Author Topic: Can you recommend some bicycle lights?  (Read 6946 times)

Sonorous Epithet

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Can you recommend some bicycle lights?
« on: May 10, 2014, 10:08:00 AM »
Recently my girlfriend and I decided not to bike to a baseball game because it was a night game, and then the next night we drove home in the dark because we lingered at a softball practice past sunset. I was delaying getting lighting for our bikes for a few months until we settled into the biking lifestyle more, but it seems like the need is already here.

We want to be able to ride safely on poorly lit urban streets and bike paths (spotty streetlights but plenty of ambient light pollution) well after dark. I want to balance safety and visibility with not being unnecessarily spendy. (Note: I do have a cheapy Planet Bike headlight which is terrifyingly not good for seeing anything in front of you which I plan on ditching.)

I picked out 2 Cygolite 360 USBs and 2 Planet Bike Blinky Safety 1-Led Bicycle Light Set (extra front light as a backup, I guess) for $120 total.

 Are those good choices?

jnik

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Re: Can you recommend some bicycle lights?
« Reply #1 on: May 10, 2014, 11:12:31 AM »
The Cygolite front lite is pretty good and should serve you well. I have an older model of theirs that's 250 lumens and only just upgraded (mostly because a LOT of light is very useful around here, given the amount of downhills).

I'd put a little more on the rear. Start with a 3" SAE reflector, amber or red (hardware store, will be in garden, or automotive, or in the little bins by the screws....)--these are the things that people put on posts at the end of their driveway so they don't miss it. You'll have to do a little MacGuyver to mount it. Then you can get some dang good lights for cheap these days. Cygolite Hotshot, Planet Bike Superflash, Cateye TL-LD650, NiteRider Cherry Bomb, Portland Design Works Danger Zone...all quite good, you can read reviews, or just buy on price.

Russ

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Re: Can you recommend some bicycle lights?
« Reply #2 on: May 10, 2014, 11:27:36 AM »
The Cygolite is awesome. I have the 500 lumen but never run it past medium which is 300-something. The beam pattern is nice & even for seeing all around without hot spots.

In the rear you need a little more oomph. Planet Bike Superflash (.5W LED) is the old standard, and will serve you much better for an extra $5. Stepping up to a 1W LED would be even more visible. I have a 2W NiteRider Solas that my parents gave me for Xmas... it works for me because my commute is on 55mph country roads, but it's blinding/overkill when I take it to the city.

I would say you don't really need the backup front light. The Cygolites get dim rather than just going dark so you'll have a little warning, plus if the two of you are usually riding together it's unlikely that both will go out at the same time.

kudy

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Re: Can you recommend some bicycle lights?
« Reply #3 on: May 10, 2014, 11:45:55 AM »
I bought this headlight:
http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B006QQX3C4

I have no idea if it's really 1200 lumen, but it's really bright (nearly as bright as some car headlights) at the highest setting, and has worked well for me for 1.5 years. The best feature is the price.

Sonorous Epithet

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Re: Can you recommend some bicycle lights?
« Reply #4 on: May 10, 2014, 12:23:43 PM »
Thanks for the replies. I'll stick with the Cygolite headlight I've already picked out.

I had trouble figuring out which taillight to get, so I decided to get a Planet Bike SuperFlash Turbo and a Cygolite Hotshot and do a little A/B testing with my girlfriend, and we can see if we can determine whether we have a preference.

GuitarStv

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Re: Can you recommend some bicycle lights?
« Reply #5 on: May 10, 2014, 01:24:18 PM »
I like the superflash as a rear light, it works great.  My 2 cents echoes what has been said above . . . You might want a backup rear light, but getting a second front light is overkill.

AMustachianMurse

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Re: Can you recommend some bicycle lights?
« Reply #6 on: May 10, 2014, 02:19:54 PM »
I saw some bicyclists while i was driving home on a dark road.  We were caddy corner from each other, they looked at me and the light nearly blinded me.  As i drove away I could see them very visibly in my rear view 100s of feet away and I was thinking to myself "That's the headlight I want when I become a rider"  Do you guys think that the lights in this thread were the ones they were wearing?

Also, what do you guys think of those ring LEDs that people clip onto the wheels of their bikes for side visibility? 

