Seeking Light Advice For Road Rides
hi there -
i've been reading the site for a few days and have found it to be helpful and informative in narrowing down my choices for a lighting system for use primarily on the road.
i've used some lights in the past but mostly on the trail or in an urban lit-street environment:
the origninal top of the line night sun (i forget the model)
l & m arc
so now i'm going to be doing some night riding here in portland oregon that go up in the hills (skyline area) and out on the rails to trails path that heads towards mt. hood.
i would like to be able to descend confidently, but not at speeds that i would approach during the day in summertime ; i regularly hit 100kph on some but will never approach that in the winter due to the wet and cold. so i guess that 50-60 kph avg. is more realistic.
i'm looking for a solid 3 hrs of light, not necessarily at high power, but enough to get me through a 5 hour ride if i start a few hours before dark.
weight is not a huge concern; my fender bike is built with wheels i can scrub, and loaded down with plenty of repair kit and i'll be soaking wet as well.
which leads me to performance in the endless and sometimes driving rain that debuted just the other day here in the pac nw: it must be water tight or at least easily mod'd to be so.
of course i want to be seen and to be safe but i am not going to purchase a betty; it personally seems the wrong time to purchase ultra-high end led as the technology is new and i can wait a few years for the prices to drop a bit.
i would love to keep it ~$400.00 usd but am flexible to a degree, just not to the $1200.00 level.
so....if you are still reading, here are my candidates:
l & m arc
i am certainly open to suggestions; i have only used the arc and the others i have come upon by reading reviews and searching this site. the reviews generally do not take road riding much into account so i was hoping to get some real world opinions rather than just guseeing based on reviews of off road use, which i think has its own special set of needs.
thanks alot, ive learned quite a bit here already,
I've had good results here with the Cygo-Lite RightRider, 12w and the 16w versions. Comparatively inexpensive (~$90 for the 12w; ~$115 for the 16), and good lights for either road or cross-country rides that I usually do.
From a little essay I did for a local bike forum:
Doing it in the Dark...
If you've kept up your after-work or commuting riding schedule, you will have noticed something over the past couple of weeks... with the reversion to Standard Time, it's getting dark earlier and earlier, as soon as 5:30 or a quarter of 6 in the evening. Many riders take this as a signal that the cycling season is over save for the weekend group rides, but others may wish to keep riding in order to maintain their form over the winter. Or maybe you depend on your bike to get to work, or wherever you may need to go, and so riding in the dark is a necessity more than anything else.
I ride a good bit at night this time of year, since my start time and usual route mean I'm coming back at least half way in the dark. I started doing this regularly last year, when my evening training rides left me way out at the turn-around point when it got dark, and after some research and investment in headlights, several of us deliberately scheduled night rides through the winter months.
Here's a few tips on night riding, picked up over the past year's experience:
1) Lights and reflective gear are key. Lights have two purposes on the bike... first, to let motorists and other riders see you coming, and second to let you see where you're going. In both cases, you need active lighting systems, e.g., something with light bulbs that emit lots of light. Don't rely on reflectors alone. Reflectors are passive; they only reflect light that's aimed at them, and by the time your reflectors show up in a motorist's headlights, you probably have a big ol' "deer-in-the-headlights" look yourself.
2) Get a good set of headlights that throw enough light for you to clearly see the road or trail in front of you. Typically, the rechargeable battery kind are best. You'll spend a good bit of money, as the more reasonable sets will come in around $120 or so, but lights are one of those things where you usually get a good bit of illumination for the extra money spent. Also, you need a good bright blinky light for the rear of the bike. To be street-legal in most states, your bike must have a white LIGHT on the front that's visible for at least 500 feet, and a red LIGHT on the back that's visible for at least 500 feet. Arkansas law will allow you to substitute a red reflector on the back for a red light, but it still must be visible for at least 500 feet. New bikes come with white and red reflectors, but these are insufficient to meet the legal requirements... Arkansas law requires active lights if you're riding at night.
If you're shopping for lights, Mountain Bike Review has posted an excellent summary of what's available at http://www.mtbr.com/spotlight/lightshootout/ .
