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  1. #1
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    Brighter light on head or bar?

    If you use a light on the bars and on your helmet......where do prefer the "brighter" light?

    Thanks!

  2. #2
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    Brighter light on head or bar?

    I wouldn't think about the brighter light. Rather, the light with a wider beam should go on the head (to see where you're going or want to go), and the one with the focused beam on the bar to point at your immediate front to check for small animals or potential danger like drink cans or broken glass, if any.


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  3. #3
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    My brighter light, which I guess has a wider beam - goes on my skid lid...

    My less bright light, with a narrower beam - goes on my handlebar ^^

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  4. #4
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    head, no question. The bar-mounted light is mostly just a backup.

  5. #5
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    Interesting. I just assumed that if you were running 2 lights, the optimum set up would be a lower powered spot beam helmet mounted, and a higher powered flood beam bar mounted. I have a ton to learn about night riding. I will be following this thread.

  6. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by mtnbkrmike View Post
    Interesting. I just assumed that if you were running 2 lights, the optimum set up would be a lower powered spot beam helmet mounted, and a higher powered flood beam bar mounted. I have a ton to learn about night riding. I will be following this thread.
    It is very much a matter of personal preference. The spot on helmet and flood on the bars is the most common preference and a good starting point.

    Over the years, I've transitioned from a bar only medium flood beam to tight spot beam on the bars and helmet with about equal output on both. I typically run the helmet light on high more than the bar light. I learned that a flood on the bars just creates weird distracting shadows to the side of the bike. By getting rid of the flood light it got rid of light going in directions I wasn't. The helmet lights up where I'm looking and generally that's where I'm going.
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  7. #7
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    I've ridden at night for a long time and always did fine with just a helmet light (New England single track). My latest light is a NiteRider 950 lumen which is lightweight, small, and battery lasts a couple hours on highest setting. Amazing what you can get now for $80. 10 years ago I had lights with big heavy battery packs and long cables that were $250.

    If I had bar light too, I would definitely prefer to always have the brightest light on my head so I'm able to quickly see what I'm choosing to look at versus what my bar light allows me to see. I would want bar light to be a wide beam vs focused beam for best general coverage of terrain.
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  8. #8
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    My personal preference is wide spot for helmet use and med. to wide flood for the bars. Usually most powerful light on the helmet (always most throw) but trail conditions affect this considerably. For bar use anything beyond 1200 - 1500 lumens is counterproductive for me because of the amount of glare produced. Narrower trails with lots of foliage and shorter lines of sight a bit narrower beam on the bars and less overall power to the helmet spot is preferable. New trails or fast open desert trails I like more flood on the bars but still good throw so a little more power overall but sky is the limit for helmet light power (I know there's a limit but 2500 - 3000 lumens is usually not too much). Interesting seeing how different everyone's preferences are. My guess is you'll have to do a little experimenting to find what's perfect for you.
    Mole

  9. #9
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    Thanks everyone. Great to hear different preferences and perspectives. It will be fun to get out there and try different combos. Of course....here in New England (CT) the night riding season is coming to an end shortly with longer days on tap. Last winter was the first time I had ever did any night riding.....even though I have been riding mtb since the early 90's. I really enjoy it. It is like a new set of trails out there!

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by Cicch95 View Post
    ..... Of course....here in New England (CT) the night riding season is coming to an end shortly with longer days on tap.
    Nah, the night riding season is about 2 months from starting.
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  11. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by Vancbiker View Post
    Nah, the night riding season is about 2 months from starting.
    Yeap. Riding after dark in frigid cold and snow isnt something thats enjoyable for too long. I ride more at night during warmer months. Cold months I ride more during the day because sun light is great for a little extra warmth.


    As for where I use a brighter light, helmet. A bunch of throw and power on the bars is useless to me as I am rarely looking where the bars are pointed. Trails are tight and twisty wooded areas. Like me power where my eyes are looking since its easier to see what I need to see instead of trying to focus my eyes on a dim spot beyond my bar lights reach.

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  12. #12
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    My personal preference goes with : a narrow/deep beam with high amount of Lux at helmet (enhance details precisely where I look) ... and a much wider beam / high amount of Lumens at the handlebar (for the reason that a wide beam will be less affected by bar movements).

