lighting setup for commuting- Mtbr.com
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  1. #1
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    lighting setup for commuting

    Hey everyone,

    I'm new to riding in the dark (usually early AM), and as the days grow shorter and shorter, I find myself needing appropriate lighting more and more.

    I don't ride trails, so my needs are strictly for commuting. I've read a ton on these forums, but haven't run across an answer to my basic question - what type of light should I purchase? I don't mean brand or power necessarily, I'm more asking about the type/location of the light placement. Should I be looking at bar mounted lights? Helmet mounted?

    I'd really appreciate insight on what everyone would recommend for a decent set up. I'm more concerned about safety/function than I am price, but I'd prefer not to break the bank if possible.

  2. #2
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    For commuting, you are more interested in being seen versus lighting your way. You don't need a lot of lumens. I think a single front and rear light is fine. Front mounted to bars and the rear to the seatpost or wherever is most visible from the rear. Blinking mode catches the eye better than steady state in my opinion, plus it will make the battery last longer. I like my little USB rechargeable light that I use on the front, and the Planet Bike Blinky 7 for the rear which takes 2xAAA batteries. I use rechargeable AAA batteries for the rear light as well.
    Amazon.com : MetroFlash Ignita Super Bright USB Rechargeable Headlight : Bike Headlights : Sports & Outdoors
    Amazon.com: Planet Bike Blinky "7" 7-Led Rear Bicycle Light

    Also wear a neon green vest with reflective stripes.

  3. #3
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    I would stick with one of the all-in-ones such as the Niterider Lumina's or Lezyne power drives. Something that's USB rechargeable so that you can easily charge it at work. I would go for the high-powered lights 400 lumen or more. Supplement that with a rear blinkly/flasher light.

    There's really two different strategies for commuting. One, which ewarnerusa outlined, includes blinky lights for both front and back (red in back, white up front). I think this is good for extremely well lit or city commutes. The other strategy is just to have a lot of light. That's what I'm advocating. It's probably better if you ride on actual dark roads or have very dark patches in an otherwise well lit commute. You probably need at least 100 or 200 lumen to see where you going. The brighter the light the more you stick out over other lights from streetlights, cars, and storefronts.

    Also if you are going with niterider lumina's be advised that they are coming out with a new line of lights that include and oled display that shows the remaining battery time. Very cool.Name:  niterider-lumina-800-oled-bicycle-light-13.jpg
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Size:  21.3 KBlighting setup for commuting-niterider-lumina-800-oled-bicycle-light-6.jpg

  4. #4
    Light freak
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    I am thinking a little more info on what your commute consists of would be helpful. Are you riding mostly on MUPís, high traffic areas, city or outside of the city? Being ďseenĒ lights are good for some commuting but in some instance they are not sufficient. I have not commuted for quite awhile but the most effective light for me was a helmet mounted light that I could point directly at somebody who was trying to pull out in front of me. Do you want to be visible from a 90 degree angle? Most lights donít have side visibility, some do.

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  5. #5
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    During the Summer Time mostly day light commuting I run this configuration:

    1 front blinky 100 lm or so..
    2 Rear Blinky Lights. 1 on back of helmet and 1 on back of rack (or pack).

    Wintertime (full or mostly dark) I supplement the front with one of my mtb lights and use medium mode around 600+ lumens. This is more than I need to see; but it's more to be seen / obvious

    I like having two very bright rear blinking lights as it's possible to have dead batteries, lost light (hit a bump) or any other number of failures...sometimes I just forget to charge one or something. Also having the rear helmet light raises it above the level of other cars so you can be seen better when in between rows of traffic.

    I plan to add a helmet mounted front light this winter like Scar said to be able to "point" at drivers to get their attention.

    The biggest issue is getting drivers attention...

  6. #6
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    Thanks for the feedback guys, and my apologies for being so (unintentionally) vague. My commute is mostly in the city, but lighting on the majority of my streets isn't very good. So I'd really like both visibility lighting as well as lighting to help me see. I'd say my percentage of well-lit roads is about 50/50. As I get closer to the edge of the city limits, it's pretty dark.

    Thanks again!

  7. #7
    RAKC
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    Number 1, something reflective on your upper half.