3) One of the basic principles for riding on the road is Be Visible. In addition to its usual application to your position on the road, you should wear light or bright-colored clothing. Blue, black, gray, brown, and green are not good jersey colors for night or low-light rides. White, yellow, orange, that odd chartreuse that many vendors call "hi-vis" are excellent choices. Me, I try to buy my jerseys in the most eye-poking colors that I can find, that scream "hey, dude, don't run over the biker!"
4) Supplement your lights with reflectors... both on your bike, as well as your riding clothing. Reflective strips on your jacket, a reflective vest, etc. are all good. I bought an MTB helmet for night rides, and duded it up with some Scotchlite (TM) reflective tape for better visibility. A vest, jacket, or jersey with retro-reflective tape trim is a good idea, especially if it also come in one of the high visibility colors mentioned above. I'm very pleased to notice that the League of American Bicyclists has come out with special jeseys for both its certified instructors and general membership that incorporate high visibility colors with bands of Scotchlite reflective tape for better visibility in low light. These jerseys are available from VeloWear at http://www.velowear.com/labwear.aspx.
Another option is a material called "Illuminite" which is advertised to be a super-reflective cloth that glows in the light of headlights. Over the past couple of years I've used a vest, a long-sleeved jersey, and a pair of tights made with this material, and despite the advertisements, the best it does is a sort of "shine" under direct headlights. A big problem that I've often seen with Illuminite garments is that they're often made with dark colors (the actual Illuminite panels are usually black), and tend to blend you into the shadows unless you've already got that "deer-in-the-headlight" panicked look.
Motion of your lights or reflectors is highly effective in getting motorists and other riders to see you in the dark. Those little reflectors on the back of your platform pedals are some of the most effective means of attracting attention in the dark, because of the up-and-down motion. I'm also a big fan of "Tire Flies," (http//www.tireflies.com) which are little lights that thread onto your valve stems and light up as the wheels go 'round. These go a great deal toward making you more visible in the dark.
5) Be alert, and ride defensively. Motorists aren't going to expect to see a cyclist out at night, and often aren't as alert as they would otherwise be in the daytime. Night time also brings you a higher probablity of encountering an "impaired" motorist who's had a little too much "refreshment," or who are simply tired, and/or have poor night vision. So be very careful. Stick to the back streets as much as you can on Friday and weekend nights, as this is when the drunks are most likely to be out. Ride predictably, which means generally on the right side, and never on the left, going the wrong way against traffic. Likewise, don't crowd the yellow or center line of the roadway -- and absolutely do not cross the line and ride left of center. Just this evening I saw a motorist on River Road along the NLR side of the River Trail pass another cyclist by crossing a double yellow line -- on a curve, no less -- directly against an oncoming cyclist in the westbound lane. Had he not been hugging the right of his lane, he'd likely have been hit. Ride right!!
6) Be extra careful at intersections and when making turns... again, motorists are less likely to be looking out for you. Don't let yourself get caught out in the intersection when traffic lights turn yellow (or, especially, red). Be more cautious, and stop on the yellow.
7) Slow down, so that you don't outrun the reach of your headlights... e.g., so that you can safely stop once you see a hazard in your lights. Never assume a motorist has seen you, since your lights are easy to get overwhelmed and missed against the brightness of automobile lights.
If you're blinded by someone else's oncoming headlights or overbright street lights/athletic field lights, don't look directly into the beam. Look off to one side and use your peripheral vision. One advantage of the MTB helmet is that it has a visor, and I can use that to help block a blinding light, sort of like a sun-shade in the car.
9) Turn signals can be difficult when you're riding on the streets... having a reflective band on your wrists can help your visibility here, but a solution I found at my LCI seminar was a product called "Glo-Gloves", intended for use by traffic cops and others who have to direct traffic at night. Glo-Gloves are a light, one-size-fits-all polyester shell that can fit over your regular riding gloves, and have brightly reflective yellow and red bands on the back of the hands and palms, and show up brightly in either head or street lights. After I came back from Kentucky, I looked these up and ordered a pair (http://www.night-gear.com, at $15 per pair). I've been very pleased with the way they work, it's just like havivg turn signal and stop lights on my bike now!
10) Another innovation, which I haven't yet tried but plan to in the near future, is a device called the "Down Low Glow," available from http://www.rockthebike.com. This is a colored, battery powered fluorescent lamp which casts a glow on the ground for several feet around your bike. Indications are these are excellent to enhance your side visibility to motorist and other iders, plus they look just plain cool. This is one I'm eager to try on the night rides this winter.
