/ How Bright for Road Biking
How long is a piece of string ? I know it really depends on where you ride and for how long etc etc but ... all things being being equal, how many lumens do I need for road biking on rural (unlit) roads i.e. for illumination rather than just 'being seen' ?
Recommendations of specific lights would also be helpful.
As many as you can afford !
You will get suggestions for £25 Chinese cree lights from eBay and and £500 exotica, i'm more than happy with my £250 Exposure Race Mk2 as i use it off road too.
My 25 quid cree lights from Amazon are excellent. External battery pack and they last on minimum beam for many hours. I never need medium or bright beam, even in the pitch black, off road!
I just bought a new front light for my commute home along unlit country roads - 720 lumens
Seems to be working well, even when pitch black - and doesn't seem to blind the occasional driver coming towards me which is important
As for recommendation - hmm, anything that is rechargeable, to that lumens, offers flashing and static light, mounts easily on bike - and you can find in a sale I woudl suggest
(I bought a Lifeline Pavo 720,had it over a month now and its working well)
On unlit roads I manage to see plenty with a 300 lumen blackburn central 300. Around town I use a second front light because all car lights are so bright a cyclist can easily get lost.
For the rear I have an Aldi 100 lumen (moon rip off) on the bike which I only run at full power in the day and a smart R1 on my bag.
> My 25 quid cree lights from Amazon are excellent.
See, i knew it wouldn't take long ;-)
I have two 300 lumen cateye lights. Most of the time I only need one on medium setting on unlit roads but both on Full setting is super bright and will cope with fast unlit descents.
I always have 2 lights on the bike just in case one has an issue, I don't want to be left without light.
Worth considering is whether you can switch easily between beam brightness with winter gloves on. I always switch down to lowest mode as I go through streetlight areas to conserve the battery if I'm going to be out for long.
Definitely USB rechargable.
For lumens not cheap but they've been on my helmet for a few years and they are tiny, good battery life and very bright.
For longer range & rural riding something helmet mounted might be good as you can point it near & far as required.
"3 LED Head Front Rear USB Rechargeable Tail Clip Light Lamp" on ebay - dirt cheap to use in combination with something for longer range.
I tried a 400 lumen Lenzye thing and didn't feel it was quite enough on fast rural unlit roads. I've opted for a Cateye 800 lumen light (Volt800) which is better. With only the occasional unlit bits you could manage with 400. However, 400 from a max 800 lumen light is more flexible than 400 from a max 400 lumen light in terms of battery life and having the option to go brighter.
I'd also recommend reputable brands due to the risk of lower quality batteries (longevity/ failure/ fire risk) on the cheaper models.
These are a great pair for unlight roads where you want some warning of whats up the road before you go wheel first into some canyon of a pothole. http://www.wiggle.co.uk/lezyne-macro-1100l-micro-180l-pair/
I've got the Lezyne 400 on the front which I more than enough for the really. Depends what you feel you need see, spotting every pot hole from half a mile away isn't possible but it terms of seeing where you're going it's fine.
What I think really matters though is having a bright rear light. On the road it's more a case of being seen rather than seeing. And given most traffic is going to be coming up behind you it's the back which is going to get you seen.
I don't follow the lumen rage. Of course you will be able to see more yourself with a couple of kilo-lumens, but you end up blinding other people on the road, and that would not add to your own safety.
What I use in town and on dark but paved roads outside of town is the Smart ½ Watt LED Headlight and the Smart High-Powered Triple LED Tail light. Their lumens are not stated by the manufacturer, but judging from my old Petzl Tikka they are around 100 lumens. Maybe a bit more. Edit: For being seen, I have the tail light flashing always, and the headlight only when the town lights are very bright.
When on pitch dark paths especially in forests, I add my 200 lumen head lamp, a Ledlenser MH6.
I gave up with cheap Chinese lights, too many failures. And then my friends cheap Chinese battery caught fire - not even on charge!
I use two Exposure Sirius lights. Two because I can have one on solid and one on flashing, two flashing, two on solid or one at a time to double the effective life for a long ride. One is enough to see by, and two is comfortable. One downside is that two solid lights close together may look like a car some way away to a driver taking a quick glance instead of a proper look.
I've got a NiteRider NiNewt rechargable - can be set to 600, 400 or 275 lumens.
Unlit roads, I'd use it on 600, or 400 if it's a long way soas not to burn the battery too fast.
New version of it is the Lumina - shop around, Wiggle has the 650 version on sale for £40, for example.
