Staying visible to other motorists, cyclists, and pedestrians is crucial for road safety. One of the most effective ways to achieve this is through bicycle lights.
Proper lighting is not just a matter of visibility but also your well-being. It gives you a defined presence on the road. This improves your chances of not being hit by other vehicles during the day and especially at night.
When shopping for one, bike lights are divided into two sections: to see and to be seen. The two have common ground, which can be a bit confusing. That’s where this guide pedals in. Find the right lighting for your cycling needs here!
Types of Bike Lights
Being seen on the road is what bicycle lighting systems are all about. The message is there: to see and be seen. Be-seen lights are bright enough for nearby motorists or pedestrians to see you. To-see lights are brighter, illuminating roads or trails helping you see.
A well-lit bike must be equipped with front, side and rear lights. This applies to both kids bikes and adult bikes and cyclists of all ages and levels. Installing just “any” lights won’t cut it, especially when riding in low-light conditions, e.g., after dark. So here’s what you need to consider:
Front, side and rear safety lights
These enhance your visibility to motorists in low-light conditions. The brightest ones can even make you more noticeable during the day. But the thing is, they’re not bright enough to provide the illumination needed for night riding.
These lights vary primarily in the following:
- their mounting options
- the number of light-emitting diodes (LEDs) they feature
- whether they use rechargeable or disposable batteries
When selecting safety lights, consider these factors for optimal visibility and ride safety.
High-output lighting system
These are rechargeable, high-performance options that offer maximum illumination. They come at a higher price point than safety lights, sure. However, their brightness level far surpasses that of their counterparts.
These systems are designed to light your path on both trails and roads. They ensure clear visibility in a wide range of conditions, to add. For riders who venture out in low-light or challenging environments, high-output lighting is the way to go. But who says you can’t choose both?
Exploring Mounting Options
As mentioned, the choices available for mounting can greatly impact both the lights and your riding experience. Let’s start with headlights.
Headlights can be mounted on your Bobbin bike’s handlebar or bike helmet. Take helmet-mounted lights, for instance. They provide the advantage of adjustable beam direction with a simple turn of your head. This flexibility makes them the top choice as to-see lights.
Whether on the handlebar or helmet, having the right combination of lights ensures your safety and versatility. This is especially true during night rides in off-road conditions demanding adaptable illumination.
For nighttime trail riding, you should consider using both types. Beams of helmet-mounted lights can be directed by just the turn of your head. If you’re using only one light source, a helmet-mounted light can be versatile.
Also known as tail lights, these are mostly the red lamps on the rear of a vehicle, such as a commuter bike. Their purpose is to ensure you are visible to others, hence making them the be-seen lights.
Bike rear lights don’t just make you more visible, but also the reflective items on the road. These include road lines, raised markers, and traffic signs, including animal eyes. Most rely on lights from road vehicles, so do you part by attaching one on the back of your two wheels.
The good thing is that such lighting systems offer flexible mounting options. You can attach them to your pack, pocket, or seatpost, and, of course, on the back of rear bike racks. With this, you can personalise your setup based on your needs and cycling conditions.
This type of cycling lighting is often overlooked by many cyclists. But it appears to be as important as the first two. Side lights are specifically designed to protect riders from being hit from the side. Meaning they shine from the side of your kid’s Hornet bike or your Bobbin Brownie.
They are basically attached or clipped to the frame using a safe mount. Most lights up in two directions, giving a bright flashing or constant light sideways. The amber LEDs make it easy for drivers approaching from the sides to spot you at intersections. The same goes for those coming behind to see you and how wide your bike is.
Comparing Light Performance
You can count on different light performances to shine in any weather:
LED bike lights, as the name suggests, use Light Emitting Diodes as the main light source. They are highly energy-efficient and produce intense and focused beams. Moreover, they have a longer lifespan compared to traditional bulbs.
Their brightness and low power consumption make them ideal for bike illumination. They come in various designs, including front and rear lights.
A lumen is a unit of measurement that quantifies the amount of light a bulb emits. It tells you how bright it is at a set distance. In essence, a higher lumen signifies a brighter light output. Most light manufacturers provide a lumen rating.
For cyclists, this helps determine how well a light will illuminate the road or trail. Front bike lights typically range from 200 to 2000 lumens. Meanwhile, around 20 to 100 for rear lights. Your choice will depend on your riding environment and the level of visibility needed.
Beam patterns in bike lights refer to the way light is distributed. A good and effective beam optimises visibility on the road. It ensures the light is evenly spread on the road ahead, with no dark or blind hotspots.
For well-lit streets, opt for a front light with a narrow focus beam. However, on darker roads or trails, a wide-focus beam is preferable. Again, the choice should align with the lighting conditions for enhanced visibility.
Choosing Light Modes
Bike lights often come with various light modes. Common ones available include white, warm, and amber light colours. White light provides a clear, bright illumination. It’s best for well-lit roads and maximising road visibility.
Warm light, in contrast, has a softer, more yellow-toned illumination. It offers a less harsh experience, ideal for urban and suburban settings. Finally, amber light is great for enhancing contrast and reducing glare. It makes an excellent choice for off-road trails and foggy conditions.
With such options, you can adapt to diverse environments and, overall, improve safety.
Opting Rechargeable Lighting
Rechargeable bike lights use lithium-ion batteries, which allow for hundreds of times charges. They maintain consistent brightness until they run out of power. This makes them inexpensive and eco-friendly alternatives to disposable ones.
Most come with helpful features like a “fuel gauge” or low-battery warning. A great aspect to have, ensuring you’re not left in the dark unexpectedly. Furthermore, they don’t suffer from the “memory effect” when fully discharged. You can keep them charged with a power cord or USB charger and ready for your next adventure with ease.
Rechargeable batteries offer over 500 charge/discharge cycles. When charging them, make sure to fully charge before storage, and don’t overdo it. Inactive ones lose charge, so charge before each use to keep them ready. Many systems have smart charges that stop when fully charged - pay attention to this feature!Explore Bobbin for all your cycling needs, including bicycle accessories and bike parts. Next on your reading list: How to Light up Your Bicycle for the Road