Guide to Bike lights - see and be seen
As a lawabaiding cyclist lights have always been part of the essentiel equipment. None the less it is often one of the parts that is forgotten or left at home. Lights is especially in the spring- and autumn months important. Lights are important both to be able to see in dark or in dusky lightsettings - but maybe even more important they improve the chance of you being seen. Multiple european countries have even made it obligatory to have lights on your bike all day round. Recent research have shown that bikes with lights are easier detected in sunlay and even more so in shade, halfshade and darkness.
I think that many cyclist have found lights to be an uncool accessory - but technological progress, on the area, recent years have resulted in a multitude of lights - both cooler, more powerful and more usable than we were used to.
Many lights today are produced with a variety of lightsettings. They can shine continuously or flash in different intervals. Research indicates that constant lighting is preferred when it is dark - while flashing makes you easier to spot in daylight, shadow and twilight.
The power of the light is measured in lumens - a higher lumens count makes a more powerful light. And even though it might seem obvious to go for the highest lumens you are needed to think about how the light is supposed to be used on your bike. A to powerful light can be a nuisance if you ride in a bunch, and even sometimes blinding to the rider sitting on your rearwheel. So choose a light with the needed strenǵht for your usage or chose a light that have a dimming option so that you can regulate the power.
Lights today come with different features. You can buy lights with incorporated bikeradar that warns you of upcoming traffic and so forth. You also have to remember that all lights are not necessarily legal. To be a legal light a light have to follow national regulations. They have to light up x feet of road in front of you and have to be seen on x distance. So if you buy a light that is not approved in your country - you are still in the risk of getting fined. Many bikes today can be bought with a prefitted light that are not approved and often exclusively focus on you being seen. That means that many lights do not give you the visibility you need if you ride in dark areas without streetlights. So find the lights that fit your needs.
Lights can roughly be divided in to usage and powertypes. Below you will find descriptions of the following types:
Bike lights power source:
1: Battery driven lights
3: Magnet lights
4: USB lights
5: Bike lights
6: Helmet lights
7: Head lights
Battery driven lights
Many lights have since the eighties been powered by batteries. Today you can buy lights powered by all sorts of batteries. You can find lights with disposable batteries and with rechargeable batteries. When buying a battery powered light - you have to consider the following:
- How they are mounted
Dynamoes are the oldfashioned way to produce lights. The lights are powered by friction created between the wheel and the light it self. I remember in the old days when the friction was so strong, that it was clearly noticeable weter or not your dynamo was active. The dynamo required so much extra effort, that I had to shut it of when going uphill. This is not the case today. Some dynamoes are hardly noticeable. The dynamo is mostly used on your everyday bike or citybikes, due to its advantage, it is hard to forget because it is permanantly fixed to your bike. Look for the following when buying a dynamo:
The last 10-15 years on of the most popular lighting solutions have been the magneticallights. Magnetlights have the same advantage as the dynamo, that it is permanently fixed, so you want forget to bring when you are in a hurry, or gets surprised by the dark. The magnetlight gives you permanent visibility without having to turn it on when a sky drifts in front of the sun. Magnetlights is powered magnetically by two magnets passing eachother continuosly. One is fixed to the front- and rearsuspension and one to each wheel. You do not have to think about batteries running dry and this light is also very comfortable - because it is frictionless. Consider the following when buying magnetic lights:
- How they are mounted
- Light features
USB-lights are one of the newest types of lights on the market. Essentially USB-lights is batterylights with a rechargeable battery that is charged via a USB-cable. You can buy USB-lights in a multitude of sizes, strengths and mounting options. They are made in fancy versions - that can be compatible mounting wise with existing bikecomputers. As for the battery powered lights you have to consider the following, when buying a USB-light:
- Battery life
- How they are mounted
Besides the above type of lights there is also lights produced for different kind of usage. Depending on how and where they are mounted. The biggest category is without doubt the bikelights. Lights mounted on the bike. They can be permanently fixed like dynamoes or magnetlights or be loose lights that you have to mount before each ride as most battery- and USB-lights. Bikelights can be mounted almost everywhere with the handlebar, rear - and frontsuspensions and the saddlepost as the favorite mountingspots. It is important that you buy a light that fits your needs . there is a big difference on which light to buy - whether the purpose is to see or be seen. So if you are buying a bikelight for mounting on your bike be aware of the following:
- Is the light legal
- Can it illuminate the road in front of you
- Light features
You can easily get lights that are not supposed to be fitted to your bike. One of these being the helmetlight. Helmetlights can be fuóund with built in lights or as external lights fitted to your helmet. Helmetlights are by definition not legal lights, because they are primarily for being seen - and they can not light up the road in front of you. Furthermore the angle of the lightcone follows your head this is shifted or moved. Nonetheless helmetlights are perfect for extra visibility without them being to big or heavy. Combined with other lights they can be the lights that prevent an accident. Helmetlights or normally only focused on lighting the back of your helmet and as such to be considered as a rear light. Watch out for:
- Light features
- Is the battery easily accessible and changeable
Headlights are opposed to helmetlights normally front orientated. It is a light mounted to your forehead or on top of your helmet facing forward. It directs the light in the same direction you are looking - thus not a legal way to light you bike in the dark. Headlights is perfect as a supplement especially for offroad riding. Offroad the ability to orientate in all the directions you are looking can be a great advantage. This makes the headlights more versatile than most other lights. Luckily you can buy versions that does not make you look like a miner going to work. Most headlights are quite powerful so they can light up things in the distance. Thus they can require getting used to - especially when used with a bikecomputer were the shine from the headlight can be almost blinding. So go for a headlight with the right amount of lumens and look for this before buying a headlight:
I can sometimes seem ironic the lawmakers in many countries have figured out the benefits of permanent lighting on vehicles in general - but do not reach the same conclusion regarding bikes. With that said we as bikers are trendsetters - we have a responsibility to ourselves, our loved ones and also to our fellow roadusers - So we would like every bikerider to think about their visibility, that being both reflexes, clothing and lighting. So if we start turning on a proper light before every ride and creates a lighting trend is entirely up to you - but a least we hope that this guide helps you find the perfect match in lights for you and your bike. - be safe
Written by Jakob Aas Thomas for Velomio.com