Bicycle Lights, To See or Be Seen
Bicycles are a great mode of transportation. They can get you where you need to go and help you have fun doing it. Lights can play an important part in ensuring that you get the most out of your bike safely.
There are many different types of bike lights, and at first the options can seem overwhelming. The most important thing to keep in mind is the type of riding that you do.
If you mainly ride on the road at low to moderate speeds then one of your biggest concerns is going to be a good indicator light facing backwards so traffic can see you from far back, this can be important even during the day because it will increase your visibility and give drivers more time to react safely. A low or moderately powered handlebar mount “headlight” to illuminate your path is a great addition and is important if you are going to be riding at night on unlit roads. For road riding a handlebar mount light is the safest as looking up into oncoming traffic with your helmet mounted light is akin to high beaming the drivers and could seriously disorient them.
If your focus is on getting rowdy offroad and you want to light up the night for your midnight shuttle runs, neither of the lights mentioned above are going to do much for you. You would probably want a combination of lights, but both of them facing forward. You might even want them to be as powerful as your budget allows. For most offroad night riding this is not necessary. Using a combination of two forward facing lights, one on your handlebars and one mounted on your helmet, you can create depth, consistently illuminate where you are headed, and always have a spot light shining where you are looking.
Personally I have found 2 Nightrider 750 lumen lights to be enough for anything I’m going to be doing offroad, including shuttle runs, but if you really feel the need to light up the night then there are brighter options.
The current state of bicycle light technology is impressive. Gone are the days of needing to carry multiple bulky batteries that you had to treat with the utmost care just to make it through one night ride. Modern lights are compact and powerful, rarely would you need more than a light with an integrated battery to get you through whatever conditions you face short of a 24hr race. On top of that modern lights are so compact that carrying an extra for an emergency comes with minimal weight penalty.
No matter what type of riding you do one of the best ways to make the most informed decision when buying lights is to talk to other riders who do what you want to do. If at all possible try to experience what different lights offer. Your local bike shop is a great resource for this type of information and they can often connect you with like minded folks. It is always great to have more community to help you make informed choices and progress through your riding.
Riding at night opens up riding opportunities that aren’t available in many people’s busy schedules. Even more night riding is a whole new experience. Your senses are restricted and there is a strange and peaceful calm that has to be experienced. Like anything that gives you opportunities to get outside and play, bike lights can improve the quality of your recreation and life. As a bonus they make the best flashlight you’ve ever had…