    Lux (lumens per surface area) on helmet, Lumens at handlebar.

  13. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by sturge View Post
    I've ridden at night for a long time and always did fine with just a helmet light (New England single track). My latest light is a NiteRider 950 lumen which is lightweight, small, and battery lasts a couple hours on highest setting. Amazing what you can get now for $80. 10 years ago I had lights with big heavy battery packs and long cables that were $250.

    If I had bar light too, I would definitely prefer to always have the brightest light on my head so I'm able to quickly see what I'm choosing to look at versus what my bar light allows me to see. I would want bar light to be a wide beam vs focused beam for best general coverage of terrain.
    +1 helmet light only for a number of years and if I had two, my preference would be the brighter one on the helmet (where I am looking) as opposed to one mounted on the bars.

    I run a 600 lumen (NiteRider) wireless most of the time and a spread beam 600 (Cygolite) with extended battery run time for occasional longer night rides.
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  14. #14
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    I have a brighter light on my helmet and wider beam on my handlebar.

  15. #15
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    Shadows are good...

    I would, and do, put the more powerful light on the bars.

    I want the bar light to be wide-beamed and at a low oblique angle to my eyes, so that I get the benefit of shadows on texture and terrain. My spot-beam helmet light is what fills in the gaps, enables me to look around corners or down into drops, etc...

    The low angle of the main light is better in fog, dust (group rides are great) and if I only had one light, it would be on the bars. I will turn off the helmet light in dusty or foggy conditions, notably when my helmet-only buds are slowing way down or commenting that they can't see stuff on the trail.

  16. #16
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    Quote Originally Posted by Shadow4eva View Post
    I wouldn't think about the brighter light. Rather, the light with a wider beam should go on the head (to see where you're going or want to go), and the one with the focused beam on the bar to point at your immediate front to check for small animals or potential danger like drink cans or broken glass, if any.


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    I do the opposite with wider on the bars and focused beam on the hat. That way my general field of vision comes from the bars and my detailed light tracks my head movement.

  17. #17
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    Quote Originally Posted by William_Cannon View Post
    I do the opposite with wider on the bars and focused beam on the hat. That way my general field of vision comes from the bars and my detailed light tracks my head movement.
    Not saying you're wrong, but I supposed the configuration also depends on the trails you ride in? The trails here in my country are quite tight, hence the need for wider beams on the helmet and focused beam on the handlebar for my night rides.


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  18. #18
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    Quote Originally Posted by Shadow4eva View Post
    Not saying you're wrong, but I supposed the configuration also depends on the trails you ride in? The trails here in my country are quite tight, hence the need for wider beams on the helmet and focused beam on the handlebar for my night rides.


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    I think a lot of it is personal preference and your local trails.

    I find the opposite on my more narrow trails though. When the trail never goes straight for more than 20 feet your handlebars are rarely facing forwards. So a strong narrow beam that can put light 100 yards down the trail is worthless because 95% of the time it is just lighting up the shrub on the side of the trail. So I like the handlebar light to have a wider beam that will put light on the trail regardless of which direction the bars are facing, and then a narrow beam on the helmet for lighting up further down.

    Depth perception is a bit better with the light on the bars though. It's hard to see shadows on your helmet light. So If I had straighter wider trails I would go for a more focused beam on the bars. You just have to try a bunch of things until you find a combination that works for you.

  19. #19
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    Really shouldn't be any narrow beams in use for trail riding. The bar light should be the widest and most powerful lamp to provide object shadowing no matter the orientation of the trail in relation to the bike. The helmet light should have a large round spill so it can augment the bar light in very tight turns without failing to illuminate upper body threats. Both lights should have the smoothest transition between spot and spill that one can afford.
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  20. #20
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    I use wide powerful flood on bars where the weight doesn't matter as much and lighter power spot on my helmet. 3300 bars 1200 helmet.

    The quality of the beam is as or more important than total output. Your light should have a defuse beam pattern without bright spot. The cheap lights blind you with an extra bright middle and reduce your depth perception.

    I dislike a cable going to my helmet. Self contained lights like the exposure diablo have a near perfect spread and density of light.
    Making shit harder than it needs to be isn't awesome, it's just...harder.

