Bicycle lights have improved tremendously since the introduction of LED light bulbs, emitting more light with longer battery life. There is really no excuse for anyone to ride at night without lights, and it amazes me that people still do. Most of the cycling fatalities happen during the hours of darkness.
Over the years I have always considered that the main purpose of bike lights was so that drivers of other vehicles could see me, I never really thought of it as a means to actually see where I was going in the dark. That was until a year or more ago when I bought a NiteRider MiNewt 350 headlight. (Below right.)
I bought it initially because I grew tired of constantly buying and replacing AAA batteries, and most annoying was that vibration caused the batteries to loose contact and the light would go out.
The NiteRider lights have rechargeable batteries.
The MiNewt unit has a separate rechargeable battery that straps firmly to the handlebar stem, and the tiny headlight fastens to the handlebar with a rubber “O” ring.
It throws a beam of light some 50 or 60 yards up the road ahead. The distance of the beam depends a lot on the angle you set the headlamp on the bars.
I am reluctant to set mine too high as the light can actually dazzle oncoming drivers, cyclists and pedestrians. I described the headlight as “Tiny,” but I was referring to its physical size. The headlight lens is only 3/4 inch (20mm.) in diameter, but the light is so intense that viewed head on in the dark, the light appears to be 3 or 4 inches in diameter. (75 to 100mm.)
The first thing I noticed was that when riding in the dark, cars approaching head on and wanting to turn in front of me, would actually sit and wait for me to pass. Even though there was often time for them to safely make the turn. On seeing such a bright light approaching, they might assume it is a motorcycle or motor-scooter approaching. The same is true for drivers emerging from side roads and driveways, they wait for me to pass before pulling out.
I ride on a local bike path at 6am. when temperatures are the coolest, but it is still dark. This headlight not only allows me to see the path ahead and ride at a reasonable pace, but I can see pedestrians and other bike riders without lights. Also the wildlife is still out including the occasional deer.
The headlight also throws a pool of light ahead so the cyclist is silhouetted in this pool of light making him more visible from behind. For this reason I continued to use my AAA battery power rear light, which I though adequate at the time. However, I was so pleased with the MiNewt Mini that I decided to put that one on my wife’s bike and I bought a NiteRider Lumina 700 headlight for my bike. (For 2015 it is a 750.)
This headlight (Picture at the top.) has an output of 700 lumens twice that of the Mini 350 I was using before.
The rechargeable battery and headlight is in one self-contained unit.
The lamp easily detaches from the handlebar mounting bracket, to facilitate recharging by plugging into the USB port of my computer. (Left.)
When I bought the new headlight I also bought two NiteRider Solas 2W taillights, for both my wife and my bikes.
I was a little confused at first by the clear lens in the center of this tail light. However, when in use it is the clear part that glows with an intense red light. When recharging it also glows red, but the light turns blue when fully charged.
The light has two flashing modes and a bright setting that are so bright that it is annoying or even blinding for another cyclist riding behind. For this reason there is a steady light “Low” setting. At this setting the makers claim it will run for 36 hours on one charging. On the low setting the light is bright enough that it can be seen at least half a mile away.
Above: The Solas rear light comes with a bracket that fits around the seat post. But I use a padded camera bag that I bought at Wal-Mart for around five bucks. It holds two spare inner tubes, tire levers, a Co2 pump and a patch kit. It attaches under my saddle the old fashioned way, with toe-straps. I made a loop for the lamp to clip on with a plastic zip-tie.
With these lights, I find that when riding in the dark, passing drivers give me more room in overtaking that they do in the daylight. I feel really safe. A must for someone commuting or training in the dark, and even in daylight, the headlight on flashing mode, really draws attention to your presence.
These lights are spendy, around $80 for the headlight, and $35 for the Tail-light. Shop around because prices vary. This is a quality product that comes with a 2 year guarantee. I have seen reviews where people have used these light for five years. So if you consider the cost and the hassle of buying batteries over a long period, plus the far superior light output, the initial cost I feel is worth it.
Finally, reflectors are good “No Maintenance” way to be seen at night, especially if on moving parts of the bike. Like these Salzmann Spoke Reflectors that turn your wheels into a spinning light show. (Picture above.) Salzmann also make a reflective back pack cover. Both the items are $14.99 each, an inexpensive way to be seen at night.
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