On the front of my bike I use a Moon Meteor, giving out a claimed 400 lumens, and an Alpkit Tau, 65 lumens, angled down a bit more so it casts a pool of light immediately in front of me, with another Tau on the back. I've not hit a wheel mangling pothole or tyre destroying dead hedgehog on the unlit country roads where I live.
As ever, it isn't just about the 'number of lumens' - it isn't just about the light emitted, but also how it is directed and how well it illuminates the surface.
Worth reading this:
I run hub dynamos with dynamo lamp (B&M Cyo RT) labelled as '60lux' which is perfectly fine on road. also the IQ Cyo 60, and AXA blueline 50. I would recommend hub dynamos; they're reliable and the resisitance isn't noticeable at all.
Beware that a lot of the 'cheap cree lights' and ebay specials don't direct the light downwards and tend to dazzle those ahead.
For off-road I have a couple of brilliant (sorry) lights from mtbbatteries.co.uk (called the lumenator and the V2), and have had good aftersales service (lithium rechargeable batteries don't like being left unused for months on end). If I use these on road, I have to point them down more to minimise dazzling others.
> I don't follow the lumen rage. Of course you will be able to see more yourself with a couple of kilo-lumens, but you end up blinding other people on the road, and that would not add to your own safety.
I'd add to that, as I have been blinded by cycle lights *while cycling* (and so sitting much higher up than a car driver, so basically pointing up in the air) - if you have super bright lights, please be careful to align them correctly so you do not cause a hazard to other road users. As if they can't see properly, they might just kill you.
As they're as bright as car headlamps, there could do with being a law requiring proper alignment and dim-dip accordingly.
Interesting that no one has mentioned the really excellent Halfords/Bikehut lights. I bought a 1600 lumen (but I'm running it on a lower power mode) and 500 version. The biggie was £50 and comes with a Garmin/go-pro compatible mount (so that you can "hang" it under a garmin). I can't vouch for that because I haven't used it, but the light is very good.
Micro-usb to charge
Includes a standard USB port (so that you can use it as a battery-pack)
I've had mine about 3 weeks and its been very good. (~ 8 mile mixed terrain commute mostly no street lights).
The problem with the cheap Cree lights, or mine at any rate, is that when it died it did so immediately. I went from daylight to darkeness in 0.000001s (or something).
Also, for night riding - Definitely worth having a spare (doesn't have to be as good).
I have a knog arc blinder in the front, 640 lumens. On unlit lanes, downhill, when I'm going fast I use the max setting and usually turn it down on accents (I'd guess to about 300 lumens) to save power. I think it lasts about 90mins on continuous max power. I have their equivalent rear light which is also good and seems very bright even though its less lumens and the battery lasts much longer. Both USB charged. If you are planning on going off road I'd also consider the attachment mechanism as mine twist round the bars if its really bumpy. I think it was about £150 for the pair.
Thanks all, for the many suggestions and information, its one of those eternal triangle things with output vs burn time vs cost, to be juggled to fit requirements and pocket.
I know it's not just a case of getting the brightest light available but getting the correct amount of illumination for the conditions. Obviously off-road terrain requires greater output and various small 'stars' are available for this, but I was just interested to hear what sort of output provided a comfortable level of lighting when road biking in an unlit area. It seems to me that the answer may be somewhere between 400 and 800 lumens which should give both sufficient light and burn time without breaking the bank.
I think my Exposure lights is about 600 lumens which seems fine to me.
I think the most important things are:
1) Angle of mounting - it's not clever to blind drivers of 2ton squishing machines, but equally important to make sure they see you
2) Having more than one light of varying intensity - This means you can switch off a "main beam" when in lit areas. Also means if one fails you can still get home
3) Don't forget rear lighting - again more than one is best as they are easily obscured at certain angles
4) a light on your helmet to catch people's attention (not too bright and beware of dazzling)
For road riding my 250 Lumens light on my bars and 150 on my helmet (both pointing down and left) isn't quite good enough to see by at speed in unlit areas, and I supplement it with a 2000W MTB light (but turn it off for approaching traffic)
Never mind “not being clever”, it’s f*cking idiotic, and if car drivers did it to cyclists, there’d be weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth. Here’s a tip - turn your lights on, prop your bike up, walk away, and look straight at your light. If it blinds you, point the f*cking thing down!
