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Need suggestions for commuting lights(24 posts)

Need suggestions for commuting lightsvindicator
Jan 27, 2003 8:03 PM
I have no experience commuting and no experience riding in the dark. I'd like to avoid making an expensive mistake. I may start commuting soon, which will require rides in the dark. I'll be on fairly well-traveled roads most of the time.

I've read that helmet lights are good for corners and for being seen/making sure motorists see you. Handlebar lights seem to make sense as well. With a computer and a hrm on my bars, though, there isn't a lot of extra room.

Does anyone make a dual system with one battery where you can mount one light to the helmet and one to the bars?

Or is all that overkill? Can I get by with a 2.5W light that runs on AA batteries?

I don't want to spend a fortune, I don't mind a little extra weight, and I can give up one of my water bottle cages if need be for the 45-minute commute. Quick release would be nice for weekend rides. Visibility is the biggie for me - I'd just as soon not become roadkill. I'm already investing in some Illuminite garb.

If my commutes work out as planned, I'll take Dec-Feb off anyway due to ice, snow, and cold (and rest), so I'll probably need the lights both ways for maybe 4-6 weeks a year, and one way another 4-6 weeks. The rest of the time I should get by with daylight in both directions. Something I could stash in a rack trunk in case I have to work late would be a bonus, though.

All suggestions/comments welcome.


Jan 27, 2003 8:51 PM
get the Marwi Pro Elite. They retail for $260 but I got them on the internet for $170 (new). They are 35 watts total (20w and 15w dual set up) with huge battery life. Go to Marwi website.
and Go here

This is a review of how these lights held up against them all. Marwi makes the Performance Viewpoint Dual Pro and were exactly the same except for the color of the case and 2 watts less on the one beam (I am not suree if Performance still uses Marwi though because they look different this year).
Look at the pictures of how these illuminate the trail. Easily as good as the Cateye Stadium from the pictures. In fact the Marwis are a very white light and when I ride at night in the summer or run errands, they are simply awesome. People in cars look at me because they wonder what is so bright.
I talked several people into these over the internet and they still stay in touch thanking me for the suggestion. They are incredible for the $$$$ and I put them up against the $400 lights. See for yourself the pics at that link above.
This site has them forLazywriter
Jan 27, 2003 9:01 PM
$171 but I got mine from and they matched this guy's price below but you need to show them. They were awesome to deal with and I recommend them. These lights kick a$$. Of all those pic in that test I gave you the link to, these stood out (at least to me). Plus these lights under the Perfomance name got best overall in a magazine test.
I agree 100%jromack
Jan 28, 2003 5:14 AM
I got mine from Aardvark also, and really like them.

The charger is "automatic" unlike many other suppliers. (I still put mine on a light timer)

Nice and bright set up.
AEBike even cheaper...shawndoggy
Jan 28, 2003 9:26 AM
WOW, that is a great priceLazywriter
Jan 28, 2003 2:42 PM
I imagine they are the 2002 models that I got. Marwi changed the look of the casing recently, but either way, that is a great price for such an excellent light with huge burn times.
Just another vote for Marwi Pro Elite nmStewartK
Jan 28, 2003 4:12 PM
Don't put lights on a Cannondale! Cannondale SUX!!!!!philthy underwear
Jan 27, 2003 9:19 PM
re: Need suggestions for commuting lightsrockbender
Jan 27, 2003 10:58 PM
I have no experience with the Marwi's, but they sound like a good system (Lazywriter, thanks for giving some constructive advice!)

Depending on your budget, you should also take a look at the Cygolights - Explorer or Rover NiCad Extra. Both systems can be found for less than a hundred bucks and seem to do a decent job. Although the plastic casing may seem to be cheaper/less durable than the more expensive counterparts, they seem to hold up quite well. Another plus is that it is fairly easy to mount and dismount off the bike.

Another suggestion, since your commute is 45 minutes, would be to get a 2.5 watt light to mount on the bars for backup and go with the helmet mount rechargable. This way you would never be left in the dark.

