What bike lights can make me more visible, not just light the road?



BikeCommuteAdvocate

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Aug 5, 2019
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I'm looking for a new light for my commuter bike and I dont want another damn light that will just look like a dot from ahead/behind. I'm doing research but is there anything else out there that can make the rider visible?
 
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BikeCommuteAdvocate

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I found a great new light a friend told me about. The ShineOn Bike Light. It lights you up so you can be seen 250 times more. It's a Kickstarter too, ran by a bunch of biking students. This thing looks great!
 

phillman5

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Aug 2, 2012
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Huh this is odd. Back in '75, after a trip cross country with the lights that used a generator that rubbed your sidewall, my 20 year old brother made the comment that bike lights were made to be seen by, not to see by. Now your saying the opposite?
 

Froze

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Jul 13, 2004
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Huh this is odd. Back in '75, after a trip cross country with the lights that used a generator that rubbed your sidewall, my 20 year old brother made the comment that bike lights were made to be seen by, not to see by. Now your saying the opposite?

Back in the 70's, and I was riding bikes as a young adult back then, bike lights were dim to say the least! I bought the brightest light available to bikes back then, it was a 2 D battery light that looked like a square box lantern, with a standard 2 cell incandescent bulb which
205035040-64_145.jpg


probably put out roughly the equivalent of a 10 to 15 lumen LED flashlight!, now remember what I said about the above bulb this was the brightest bike specific light a person could buy, so YES, the idea of a light back then was to be seen not to see with! I did change that bulb with a Halogen version of that one which put out a bit more watts but ate the batteries faster but at least it casted a bit more light out, probably equal to 20 to 25 lumen LED light, but that was great for back then. This light easily put out more light then those dynamo lights that rubbed the sidewall, those lights sucked.

Here is an excellent comparison of lights, this is also a great site for selecting the brightest light for your budget; but if you select the Cateye Volt 1800 on one side and select the Infini Tron 300, and actually this light is 300 lumens so it's brighter than the lights I had in the 70's and 80's, but the camera is not the human eye so it demonstrates quite well what I could see with using the old 70's era light against a modern one: https://road.cc/content/buyers-guid...hts-cycling-40-light-beam-comparison-plus-how Then if you change the Infini light to the Infini Saturn 300 that would be about what I could see with the Cygolite Metro. Fortunately for me I had extremely good night vision, so that Cygolite was actually very good, but as I got older my eyes began to dim so now I have a 250 lumen aimed optic light which brings the light to the equivalent of a 1200 lumen light, I know this because I've tested it against other cyclists who have lights in that 1200 range, the light I have is the Philips Saferide 80, a very good light that is unfortunately no longer made, the only drawback to it was it's short run time if I was on high of about 2 hours, I went with a higher amp hour rechargeable AA batteries when the original rechargeable AA's died and I can now get about 2 3/4 hours on high which on the low setting I can get about10 hours instead of 8.

On the same vein, tail lights were even worse back then, even a candle was brighter than the tail lights! so I never even bought one because they were useless, so I just relied on reflectors because they were more effective. It wasn't till the early 90's, yes for some reason light manufactures but hardly any interest into tail lights for years, I got a Vista Light strobe that was about as bright as a candle light, but it strobed, I still have that light but I haven't used it in years because LED's came out and are much brighter. I just bought a new NiteRider Omega 300 lumen tail light...holy smokes is that thing bright! I was using it on a bright sunny day on a country road a couple of days ago, and a cop told me he could see that light extremely well strobing from over a mile away! He congratulated me in using it in the day due to distracted drivers, which is why I got it in the first place.

Better lights didn't come out till early 80's and even those weren't real good either. At that time I got a 8 D cell Cygolite Metro with twin bulbs, this light put out about a total of 12 watts which I also upgraded to halogen which brought the wattage up to 16 watts. This light was about equal to a modern 50 to 75 lumen light with the upgrade bulbs. Shortly after I bought that light HID lights came out, but those things were horribly expensive, starting out at around $800 and going as high as $1,200! and those lights aren't even as bright as the lights we have today that cost $100!!

So in today's world of LED lights there is NO reason to have a light to be seen, it's dangerous to have a light like that, combine the dimness of those lights with the fact that car headlights are also a lot brighter, those brighter car lights make it almost impossible to see a dim to be seen light.