Paul der Krake

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Re: Can you recommend some bicycle lights?
« Reply #7 on: May 10, 2014, 02:37:38 PM »
I bought this headlight:
http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B006QQX3C4

I have no idea if it's really 1200 lumen, but it's really bright (nearly as bright as some car headlights) at the highest setting, and has worked well for me for 1.5 years. The best feature is the price.
I have the same. Unfortunately the battery pack bag is cheaply made and the strap broke after a week of hanging below my saddle. The exact same thing happened to a coworker who bought the same model. That being said, excellent lamp for night riding.

Thegoblinchief

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Re: Can you recommend some bicycle lights?
« Reply #8 on: May 10, 2014, 07:05:09 PM »
A similar Cygolite model is what's recommended in this very detailed write up:

http://thesweethome.com/reviews/best-commuter-bike-lights/

I'm still using my Bell Radian which is considerably lower power but bright enough for streets and trails, since most of the trails get a lot of spillover ambient light from the urban light pollution. I will eventually upgrade to the Cygolite though.

BlueMR2

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Re: Can you recommend some bicycle lights?
« Reply #9 on: May 10, 2014, 07:12:09 PM »
I picked up a Cannondale package at my LBS recently.  Cannondale Foresite Plus Front Light and Cannondale Hindsite Ultra Rear Light packaged together for about a $5 savings.  All batteries included.  Solid, solid/flashing, and flashing modes available.  Standard AAA batteries.  Front light easily meets Ohio's side visibility requirements (many of the others I looked at were weak in that area).  Met every requirement on my list and I've been very impressed with actual night usage as well.  My only complaint is that the mount for the rear is not as heavy as I'd like.  Works fine, but I'm afraid I'm going to break it some day.

m8547

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Re: Can you recommend some bicycle lights?
« Reply #10 on: May 10, 2014, 07:52:23 PM »
I have a set or Reelights, which are lights that use magnetic induction to generate power from magnets attached to the wheels, so there's no friction. They are basically daytime running lights for my bike, and they never need batteries and I never need to turn them on/off.

If I'm biking on roads at night, I turn on one or both of my Planet Bike Superflash tail lights. I have a regular one and a Turbo. The regular one is good enough, but the Turbo is kind of fun since it's so bright. I recommend having at least one light front and rear in solid mode (not flashing) so it's easier for cars to judge your speed, distance, and position.

A front light is probably more important than a rear light, since it makes you visible to oncoming/turning traffic and in drivers' mirrors. It also lets you see where you are going. If it's dark out, I'll usually use one of my mountain biking lights. Of the ones I have, I like the Niterider Lumina (600 lumen, older model) the best for commuting since it's self-contained and reliable.  To see where you are going in complete darkness, 200 lumens is the minimum I've found to be useful. It helps to have a light on your helmet and on your bars if you can (and they should have similar light output).

Sonorous Epithet

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Re: Can you recommend some bicycle lights?
« Reply #11 on: May 10, 2014, 09:07:42 PM »
A similar Cygolite model is what's recommended in this very detailed write up:

http://thesweethome.com/reviews/best-commuter-bike-lights/

That's why I picked it ;)

Ended up getting the Cygolite Metro 420s, actually. The 320s had shipping delays, and it seemed worth the 12 bucks each to get better ones sooner. Maybe that's spendy, but I'd rather by spendy than crashy.

electriceagle

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Re: Can you recommend some bicycle lights?
« Reply #12 on: May 11, 2014, 08:59:22 AM »
I realize that you have already made your decision, but I have a suggestion that might help others.

DealExtreme has a variety of bicycle flashlight mounts available for $2-3. They come in different styles, so pick the one that you like.

You can use these with many types of LED flashlights. These flashlights can be purchased online or at Costco. (I remember getting a set of 3 for $20 a couple of years ago.) They are extremely bright, extremely cheap and can be powered by rechargeable AAA batteries.

Net cost per person: less than $15.

Dealextreme also has flashing rear lights that work quite well and are quite bright for less than $5.

