How bright should my new lights be?

by Richthornton   September 20, 2012  

My commute will shortly be done in increasing darkness, and before long in pitch black. I can justify buying a new set of lights, front and rear, as the more I ride, the less I am spending on petrol.
What I need to know is what is a sensible level of brightness to light up the (unlit, country) roads ahead?
Lumens, candlelight, watts etc all mean nothing to me, so what level should I be looking for, anyone know?

21 user comments

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This might help you, Took me a while to find it. I thought there was one for rear lights aswell, But cant see it

http://road.cc/content/buyers-guide/34746-your-guide-best-front-lights-c...

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posted by Gkam84 [8645 posts]
20th September 2012 - 2:50

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Just been to my local bike shop and they have got some decent knog rear and front lights that are TOTALLY waterproof.

Meaning that if you IMMERSE them in water they will still work.This is the knog website address:

http://www.knog.com.au/gear-blinder-lights/

My LBS site address:

www.buzzcycles.co.uk I think he does mail order as well.

nige

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posted by formereve [65 posts]
20th September 2012 - 3:31

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lumens, lux etc numbers vary wildly from manufacturer to manufacturer. the beam test engine that gkam has linked to is the best way to compare them, we're working on an updated one.

if you're commuting along unlit country lanes then i'd go for something that's at least as powerful as the ones the beam test opens with (Lezyne Power Drive etc); there are plenty that are a *lot* brighter

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posted by Dave Atkinson [7234 posts]
20th September 2012 - 8:17

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I have found that bright does not equal good forward vision! My lights are bright and give good distance but have poor spread; consequently I have a bright expensive head torch and a bargain basement handlebar light, together they give good spread, distance and comply with the law! I ride at speed on dark country lanes without problems. The head torch being an Exposure Joystick; this light is as bright as a car headlight but, as above, has poor spread. Would suggest that you spend as much as you can afford, simply because it is a good investment!

posted by SideBurn [763 posts]
20th September 2012 - 8:42

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I will throw my hat in to the ring on this by saying, be careful some of these super bright lights out there are for off roading as the spread of the beam is deliberately wide so the off roader can see alternative pathways etc... if you use this type of light there is no upper limit to the cone of light being given out ie do you really need to see roosting birds on your way home? but more importantly you will annoy oncoming cars who will just put their high beams on blinding you. I won't recommend or say leave alone but you could try Seca light & motion units as they have many different settings and a clever one touch high/low beam setting which I find v good for unlit lanes and oncoming vehicles. Personally I do not like head mounted lights I have been blinded by cyclists using these.

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posted by FATBEGGARONABIKE [555 posts]
20th September 2012 - 8:55

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These are worth a look, have the two smaller units pointing down and left for a 'dip' beam or in town, and fire up the big 'un when out of town....... or when trying to bring down low-flying aircraft etc..
Cool Cool Cool Cool Cool

http://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/300604034468?ssPageName=STRK:MESINDXX:IT&_trks...

posted by wakou [78 posts]
20th September 2012 - 10:03

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Nige - I thought I'd check your claim for the knog lights as I've had (different) lights of theirs fail on me in torrential rain. The Blinders are rated IP66, which means they are dust tight, but for water they're protected against 'jets or waves', but not even temporary immersion (IP67 rating) let alone prolonged immersion (IP68 rating).

So yes waterproof but *not* total immersion, hope you haven't been dunking yours in the bath to show off Wink

posted by bazzargh [144 posts]
20th September 2012 - 10:09

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Hi Rich,

Once the clocks change I'll be doing about 45 minutes in complete darkness out on the country lanes and 15 under street lights each way for my daily commute. I use an Exposure Strada mk2 and it's excellent. There's a flashing function for well lit roads and twilight plus dipped and full beam modes. On all but the darkest nights the dipped mode is good enough for me to ride safely at up to 25mph. It's also handy to switch between modes when cars are coming the other way on the back lanes to remind them to dip their lights. There is a wired thumb switch that you can attach closer to your hand on the bars for easy operation but I've never bothered with it. The light is designed for use on the road so it has a wide flat beam which illuminates the way ahead but doesn't shine too high to dazzle oncoming traffic or light the tree tops. The light is a rechargeable single sealed unit with an aluminium casing and very secure bracket. I couldn't do without it. I recommend it unreservedly, it's worth every penny.

On the rear I've just bought the Exposure Flare with rechargeable batteries and charger to replace my old plastic Cateye light which stopped working after I dropped it. So far I'm very happy with it and it is extremely bright. With flashing or steady beam functions.

I'm sure that there are plenty of comparable lights out there and some may baulk at the price but I'm very happy with mine. I've been using the Strada for every day commuting in the dark since Jan 2011 without any trouble at all. You can't go wrong with it. I recouped the money I spent on it in petrol cost avoided in about six weeks.

The latest model, mk3, is a shade under £200 online at Winstanley, Shiny and Wiggle. If you can find the mk2 in a clearance somewhere for even less it would be worth picking up.

Ah! Condor

posted by Bedfordshire Clanger [307 posts]
20th September 2012 - 10:49

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One thing that annoyed me on my commute was the bright strobing front lights some other riders had. It was annoying when you passed them as it used to put me off and car drivers were dazzled / hesitant and caused problems.

When I commuted on the bike I used a Hope Vision 2, it was great.

For going out at night off road I have an Exposure MaxX D a cracking light and like Bed Clanger (ooo matron) says, they are great units.

posted by Darthshearer [141 posts]
20th September 2012 - 11:06

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Deal extreme do some good lights at a low price, I use this one for my commuting now but it was originally bought for off road night riding.

http://www.dealextreme.com/p/mj-808e-ha-iii-cree-xm-lt60-3-mode-1000-lum...