If you are frugal and handy, check out various websites that will give suggestions on building your own lighting system.

good luck!
Jan 28, 2003 5:13 AM
I've got a Cygolite Night Rover and it's great deal for the money, about $60-70 for a 6/10/16W dual light system w/ NiCAD battery. The run time is 2/4/6 hours depending on what wattage you run. However, if you are commuting every day, you probably ought to consider a NiMH system, which will recharge faster. (The Cygo takes about 15 hours or more to charge.) The best deals I've seen on NiMH systems include the Performance mentioned above (which is made by Mawri), which is a good deal if the run time (2 hours) is long enough for you. If you need more run time, take a look at the NiMH systems sold by Planet Bike has a very nice inexpensive NiMH system with a relatively short recharge time; you can get better prices on this at some of the internet web sites, like or For everyday use, I make sure you get a good quality system that recharges fast. If you don't mind spending a little more, Light & Motion makes some high quality systems that are worth checking out. I don't have a link, but you should be able to find easily doing a google search.
re: Lumicycle dual systemHereford Flyer
Jan 28, 2003 2:06 AM
Take a look at the british lights

I have been running their 13 volt NiMh dual system this winter - absolutly awsome. I run the 40watt + 15 watt bulbs - just as good as a car headlight.

The great thing about them is that you can change bulbs to suit your type of riding from 5 watt to 40 watt, spot, mid or flood - bulbs are pretty low price.
They do helmet mounts and bottle or frame battery bags .
Why not get the Cateye EL-300 they have...Joe Connell
Jan 28, 2003 5:04 AM
liseted in the hot deals. See if that's enough light. I use one for commuting here in Atlanta, and it's enough light. I have a 5w/20w bar light, but I don't really need it, and it's a hassle to put on and take off, so I don't. That Cateye uses 4 AA batteries, but it's suppost to last 110 hrs per set; having said that, I use rechargables.

I've found that you don't really need that much light riding on the road, but you should have enough that a car can see you. The Cateye works for me, and then you can also support this site by clicking on the link to buy it.

Nice, but no...Andy M-S
Jan 28, 2003 6:15 AM
I had an EL300 and I didn't like it. It threw an extremely tight beam, which made it hard to see from off-center and hard to use.

I'm currently using a NiteHawk 5w rechargeable (they come with a nice charger that's smart enough to allow you to leave the battery plugged in until you need it) and you can get a 5W system for $35 if you look around.

I carry an EL100 (3LED) for backup--I think they work a bit better than the 300's tight beam.
and why would you need wider beam?cyclopathic
Jan 28, 2003 8:15 AM
just use 2 lights one (low) for potholes and second (high) to read signs/follow street.
cheap alternativesRJF
Jan 28, 2003 7:19 AM
I've been a bike commuter for the past 13 years. Everyday. In fact, I don't even own a car!!

The type of light you need depends on where you are gonna ride. If your ride involves very dark rural roads where you need to see where you are going, then I'd say it makes sense to spend a forture on a headlight. On the other hand, if you are commuting in a city or an urban area, headlights are a waste of money. Instead, invest in a $15-$20 flashing headlamp -- it's like your typical red Vistalight, only designed for the front. Not only is it cheaper, but with a flashing light you are much more visible to cars than you are with a steady beam.
Good point...biknben
Jan 28, 2003 8:55 AM
Do you need to see or be seen? If the roads are bright enough from traffic and street lights don't worry about your light to see. Use it more to be seen by others.

I'd recommend getting the cheapest rechargeable light you can find. Also plan to spend some money on a rear light or two and get some reflective tape for the moving parts of your bike.
12 watts will domohair_chair
Jan 28, 2003 7:20 AM
2.5w is not useful for lighting the road. Don't waste your money on cheap lights.

I used a Niterider Classic (pre-digital) for years for commuting and for some MTB night rides. It has two lamps, 12w and 20w, and three settings: 12w, 20w, and 32w (both lamps on). For a commute with street lights, 12w is all you need. And on a pitch black trail, you'd be surprised how strong 12 watts can be. You can get these for under $200.

Recently I upgraded to a Light & Motion ARC, which is an HID light. It's so bright and the beam pattern is so wide, it's like having your own sun. It makes the Niterider look like a toy, although for commuting it might be overkill. You can get the L&M Arc on sale for $329 until 1/31 at, which is the lowest price you'll ever find (I looked). They also sell a Niterider HID light for (I think) $309.
Cateye EL200 and Black Diamond helmet light.dzrider
Jan 28, 2003 7:44 AM
Total cost less than $60.00 gets you backup lighting, light on the road, and a light that points wherever you turn your head to look. The Black Diamond runs on batteries for almost 3 hours and the Cateye burns for hundreds of hours. I find recharging batteries and heavy battery packs push me over the edge in terms of making commuting more trouble than it's worth.
re: Need suggestions for commuting lightsKEN2
Jan 28, 2003 8:00 AM
No one seems to have addressed the helmet vs. handlebar question yet. My experience commuting says that a bright handlebar light is fine; helmet lights are mostly for off-roading where you need to look ahead at places your bars aren't aiming at.