Hope to "see" y'all out there on th trail one of these evenings (literally), and hope that I've got enough lights about that y'all see me, too!
I'm fairly comfortable with a pair of Dinotte 200Ls at night on my road bike. I like having more than one light because I can angle one close, one far. 20MPH is about as fast as I feel safe with this setup- that's with both lights on high. The darker it is, the better. Riding in and out of streetlight 'pools' affects your night vision. If it's really dark, like an unlit MUT, and I'm going slower, 15MPH or so, then I can dim one of them, usually the one pointing closest. If I'm encountering walkers or other cyclists head on often I dim the higher one. Even at the lower power it's still blinding to them, so I cover it with my hand when approaching, but the brighter 'low beam' still produces acceptable light. The battery life of the AA version of the Dinotte's will be an issue for you. With new, properly conditioned batteries it gives about an hour's light on high, 3 hours on low. The nice thing about it is the batteries are cheap- $10 for a set for top of the line, and they go in holders that cost about $2 each at Radio Shack. It's easy to carry a bunch of them- swap out takes less than a minute. If you do this make sure you cap the contacts on the batteries. I accidentally shoved one uncapped in a pocket with keys and felt something very cold on my leg a minute later. It was, of course, not cold, but hot, which I realized a moment later. When I got it out the battery carrier was melted, my pocket was burned, and I had some nasty red marks on my leg that lasted months. (Regardless of the type or brand, new batteries pack enough juice to demand respect.) Now I have extra snap tops for them with the wires removed which provides a nice insulated cover that won't come off until it's pulled. You can get them at RS for about $2 for 5, then pull the wires out. The Dinotte lights with Li Ion batteries last longer, but I'm not sure about run times.
I'm not sure if I've ever had the Dinotte's out in the rain, but I think they can be used in it. Check the web site. (The last time I was caught in the rain I was still running halogen).
I like some of what PSCyclePath said. It pays to be seen as much as it pays to see. I'd forget the tireflys and get a Dinotte taillight instead. All other taillights are toys compared to it. I tried tireflys but they're just too dim to be of any use. As for pedal reflectors, I say go with them if you can. My clipless pedals can't be equipped with reflectors, so I wear reflective leg bands for the same effect. I also wear an 'Illuminight' reflective jacket. If it's raining or cold I'll use an 'Illuminight' helmet cover.
To the troll mobile, away...
UFO Bike Commander
Reporting from Beaverton here...
I've got 2 MiNewt X2's and a TriNewt, and 5 Evolution Smarts, 2 Classic Plusses, a headtrip (pre 2K) and a Cyclops.
I'll never go back to halogen (except to win the best lit bike at See and Be Seen [ok, so I tied for first]), and I'd never go to HID (bulbs are expensive and IMHO fragile) compared to LED...
My complete set of beamshots for my NR MiNewt X2's and my TriNewt can be found here.
It was done with a handheld camera and no special settings... so they're a little blurry, but you can see the difference for yourself.
Rubber Side Down
ps. My avitar is an actual picture of my bike taken w/flash.
There are three things that stand out about the 600L:
Two batteries come standard
LEDs run on independent circuitry
cutomer service is stellar
Now, on to the HIDs- the ARC is the best bet with the best beam you will find. Some say HIDs are fragile and relatively speaking, they are. However, a lot of crash testing proves they are not as fragile as people make them out to be- not even close. However, the bulbs are very expensive if they burn out or somehow stop working. That would be my main concern for most people.
Jet is also a great company but the ARC seems to have a better beam. I like the Jet halogens though- solid and ultra-reliable lights and bright as heck (up to 780 Lumens).
LEDs- I have the Wilma and went from the ARC to the Wilma. I also owned a Jet Phantom and Lume HID Strada. It has taken me a dozen night rides to get used to the slightly narrower peripheral light of the Wilma (which is super bright) but last night was revealing. I could finally fly as fast as I have with the ARC by pointing it a bit further down the trail. The more I use it, the more I come away impressed. I have definitely grown to like the LEDs a lot. The dimming function is awesome for trailside repairs at night (needed last night) and my 5 hr plus burntime helps a lot. Walking back from miles in the mountainside with glowing eyes everywhere means I'd be running that LED at close to high power. They can be programmed to different power setting as well.