2nd mode is plenty bright enough to light the road to spot any 'defects' or anything you might want to avoid, as well as being visible to cars.

On the rear I have a super flash which is really visible and economic with batteries, a gift though so not sure on the source.

posted by MrBLH [31 posts]
20th September 2012 - 12:56

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dave_atkinson wrote:
the beam test engine that gkam has linked to is the best way to compare them, we're working on an updated one.

Wahey!

In the meantime I would look at the 300 lumens / £100 region for unlit roads, and bear in mind that beam spread is as important as output.

I have used a Fenix LD20 for 3 years now. It's rated at 180 lumens on full power and has a reasonable spread. When the road is wet, particularly on the narrow lanes that may have debris, I often wish I had two.

So I'm looking at supplementing it with a Lezyne Power Drive (well made, should last well) or similar. road.cc's excellent beam comparison shots already referenced have persuaded me that the mini drive is too narrow a spot to be of value, despite it now going dirt cheap now as revamped models are due very soon (£27.50 here). If I didn't already have the LD20 I'd probably buy two Mini Drive lights to run simultaneously.

A former colleague has Moon X-300 but I'd suggest the more powerful X-500 or Lezyne Super Drive instead.

For the rear Cateye lights like the LD600/610 are brilliant. They run for ages on two AAAs.

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posted by Simon E [1888 posts]
20th September 2012 - 14:13

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This is great, thanks for all the suggestions. At some point when I have enough time I will sit down and take a look at all the lights mentioned here.
In the meantime, keep 'em coming!

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posted by Richthornton [99 posts]
20th September 2012 - 18:11

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Agree with everyone that talks about dip. The big bang MTB lights are great in the forest, but blinding drivers on country lanes is not a good idea, they tend to drive towards what they are looking at (ie your light).

I had a 900 lumen MTB light around town and ended up pointing it a looooong way down. Pointless really. Now I use a dynamo with a shaped beam (Bausch and Muller for ref) which is excellent - a proper cut off beam and good spread.

So buy a specific road light if you can, I haven't tried these dip beam lights but I reckon that's the way forward. I have a small flasher on my helmet that is not blinding for riding in traffic - cars can see you above the other cars around.

Same on the back - one bright solid beam and a small flasher.

And LOTS of reflective doo dads.

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posted by alotronic [242 posts]
21st September 2012 - 17:44

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Whilst I have the attention of a bunch of people who seem to know their stuff about lights:
I have a Fibre Flare which I think is a fantastic rear light for a number of reasons. It stopped working after quite a lot of use in all weather conditions but I had a poke around and found that the problem seems to be simply that a tiny piece of electrical wire has become dissatached. It would seem a really simple job to repair but I just wonder where I could get a job like this done, I think I'd like to stop short of calling an electrician out for this one!
Any ideas?

Richthornton's picture

posted by Richthornton [99 posts]
21st September 2012 - 23:37

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I bought a Magicshine MJ-872 1600 Lumen Rechargeable LED Front Bike Light last winter for cycling along unlit country roads on my commute. The light is great for road vision, without even using the top setting. Very easy to change the setting and it feels like moving from full beam to dipped.

posted by paulfg42 [368 posts]
22nd September 2012 - 0:48

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For anyone interested, I ended up ordering the Lezyne SuperDrive at an irresistible price of £65 http://www.chainreactioncycles.com/Models.aspx?ModelID=70575
I probably would have preferred the Light + Motion Urban 300 but couldn't find it for less than £90 so the Lezyne wins.
Thanks to all for the suggestions, I lost most of an afternoon comparing them all!

Richthornton's picture

posted by Richthornton [99 posts]
27th September 2012 - 15:18

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I got a 1200 lumen monster direct from China off of eBay.

It's bright as you like - I often get flashed by car drivers and abuse from pedestrians if I don't get the angle quite right.

But I'd much rather cope with that than have someone standing over me as I lie bleeding in a ditch saying "sorry mate, didn't see you there."

In fact, I bought two. One for the head, one for the bars.

Can't miss me.

posted by dangerousdan [3 posts]
27th September 2012 - 20:57

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I think one of the comments has a really good website link. You need to consider many factors before deciding which one best suit your needs. Since you mentioned it is going to be pitch black, then it is necessary to get a brighter than usual lighting. LED for bicycles is available which is bright enough to light up the front while riding. It works just like LED in cars like BMW, Volvo and such only that the intensity is lower since bicycles are smaller.

Peter Mould - http://www.pmwltd.co.uk

posted by Peter_Mould [17 posts]
9th July 2013 - 9:57

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Bicycle lights should illuminate the path well for you but not overpower other road users. I'm saying this as another cyclist, sometimes on a bicycle path at night through Hyde Park I am staring down what looks like a train or possibly the sun rising. Then I'm less safe on my bicycle when I have to look away or lose my night vision. Although if you were this bright I wouldn't be mad

posted by TeamCC [146 posts]
9th July 2013 - 10:35

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Not very useful to resurrect this thread in the middle of summer?!

posted by 700c [542 posts]
9th July 2013 - 12:25

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The Lezyne power drive mentioned by Dave is a great light, high quality etc, but I suggest going with a double set of lights or a twin head unit in order to give some perspective on the depth of potholes.

I went with the Electron Terra for a balance of brightness and run time, seperate battery pack is a bit of a pain, but worth it for the battery life. You can currently get the brighter terra 2 evo for £71 on tredz.

posted by FMOAB [219 posts]
11th July 2013 - 23:46

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