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Lights for Riding in the Dark(8 posts)

Lights for Riding in the DarkStew
Mar 21, 2001 1:02 PM
I could use a little advice on what type of light to get for riding in the dark.

My riding buddies and I often get up early in the morning to go riding before the work day starts. In the summer, that's not a problem. We all have decent 2 or 3 watt lights that work fine in the pre-sunrise dawn.

But at other times in the year, not only is it pitch black when we get up, but it's still dark when we're done. We tried riding with those little lights, but it's a little dicey and really not any fun at all.

Any advice in terms of wattage, one light vs. two, brands and helmet lights (are they just for mountain biking) would be appreciated.

an alternative, maybeJack S
Mar 21, 2001 1:38 PM
our club will have rides during the winter months downtown where no lights are needed except a rear flasher- this may not be an option for you though. At speed you will need a wide AND bright beam t osee what's ahead... maybe even 2 lights for "far away" and "up close". Also, don't look at your friends if you are using a headlamp!
I have a couple of 6W lights that do a fair job ...Humma Hah
Mar 21, 2001 2:07 PM
... and both are reasonably priced, and light enough to carry when you thing there's just a chance of needing them. One (I believe its a Serfas) uses 4 AA alkalines and has a halogen bulb. It mounts on the bars by a permanant mount the light clips to, and cost around $24, complete with a flashing-LED taillight. I like its focus.

The second, a Sigma Sport Ellipsoid, costs a little more as it uses ni-cads and a halogen bulb. Two of the 5 nicads turned out to be defective and I had to replace them (originally it only stored a charge for about 18 minutes). It also is easily removable, clamping to the bars by a built-in clamp, so it can be moved between bikes. I don't like the way its lens scatters light.

Halogen bulbs with good batteries produce a nice white light. With a good reflector, they do produce usable light.

Both are adequate for commuting home in the dark, or getting stuck out late on long rides. Neither would be very good for really high speeds.

Up in the 12-15 W range, the price goes up dramatically. Some excellent lights are available, including dual-beam systems. I've seen them in action, and there are no secrets in front of a dual-beam NiteRider. Helmet lights are OK, but if you're looking to one side, you have no straight-ahead light to alert your peripheral vision of a hazard. I'd go single-beam on the helmet, single on the bars if you want to try a helmet light. With a helmet light, you can read your computer, look at your pedals, check for flats, etc.
My experience...biknben
Mar 21, 2001 2:29 PM
I've been riding with Night Rider lights for a few years. I do a lot of night riding on the MTB and have entered a few 24-hour events. I use a dual beam (32 watts total) on my handlebars and a single spot (10 watt)light on my helmet. A dual beam on the bars is overkill, especially on a road bike.

I would recommend getting a single beam handlebar mounted light to start with. You would want at least 10 watts. There are a few more things to pay attention to. Make sure the burn time of the battery won't leave you in the dark. The claimed burn times are typically exagerated and colder temps will cause a battery to run out faster. Another issue is the spread of the beam. Get one with a wide beam (flood light) to start. This will ensure you have enough light spread over a large part of your path. If in the future you think you need more light get another lamp for you helmet.

The advantage of a helmet lamp is that you can look around while riding forward. Things like clipless pedals or drivetrain noises become really annoying when you can't see them.

Night Rider has a few good lights with smart chargers that won't destroy your battery if you forget to unplug it. They also make batteries which can be strapped to the frame rather than using one of your water bottle cages.

Good luck
My experience...slbenz
Mar 21, 2001 6:06 PM
I would agree with biknben as well. I have the same system except I replaced the NiteRider helmet light with a 15 watt bulb. I am able to get two hours of burn time with that bulb. Definitely a dual beam NiteRider is overkill for a road bike unless your doing descents in excess of 40 mph+. I like my helmet light because it can attract the attention of automobile drivers. Just look in their direction briefly and your light will get you noticed. Hope this helps in your decision for a bike light.
My experience...Maui
Mar 21, 2001 6:25 PM
I have a niterider dual for the bars and a 15 single for my helmet. Although this setup is necessary for the mtb, it's not necessary for the road. A single 15w is perfectly fine for the road.

I would recommend using a taillight as well. Niterider has a very nice bar and taillight setup. By the way, bar lights are nice in the summer because they keep the bugs away from your face. A helmet mounted light has the propensity to attrack bugs. If you need to look at the drive train, just stop and take the system off your bars. I've done this and it's fine.
re: Lights for Riding in the Darkthbirks
Mar 21, 2001 3:15 PM
i could never get myself to ride that early, but i used to ride quite alot at night. it's nice as traffic is often less and in the summer it's cooler. i used a vistalite setup with a nicad battery and 10 watt lamp. i could ride almost as fast at night as in the daytime with this setup. i don't really think you need anything more powerful than 10 watts for most road riding. if you're gonna use the light alot it will pay to go with a rechargable battery. hope that helps
Best flashing tail lighttommyb
Mar 22, 2001 3:41 AM
I use an emergency white strobe light on the back of my commuting bike. People tell me it's visible for several miles, and they often think I'm a school bus from that distance. It's much better than any LED flasher, but I have to replace the D-cell battery every two or three rides. A small price to pay for that level of visibility. I only use if I'm riding alone, or at the back of a group. It's very annoying to anyone sitting on your wheel. It's available from REI.