Thursday, January 26, 2012

Day or Night needs - Bike lights comparison and tests 

Another area of technology that has transformed is bike lighting systems and their use.  The LEDs and rechargeable batteries provide industrial strength lighting while being compact and lightweight.

The most important change however is the ability to use daylight running lights with real visibility.  Why is this so important?  The answer is drivers perception and behaviour toward you is transformed.

I did not really believe this but having experienced this first hand, it is huge. I've ridden in all kinds of traffic in major cities around the world, and used traditional lights and then LEDs and "Blinkies".  While these work OK at night on side streets, on major roads and during day time, they simply can disappear into the other lights and visual distractions.

This is not the case for these high intensity LED systems which provide light at levels usually associated with high performance cars and trucks. The bottom line is these systems make you visible and a big part of the perception system of other road users, and what that means is, they slow down, they wait, and they move around you because to their perception system you now appear 3 times larger than before.

A bonus is that these higher end systems are available from USA companies, many of whom are doing assembly here in the USA.  This is spawned by demand for these lights systems by off-road users, water sports and adventure seekers and even field photographers.

I bought one of these rear lights off eBay - the Light and Motion VIS 180 - used it on my regular day time training ride - and the next day I ordered a CygoLite HotSpot for my wife's bike.  This enhanced safety is well worth every last penny for these systems.  I also found a used CygoLite 250 lumen front light off eBay.  What these light systems can mean is that you are visible even in day light situations, such as riding into a setting or rising sun when road users may miss seeing a bike in the glare.

Check out these videos to see how this looks:


Sunglare example

Setting sun

and then more details in a review here.

A next consideration is narrow beam v wider flashers, and the VIS 180 combines both with a 35 lumen main light and a side flasher, while the CygoLite Hotspot goes for raw 65+ lumens.  This is serious light output, so much so, they come with low settings so you do not blind the rider behind you if you are drafting up close. See the comparison shots here if you really still think your "Blinky" LED rear light with 2 AAA batteries that you paid $10 for from China meets the mark (mentioning which these lights are examples of externalizing costs).  Need to know where things are really made? Check out Canadian sites such as this one.

For front systems I found this really excellent test video showing what these setups can do for serious commuting and night time riding even in darkness without street lighting.  That is obviously the extreme end of the scale, but the bottom line is having these light systems will make you dramatically more visible in all situations.  You can see a comparison sampling of available systems here and REI have a good product selection of rechargeable systems and then see this bike review of lights plus this interactive review collection.  If you are riding on road situations day or night, then you owe it to yourself to give these systems serious consideration.

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?