So as much as I love the ARC, I say go for a bright LED light that can be upgrades down the road. I like what NR is doing with their lenses but that's about it. I personally prefer Dinotte's lights and overall quality. No knock on NR fans obviously but I have seen and continue to see too many quality issues with their lights. Reliability is #1 for me at night. We ride here in Colorado and seeing Coyotes, Foxes, Deer, and even Elk is commonplace if you ride enough. However, Bear and Mountain Lions are also around though more elusive. I ride alone sometimes. You see why I'm now getting a two-light setup and why I chose the Lupines, with their reliability history. Reliability and brightness is #1, price #2, and then the rest comes in.
On the road, just stay visible with a bright taillight that can flash. You cannot be too bright and too visible. I never ride on the road at night- too many stressed out/tired women with screaming kids and too many drunks own the road.
I own both the ARC and the 600L. After 2 years, the ARC has never let me down. I have only used the 600L 3 times (I've had it a week) and so far I am very happy with its performance. I'd have to agree w/ Flyer - The ARC is a very nice light, but LEDs do have certain advantages over HIDs. LEDs are very dimable and can be turned off and on repeatedly without worry of stressing a ballast. With the 600L you can also get a package deal on Dinotte's taillight - if you ride alone on the road much at night the taillight is a must-have. If you tend to stick w/ group rides at night or are mostly on trails, you can get very acceptable blinkies for much less dough (the Planet Bike Superblinkie comes to mind).
If you want the best light for limited cash, I'd go with the ARC. Me, personally, right now if I were starting from scratch and I didn't have the budget for a Lupine, I'd go w/ the Dinotte - everything Flyer said about it is true. If a year or so from now you have the cash and want more light, buy a second Dinotte and run two - that is what I am doing now w/ the ARC and Dinotte and the results are very nice. Get the narrow beam 600L for road rides.
Either way though, you would not be unhappy w/ either light.
thanks everybody for your willingness to respond to what must be frequently asked questions. your input has pushed me towards the dinotte and i am just about decided on the 600L for several reasons:
1) the durability longevity and dimability advantage
2) the extra battery
3) ease of connection to the dinotte tail light which i am 100% committed to buying
i can get a trinewt from my cousin at a wholsale price, but i am still leaning towards the 600L because of reasons 2 and 3.
so a few final questions:
1) if i go with the 600, i will get the taillight package. are there compelling reasons to get the package which offers a discrete battery for the taillight? i know that it will run off of the main batts with a y-splitter so i'm leaning against it at this point.
2) the ancillary advantages of the 600 notwithstanding, is it so much better of a light than the trinewt so as to pay retail as opposed to wholesale?
any other thoughts suggestions or comments would be appreciated as well.
Last edited by matt m; 11-17-2007 at 12:20 AM.
One thing to consider with regard to the Dinotte taillight, and which one to choose- the one with its own power supply or the one that uses the 600Ls, is to remember that the taillight draws a fair amount of power on its own. A 2500 milliamp battery pack only lasts a bit over an hour at high, so consider battery drain from the taillight when figuring run time. I'm sure an email to Rob at Dinotte will get an approximated run time for both if it's not there already. Also, if your main battery dies then you're completely in the dark, even if you're carrying a spare. With a seperate power supplies you can use the taillight's light to change the headlight's (more than bright enough), and vice versa. The down side is two battery charger systems and two types of batteries to keep charged.
Originally Posted by matt m
To the troll mobile, away...
remember that the "kit" comes with 2 batteries so you can use the 2 of them and this way you always have a spare with you.... if you want to add the 2-cell it's fine but you would ok with the 2 4-cell that comes I think
Originally Posted by California L33
I like the two battery standard. But when will they come standard with two chargers or AC. I ride my bike to work and like to keep a charger at work and one at home. So while I'm at work I can get a charge. It's really annoying that I need to buy the full set inorder to get the benefits. Any suggestions...
An extra charger for a Dinotte is, I think, only about $50. If you buy an extra charger when you buy the light, they will sell it for less, depending on what else you buy. I think that I saw it for as low as $30 extra in one package.