The sweet spot for road use (off road is a different story), in my opinion, for a headlight is 650 to 750 lumens, with a max light availability of around 900 to 1000 lumens. The brightest setting is only to be used for when it's really dark and raining out, then you need the reserved higher power to see better with and so that cars can you see you better with.

Probably the one of the best lights for the money is the Cateye Volt 1300, this light will go to a max of 1300 lumens, so you have a really good margin of extra lighting for very dark and rainy nights, and it's not that expensive.

Ideally you should be using two lights on the front and two in the rear at night and one in the rear and one on the front during the day. What I do is I use the Philips only at night, then about 3 months ago I bought a Lezyne Micro 400 because it has a brilliant strobe to it, so I mount that Lezyne to the upper part of the left fork blade and put it on strobe day or night. For the rear I use the NiteRider Omega during the day connected to my seat bag light loop, then at night I add a NiteRider Aero 260 to the seat tube; during the night though I put the Omega on steady and the Aero 360 on alternating flashing which flashes the rear cob row then the sides row back to the rear etc. The reason I put one rear on flash and the other on steady is because of two studies that I've read, one was from the UK and the other from Canada about tail lights, the UK study showed that motorists can ascertain their distance from a cyclist better if the light was steady, and as a result of that study blinking lights of any kind are outlawed; but the Canadian study showed that a blinking light attracted more attention which is the study the US agrees with; so I use both to cover both studies! During the day a steady light is not as good as a flashing light.
 

phillman5

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Aug 2, 2012
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Froze, I was just commenting on his question, "What bike lights can make me more visible, not just light the road?" So he was saying bike lights today light the road and you might not be seen. Which is just the opposite what my brother said in '75 "Bike light are to be seen by, not see by"
 

Froze

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Jul 13, 2004
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Froze, I was just commenting on his question, "What bike lights can make me more visible, not just light the road?" So he was saying bike lights today light the road and you might not be seen. Which is just the opposite what my brother said in '75 "Bike light are to be seen by, not see by"

Sorry, I got confused!

If a light is bright enough to see the road then it's also bright enough to be seen, and more so than just a to be seen light, it works both ways.
 

dabac

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Sep 16, 2003
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... my 20 year old brother made the comment that bike lights were made to be seen by, not to see by.

Things can change in 20 years. In technology, infrastructure, traffic patterns, legally.
T don't think I've ever owned a bottle dyno light that did much good for actual riding purposes.
But enough to be spotted in the dark, sure.

Where I'm at, it used to be legally required for the front light to "cast a useful beam onto the road surface" to be approved. Now that has changed to "be visible from 300 meters".

With todays LED and battery technology, providing amounts and intensities of light that can actually be used to ride by is no longer a problem.
The flip side is that urbanisation has grown, and probably most bike traffic overall is on lighted streets.
Now when good lights are easily available, the people who need them to actually see where they are going are fewer.
 

dabac

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Sep 16, 2003
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I'm looking for a new light for my commuter bike and I dont want another damn light that will just look like a dot from ahead/behind. I'm doing research but is there anything else out there that can make the rider visible?

To me, the thing that most clearly says "unprotected road user ahead" is a reflective/hi-viz vest. There's no mistaking what's ahead of you seeing that torso light up. Works great when I'm in a car, or when someone moves into the beam of my bike light.

I'm not immediately impressed by ShineOn. Anything that "that fully illuminates the torso of the rider" is bound to leak some light into the eyes of the rider too, and I don't like that notion.
Reflective garments - there's even reflective sprays that can be applied to any garment - will do a very similar job once you're in the beam of the headlights w/o messing with your vision. At least not anymore than what the approaching car already has done.
If you want to be lit up there are illuminated belts and harnesses too with the same advantage of not shining into your eyes.