  21. #21
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    Quote Originally Posted by alexbn921 View Post
    I dislike a cable going to my helmet. Self contained lights like the exposure diablo have a near perfect spread and density of light.
    That's why I grabbed the Fenix double 18650 cases when they were available. I have an X1 and X2 that I use with the case mounted top rear on the helmet.
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  22. #22
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    I have same power (2500 lumens) on both helmet and bars. If you asked me which one I would have the higher power on would be the helmet. I align the bright patch on both lights to align the same distance from the bike at the right focus area for my riding speed etc, the bright patches then ďsplitĒ when I am looking around corners, off drops etc. I have enough grunt with total 5000 lumens that I get the throw and spread regardless and donít have to be too precise. Riding day or night is steep/technical with plenty of drops up to 6-8ft. Feel better doing some of the features at night with heaps of light. Lights are Gloworm.

  23. #23
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    Quote Originally Posted by Haim View Post
    I have same power (2500 lumens) on both helmet and bars. If you asked me which one I would have the higher power on would be the helmet. I align the bright patch on both lights to align the same distance from the bike at the right focus area for my riding speed etc, the bright patches then ďsplitĒ when I am looking around corners, off drops etc. I have enough grunt with total 5000 lumens that I get the throw and spread regardless and donít have to be too precise. Riding day or night is steep/technical with plenty of drops up to 6-8ft. Feel better doing some of the features at night with heaps of light. Lights are Gloworm.
    6 to 8 foot drops in the dark!?

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  24. #24
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    Thatís going to be hard - as I ride on my own at night - might have to call that an unproven claim! 😁 Actually itís the coolest sensation as your lights donít pick up anything below you so youíre just dropping into black, so it feels much higher. Done plenty of times in the day though so know roughly where the ground will be.

  25. #25
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    Quote Originally Posted by Haim View Post
    Thatís going to be hard - as I ride on my own at night - might have to call that an unproven claim! Actually itís the coolest sensation as your lights donít pick up anything below you so youíre just dropping into black, so it feels much higher. Done plenty of times in the day though so know roughly where the ground will be.
    Yeah, on really familiar trails you'd be right.

    I've done 4-5ft drops on night rides.

    8ft would be pushing my limits (in the dark).

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  26. #26
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    You both are nuts. 24" is about the max I mess with at all, if I don't know the line well I alt line/walk after dark. Won't even ride black loops after dark. I love night riding but anything that's more than a kicker or small drop after dark ain't happening lol. Ain't got the nerves for it.

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  27. #27
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    Quote Originally Posted by targnik View Post
    Yeah, on really familiar trails you'd be right.

    I've done 4-5ft drops on night rides.

    8ft would be pushing my limits (in the dark).

    'Born to ride!'
    Since I have no intention of ever doing any type of sheer drop off more than a couple ft. day or night my take on all this; First, I don't have the type of bike required for extreme drops. Nor do I have the physical strength or skill required to do the landings. Hopefully anyone choosing to do such stunts not only have the bike but the S&S as well. Sounds scary as hell to me to be flying through the air unable to see the ground but I have to admit, if you can do it and not kill yourself in the process more power to you. If it were me and I had the bike/S&S, I'd likely mount a cheap flood light down near the bottom bracket and turn it on when doing the night drops...but hey that's just me. As for me, I have to go to work everyday so I'm not about to take chances that might render me unable to work for a long period of time. I had my share of MTB injuries over years including a torn AC joint on one shoulder and a momentary dislocation of the other shoulder on another ride. Not to mention the time I ended up pissing blood for a couple hours after a particularly bad endo...anyway, those were just the most memorable.

    This whole idea of dropping into darkness, while intriguing reminds me once again of something I experienced as a kid. I was about 11 or 12yrs old. Back then I had just joined the Boy Scouts and was on my first group camp-out. During this camp out the newbies ( or tender foots as they called them back then ) had to under go an initiation ceremony. All the tenderfoots got blindfolded and were called one by one to undergo the ritual ceremony. One of the things you were asked to do was to step up on this elevated board. Then when you were on the board the board was then lifted by some of the other scouts. While being lifted the others who were watching kept yelling, "take him higher, take him higher". As this is happening you swear you are being lifted to at least as high as a group of boys can lift something. At some point the board starts to wobble and you have no choice but to jump off and prepare to land from a moderately high height. What happens is that you end up almost falling on the ground because all of it was a ruse. You never got more than a foot off the ground. Such is life when you fall into darkness and don't know what to expect.