For the road I had to ditch my off road lights as I thought they would blind other traffic and got one with a remote dimmer switch. I went for an Exposure Strada 900. It works great at full speed in the rain at night on rural lanes dodging potholes. I also run with a helmet mounted lamp of similar brightness but narrower beam which is great for checking what gear you are in and more pothole spotting etc. The dip function on the helmet lamp is very intuitive.
As for the flashing non flashing thing, if it is fully dark and you can't see colour anymore then nonflashing lights work best as it allows drivers to judge the distance to you. If there is enough light so drivers can range find and see you just need to bring their attention to you then flashing lights are a good idea. Similar idea as with reflective (at night) and high vis (during day/dusk).
800 does me ok.
> Never mind “not being clever”, it’s f*cking idiotic, and if car drivers did it to cyclists, there’d be weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth. Here’s a tip - turn your lights on, prop your bike up, walk away, and look straight at your light. If it blinds you, point the f*cking thing down!
Every evening commute I ride unlit roads and without fail Every evening I have half a dozen cars approach me without dipping their headlights. No weeping , no wailing, but carry on with your idiotic little sweary rant anyway.
Cateye volt 800 will do fine.
So you work on the “an eye for an eye” principle then do you? How very enlightened. When we all end up in a pile of tangled metal and broken glass, I’m sure you you’ll claim the moral high ground. Want to know a German cycling joke? “What do cyclists have on their gravestones?”
”But I had right of way!!!”
Where did I say that ? My response was to your misinformed rant. Yet again you’ve posted rubbish. Good work , keep it up.
I used a 1200/300 separate head/battery until for years now (C&B seen £35 at the time) and is excellent.
I've just got a £35 combined 1600 lumen unit from halfords simply because it is more convenient to use on my commute and charges with USB so I can charge it at work if I forget. I use this on 650l usually.
The halfords unit is a bit annoying - it doesn't respect night vision (the battery indicator is too bright and the lens wraps over on top) but a bit of gaffer tape has fixed that. For MTB though it can shift on the handlebars and after a big drop-off end up shining in your face (which is less than ideal on rough ground). The controls could be better - if you want to switch from 1/2 power to max then it is around 6 button presses to switch - try doing that on the fly on a twisty single track.
The new unit has a wider beam and I'm keeping the old one for my helmet when MTB.
This level of light is much more than you need to be seen and allows you to see (much as a car headlight does). The bonus is car drivers behave a lot better, they give you space and they dip their headlights.
> So you work on the “an eye for an eye” principle then do you? How very enlightened. When we all end up in a pile of tangled metal and broken glass, I’m sure you you’ll claim the moral high ground. Want to know a German cycling joke? “What do cyclists have on their gravestones?”
> ”But I had right of way!!!”
whos claiming any moral high ground ?
you posted that cyclists would be weeping and wailing if they were blinded by car headlights. Well they are regularly and somehow that has led to you going on about what Cyclists have on their gravestones .
Im just happy that my bike lights seem to be a lot brighter than you seem to be.
> Cateye volt 800 will do fine.
That’s what I’ve got.
I bow to your superior intellect.
Actually car drivers do it fairly regularly as well, I have found this when driving, not just cycling. I would be surprised you if haven't experienced overbright front car lights coming towards you?
A quick Google will pull up plenty of articles on dazzling car lights
I forgot to mention this - the Bike.cc beam comparison engine. It's invaluable and shows some striking differences.
Of course I have - but generally, a quick flash of your own car lights and they get the message and dip them. This, however, seems not to be the case for some cyclists with super bright lights.
Hi John, but it's not just because they haven't dipped them, even dipped modern headlights are very bright and dazzling. Running at night can be such a pain due to these lights.
I agree entirely - particularly it would seem with large 4x4 / SUV type cars with Xenon headlights, and especially in wet conditions. They are a pain in the arse and the subject of quite a vociferous debate as to their legality. However, it would appear that some road users consider their right to their chosen method of illumination supersedes all other considerations.
I know What you mean, and I have also experienced it with cyclists so I guess it is a certain type of person and not directly linked to their preferred mode of transport.
Agreed - and clearly one such “type of person” posts on here.
> Interesting that no one has mentioned the really excellent Halfords/Bikehut lights. I bought a 1600 lumen
Forthe money they are a great light
I've not read all these replies, although there seems to be a few rants about bright car headlights.
Apols if this has already been mentioned but, as a car driver and a cyclist, the one thing that really gets up my nose is cyclists with bright flashing front lights.
These strobe-type lights should be banned (flashing OK for rear lights) and are far worse than any bright car or bike front lights.
