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What type of bike light do I need.

Daylight savings ends this weekend which means shorter daylight hours over the coming months. Therefore, you will need a set of lights when you riding to keep you safe.

So how do you make sense of the different options available and when should you use different kinds of lights?

Lights can be broken down into two different categories, to be seen or to see. The type of light you need will depend on what type or riding and where you are riding, and we will break this down for you to assist you with the correct set of lights for you.

First let’s discuss Lumen.

A lumen is today’s standard measurement of light output. While the lamp’s build quality and the angle of its beam will influence its output, it is safe to make the assumption that while even a 5-10 lumen bike light will get you seen, a 50 lumen light will make you more conspicuous, especially from a distance. Similarly a 1,000 lumen front light will reveal more of the road/path ahead than a 500 lumen lamp.

As a reference point, bear in mind that a single car low-beam headlight is about 700 lumens, and a single typical car high-beam headlight is 1,200 lumens.

“See” lights

“See” lights allow you to see where you are going in the dark. If your ride takes you out of the town or city on unlit or poorly lit roads, you’ll need a strong, bright front light just to be able to see where you are going. You’ll want to pick up any potholes or debris on the road ahead with plenty of time to be able to react.

These lights will also make you visible to other road users, but the powerful light often comes with a compromise: they can be bigger and bulkier with shorter battery life. A poorly designed or poorly aimed/mounted light can also be so bright that it dazzles other road users. So it’s really important to make sure your lights are set up correctly to give you maximum visibility of the road ahead while not creating a danger to other road users.

“Be seen” lights

The purpose of “Be seen” lights is to make you visible to other road users. If you’re riding in the city, you’ll be able to see where you are from street lighting – so your lights’ primary function is to make sure others see you. It’s important that your lights let you be seen from the front and behind. You should ride with a white light on the front and a red light on the rear.

A flashing light on your bike is an increasingly popular option for “Be seen” lights. Different lights have different flashing patterns, but all work because the flash attracts the eye of other road users and makes you easier to spot. You can use a flashing light daytime or night-time. As there is some research that shows that a flashing light makes it more difficult for drivers to judge how far you are away, at night-time it’s a good idea to combine a steady light with a secondary flashing light, for example on your bag or helmet.

“Urban” Lights

You ride solely in town under streetlamps you can get by with a set of ‘be-seen’ lights. A be-seen front lamp barely illuminates the path or road ahead. However, it does fulfil a bike light’s primary function of getting you seen by other road users after dark.

Be-seen lights, such as these sub $40 sets by Blackburn are the least expensive to buy and will do the trick on lit roads.

If you ride mostly in town but sometimes on unlit sections such as bike paths, you’ll need a beam to keep you on the right track (perhaps literally) and alert you of impending hazards.

To that end, we would recommend a front lamp with at least 100 lumen output.

“Rural” Lights

You sometimes ride out of town, on road or off road, perhaps for commuting, maybe for exercise, always (we hope) for fun.

You won’t regret upgrading to a more powerful 400-1,000 lumen front lamp.

A headlamp this bright lets you see well ahead, and gives you early warning of broken tarmac, loose gravel, broken glass and so on when road riding. It should also be bright enough to light up basic blue mountain bike trails – especially if matched with a decent head torch.

If you are looking for an especially well made front lamp with this kind of output, we heartily recommend you browse our Cateye range, every one with a tool-free rubber strap fitting for easy interchangeability between bikes.

“Trail” Lights

You appreciate having the trails virtually to yourself (or selves) after dark. You are a mountain biking night rider.

One of the 400-to-1,000 lumen ‘rural riding’ lamps just described may well suffice for off road riding. If you’re into more adventurous / faster riding, bombing round red/black routes at Lysterfield Lake, you’ll be amazed by the searchlight-like power (up to 2,200 lumens) of the latest Azur Deluxe 2200.

In addition to a bar-mounted light, a helmet-mounted light with a narrower beam will help you to see around corners and spot any additional hazards that might be lost in the shadow of your main light.

On the rear, a bright safety light will allow other road users to see you from a good distance. Similar to commuting lights, using the flashing mode, and doubling up on these lights, will make you even more visible. We also recommend on using flashing safety lights during both the day and night to alert motorists of your presence.

We would always recommend that you purchase a light that will give you a bit more running time than your typical ride length. That way you’ll have a bit of power in reserve if you make an unexpected detour or need to stop for a mechanical problem.

Always carry spare lights so that you can get home if your main lights fail. If you’re planning long distances in the dark, look into external power banks to allow you to recharge on the go.

I hope this has educated and assisted you in choosing the right light for your bike and needs, remember if in doubt please call us or pop in and  we can talk through things and assist you further if required.

Shop our range of lights here.

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