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AN INTRODUCTION TO BICYCLE LIGHTS

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An Introduction To Bicycle Lights

A lot of people buy Bicycles never intending to ride after dark and then sometimes find themselves pedaling home after the sun's gone down. This is dangerous because you're almost invisible to drivers and you can't see hazards that could cause a crash. If you are out cycling early or riding home late, it’s time to start using your lights again. If you are looking for some new ones, or wondering what type to get, here’s an introduction to the wide range of lighting options available in the market.

WHY USE LIGHTS? TO SEE AND BE SEEN!

Lights are obviously there to help you see, but also – and arguably more importantly, depending on where you ride – they are there to help you be seen. If you’ve been out on the road on a winters evening, particularly in urban or suburban areas, you’ll know just how invisible a pedestrian or cyclist with no lights and/ or reflective wear is.

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MY BIKE HAS REFLECTORS – WHY BUY LIGHTS?

You might wonder why you need a light when your bike is already equipped with reflectors. While these are helpful at night, they only light up when lit by a vehicle's headlights. Reflective clothing gives drivers a big heads-up! But, they do not light the road at all to help you see. So, for optimum safety, you really need lights. It's also good to dress in bright and light colors for night rides. There are also jackets and vests made of, or featuring, built-in reflective materials that makes you light up in traffic like a reflective street sign. Another inexpensive safety trick is adding reflective tape to the pedals, crankarms and rims (between the spoke nipples; not on the braking surfaces). This will provide moving reflectors that are more visible to motorists than stationary ones.

SO, BE BRIGHT AND USE A LIGHT (OR TWO!)

While using a reflective surface could increase your safety, headlights and taillights are most important for riding in low visibility conditions because they make you visible to cars and provide light to ride by. The beam of light they cast reveals hazards that could cause a crash, such as pavement cracks, grates, potholes, glass and other hard-to-see road users, like a pedestrian in dark clothing. Typically, most lights run on standard alkaline batteries available in any store, usually AAs or AAAs. If you prefer, you can substitute compatible rechargeable batteries, if you have them. More-expensive lights sometimes come with rechargeable batteries.

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TYPES OF LIGHTS

The market has lots of lights available, and it can be hard to know what to go for. Here are the key points and types to think about.

  • Front Lights - Basically these are the main lights you’ll be using on your bike, these make up the vast majority of bike lights out there. Bicycle headlights are easy to use and bright to light your way! Headlights attached to the handlebar with a small quick-release mount that makes removal easy when the light is not needed. This means the light can also double as a handy flashlight for lighting the walkway to your front door; finding your keys; fixing flat tires; etc. Plus, it makes it easy to move the light to other bikes. Most of these will have a plastic bracket that attaches to the frame, and the light slides on and off this. Best for: Commuting, riding in urban and suburban areas.
  • Taillights - Taillights also have handy features. Most models offer flashing and steady modes and can be mounted to the bicycle or a backpack. When mounting it to a backpack make sure the light remains visible when you lean forward to ride. Taillights use LEDs (Light-Emitting Diodes), which are bright enough to be seen by motorists. The LEDs are energy efficient, too, so your batteries will last a long time even if you ride at night a lot. Bicycle taillights are small but very bright!
  • Helmet Lights - Several companies are now producing lights designed to be attached to your helmet. Some of these are of the bright, off-road variety mentioned above and others are designed to increase your visibility to other traffic. These can be front or rear lights only, or a set-up that combines both. Great for: Additional visibility around town, or additional illumination on the trail.
  • Off-Road Lights - Brilliant for mountain bikers hitting the trails in darkness, or for road rides down country lanes with no lighting. These are the lights that will light up your way. They usually take a USB charger, or some use a separate battery pack. Be warned – they don’t last very long between charges, usually only a couple of hours. Also be careful when using them in urban areas; you don’t want to dazzle oncoming vehicles. Most come with a variety of brightness settings, so keep them on a lower on road – this saves battery power too. Best for: Seeing the road or trail, i.e for off-road riding or unlit country lanes.
  • Backup lights - These are usually small one or two led lights and can be battery powered (usually flat 2032 batteries) or rechargeable using a USB cable. They are usually attached with a stretchy rubber strap of some kind, so they are easy to take on and off your bike. This means you can move them between steeds, and they are easy to remove when you stop. It also means you can move them between bikes, as you don’t have to shift over a bracket. Best for: Having in your bag or pocket so you don’t get caught out if you stay out later than intended, if your main light fails, or just to have some extra visibility.

ADDITIONAL HINTS AND TIPS

  • Take your lights off if you lock your bike up on the street, or you may come back to no lights at all.
  • Carry some small backup lights in your bag. They take up no room and keep you visible and legal if your main lights fail, or if you are out later than you expected.
  • Check your lights before long rides; you don’t want the battery giving out halfway home.
  • Have a white front light, facing frontwards and visible from the front. This can be steady or flashing.
  • Have a red rear light, facing backwards and visible from the rear. Again, this can be steady or flashing.
  • Have lights turned on when riding any time between sunset and sunrise. That’s literally from when the sun goes over the horizon to when it comes back up again.

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Conclusion

Keep in mind that all these lights meet the basic safety requirements for riding in low visibility conditions, however they're best for roads peripherally lit by traffic, buildings and streetlights. If you get into serious night riding where you travel long distances on unlit roads, it is worth investing in a set of extremely powerful, long lasting lights. Remember, lights are a year-round riding accessory and therefore could be considered one of the most essential accessories for any type of cyclist!

Shop our wide range of lights from the best International brands here on ChooseMyBicycle.com.

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