bad they really are. Do your budds mention that your lights aren't too good in some or most conditions? Does traffic seem surprised by your every lane change and slowing to turn? Nobody ever lets you in or gives you a hole, no matter how long that your T/S is flashing, unless you use a hand signal? The cagers need all the help that we bikers can give them to predict our moves and allow for smooth traffic flow for all.


Leave a comment