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Lighting ? - What's better... Helmet or Handlebar mounted?(10 posts)

Lighting ? - What's better... Helmet or Handlebar mounted?Tommy B
Apr 18, 2002 3:34 PM
So I know it's staying light out longer these days, but I want to commute to and from work and it'll definately be dark before I get home. I've narrowed down my choices to the new H.I.D. models by Nite Rider: the Storm Helmet H.I.D. and the BlowTorch Handlebar H.I.D. They're really the same system and differ only in how/where they're mounted.

After work I'll be riding from an urban area on well lit yet busy roads to a slightly less urban area about 7 or 8 miles away.

So my question, for all you nocturnal animals out there who like to see and be seen, is it better to have the light on your head or on your handlebars?

It seems like the advantage of helmet mounted is it's higher and points where ever you aim your noggin. Of course the light will be bobbing around more on the road ahead of me and I worry that I'll inevitably aim it right in the eyes of oncoming traffic and piss people off. Their revenge would be to high-beam me.

The advantage of the handlebar mount seems to be that I can aim the light at an appropriate angle to the street and I wouldn't have the extra weight of the lighting system attached directly to my body. (This particular system seems pretty light so this may not be a factor...?)

I'd love to hear from people who have tried either or both methods and why you think one is better.

Not that it matters for my question, but here are the two systems I'm considering:

Either, or...DMoore
Apr 18, 2002 6:31 PM
I have both helmet and handlebar systems, use both. I tend to use the handlebar system most of the time. It's easier -no wire up your back to deal with when taking off the helmet, etc. However, the downside is that the light points wherever the bike is pointed, which is not necessarily where the road is going next. My Tuesday night training ride has a hairpin turn, with water and potholes. You don't see them until it's too late.

The "head" light has the advantage that you can point it where you need it. Sometimes, that includes a quick flash in the direction of that motorist, just to make sure that he knows you're there. You have to remember, however, NOT to turn and look at your riding partner when you're talking to him! (Not an issue if you're commuting alone.)

On balance, I'd say this. If your route is mostly smooth, with no bad road/sharp turns, the handlebar light will work fine and be less hassle. OTOH, if you have bad roads, or sharp turns, you'd probably do better with the helmet mount.

After all, the worst "roads" are off-road, and I think virtually every off-roader who rides at night has a helmet mount.
My headmount has served me wellspeedisgood
Apr 19, 2002 4:46 AM
I used to commute in the dark (and MTB at night also) using only my headmount. I agree that it's a pain in the butt sometimes with the wire from the convenience standpoint. What I really liked was the fact that I could point my light at motorists about to pull out in front of me so I know they see me.

I guess they SHOULD see you with either light source, but I'd rather be sure, since I've almost been hit a few times in the broad daylight by the car pulling out/turning-in front-of-you situations.

I've always thought that a good combo for me would be a smaller, more basic light (like one of those 4-AA battery deals) on the bars and my 10 W headlight. You get the pointability of the head light with the constant light fill-in of a static bar mount.

Hope this helps!
Handlebar mounted for most regular urban riding...PdxMark
Apr 19, 2002 10:04 AM
For my commute the function of my headlight is mainly to let cars see me, whether the cars are coming toward me on the road I'm on, or on a cross street. From watching on-coming cyclists, the steady, direct beam of a bright bar-mounted light seems far more visible than the sometimes inconsistent direction of a healmet-mounted light.

Trees and a dearth of street lights make some stretches of my commute pretty dark, but there are rarely obstacles on my route, so I'm not too worried about what's "underfoot." With kevlar-belted slicks on my commuter I'm also not worried about a little glass here & there. My handlebar light will let me know if there's a branch in the road. A helemt-mount would be better at illuminating the path in front of you, but for my urban ride, that's not an issue.

One friend likes to use his helmet-mounted light to "flash" drivers at cross-roads (by looking at them). It's usually when the driver's intentions are ambiguous... I can do the same with a flick of the handlebars. Not as direct a flash, but sometimes enough.

