Image by ShredLights
With fall in full swing, longboarding in the early evening has become increasingly difficult (the sun sets earlier and earlier). But in terms of temperature, there are still several weeks (or even months) of perfect night skating weather in New Mexico. If you live someplace warmer (SoCal, Florida, etc.), I suspect you could comfortably night skate all winter long!
This year, I opted to extend long boarding season by purchasing the ShredLights SL-200. A little research suggested these are one of the few mass-produced skateboard lighting products on the market - that is especially true if you are seeking “functional” versus “vanity” lighting.
I needed something to increase my visibility (avoid being smashed by New Mexico drivers) and increase the visibility of my surroundings (avoid cracks, rocks, and other obstacles). ShredLights fit the build for both.
For under $100 (~$90), I was able to outfit 2 boards (a standard longboard and a Meepo V2 electric long board) - since I only ride one at a time, my purchase included enough standard mounts for both (6) and enough lights (3) to share between them. Asymmetry does not bother me, so I opted for one red taillight and two headlights.
Maximizing performance and things to consider when installing
Admittedly, I got a little creative with my setup (more below). The install itself is easy and well described by the vendor. I learned a few things that are worth noting:
For the remainder of this post, note that I ran the ShredLights in their highest (constant 400 lumens per lamp) mode
It does not matter which side is “up” when mounting ShredLights (head lights) - the intensity and distribution of light are about the same “clip side up” or “USB side up.”
As you can see, the beam is almost identical in shape and size, regardless of the direction the lights are mounted. The standard lenses and reflectors are symmetric.
The higher you mount ShredLights off the ground, the better - the light is cast further forward (and wider) as the height of the headlights increase.
Comparison of ShredLights beams at 2.4 inch (6 cm), 3.5 inch (9 cm) and 5.5 inch (14 cm) mount heights - note the improvement in the length and width of the beam (and the forward movement of the focal point) as the mount height increases. The 2.4” and 3.5” mount heights represent “under the board” mounting scenarios, while the 5.5” mount height is an “above the board” scenario.
Ideally, you should mount the lights in such a way that you have time to react to the obstacles they reveal. Consider this - the average human has a visual reaction time of around 1⁄4 second (0.25 seconds). If you are longboarding at 5 MPH (8 KPH), the board travels about 2 feet (0.6 meters) while your brain reacts to what it sees.
English 5 Miles per Hour * 1.467 = 7.3 Feet per Second 7.3 Feet per Second / 4 = 1.8 Feet per Quarter (1/4) Second Metric 8 Kilometers per Hour / 3.6 = 2.2 Meters per Second 2.2 Meters per Second / 4 = 0.55 Meters per Quarter (1/4) Second
Then consider that you need a little time to execute a maneuver (or bail) in response - I would wager another 1 second. In that scenario, the ShredLights would need to clearly illuminate at least 9 - 10 feet (3 meters) in front of you.
English 1.8 Feet (traveled for reaction time) + 7.3 Feet (traveled for maneuver time) = 9.1 Feet Metric 0.55 Meters (traveled for reaction time) + 2.2 Meters (traveled for maneuver time) = 2.75 Meters
Step that up to 10 MPH (16 KPH) and you need to see around 20 ft (6 meters) ahead to adequately react to cracks, rocks, sticks, etc.
Given my test configurations, it seems that mounting the ShredLights SL-200 on top of the board and/or onto a helmet would yield the best result (casting light as far ahead as possible and providing ample reaction time). For this, ShredLights recommends the new “Sticky Mounts”. These work well for helmet mounting as well as mounting to non-traditional boards like the Onewheel.
I was adamant about keeping the ShredLights underneath my board and as a result, I am not getting the full benefit (beam distance and length). That is still a night and day improvement over no lights and it allows me to comfortably ride my traditional longboard in total darkness though.
My install method entailed mounting the ShredLights “upside-down,” flush against the bottom of the deck. This maximized the height of the lights under the board.
Luckily, my hardware was long enough to accommodate this. I ended up installing the ShredLight mounts on top of the existing nuts (and adding #8 Zinc Flat Washers as spacers) - then, I used an additional set of nuts to secure the mounts:
Again, a little creative, but this worked for me and maximized the height of the ShredLights under the deck. The 1 inch (2-3 cm) difference in height is a noticeable improvement.
For my situation, 2 x SL-200 ShredLights headlights (installed under the board) do well for standard night skateboarding and longboarding… as long as I am mindful of my speed (no hill bombing).
On the Meepo, things are a little sketchier - with my setup, I would not run in any mode above “ECO” at night. Even then, I would not run full throttle. The Meepo V2 is simply too fast and the ShredLights (2 headlights, mounted under the board) do not provide enough illumination to react at 16+ MPH (25.7+ KPH). For a safer electric longboard experience, I would spring for additional ShredLights (4 total) and mount them onto a helmet with Sticky Mounts.
All in all, the ShredLights perform as described, are a great value and have allowed me to skate when I would not have been able to otherwise.