And yes, front lights should be pointed towards the ground, irrespective of these numbskull drivers who can't dip their lights or have lights brighter than the northern lights.
So - stop flashing.
Don't forget your hi viz vest when cycling in the dark. Even with a good back light, you'll make it much easier for motorists to see you if your back is dayglow yellow or orange, with reflective strips.
Remember, you need to bee seen as early as possible by a motorist to enable them to safely pass you.
What is it about flashing lights you disagree with so much?
Plenty, including lights for your spokes that mean you get seen from the side. Also, don't do what most cyclsists seem to do these days and wear black from head to toe. That is one of the most stupid things I see cyclisst do, and when asked none of them seem to realise it's dangerous.
I always assume that such cyclists are trying to actively participate in evolution in action.
I guess you haven't seen the ones wearing that special camouflage
I've just upgraded from a Hope 1 to a Cateye 800 (cheapish on Wiggle at the moment). The difference is night and ... less dark night. 300ish lumens vs about 800 lumens make a big difference and even 400 mode is very useful if the moon is full and out. This was for a 18 mile commute with about 12 on dark country lanes.
I'm still on the old Smart R1 back light, as I;ve not found something I prefer with a useful pattern and low price. The new light that was 'promod' of GCN recently that allows half the LEDs to flash while the others are constant looks interesting through.. but the price is a bit silly!
I've been in dark clothes and luminous and honestly it made very little difference, in both situations, and yes i had good lights, car drivers said - 'sorry I didnt see you' - as i picked myself off their bonnets. I recall reading that car drivers are looking for cars and anything else they are often mentally blind to even if its bright and well lit. This is one of the reasons Think Bike for motorbikes was campaigned. If you as a car driver think to look you have more chance of seeing bikes.
There's a lot of truth in what you say about Think Bike. When I did my speed awareness course the most useful thing they told us was to look for bikes rather than cars, because you'll always see the car, but not vice versa.
As for the wearing black thing, many people wearing black also have no lighting which is double stupidity and must take total responsibility for that. I still don't understand why any cyclist would go out of their way to be less visible by wearing black - it makes zero sense to me.
I'll second the Cateye Volt800. Excellent piece of kit. I reckon it is blinding to oncomers when in full power mode but you can scale that down. Good battery life and several modes to choose from.
Its quite quick to move from 800 to half that with a single button press. Then upto 800 with a double press.
> What I think really matters though is having a bright rear light. On the road it's more a case of being seen rather than seeing. And given most traffic is going to be coming up behind you it's the back which is going to get you seen.
Brightness doesn't equate to visibility. On the odd occasions I cycle in London in the dark the most annoying thing on well lit roads (though it would apply anywhere), is being blinded by the ridiculously bright rear lights of cyclists. Flashing lights are noticeable.
In any case it's the person pulling out or crossing in front of me that is the most worrying. Having a blinding rear light does nothing for that.
How many cycle 'accidents' are the result of rear ending? I would guess very few compared with the opposite.
reflective thingies on spokes are remarkable effective.
Scotchlite tubes that grip along the spoke
And probably still available in aldi for not much money...
> As for the wearing black thing, many people wearing black also have no lighting which is double stupidity and must take total responsibility for that. I still don't understand why any cyclist would go out of their way to be less visible by wearing black - it makes zero sense to me.
For same reason cars are painted in dark colors. The owner likes it or it's the only color available. If we really care about safety all cars would have reflectives and be bright paint like ambulances. But people like black cars because they think they look better.
for the OP:
I find cars definitely behave better with 500lm and up.
Over 1000lm is really just for off road and lamping.
So 500-1000lm is good as a guide. However it depends on your "road": whether you simply want to be seen or whether you need to see with the light. If you are on difficult unlit roads you may want more and a tighter beam. If you are mainly tangling with lit roads and traffic then something a bit more diffuse helps.
Having read this Ive just ordered the bikehut light looks v good value! Currently using a 25 ebay light coupled with C & B seen charger/batteries - saw too many horror stories of exploding batteries/chargers...
I get a lot more space at night if im wearing my provis jacket, the compromise is that it makes me sweat a lot more than a softshell, but its a compromise i make as the impact on drivers is significant.
Helmet mounted Lezne macro duo for me .....700 lumens. My ride is along a completely unlit single track trees overhanging path. Gives enough light to see the way. I turn down (it’s got 5 settings) for the Road stretch of course.
it helps to have a second light pointing right in front of the front wheel for potholes/dog sticks...