Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Bicycle Lights for Night Riding

For night riding, it is always a good idea to be well lighted. The more lights the better, as you can be seen more clearly by other vehicles on the road. There are two main types of lights for bicycles:

1) To See
This will refer to lights that you mount on your bike/helmet, for the purpose of enabling you to see the road clearly. These type of lights will have powerful beams, with spot lighting to light up the path ahead. For on-road riding in Singapore, these are usually not necessary as the roads are generally well lighted.

For off-road riding at night, these are essential. You will need a light that is powerful with a good spread to see the terrain ahead. The drawback for these type of lights is that it usually requires a separate lithium battery pack for the power, and the runtime is usually limited to only a few hours at the highest setting.

2) To Be Seen
It is very important to be well lighted during night rides. The aim of being well lighted is so that the drivers can see you and your bike. To be seen clearly is not that easy, as there are a lot of other distractions and lighting on the road, such as from traffic lights, street lights, other cars' lights etc.

A good blinker will be able to draw the attention of road users and announce your presence. The brighter the blinker, the better. If you have a bright flashing light, drivers will be able to spot you from further away, giving them more time to avoid you. No point having a weak blinker that can only be seen when the driver is 50 metres behind you. This gives them too little time to change lanes completely, and indirectly contributes to close encounters.

Front Lights
For me, I have many many lights on my bike. At the front, I have two lights, a S-Sun 1 watt blinker and a powerful headlight in the form of a Busch & Muller IXON IQ light.

S-Sun 1 Watt light


Busch & Muller IXON IQ mounted at front of frame.

The IXON IQ light serves as a dual purpose light. On dark roads, it will be used to light up the path. On well-lit roads, I also turn on the light, as it becomes a steady headlight that can be seen from a good distance. A steady front light plus a front blinker makes you very visible from the front.

Rear Lights
As for rear lighting, it is even more important as you cannot see what is coming up behind you. Therefore you will need to make doubly sure that you are seen and highly visible from the back.

The main rear light I have is the Bontrager Flare 3, which has two 0.5 watt LEDs flashing alternately. This is a good bright light with an attention-grabbing flashing pattern. It is fixed onto the hook on my Topeak saddle bag.

Bontrager Flare 3

Supporting the red rear light is a blue rear light that also flashes to catch attention. This is a Cateye-lookalike light, and is mounted on the light bracket on my rear rack.

Blue coloured rear light fixed onto the rear rack

Additionally, I also have an Infini helmet light to improve visibility. This light has an elastic strap which can be used to fit on almost all helmets.


Infini helmet light

With these 3 lights, I have lighting at my head height, saddle height and wheel height. This should make me quite visible from far.

In order to further improve night visibility, I recently added two more lights at the end of my drop bars. Since these lights are further apart left and right, it will give me more width and make me and my bike even more visible.

Q-Lite Bar End Light

These are actually bar end lights meant for flat handlebars. The design is such that there will be bright beams coming out from the side of the bar end, such that when installed on a flat handlebar, the lights shine backwards like a rear light. It happened that this model has a transparent tip that also glows red, although it is not as bright as the main beam.

Another point to note is that MTB flat handlebars have a slightly narrower internal diameter compared to road drop bars, and thus does not fit snugly on my drop bars. However, with the bar tape on my drop bars, the lights fit nicely. Although they are not tight, it is sufficient to ensure that it will not drop out easily.

Bar End light fitted at the end of my drop bars

Glowing bar ends!

The main beam is rotated such that it points downwards towards the ground

Main beam creates a bright spot on the ground, while from the back, the bar ends glow red.

As an added advantage, the main beams point to the ground and creates a bright spot, which is actually quite visible even on well-lit roads. Not too sure about the visibility from a greater distance, but is an added advantage nontheless.

I prefer my lights to use rechargeable batteries, so that I can recharge the batteries whenever they start to get dim. I don't have to get stuck in the dilemma of throwing away half-used batteries, or continue riding with dim lights. Apart from the small helmet light which uses 2 x CR2032 batteries, my other lights uses standard AA or AAA batteries.

S-Sun: 3 x AAA
IXON IQ: 4 x AA (comes with built in charger)
Bontrager Flare 3: 2 x AAA
Blue rear light: 2 x AAA
Q-Lite Bar End Lights: 1 x AAA each

Overall view of my lighted bike from the back

12 comments:

  1. Nice sharing and I learnt lots. Thanks Steve!

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  2. Those bar end lights are really cool. I don't think they'd work on my bike though because I have riser bars, not drop bars.

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    Replies
    1. these lights are designed for mtb bar end use. the main beam will point backwards, and will work perfectly

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  3. Hi Steve, I like those Bar End Lights a lot. A couple of questions..
    Firstly, how do they switch on & off?
    Second, do you have to remove them to replace the batteries?

    Ross. (in the UK)

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    Replies
    1. There is a small switch on each light, can set to steady or blink mode or off.

      To change batteries you just need to pull out the light, but it is not troublesome at all.

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    2. Thanks for the info Steve. I'll see if anyone in the UK has them, if not it's ebay here we come!

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  4. Heyo steve, those lights look like a really good way of increasing visibility! May I know where you bought them from and how much did the pair cost?

    Julian

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  5. I got them for $20+, at MyBikeShop. not sure if they still have them though. I have also seen them in other bike shops, but not sure which. you may want to look around.

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  6. Hi Steve,

    Have you found that rechargeable AAAs work well for the Flare 3 rear light? I recently bought the same light and am thinking of buying rechargeable batteries. Thanks!

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    Replies
    1. No problem! I have been using 2 X AAA Energizer rechargeable batteries for the Bontrager Flare 3 rear light ever since I bought the light in Taiwan in July 2011. It is definitely bright enough.

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  7. How do you change the batteries on the Flare 3. Is it just a pry apart and hope for the best?

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    Replies
    1. Just insert a coin into a slot on the side, twist it and it will open.

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