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Tuesday
Sep162014

NiteRider Rechargeable Bike Lights

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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Reader Comments (11)

I use the rechargeable NiteRider too -- very similar to your new one. I like that it all fits in one compact package and can be switched from one bike to another in seconds. I've been using it on my early morning commutes for a couple years now.

September 16, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterKyle Brooks

Great post (as usual)! I really like the ingenuity of your seatbag solution; it is possible to also save money on lighting by adapting general-purpose LED flashlights. For the red blinking rear, bike-specific solutions are plenty cheap and effective enough, but for front lighting,

I use a "regular" flashlight, attached to the handlebars with two interlocking hose clamps (cranked down with a socket wrench). (pics).

It is super bright -- advertised at I think 1600 lumens, probably a bit less in reality, but essentially like a car headlight, I can ride in pitch black, no streetlights, and see the road just fine. You can see I've got it angled down a fair bit, and the sliding head allows to set the beamwidth, I can get a good-width spot at a good distance in front of me, which doesn't go up into eyes or bounce off street signs. For a similar light, search eBay for "cree xml-t6 zoomable", and expect to pay under $20 for a package including light, charger and 18650 batteries. Also expect the batteries to be crap and last only a few months, so plan to buy a better pair of 18650s from a trusted US-based source (I spent $10 at batteryjunction.com for a 2600mAh pair that lets me charge weekly).

September 17, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterRubeRad

How old is that saddle Dave ? It appears to have seen a few years of service.

September 17, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterAnthony C.

The saddle has had maybe five years of use. nicely broken in, but plenty of life left in it. It is a Brooks Pro B17S 1985 model that I bought NOS, they were a little better quality (Thicker leather.) than the ones put out today. Wider and shorter than the Standard Pro saddle it is very comfortable.

I should point out that most cheap tail lights that run on AAA batteries, are pretty useless in the day-time, especially in bright sunlight, but this Solas taillight, the flashing modes are extremely bright and will draw people's attention to your presence from a distance, long before they are passing you. I use the front and rear lights on flashing mode in the daytime, steady light at night.
Dave.

September 17, 2014 | Registered CommenterDave Moulton

USB rechargeable bike lights are a major boon. My front one is to be seen, rather than to see with, and it serves this purpose well. My mind goes back to the battery operated bike lights of my youth in the UK, each having two 'D' batteries and weighing a ton. I know people who now have better headlights on their bikes than Lucas equipped cars I owned in England.
We have seen such progress in bicycle components and bike accessories, and yet you can't beat a steel frame!

September 17, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterMartin W

What do you think of the Fly6 combination rear light/ video camera?

September 18, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterChris v

I have used a NiteRider 600 for 2 years. It is the best bike light I have ever owned. I highly recommend this quality product. Yes, it is a bit pricey, but well worth the investment if you ride in the dark a lot. So far, I've had no problems with mine and it continues to hold a really good charge. Cars give me a lot more room when with this thing on, it is quite bright.

September 18, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterJay

Hi Dave, I'm using a Serfas TSL-200 headlight and Serfas Thunderbolt taillight. Both are USB chargeable. I run the headlight on low and get six plus hours on one charge. Both lights retail for about $50 each. Front mounts on handlebars and the rear fits multiple locations with rubber band type mounts. Serfas also offers a Thunderbolt for the front as well;. Both are very bright and Serfas quality is excellent. Even their warranty is excellent.

September 19, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterBrian

Hey, just thought you'd like to know, those rubber "O" ring mounted lights work really well mounted under the bars, so that the light is beneath the bar, and only the rubber "o" ring is on the tops, makes for riding on the tops easier without bumping the light.

September 22, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterAndrew Lowe

I have used a NiterRide Lumina (don't remember the model) for about 3 years. It is reliable. I have mounted it on my helmet because I noticed that it interfered with my Cateye wireless computer when it was mounted on the handlebar. It took me quite a while to figure this out/

October 4, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterNathan

Yes, what a boon they are, most LED lights. Commuting in the 70s I had a 2 x D Cell lamp with a pathetic little globe. Similar at rear. yes, you just hoped motorists would see you. In Australia and NZ we're pretty advanced on this stuff. I have 2 blazingly strong CREE LED headlights on 2 bikes. On the rear now I use a Fly6, combo camera/LED lights recording to a micro SD card in 5 hours rotation. Would help in the case of driver inattention or accident. Or worse, deliberate 'spooking'.
What I just don't get is people in expensive lycra, on $3K carbon bikes who don't bother with any lighting at all.
I find that it is invaluable in daylight as well; yes, drivers see you and do factor you in to their road behaviour. Am sure they otherwise wouldn't.
'Spendy'... last heard that expression from a waiter in Kalispell, Montana, in '97. Have never heard an Aussie use it. Funny... cheers Dave.

October 14, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterPaul H

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