I bought the 2-cell battery to power my taillight - it is more compact and less obtrusive than the 4-cell so I can leave it on my bike all of the time. The only light I remove during the day is my headlight (I'm not a commuter so my bike is always parked in a safe place). While you can power everything off of the same battery, it would require a lot of cable rigging that I wanted to avoid.
In flash mode, the taillight will go 12 hours off of the 2-cell Li Ion battery, so I figure I will be charging it once/week. The headlight is supposed to go 3.5 hrs off of the 4-cell.
I wonder if for endurance rides you could use the Y-adapter to run your light off of both of the supplied 4-cell batteries for 7 hours of uninterrupted high-beam light? Guess I'll have to get my lazy a$$ off of the couch to check that at some point.
I really like the mix-and-match philosophy of the Dinotte line. All of their Li Ion lights and batteries are interchangeable, and they have only one charger and one style of connector. Light and Motion is like that to, to a slightly lesser extent.
Sorry for the Dinotte ramblings - it's a new toy.
I went with Wilma for the road.
Cino - Thanks Man. This is really helpful! I think I know what I'm asking from Santa. Any suggestions for good deals, sales, etc.
so i ordered the 600L combo w/ taillight and separate battery this morning. i'm actually not sure what i'm more excited about: being able to see in the pitch black, or to help ease the creepy feeling in the back of my neck that i've had lately as cars pass me; it has been a really bad autumn in portland for cyclists on the road.
thanks for everyone's advice and perspectives - it helped me to confirm my decision because i am buying the lights sight unseen and hoping for the best. these will be my first high power led and i am looking forward to using them.
i'll probably do a little testing of helmet vs. bar mounting but keeping the weight off of my noggen for hours at a time seems more pleasant, yet it seems sensible to be able to turn your head and blast a driver who may not see you.
i got the separate taillight battery after talking with people at dinotte. it will fit in my seat pack and with it, there will be much less wiring on the bike which will be good for little trips around town et cetera where taking the lights off might be necessary.
they also claim them to be waterproof although to what degree i am not sure, so i'm hoping that hours and hours in the rain won't be a problem for them.
i ended up paying usd 515.00 which includes:
(2) 4 cell batteries good for ~7 hrs
(1) 2 cell batt for the tail light, which works for the headlight in a pinch.
(1)helmet mount and (1) bar mount as well as (1)tail light mount
anyway, after doing the math and reading the reviews, this seemed like the best deal going for the budget i had set for myself. i'll report back when i have some rides in. i'll be using them 98% on the road but will get some trail rides in occasionally as weather gets better. thanks again for everyone's help!
so i've had a chance to the lighs out, and am very pleased. i'll relate a few initial impressions
600L ride report:
so far i have only used it on the bars, and it provides plenty of light. the transition from the center bright spot to the peripheral light is smooth and even and not fatiguing to my eyes.
the first night i rode up a local hill called council crest , about 1100 feet in a few miles, nice and steep in places and i rode the broken concrete side streets up the south side which are unlit for the most part. i was going slow, but needed to see well enough to avoid pot-holes, broken concrete and downed branches from the high winds we've been having. the light was on its medium setting which was fine for this purpose.
i descended down the north side heading into town and had no trouble travelling 35-40 mph. i can see that it would be nice to have it on my head for seeing around the switchbacks, because it was in these places i had to back off a bit. transitioning into the lamp-lit areas was ok, but i felt more comfortable when it was pitch black without competing lights.
i like how easy it is to toggle between the modes, and i found it useful to use the strobe-pulse for really getting drivers attention; the light lit up every reflective surface up for hundreds of yards like it was a police light. i honestly have never felt so safe crossing a busy intersection at night.
i rode through town and back on the other side of the river along the bike path and maintained 25mph for most of the path and felt totally at ease travelling at this speed. crossing the river again, i rode back up into the west hills through the cemetary (a nice little climb) which is totally unlit, and the light worked really well - so well that when i got to the top, i went back down to test the light on the narrow and winding roads. again, with the light on my bars, i backed off a bit because i could not see around the switchbacks, so my next ride will be with the light mouonted on the helmet. other than the few switchbacks where i didn't have the light aimed where i wanted it, the headlight worked great and so far i'm very happy with it. taillight review to follow.
Last edited by matt m; 11-26-2007 at 11:19 AM.