GuitarStv

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Re: Can you recommend some bicycle lights?
« Reply #13 on: May 12, 2014, 07:33:08 AM »
A front light is probably more important than a rear light, since it makes you visible to oncoming/turning traffic and in drivers' mirrors. It also lets you see where you are going. If it's dark out, I'll usually use one of my mountain biking lights. Of the ones I have, I like the Niterider Lumina (600 lumen, older model) the best for commuting since it's self-contained and reliable.  To see where you are going in complete darkness, 200 lumens is the minimum I've found to be useful. It helps to have a light on your helmet and on your bars if you can (and they should have similar light output).

This very much depends on where you do your bike riding.  In a city there's always enough light to see by, so you're really using the light to be noticed.  In this scenario, a rear light is much more important than a front one as most traffic is passing you on the road from behind.  Flashing also becomes more important than solid lights, as you just want the vehicles to be aware of your presence . . .

BrooklineBiker

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Re: Can you recommend some bicycle lights?
« Reply #14 on: May 12, 2014, 04:39:25 PM »
Hi
Planet Bike makes good inexpensive lights. They are available new on Amazon. I recommend reflective vest as well.

m8547

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Re: Can you recommend some bicycle lights?
« Reply #15 on: May 12, 2014, 09:05:16 PM »
This very much depends on where you do your bike riding.  In a city there's always enough light to see by, so you're really using the light to be noticed.  In this scenario, a rear light is much more important than a front one as most traffic is passing you on the road from behind.  Flashing also becomes more important than solid lights, as you just want the vehicles to be aware of your presence . . .

From the rear you should be visible in cars' headlights. Most of the time. And reflectors work well from the rear because they are usually in line with the driver's lights.  From the front you may not be in the driver's lights if they are going to make a left turn in front of you, or if they are pulling out of a driveway or side street in front of you, or if they are about to make a right turn into a driveway or side street in front of you, or if they are crossing the street you are on. Most accidents involving cars and bikes don't involve the bike getting hit from behind (I don't know if the statistics are any different at night, but I don't think they would be a whole lot different). There's a reason why many places require, by law, cyclists to have at least a front light and rear reflector at night. Ideally I would want a front light for being seen that's as bright as one I would use to see by. And rear red lights are so cheap and bright that there's no reason not to have at least one.

I agree that flashing is important in the cit since there are so many distractions. But a solid light is still helpful to help drivers judge distance if it isn't quite bright enough to clearly see the biker in whatever illumination is there at the time. A reflector plus a blinking light is probably good enough.

I bought a piece of DOT conspicuity tape and cut it up and stuck it on my bike. One 18" strip was enough to do the rear seat stays, front fork, and another wrap around the seatpost. If I'm riding in high speed traffic, 40mph+ (almost never these days), or going on a long road ride, I have a highway safety vest that's reflective, neon orange, and neon yellow. I found one that's ANSI class 3 rated for workers in traffic over 55mph. I wouldn't ride on a 55mph road unless there was a really wide shoulder to ride on (at least one lane wide with no concrete or guard rail to get squashed against), low traffic, and good visibility. I also wouldn't do it at night. But I figured I might as well get the most visible reflective vest I could find. I bought one here for super cheap:
http://alertshirt.com/wiraja.html

I read something once that said the physical size of a light is important, in addition to brightness. It makes sense- there have been a few times where I've been driving at night and I see a tiny red pinpoint of light. In a dark\ area it can be hard to tell if it's a biker nearby or a car far away if they're outside the beam of my headlights. A physically large light, like a car's headlight or tail light that's a few inches wide, is a lot easier to see from a distance even if it's not quite as bright. I don't ride in traffic much any more, but if I did I would probably build or rig up some kind of large tail light for my bike. You can buy round truck tail lights fairly cheap, then you just need to find a 12V power source to run it.

I also like spoke lights like this:
http://www.amazon.com/Nite-Ize-Spokelit-Bicycle-Light/dp/B001DZMAAY/
From behind it looks like the light is bouncing up and down because of the sinusoidal motion. It adds visibility from the side, and the movement makes it visible without needing flashing.

GuitarStv

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Re: Can you recommend some bicycle lights?
« Reply #16 on: May 13, 2014, 06:30:00 AM »
I like conspicuity tape as well.  I've got the stuff all over my bike, but the best place to put it is on the rims like this:



It makes you much more visible/identifiable when it's dark out.