Bike lights

18 replies [Last post]
Anonymous's picture

Assuming 95% of my riding in the dark will take place in Central Park (usually early a.m.) - what type of lights do I need to ride comfortably? My understanding is the minimum I want is a red blinker for the rear and some small l.e.d. type light for the front. Some people have advised me to get a headlamp as well.

What do you guys think/use?

Anonymous's picture
Steve (not verified)

Let me clarify that my early morning rides won't be more then 90 minutes and I am willing to pay a little more for a better light if necessary.

Anonymous's picture
Paul (not verified)

I commute via bike and use a bright HID up front and a 12 volt blinking yellow light in the back, but that's probably overkill for you. If you want to get an HID light, I recommend anything but niterider. You'll pay between $200-400 for a good 13 watt HID, battery and charger. I built my complete setup for about $150.

The little red blinky is nice, but frankly I don't see it necesarry as there will be few vehicles approaching you from behind at a fast clip. More important is something in the front to alert peds that you are coming. As a morning runner, I get startled quite frequently by bikes that quickly approach out of nowhere. Get one of those white LEDs ($30-50) for the front and you'll be set.

Anonymous's picture
SteveD (not verified)
AM riding

What time are you out in CP? 5AM?

Anonymous's picture
Robert Shay (not verified)

I train pre-dawn on the roads of CT. My set-up may be overkill - niterider trail rat headlight $109, Viewpoint 5 light tailight $6, reflective ankle bands $8, Illuminite reflective vest $70, to be seen at night--priceless.

Kidding aside. Check out website. The trail rat works great up to 2 hours and lights up the road in front of you. One morning riding in CP I did run over a large rat while climbing the hill at 110 street. I didn't see it until it was under my tire - I had no lights. For the park I'd also recommend the ankle bands and the vista taillight. You can probably skip the vest.

Anonymous's picture
Paul (not verified)

My halogen Trail Rat turned 12 years old this year and is still going strong. I still get over 3.5 hours of use between charges.

Unfortunately, Niterider has been having issues with their HID line:

Anonymous's picture
Steve (not verified)

Thanks for the great link to mountain bike review. Lots of good information from the reviews there.

Anonymous's picture
Katie (not verified)

it just so happens that one of the sponsors for ENY is Dinotte lighting.

they will be demo-ing an insane lighting system at the event plus there will be a raffle for participants!

Anonymous's picture
Bill (not verified)

Hooray for ENY sponsors and great swag!! Rock on!

Anonymous's picture
Josh (not verified)
rules of the broad re: cyclists

Actually, Katie, the blinking is more for street riding in traffic when I'm riding alone with autos zipping around me, like on a Friday night. When I'm with a group of cyclists, and it's a very tight formation, I usually will turn on the steady, or use no light at all, unless I'm sweep. Then it's blinkie all the way -- with maybe two, three even, strapped on various bars and body parts.

That goes for the greenway too. I turn off the rear and use the front light to avoid head-on collisions, unless it's a very dark stretch like around Trump towers.

Anonymous's picture
Evan Marks (not verified)
Seeing vs being seen.

There's almost always enough light to see by in CP so you really only need enough light to be seen. Blinking taillights can cause drivers to fixate on them, staring at the blinking light and driving right into you. If that's so, why do so many people use blinkies? Marketing. Use a steady light - I like this one for 10 bucks:

Headlights are more a personal choice -do you want bar mount or helmet mount, rechargeable, halogen (eats batteries but f***ing bright), HID (expensive, overkill for CP) or LED (blue tint blinds oncoming traffic, maybe not such a bad thing in CP, but renders the actual lighting ineffectual) ? Again, blinkies suck (more marketing BS).

Life's too short for rechargeable batteries. I'd rather overvolt my lights with Lithium AAs, blowing out bulbs and eating up batteries, than recharge headlight batteries (as if the cell phone and PDA weren't enough).

I have one of these w/o the rechargeable batteries:
which can be shined into bonehead drivers' eyes when you catch up to them at stoplights. It's extremely lightweight, doesn't bother neck injuries, very bright and doesn't light the road worth a damn. Goofy-looking but unobtrusive.

Also one of these:
Gawdawful bright, eats batteries like there's no tomorrow but squirrelly runners will NOT jump out in front of you.

