We have all been in situations where poor visibility has led to bad ride days or even worse. These situations can be better handled with appropriate clothing and lighting solutions. There are a few parameters to consider before you shop around for BICYCLE LIGHTS. Read on to understand how we at BumsOnTheSaddle choose lights.
TYPES OF BIKE LIGHTS
- Bicycle lights come in a variety of types. Be it the kind that contain regular bulbs, to LED variants and dynamo powered lights that are as powerful as a motorbike or car headlight!
- Front lights, tail lights, spoke lights and frame lights are some of the type of bicycle lights that you will often come across in your local bike shop.
- Some of these are battery operated whereas some of them are USB powered lights or Dynamo lights.
LIGHT TECH JARGON
- LEDs: The majority of the bicycle lights today have LED bulbs in them thanks to the durability and energy efficiency associated with them.
- Lumens and Watts: Some manufacturers prefer to use Lumens to list the power output on their lights whereas some prefer listing Watts. As a general rule of thumb, the higher the value of these parameters, the better the lighting provided by them.
- City riding – Front lights (150-300 Watts). Taillight (15-50 Watts)
- Touring and Brevets – Front lights (300 Watts and above). Taillight (30 Watts and above)
- Modes of operation: A lot of front and tail lights now come in multiple modes (low power, high power, flashing, etc) to improve your ride experience while efficiently using the battery/charge of your lights.
WHAT OPTIONS DO I HAVE?
A well-lit bike is equipped with both front and rear light to ensure you can see the road ahead and are visible to others on the road. Riding in dark conditions on a regular basis will demand high capacity lights to light up the road ahead. If you find yourself riding in well-lit streets, an indicative safety light would suffice — making you visible to others.
You can still get your hands on Alkaline battery powered lights these days. However, most cycling lights these days feature built-in rechargeable batteries.
The most common rechargeable batteries are Lithium-Ion (Li-Ion) or Lithium Polymer (Li-Po); these are more compact, lighter and more powerful than disposable alkaline batteries, making them perfect for bike lights. These lights are usually rechargeable via a USB cord. Many lights these days have begun to come with battery level indicators that give you an idea of how much juice you have left.
HOW DO THEY MOUNT?
Front and rear cycling lights come with various mounting options these days. It’s usually a band/ strap or clamp mount that’s provided with lights. A majority of the rear lights in the market come with band mounts that stretch around your bike’s seatpost and hook onto the light itself – this is very convenient and often preferred by most riders as it’s quick and requires no tools!
Most headlamps are secured with either straps or bands. More high-powered/ heavier headlights usually come with clamp mounts – they are more secure and can be used repeatedly over time. You still retain the convenience of a strap as most of these clamp mounts have a quick-release mechanism. The light can, therefore, be removed easily and quickly when you park your bike out.
WHAT LIGHT IS RIGHT FOR ME?
The kind of light you require completely depends on your riding conditions. Read on to find out what kind of light is ideal for your riding environment.
COMMUTING/ URBAN USE
When riding in cities, you won’t have too much of a problem seeing things. Most streets are well lit. It is however more important to be seen. “Safety lights” are ideal in situations like these. These kinds of lights ensure your visibility with flashing mode options and wide-angle visibility. Flashing modes may seem overkill but they grab attention and give you that additional bit of safety. A good example of such a tail light would be the incredibly powerful LEZYNE STRIP DRIVE PRO. At a highly impressive 300 Lumens, the Lezyne Strip Drive Pro is great value for money.
Any headlight above 150 lumens is good enough within the city limits. You need to ensure your visibility. It would also be a good idea to wear a reflective vest if you ride through poorly lit areas on your commute or night ride.
NIGHT ROAD RIDES
Not a lot of people ride at night unless they are commuting, but if you ride just for fun or take part in group-rides at night then you’re going to want to ensure that you are visible. These kinds of rides are usually faster-paced and may consist of rides through highways or other poorly lit areas. Here a more powerful headlight and taillight combo would differently help out. Look at headlights upwards of 200-800 lumens. These will ensure any potholes or obstacles are seen in advance and avoided.
Brevet riding also demands good lighting and visibility aids. Most brevet communities in India require you to have a minimum of s 150 Lumen output from your headlight. We’d recommend staying on the safer side and opting for a slightly more powerful light. Anything above 200 Lumens is great. You never know what you’ll encounter when riding in the dark, especially on Indian roads.
Longevity is another important consideration when looking at lights for a brevet. A 300, 600 and beyond km brevet will require you to ride at night for longer durations. Look out for lights with long operating durations – You will have to use the light in the lower power output modes to get the most out of your batteries life. Another great option specifically for brevet riders would be to get alkaline battery powered lights. These will last longer than USB chargeable lights. If you still want the convenience of a rechargeable light then you can look out for lights with the ability to function whilst being charged. This will allow you to ride on while charging your light at the same time.
Taillights with various flashing modes would be ideal here too. Anything between 50-300 lumens would be great to look out for when buying a tail light for more serious night rides.
OFF-ROAD RIDING LIGHTS
There’s nothing better than an adrenaline-pumping ride through a nice trail well into the evening. Trail riding is challenging enough during the daytime. Attempting a trail ride at night should only be considered with proper lighting. When offroading at night you’d want to have a nice powerful headlight somewhere in the 800-1500 Lumen output range. More important than this would be to pick a light with a nice wide even spread instead of a central hotspot. A hotspot will mean that you won’t be able to view anything clearly outside the hotspot. This will keep your field of view very narrow and restricted – that’s a disaster waiting to happen.
Taillights aren’t the most important when trail riding but should be a must if you’re riding in a group. High powered off-road lights feature the ability to “toggle” up/down the light level; so you can light up the path ahead on those technical descents, and conserve battery life, on those long uphill drags.
Bicycle lighting has evolved drastically over the years. Lights are now more powerful, energy-efficient, lighter and more streamlined. We’d recommend going for reputed brands even if they cost a little more than the super cheap ones. They’ll pay off in the long run.
Remember, choose a light with a little more running time and power than what you’d usually require – just in case of an emergency. On longer rides, carry spare lights and batteries/power banks.
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WHAT I LOVE ABOUT CYCLING
I’m an avid mountain biker and I like riding fast and flowy singletrack. As I keep riding, I continuously work on honing my riding skills. I like to ride whenever possible, especially with friends. I also like to influence folk into getting to ride more often.
Working on bicycles has also been a keen interest of mine for quite some time.
DISCIPLINE: Mountain biking and Road biking
CURRENT BIKE: RockRider 5.3 & Specialized Allez Elite DSW
DREAM BIKE: Santa Cruz 5010