    Good rear blinky. I love my cygolite. USB chargeable etc. That's actually your very important one. Having one that's plenty bright enough is major. So dont cheap out.

    In the front is easier, the intensity and glare created by the leds used these days is very visible from a long range. Dont be cheap, but something like the nightrider or even a good led flashlight mounted on the bars will do the trick. You don't want to go insane though, lights that are as bright as we use for trails create such a strong shine to them, anything coming towards you is blinded if you accidently have it pointed too much upward. Use the HID headlights on high beams right in your face for example. You cant see crap till the car passes you. So something under 500 lumens is good, 300ish will be perfect for your use. Thankfully most have modes so you can run at full power, lower levels or flash depending on where you are.

    As of right now I'm using a fenix bc30r. I love it for commuting use and doesn't have cool white emitters, uses neutral white (basically more yellow looking) so a bit easier on the eyes for both me and traffic coming at me.

  8. #8
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    Commuting doesn't necessarily always mean using "to be seen" lights as you still need to see the road very well at dusk and after dark. Too dim a light and you can't see the road in front of you, especially when a car is coming towards you and their lights are overpowering yours. Stay away from those cheap dim aa or aaa lights as you won't see much of anything in front of you. Go for about a 500+ lumen bar light and also a 500+ lumen helmet light too and you will have plenty of front lights. In addition to using the helmet light to gain driver's attention, you have the added safety of having a backup light. You just need to decide how much you want to spend and if you want self contained lights or not and how much runtime you need for your commute. The niterider Lumina series looks decent for self contained or the Cygolites metro/expillions that are similar.

    For rear lights get 2 of them too. One mounted lower and one higher up. For example I use a Cygolite hotshot mounted on the seat post and a Serfas tl60 mounted on the back of my camelback. The Cygolite I leave on solid mode and the Serfas I have flashing. Cars give a wide berth when passing. They are about 60 lumens each. Just a quick look on Amazon and I see some combo deals where they have a Niterider lumina headlight and taillight combo and also some deals from Cygolite too with the headlight and taillight combo. It seems like for about $200 you can get two combos of what you want and end up with 2x headlights and 2x taillights and you should be good to go with something like that. I consider that pretty cheap for keeping yourself safe while riding. Also reflective gear on yourself too can't hurt.

  9. #9
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    Please dont add another commuter with an led helmet mounted light. Thankfully around here those died almost as fast as they started catching on. First time you point that at a police officer will be the last time you use it. Helmet mounted light for commuting you may see as better for you, but far more dangerous for ones coming at you. Its one thing if you have bike lanes/path to ride on. But if your riding on the street with cars its dangerous and basically illegal. As officers here explained it that is classified as "off road lighting" which is illegal on the streets. Not something I experienced but when I started commuting I asked why no one had helmet lights anymore and that's what I was explained.

  10. #10
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    Is there good (and reasonable priced) rear blinkers that use li-ion or AA?

  11. #11
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    Good AA-powered tail lights are relatively rare nowadays, while USB-rechargeable lithium ones seems to be easier to find...

  12. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by tigris99 View Post
    Please dont add another commuter with an led helmet mounted light. Thankfully around here those died almost as fast as they started catching on. First time you point that at a police officer will be the last time you use it. Helmet mounted light for commuting you may see as better for you, but far more dangerous for ones coming at you. Its one thing if you have bike lanes/path to ride on. But if your riding on the street with cars its dangerous and basically illegal. As officers here explained it that is classified as "off road lighting" which is illegal on the streets. Not something I experienced but when I started commuting I asked why no one had helmet lights anymore and that's what I was explained.

    Plenty of commuters here in Denver riding with LED helmet lights as they want to stay alive. I have actually had to use mine to stop a police officer doing a "California stop" right out in front of me. Just rolled on by with a smile Be a responsible commuter and point your helmet light downward out in front of your bike and then just pick up your head when needed.

    Did a search and I can not find any laws against having a helmet light, even in Iowa. Here is a link to Oregon bicycle law that specifically says "Note that helmet mounted lights (which many people prefer because they are directional) are fully compliant with the law" Oregon Bicycle Lighting Requirements


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  13. #13
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    Florida bike light law -


    Having noted the law, there is a legitimate reason a cyclist might decide to have a helmet light, if his/her state allows it. Helmet mounted bicycle lights put the light beam in the direction where you are looking. Bicycle mounted lights put the light where your bike is heading. For maximum effectiveness, you can choose to use both.

