No lights no pants

This humorous video on the importance of bike lights from the Bicycle Transportation Aliance may remind some long time fans of that time in January 2007 when I biked home from work without my pants.

I agree with BTA’s message: lights are a must-have when cycling in the dark. But really, I think all of us have forgotten lights at one time or another, or maybe had some kind of malfunction or battery problem. How do you get home?

That was my dilemma the evening of January 17. I was Just Riding Along on my fixed gear bike down Willow Road in Menlo Park when my pant leg got caught in the chain. Any fixed rider knows that a mere obstruction isn’t going to stop you pedaling and sure enough *RIPPP* — my pant leg ripped up the seam all the way to my waist band, completely exposing my tighty whiteys. Yep, no bike shorts underneath that evening; I looked just like the guy in the video.

The fabric was wound so tight into the crank I was strapped into place and couldn’t get off of my bike; I was actually wedged onto my bike saddle! I had to carefully scoot myself backwards until the fabric was loose enough to set me free.

Those who don’t know the area: Willow Road is the major thoroughfare connecting high paying jobs in Mountain View and Palo Alto with less expensive housing across the Dumbarton Bridge in the East Bay. I had an audience literally of thousands.

And I still had to get home that night.

You do what you gotta do, whether you’re pant-less or lamp-less. I certainly didn’t camp out in the office overnight, which I guess is what BTA suggests in their humorous video when stuff happens.

Anyway, always ride with lights. But if you’re out and about without lights, I’m probably not going to give you the third degree about it because I’ve worn them moccasins.

Via Elly Blue.


  1. I haven’t been lightless since my first days of commuting when I would forget them occasionally. Of course, I compounded my law breaking by riding on the sidewalk, since I figured that was the safest way to ride home at that point, and it’s a sidewalk few people use so I didn’t even see another pedestrian. Luckily I’ve got bus passes now. I do ride with 2 taillights all the time, and my dyno headlight never runs out of juice so I feel well covered now.

  2. I still don’t understand why I would EVER want to ride a fixie outside of a Velodrome. Why not just go single speed?

  3. It’s a Zen thing 🙂

    Seriously — that particular bike was a conversion that was originally done for winter cycling in Colorado after I couldn’t shift or brake because of iced up cables. I retained the hand brakes, but it was nice having that backup. Today, I’d probably go with a coaster brake hub to go with that bike, but it gave new life to an old bike and it worked well enough.

  4. Very funny. I mean the video, not your story of riding home without pants (which is also funny, but I won’t say so in case you’re sensitive about it, which seems unlikely, what with the internet posting and all). Growing up in rural Ohio, I never used lights. You could hear a car coming a mile away, and when that happened, I moved to the other side of the road. I would also occasionally carry our plug-in, chunky, Black and Decker, rechargeable flashlight in one hand. Safety first! 😉 Once I felt something hit my leg and swung the flashlight around to see what it had been. Hard to go straight when steering with one hand and looking behind you. Suddenly I was in a ditch (dry at least), head at the bottom, feet pointed up the slope, bike on top of me. Good times.
    I’m much less cavalier about lights now, but I have been caught without them. In the city you really can’t cross the street every time another car comes, so it’s careful attention to who’s on the road, staying out of their way, and hopping onto the sidewalk when necessary. I don’t recommend it, and now I have generator lights, so the odds of me being caught without lights are slim, but if it happens, I don’t call a cab. I just stop acting like I belong on the road and start acting like a pedestrian who just happens to have wheels.

  5. I don’t even like riding with just headlight and taillight… I usually carry a couple of $4 flashlights with rubber bands around them that I can mount to my handlebars. They’re also available at all kinds of stores… Tho’ the law says reflectors are enough in back, I feel like that’s more important than the front, but I usually have a blinky or two somewhere on my person.
    The pantless schtick is a riot 🙂

  6. I hear that’s a ticket in NYC these days. No lights. No pants, no problem. It’s NYC for Christ’s Sake!!

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