Bike lights are useful for many reasons, not just the obvious ones. Whether you are commuting on the road, training, hitting the trails or just out for a quick spin, there will be a light that will suit your riding requirements.
The Road Vehicles Lighting Regulations, first published in 1989, state that between the hours of sunset and sunrise your bike must have working lights. This is defined as a white front light and a red rear. Unlike other vehicles, bikes are not required to be lit up when the conditions seriously deteriorate during the day, but you will be putting yourself at risk if you do not. Lights are not just for seeing with, with roads being busy they help you to be seen that includes during the day with day bright options to always keep you visible.
How do you choose the lights that are best for your needs?
There are several factors to take into consideration when choosing your lights.
- Beam pattern, what is best for where you will be riding?
- Runtime, will they last your journey?
- Is there just one mode or can I get options?
- Charging, how do I take care of this and how long will it take?
- What are lumens?
This can vary as brands produce lights that are designed for a specific use. For use on the road, the beam is more defined to provide a focused light that will illuminate the road ahead. If you are riding takes you off the beaten track or want to do some night time MTB riding, then these lights will still produce a broad or open beam to light the way ahead but will cover more of your peripheral vision too. This will help navigate the twists and turns more easily.
This is important, you do not want your lights to run out of charge before you reach your destination or finish your ride. The runtime will vary of your light has different modes; these will allow you to adjust the strength of the light to match the conditions/location. However, the brighter the mode the more battery this will use and the less runtime you will get. Some lights have additional technology that will adjust the output to match your riding speed, lighter on faster sections with reduced light on the climbs when your speed is slower. Some lights will have an indicator that will give you a visual indication as to how much battery life is left or even display this as a percentage, so you will know what is left in the tank.
Light technology and battery runtime have evolved considerably so most lights will offer more than an off or on setting. With options to allow you to choose what is best for riding location or conditions. The other benefit is flash mode. More important in busier areas where your light can get lost in all the noise of other road users you want to get noticed. A flash mode can make you more visible and this is equally important for both front and rear lights. Lights also have different flash patterns to help discern you from other road users. More common now is day bright or flash mode, a pattern that is intended for use in daylight hours but will make you discernible in traffic or from a distance.
Light technology has moved on considerably and most lights now will be equipped with a rechargeable battery that can be topped up using a micro-USB cable or be fitted with a USB stick so you can just plug the light into your laptop or USB port.
What are lumens? It is the industry default for measuring the output of light or a measure of the total amount of visible light (to the human eye) from the light source. The more lumens the brighter your light but you need to be aware, the brighter the setting the quicker your battery will drain.