Redundancy is good too - backup systems in case batteries die or bulbs blowout. Keeps the Energizer bunny in business, too.

Anonymous's picture
Josh (not verified)
why blink?

"""Blinking taillights can cause drivers to fixate on them, staring at the blinking light and driving right into you""

Say what? If this is the case, why havent we heard of more accidents? More likely, it's a rule of the road. Steady light for moving traffic; pulsing for obstacles. Despite that, I found that the blinking is just as effective -- more so even -- in keeping cars at a safe distance in passing, imagining it to be an obstacle.


Anonymous's picture
Katie (not verified)

Josh I think you are correct with the Rules of the Road - I believe some states have taillight laws. If memory serves it is Vermont and Mass or is it New Hampshire? Anyway, in long distance group riding it is considered bad etiquette to blink.

imagine riding your bike behind a group of blinkers for 300 or so miles....think siezures and Asian cartoons.....

I've been in groups where blinkers have been admonished for blinking.

Don't blink - those of us that are normally off the back with thank you!

Anonymous's picture
Anthony Poole (not verified)
Blinking red rear lights

I was told by a police officer in Scotland once that blinking red lights at the back of bikes are only a real problem on unlit roads. He stopped a group of us riding at night on an unlit road and the person at the back had flashing red, which is illegal in England, Scotland and Wales. He let us go, provided I agreed to ride at the back, as I was the only one that had a fixed, steady beam on the back. LEDs of any type used to be illegal in England, Scotland and Wales, although the law may have changed since I lived there.

He said the real problem with flashing red rear lights is partly drivers fixating on them, which can cause drivers to go off the road, long before they hit a bike. The other problem is that on unlit roads, drivers need a fixed, steady beam to accurately judge the distance between them and the bike. He said there had been plenty of incidents and near misses when drivers suddenly found themselves only a few yards behind a bike with a flashing red, rear light, especially when the bikes had riders with non reflective clothing.

I'm no physicist, but his explanation kind of made sense to me.

Anonymous's picture
Steve (not verified)

Thanks for the replies everyone.

I have heard that blinking lights can make it difficult to judge distance (for the people/vehicles behind you). The tail lights I have been looking at have the option to run run constant or blink, so I will have to experiment.

Anonymous's picture
Andy (not verified)
Blinking and battery life.

I always set both of my lights--CatEye EL-410 front (~$25) and Sigma Sport Cuberider (~$12)--to blink/pulse. Having approached riders from the rear (no funny comments, peanut gallery!), a blinker to me makes a rider more visible: no way to ignore a blinking light, whereas a steady-state light might not catch quite the attention. Same for front/white lights: no way someone can not see you coming as they're about to fling their door open--or cross the street in front of you--with a bright blinking light in their eyes.

Additionally, blinking lights utilize far, far less battery life; this means that you'll be safer longer without risking your batts dying when you need them most.

As far as group riding with lights, I'd agree that blinking lights would be pretty obnoxious and distracting. There's a guy or two who race with CRCA in the (early morning) races on weekends who tend to forget to turn their lights off before the race takes off; makes me nuts to be behind them!

Lastly, when riding in the park in the dark when it's closed to traffic, I turn my rear/red light off since a car's not likely to come up behind me and run me down. As I'm leaving the park, it goes on. Saves battery life, again, so that I don't end up running out when I need to be seen by cars approaching from the rear most.

Hope this helps.

Anonymous's picture
Paul (not verified)

>>Life's too short for rechargeable batteries<<

What do you mean? Battery capacity of rechargeable AAs now exceeds that of alkalines and not too far off from Lithiums. Even if you include the price of the charger, a set of NiMH rechargeables pay for themselves after only 3-5 charges compared to lithiums.

As for blinking lights, a steady light will burn half as long as a blinking one. If you are looking for run time set to blink.

Anonymous's picture
An anonymous cow! (Christian Edstrom) (not verified)

I think he means that dealing with the charging is a pain in the arse. He's right, of course. As ever.

Schmidt Original Nabendynamo (SON) with an E6 light is the perfect solution, once you get over the preposterous initial cost. My wife has one on her commuter. It's unbelievably great.

- Christian

Anonymous's picture
don montalvo (not verified)

...wouldn't it be great if the price of these things came down? if it's anything like the patent sinar's tilt patent, we won't see prices coming donw anytime soon.


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