Anyway, the main thing seems to be - the brighter the better... Good luck and enjoy
re: Lighting ? - What's better... Helmet or Handlebar mounted?grzy
Apr 19, 2002 10:16 AM
Been using the NR HID this winter for night MTB rides....shhhhh.

anyway mounting it on the bar works fine and there's less stuff to futz with when it's time to go. You simple can not believe how much light this little arc lamp puts out or how wide the beam is. Remember I'm using it for MTB riding deep in the woods on twisty technical single track - if ever there was a time you might want to go with a helmet mount this would be it. But I don't. Used to run two convention NR lighting systems - one on the bar and one on the helmet. In any event you don't really need to worry about if - if you buy one system you can easily buy just the mounting bracket for the setup you want for about $10. The real key is which battery format you go with - I just get the cordura case over the water bottle since I only have one viable bottle mount on the MTB and I use it for water. The case can either velcro to you bike frame or you can stuff it in your jersey if you go with the helmet mount. Another nice thing is the car charger, whihc may not be useful for your situation, I use it to top off when driving to the trail head. One of my concerns is taking a big digger on the MTB and then driving that little bomb-proof light assembly though the helmet and into my skull. I'd end up looking like that three eyed fish on The Simpsons.
re: Lighting ? - What's better... Helmet or Handlebar mounted?Tommy B
Apr 19, 2002 10:55 AM
Ahh yes, Blinky the beloved three eyed fish that grew up in the murky waters beside Mr. Burns' nuclear power plant! Good episode! Well you're right to try to avoid looking like that!

Thanks a bunch to the three people who replied. Your comments have given me much to consider. I liked the point that was made about using the helmet mounted version to gain the attention of drivers at intersections and how you can aim the light into turns before the bike mounted light is able to catch up. It would be nice if it's mounting options were like some of NR's other helmet mounted systems. Unfortunately, Grzy, with this particular helmut mounted system (Storm H.I.D.), NR didn't design the battery to have frame mounting as an option. The battery enclosure is smooth, asymmetrical and has no loops for hanging off the frame. This seems like a missed opportunity on their part.

I think I'm leaning toward the helmet mounting but I'm not sure yet. It will be another week or two before I actually go buy one since my commuter bike isn't quite ready yet, but I'll keep all your comments in mind.

Thanks again!
re: Lighting ? - What's better... Helmet or Handlebar mounted?atpjunkie
Apr 20, 2002 7:41 PM
Be careful "flashing" motorists with an HID you can temporarily blind them. Those lights are brighter than hell but they are really expensive and can be finicky, troublesome and the bulbs are super easy to damage by impact
(and expensive to replace) They have had mixed reviews and you see alot of them for sale on ebay which tends to make me worry. I commute 20 miles each direction and use a two light set up. A classic dual beam on the bars and headtrip on my noggin. I shy from the "more advanced models" as the risc processor lights have had heaps of trouble and have a marginally longer burn time. You can get both these lights for the price of a HID system, granted it won't be as bright but it will be bright enough. I like having the dual beam as it lights my way in general (the 12 watt setting for general, the 20 watt for dark sections and both 32w for high speed). I use the headtrip as a fill (It aims just ahead of my bar lamp illumination when riding) a cornering lamp and a errant driver heads up. I find combining two positions with less light better than one with more candlepower. I ride both road and trail with this set up and am totally happy. Good Luck on your decision.
UB Mistaken - They missed nothing.grzy
Apr 22, 2002 1:36 PM
It depends on whihc "flavor" of the NR HID you order. You can get either battery style and either mount system - you just need to expand your search to include the stuff marketed for off road motorcycling (i.e. the Headhunter). Got me a nice cordura battery case with loops and velcro for mounting on the bike or slipping in my jersey pocket and you can always get all of their mounting devices as seperate items. So maybe you need to look at the "Blowtorch" or the "Headhunter" - go check the NR website or for more info.

Finally I have a new and unused system for sale at $300 if you're interested - got one for a buddy who decided he can't afford it right now. Gimme your email if you're interested.
re: Lighting ? - What's better... Helmet or Handlebar mounted?zeke
Apr 20, 2002 10:16 PM
i prefer helmet light. as you mentioned it can be directed wherever you look. you also mentioned the possibility of pissing off those heading towards you. this seems unlikely. i have found that with the light angled to hit the road surface maybe 10 feet ahead of my bike, that angle, even when i look straight ahead does not interfere with those approaching.
also i think the helmet systems are lighter and can easily be used for repair work.
re: Lighting ? - What's better... Helmet or Handlebar mounted?Ian
Apr 22, 2002 5:18 PM
Do you mountain bike? Will you ride off-road with this light? If so, helmet is the way to go. if not, it is a toss up.

With the helmet, obviously, you can direct the light. But with the bar, you can wire it up and leave it there. Just unplug the battery for charging.

I borrowed the Niterider Storm for a 12 hour race, but the light head is heavy, my helmet wanted to move quite a bit. Then I came across Light & Motion. I got their ARC Cabeza and the light head is much lighter, I don't notice it. And I like their charging system better.