  28. #28
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    We're talking 4 feet i.e. below the nipple line ;-)

    With good bar & helmet lights, you're far from dropping into the abyss.

    Also depends on your trails i.e. of it's a roll up & drop over (unsighted) or a ledge drop onto a nice tranny.

    The drop might only look like a 2-3 footer... but, w/ a nice tranny & a bit of speed - you can end up dropping a good 5-6 feet.

    Plus, as stated above - if you've ridden the trails close to 100 times, it's like riding with your eyes closed.

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  29. #29
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    Nice story on the board - reminds me of a few other pranks when I was a kid...

    Anyway on the drops - agree with Targnik, while itís not everyoneís idea of fun, if you are doing the same feature a lot in the day itís at least worth a look at night. You still get good periferal vision around the drop with the general spill of the light so you can keep good body position on takeoff and as your bike is dropping to the transition you get good pickup of the landing as the spill picks up the landing a moment before touchdown. A four foot face, sloping transition and a moderate speed and there goes 6ft easy.

  30. #30
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    We have some 3-4 foot drops with a lip that launch you pretty good. Since they can't be rolled and I've hit them 100's of times it's not that big of a deal at night. I don't tend to ride new trails at night and would not hit anything that I didn't know.
    Making shit harder than it needs to be isn't awesome, it's just...harder.

  31. #31
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    Quote Originally Posted by alexbn921 View Post
    .... I don't tend to ride new trails at night and would not hit anything that I didn't know.
    Always a good idea. That's because even on trails you think you know by heart sometimes things look different at night. Not to mention there is more of threat of getting lost or turned around at night. Never a good idea to explore new trails at night unless you are prepared for the possibility of getting lost or confused. Speaking from experience, crap like that happens. When it does it's kinda scary. Of course if you have a map/GPS system with you it helps. The scariest times I've ever had riding back in the woods at night was when I was on unfamiliar trails and unprepared for what I was doing. Of course back then those were the days of halogen light systems and the only navigational aids you had were map and compass. Scary as hell to be exploring new trail on some mountain ridge and realize the sun is dropping fast and you don't have any source of light with you. God how I wish when I was younger that they had the stuff they have now. Back in the day when I only had halogen lights I knew ( even with fully charged batteries ) that I might only have two hours of run time, tops. Heck, nowadays I can get two hours out of a single 18650 battery, glance at the GPS app whenever I need to and never have a worry in the world.....almost. I say "Almost" because when mountain biking one never knows what can happen on a trail at night. Sometimes the unexpected happens. When it happens at night it's always scarier, even with good lights and modern navigational aids.

  32. #32
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    I personally ride with the bright/flood light on my bars, more spot like on my helmet.

  33. #33
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    Quote Originally Posted by alexbn921 View Post
    ......I don't tend to ride new trails at night and would not hit anything that I didn't know.
    I'm perfectly fine with riding a new trail at night. Used to do it quite a bit before I retired. Get off work Friday evening and hit the road to a new ride destination. Get there and set up camp and then hit the trails till midnight or so. I did learn my lesson about trying too much on a new ride though. Spotted a neat little root ledge lip while on the climb up the little creek valley and then hit it on the way down. What I had not caught on the way up was that the trail made a little bend right at the lip. Ended up trying to land just off the edge of the trail down the ravine. The light patterns through the trees and brush my bar and helmet lights made as I tumbled to a stop were pretty crazy. OK, now no more night jump attempts.
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  34. #34
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    The drops and such is part of why I run the tighter beam with higher power on the helmet. Everything I've ridden so far I've been able to see the landing zone just in enough time to stop before going over if needed.

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  35. #35
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    My pref is;

    Priority A) Look where you want to go = best light on the lid and I'd side with brightest rather than beam width if it's a choice. Path focus being my objective.

    Priority B) Back up like sweep or flood beam on the bar.

    At present, my two lights are both NiteRider 750's. The 950 was sold out the day I wanted my 2nd beam so I was limited by store inventory.
    No Regrets tho. Love 'em.
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