Also, I second the recommendation for Marwi/Performance lights. I use the Kamikaze dual system and it has functioned beautifully for two seasons. Before that I had a Marwi single light system, 12W and it was reasonable too. They mount off and on easily, although the lights are so lightweight that I just leave the battery (cage-mount) off (it plugs into the light easily) and the lights attached when I don't need them--also saves some re-aiming. NIMH batteries are notably lighter and less trouble, too. Go to and search the keyword Viewpoint (that's their housebrand version of Marwi) and you'll see several on sale. The 03 model is cosmetically different but I don't think anything else has changed from 02.

Don't rely on illuminite for visibility, particularly if your route has street lights. Most modern street lamps wash out color and contrast, rendering you less visible and rendering moderate reflective systems like illuminite almost useless. I recommend a strong rear flasher, like the Vistalite Total Eclipse, plus a good amber reflector. I have some Scotch reflector tape on my seatbag too, and reflective rear shoe counters.

I don't have experience with them, but Nashbar and others have an inexpensive mount attachment that gives you more handlebar room. The Marwi has a very small mount footprint, though.
you don't need that much light on roadcyclopathic
Jan 28, 2003 8:12 AM
two 2.5w lights should be enough. Set up one as lowbeam for road and another one as high to read signs. For low I'd recommend light diode based Cateye EL-300 (26.99$ at Performance), ~20hr runtime and for high halogen Cateye HL-MC200 (Performance/12.99$), 3hr runtime. Both lights have fast remove mnt bracket and use AAs.

You will also need to buy a good blinky and visibility stuff: vest and ankle bands. It is not bad idea to buy some reflective tape (2$ Walmart) and fix it on frame.

btw the setup above is what needed to ride brevets, here's the link to brevet light requirements:
Maybe 95% of the time, but the other 5% can hurt.djg
Jan 29, 2003 9:14 AM
That's surely enough light to see where the road goes, and most of the time that's all the information you need. But I cannot see how it's enough to spot all sorts of road debris and pavement irregularities severe enough to be an unpleasant surprise or perhaps cause an accident. Get up to any speed (ever go downhill?) and you're likely to "outrun" a 5w light.

Some folks may be fine with this, but I'd recommend more. I've got a 10W halogen Niterider and it's ok, but I've even sometimes wondered about going brighter. As it is, I sometimes check my speed specifically because of my lighting. Not a tragedy but not ideal.
re: Need suggestions for commuting lightsSnowBlind
Jan 28, 2003 9:44 AM
If you are going to ride on a bike trail or some other area where you are rinding with other cyclist coming twords you, please don't turn on that helmet light.
The poor bastard you are looking at can't see a damned thing as you burn out his night vision with your head mounted laser weapon.
Even with higher power handlebar lights (i.e. >4w) it is helpfull to cover your light as you come up on someone, sparing their night vision.

TIA, the poor blind bastard.
re: HID all the way...jrm
Jan 28, 2003 12:46 PM
i can see debris in the road, changes in the surface, and i am easily seen. Very well worth the investment.

Also make sure to purchase a red rear LED light.
second the HIDshawndoggy
Jan 28, 2003 1:23 PM
If you want a light to SEE by, you really need lots of watts, the more the better. The wimpy battery lights will not reveal a pothole if you are travelling downhill at any rate of speed before it's too late to avoid it.

HID is the bomb, I'm a believer.

As for the helmet vs. bars debate, I recently got the bar mount for my light. The pro, no need to tweak my head at a weird angle when tucking downhill. Con, I actually LIKE to "bright" people on my commute -- it gives me a real sense that they see me. Can't do that with a bar mount.

Offroad (once the mud dries here) I suspect that I'll use the HID on the bar and my old 12 watt halogen on the helmet to see around switchbacks, corners, etc.

Agree re needing a blinky or 5. I'm also running Tireflys on my valve stems ( Notwithstanding the team estrogen price, though, you can get the plain red ones at radio shack for $5 a pair. Nothing beats blinky motion to catch a driver's eye.