Really, the only advantage I see is that this is a 2-in-1 feature that will do its job regardless of what clothes you happen to ride in.
 

ninoPlay12

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Sep 7, 2019
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Things can change in 20 years. In technology, infrastructure, traffic patterns, legally.
T don't think I've ever owned a bottle dyno light that did much good for actual riding purposes.
But enough to be spotted in the dark, sure.
Huh this is odd. Back in '75, after a trip cross country with the lights that used a generator that rubbed your sidewall,
 
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Froze

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I was around riding bikes in the mid 70's, and those rub the sidewall generator lights were virtually useless as even to be seen not alone to see with. Heck my first bike light powered by 2 D batteries and a incandescent bulb was far brighter, if you call that light I got as bright, then the generator light was. happened today to find the light I had, this is the exact headlight it was very robust and rainproof. Short time after buying it I took the bulb out and went down to Radio Shack and replaced it with a halogen which made it a bit brighter but also burned through the batteries faster, which I didn't care since I didn't ride far at night back in those days which was around 1980 or 81 when I bought that light. I used that light for camping for many years after I stopped using it on my bike, somehow I lost it when I moved.

ever-ready-exide-1970s-bicycle-front-lamp-light-vintage-reynolds-531-style


the rest of the lights I bought I already mentioned above, I was just surprised to find a picture of the first light I had.
 
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ReboLangos

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When choosing a bicycle light, it is necessary, first of all, to decide on the main question: do you need to see better yourself, or do you need to be seen better?
 

Froze

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When choosing a bicycle light, it is necessary, first of all, to decide on the main question: do you need to see better yourself, or do you need to be seen better?

You want a light that you can see better with, when you have a light like that you can automatically be seen better as well. If you're riding on the road choose a light with no more than 1,200 lumens (on high) and no less than 900 lumens (on high), chose a light that will run on max brightness for as long as you would typically ride at night. Most people can see just fine at a mid setting, the higher brightness setting is for really dark rainy nights with no city lights, so the reality is that when you run on the medium setting the battery will last far longer than your ride. In other words, you want enough lumens for emergency use with enough battery power that can last while in that mode.

Also you need to make sure you charge the light up after EVERY use so the battery will last some years longer than if you get into skipping every other time you use it and then charge just because you have enough juice to do that.
 

Yojimbo_

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Apr 17, 2005
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At night almost any reasonable light can be seen, but I try to avoid riding at night.

During the day you need something much brighter, so get something with a "dayflash" setting. My front light flashes at 1000 lumens and my rear light flashes at 300 lumens. Because they are flashing, they will last many hours.

The only problem is recharging them takes a long time. The front is very slow.
 
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Froze

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One thing I forgot to mention is that using two lights on the front and two on the rear works better than one on the front and one on the rear for allowing people to see you better especially at night, not as important to do for daytime riding.

I have one small front and one small rear that attach to my helmet. The front one is a Lezyne Hecto Drive XL which is really light weight so it won't weigh your helmet down, I use it on my helmet at night or on the bar during the day, it puts out 400 lumens on strobe mode, and it's plenty bright enough for daytime riding, besides you should be paying attention to what's going on in front of you enough that the light is just a backup to your ability to handle a bike in traffic without getting killed. With a helmet-mounted head light you can flash the light into car windows to "wake them up" to your presence, it's real effective at that, plus you can flash street signs so you can read them, etc.

Then at night, I add an old Philips Saferide 80 light to the bars, this light puts out the equivalent of 1,200 lumens, but it's using aimed optics similar to car headlights instead of a round flashlight type of beam most cycling headlights use, so all the light energy is focused on the road and not on trees 50 feet up. It may be old, but very few people where I live use anything remotely as bright as that light is.

Then on the rear, I use a 300-lumen NiteRider Omega 300 tail light, which is about as bright as you can get currently. That one stays attached to my saddlebag

Then I use a NiteRider Sentry Aero 260, this thing I put on the helmet, it has a interesting front to side panel lighting so it's extremely visible from the side. But while NR claims it puts out 260 lumens it's closer to 100, it uses cobb LEDs, and those washout in broad daylight, so while it is bright at night it pales in comparison to the Omega 300, but it also has a very large surface area to the sides that light up, so I like the light a lot due to the side lighting and the unique patterns it has, so I'm not bad-mouthing it, but it's not bright enough for day use.

Combine the lighting with some minor reflective stuff like ankle bands, reflective tape on the helmet, etc, and you're good to go at night.

I have no problem riding at night, in fact, I think it's actually a bit safer than during the day! All the accidents I've ever had occurred during the day, I've never had an accident at night in over 40 years of riding. Of course, I won't ride on Friday, Saturday (being the worst day of the week), or Sunday nights due to an abundance of drunk drivers driving at night!
 
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