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Be safe and be seen with bicycle lights on your ride!

Bright bicycle lights make me feel safer.

Let's look at the different types of lights that are out there in the market today.

You can get any of these lights, except the hub generator in our store.  It's powered by Amazon so you know you'll get the lowest prices on the market.

Battery Headlight

Is this the first experience you had with bicycle lights? Remember when you had your first bike and you wanted to ride at night. What did you do? Probably like many kids you strapped or taped or tied a flashlight to the handlebars. Those were the days!
Well that probably wasn't the safest way to attach a light to a bike. You had a dismal run time, it never pointed where you wanted it to go and it wasn't very bright. It was pretty cool though running your bike and night and you could almost see where you were going.

bicycle lightsNext came along the dedicated bicycle lights that looked like a light on a 1945 Ford. It was chrome, ran on D cell batteries and didn't light up much. You can still get one of these retro lights here.

You used this bicycle headlight for a while and it seemed to work o.k.  Sure the switch didn't work all the time and sometimes when you hit a bump it would flicker because the springs holding the batteries weren't very strong.  You were a kid and didn't really know anything about bicycle lights.  If you were really lucky, you also had a tail light on your bike.  You just wanted to be able to ride around in the dark.

Bicycle lights aren't just for kids playing any more!  These lights you can buy now are serious pieces of equipment and some of them have price tags to prove it.

You should take a look at what is out there now for battery powered headlights. Let's start with the on bar single unit LED lamp. The introduction of LED based bicycle lights has been nothing short of revolutionary. You first saw them in the blinking tail lights you would clip on the back of your jersey or seat pack. Then came a single lamp that would clamp to your handlebars and made it easier for drivers to see you at night but you really couldn't get enough light out of it to see by. All of that has changed.bicycle lights

Take a look at this light. It runs on 4AA batteries and you can get about 90 hours of runtime out of those batteries. Quite a change from the bicycle lights when we were younger wouldn't you say!

This type of technology also offers even more brightness or longer run times when you add the external batteries that some models offer.

External Battery Pack Bicycle Lights

Another really good choice for a modern bicycle light, the Nite Rider Newt offers you some pretty serious viewing power.

Before LED lights were in the mainstream for headlight use, I used twobicycle lights  lighting systems that looked a little bit like light on the right. When HID lights first came out for bikes, everyone was saying it was the best thing that ever happened. I most cases this was true. I had both the Cateye Stadium Light which was like an 80 watt equivalent light (your car's high beams are only 65 watts) and the Nite Rider Storm HID. Now if I want to put a light on my helmet, I would consider the Princeton Tec Corona Headlamp With the size and weight of this light, it out does the Storm HID light because it is just so darn light in comparison and gives good light output for the money.  I paid something like $400 or a little more for the Storm. Granted, I bought it right when it came out, so I paid retail.

The Cateye Stadium was mounted on my handlebars. The Nite Rider Storm was mounted on my helmet. At the time, and still pretty much today, in terms of sheer light output, nothing could put out the amount of light one of these systems could, let alone two one one bike. These bicycle lights both had Li battery packs, would run for more than 4 hours and lit up the night like nothing you have ever experienced before if you don't own HID lights. The real downside to this setup was the weight of the system. At a few pounds each, there was a real weight penalty involved. You really had to take a look at the situation and the lighting needs demanded by that situation to justify the weight.

A personal note on using these on a single bike: I remember racing in the 24 Hours of Adrenaline series in Wausau, Wisconsin and some guy followed me for a whole lap because his Maglite he had taped to his handlebars died. Since we were running 1 hour plus laps (15 miles of single track), you can't ever have enough light. We got second place in that race and we won the 24 Hours of Afton in 2003 using similar setups. (our team raced 4 man open division). I have to credit some of the win to the lights we used. You can't go fast at night if you can't see.

The real problem that I found using these lights was the flickering that could occur when you went over bumps. Whether I was riding with these lights on my tandem on the road or on my mountain bike on the trails, the HID lights would get an occasional flicker from the bluish white light you are used to. This flicker could dip down into the deep orange part of the light spectrum and it was a little unsettling.

I really can't stress to you the importance of having enough light on a tandem.  You want not only to see, but to be seen.  When someone rolls up on you and says "I didn't know what the hell you were so I had to slow down and look", that is a good thing.  You know for a fact the people are seeing you.  Credit this to taking your time and choosing the right bicycle lights.

You might find yourself running out of room on your handlebars or perhaps a handlebar bag is inbicycle lights the way. If this is the case a solution is available. It is called the Swing Grip. What this does is mount to your existing bars and then put a bar up and above your handlebars. This is a perfect place to put you lights, bell or anything else you want to mount somewhere else. Just remember you can't steer with it!



Lights for the stoker

Why would a stoker need a light?  Well, if this person is reading your map, or digging through your rear pocket, a Petzl 2 Led headlight might be right.  This little light won't over power your headlight but will give enough light for the stoker to see what they are looking for.  

Rear Lights

This is an area that many people really seem to forget about.  Why would you go to all the trouble of putting a great bicycle light on the front of your bike and then not bother to put a light on the back?  Or, if you are pulling a trailer, why wouldn't you put a light on both your bike and your trailer?

There are so many cool out there now for so little money that you really can't go wrong with a simple blinky light on the back.  I had one a while ago called the "Disco Light" that was pretty cool but my friends found it so annoying because it blinked not only to the rear but to the sides that they ripped it off my bike and smashed it.  I wish I could put a picture of it up but it just isn't around any more.  I couldn't even find it on Google.
bicycle tail light
This Planet Bike blinky bicycle tail lightworks well for me on the back of our tandem.  It is really bright and doesn't burn through the batteries very fast.  Of course, when your stoker forgets to remind you the rear light is on and you go in for dinner somewhere when you ride your bike there it doesn't make the battery last any longer.

On Wheel Generator Lights

Remember these?  You had a little generator on the frontbicycle generator fork or rear chainstay of your bike.  You would flip this down and as you pedaled the light on the front and if you were lucky on the rear, would dimly glow and throb as your speed changed.  If you went too fast, the light would blow and you were out of luck.
Quite a bit has changed now.  These generators are made better and this model has a circuit to prevent an over voltage condition that will keep the power from blowing the bulb.  
They do have a downside of causing tire wear at the location the generator wheel contacts the sidewall of the tire.  If you plan to do a small amount of commuting and don't want to have to remember to charge up a battery pack for your lights, this might be an good answer for you.


Hub Generator


If you are serious about commuting and need bicycle lights and the battery pack is still not an answer for yougenerator hub, you could try the hub generator that powers you bike light.  Or there is the option of just getting the wheel already built with the hub.

This is a pretty serious decision because you need to get a wheel built up around the generator hub to power the bicycle lights if you don't choose to get a pre built wheel. There is a weight penalty but you are getting a light that will work for you any time that you are riding.

For winter commuting, hub dynamos are preferable to sidewall dynamos, since they won't slip when the tire is covered in snow. And, a hub dynamo eliminates the biggest problem with sidewall dynamos: accurately aligning the roller for minimum drag.  This will prevent the premature tire wear that the misalignment can cause.

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