Bicycle lights are an important safety feature of any bike, especially for cyclists who plan to be out and about at night or in inclement weather. There are a lot of things to consider when purchasing a lighting system for your bike.
What Do You Need Your Lights For?
The first thing to think about when considering lights for a bicycle is why you need lights for your bicycle. Different cyclists have different reasons for needing lights. This is usually based on where they intend to take their bikes and under what conditions they plan on riding where they will need the lights.
A cyclist who just needs to be clearly seen while taking a short commute home at night in a decently lit part of town is going to have very different needs from a mountain cyclist who intends to bike through the woods at night.
The first cyclist just needs something bright enough that they can be seen by people in vehicles at a reasonable distance. The second cyclist needs a light system that will actually allow them to see where they are going in an environment that will be pitch dark. As different cyclists have different needs, they will need vastly different products, and cyclists should be aware of what products do as not all lights are useful or appropriate for every situation.
There are two basic types of lighting systems. Safety lights are dimmer lights designed to be seen by others on the road. They are not generally bright enough to provide much light to cyclists, however.
High output lighting systems are instead designed for scenarios in which the cyclist will be in extremely dark situations. They may be obnoxious to use in more well-lit areas, however.
What to Look for When Buying Bicycle Lights
LED bike lights are of course the gold standard in terms of efficiency. Because bike lights rely on battery power, the less energy that is used to power the lighting system, the better. Many battery systems for bike lights are rechargeable. Using LED bulbs greatly reduces the frequency by which the battery system must be recharged.
When buying bicycle lights, one consideration that consumers should understand is the amount of lumens that a light produces. The lumen is the unit of measurement for light output. Some bicycle lights may only be ten or twenty lumens, which may be ideal for those just wishing to be seen. Others will have over a thousand or even more, and are more appropriate for off-roading at night.
The best bike lights will have settings that allow their users to adjust the brightness to suit their needs. Using lights at lower settings will also consume less battery power.
Finally, cyclists should consider the beam pattern of the light before making a purchase. A simple straight beam is likely best for traversing the city at night, but for those attempting to off-road in the pitch black night, a wide beam light will be ideal to be able to see the environment.
Battery Systems and Battery Life
Rechargeable lights are going to be superior systems and far more cost-effective for the average cyclist. Most rechargeable batteries can be charged hundreds of times if not more before they need to be replaced.
Most rechargeable bike lights are recharged via USB cable, which allows them to be powered via a computer or with a wall plug converter with a USB slot.
The battery life of a bicycle light should be considered along with its power. Greater power means lower battery life, so consumers shouldn’t go with more power if it sacrifices longevity. Cyclists should again consider their needs. Are they biking off road for a few hours, or are they going to be making a twenty-minute commute home from work on a street with lamps? Again, the best lights are the ones that can be adjusted, sacrificing power for additional battery life as needed.
Rechargeable bike lights generally use lithium-ion batteries, which do not fade out as they lose power. Instead, they simply cut off. Therefore, consumers should look for lights that show low battery warnings so that they don’t suddenly lose power in the dark. Cyclists should consider carrying battery packs or USB portable rechargers to ensure that they don’t run out of juice.
Light Mounts: Attaching Lights to Your Bike
Most lights will have components that come with the light that allow it to be mounted or strapped to your bike, allowing for it to be conveniently attached.
The handlebars make an excellent place for a headlight. Turning the handlebars will allow the cyclist to control the beam. Cyclists should consider putting a light on their helmet, as it gives them the best control of what part in front of them is illuminated.
Back lights can be attached to rear bike racks or on the shaft just under the seat. Another excellent place to mount lights is the spokes of wheels, considering the spinning of the wheel will cause the light to clearly move. This greatly increases a rider’s visibility.