    Bicyclesafe.com - How not to get hit by cars

    How to avoid this collision:

    1. Get a headlight. If you're riding at night, you absolutely should be using a front headlight. It's required by law, anyway. Even for daytime riding, a bright white light that has a flashing mode can make you more visible to motorists who might otherwise Right Cross you. Look for the new LED headlights which last ten times as long on a set of batteries as old-style lights. And headlamps (mounted on your head or helmet) are the best, because then you can look directly at the driver to make sure they see your light.

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  14. #14
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    Quote Originally Posted by juhake View Post
    Is there good (and reasonable priced) rear blinkers that use li-ion or AA?
    I use these. Very bright and uses 2 AAAs. I picked up a bunch for $6 ...price seemed to jump to $11 recently.

    Smart R1 Luggage Mounted Rear Light Without Bracket | Planet X

  15. #15
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    Scar, ya I didn't research it but that's what officer told me. Not alot of commuters here but none use helmet lights. Maybe police are just being asses (wouldn't be surprising) cause they don't like bright lights in their face I dunno.

    I do know front and rear lights though are REQUIRED to ride a bicycle after dusk. Ive seen them give teenagers written warnings for it and adults (non cyclist, people that can't drive for whatever reason) have gotten tickets. But they chased off helmet lights. Thanks for the info though, next time im out with my trail helmet on, I wont be afraid to kick the lid light on if I need to.

  16. #16
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    Yeah it's not unusual for officers to not know what they are talking about when it relates to bicycles, but when you get one that does it's refreshing. Had a knowledgeable one help me when my bicycle broke down one night several years ago. My spoke broke and stuck through my rear tire. The officer gave me a ride home and threw the bike in the trunk. He rides too so we had a good discussion.

    For the record I use my bar light most of the time when on the road and my helmet light when needed. One thing I have a problem with is cyclists using flashing mode on their lights on the bike path at dusk or dark. No need to try to disorient people like that, just use steady mode on the bike path.

  17. #17
    The Dog.
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    I use a nightrider lumina 700 front, either princeton tec or serfas usb light in the rear. Both rears are super bright. The girlfriend has a light and motion urban 700 and cygolite hotshot. All great setups. I think the 700 lumens is great for commuting, particularly if you're going to right through the winter months.

    Once you ride with over 2000 lumens, it resets your expectations of what is reasonable and acceptable.

  18. #18
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    When on the road I use a Performance Axiom ( rear ) on the seat post. This is a clone of the very popular Serfas TL60. It is just as bright as the Serfas but for a little less money. I also use a rear lamp ( Cygolite Hotshot ) on back of my helmet. Some of the newer helmets don't have a good place to mount so depending on what you own that might not be a possibility.

    I highly recommend a front lamp that can output at least 600 lumen. For road use you don't necessarily need a lamp with a super wide beam pattern. Lots of lights to chose from.

    I also recommend a mini led front flasher for low light conditions. Performance has a good 5-led model that serves me well and didn't cost a boat load. Very bright and very visible. When full darkness hits I move the flasher down to the fork and set for flicker mode. I aim the flasher slightly upward so I don't see the flicker on the road surface.

    My main front lamp lights up the road and the flasher ( on flicker ) gives a second point of reference to on-coming traffic. Used this way it is very noticeable. I also keep a torch on my helmet but I don't use it except for special situations. Comes in handy for the occasional fast windy downhill. Great for spotting pot holes on the curves or for spotting the occasional deer standing near the road side.

    BTW, the flasher on the fork leg idea I got from someone else who was using a second steady light on the lower fork. Having two points of reference for approaching traffic is a really big plus. The flicker/flasher was my idea though.

    Just the other night I saw a guy riding with a very large reflective band on his ankle. I was about 300 ft. behind him and the moving up/down light it produced was most impressive. I likely get a bit of the same effect myself as my Pearl Izumi shoes have a bit of reflective tape on the back. Bike clothing with a bit of reflective tape or reflective seams is always a big plus.

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