The 10 Best Bike Lights
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Ideas For Safe Cycling After Dark
Whether you are riding for fun, taking part in a race, or if a bicycle is your choice vehicle for commuting to and from work, school, or around town, one thing is always a constant: safety always comes first.
Proper bicycle safety involves always wearing a helmet; this is a rule without exceptions. It doesn't matter if you are taking a leisurely ride down an open country lane or if you're a bike messenger zipping back and forth among busy city traffic, you have to wear a helmet when on your bike. It's also a good idea to wear protective gloves, and to consider clothing purpose-built to reduce "road rash", cuts, and scrapes in the unfortunate event of a fall. A good pair of sunglasses can help prevent the sun's glare from impeding your vision, and glasses also keep your eyes safe from debris. (Clear lenses should be worn when glare is not an issue.)
If you will be riding your bike after dark, there are extra safety considerations to be weighed and additional measures you must take to ensure you have a save ride. It's imperative you make yourself highly visible when riding your bike at night. The first step is to make sure you bike's reflectors are securely attached, in good working order (not cracked, e.g.), and are clean and unobstructed. Also make sure to wear clothing that is bright and highly visible. Ideally you can wear a high visibility vest that has bright colors such as yellow, orange, or pink, or you could consider an LED vest that is actually illuminated. (These lighted vests or belts are a smart choice as they can help you be seen without the need for a headlight or streetlight shining on you to reflect.)
Once you have made sure your bike and your person are visible thanks to reflectors and bright or illuminated clothing, it's time to consider that critical piece of nighttime cycling hardware, the bike light.
Choosing A Bike Light For Enhanced Visibility
When considering a bike light, first think about the type of bicycle to which your light will be affixed. Some of the largest, brightest options out there might in fact be too large and bulky for a streamlined carbon fiber road bike, and some of the smaller, sleeker models might be too dainty for a rugged mountain bike regularly subjected to jostling, jumps, and even to falls.
Next consider a bike light's battery life. If you routinely ride for hours at night, or if you won't regularly be able to charge or replace a light's batteries, then battery life is of critical importance: a light without power is worse than useless, it's just added weight, after all.
Make sure you are comfortable with the installation of any bike light you consider, or else plan to take your bicycle to a shop for professional assistance. An improperly installed bike light won't serve well enough as a light and might even fall off, presenting a safety hazard to you and others.
Ultimately the right bike light is the unit that creates the ideal beam for your night riding circumstances. If you bike on paths after dark, you want a bike light with a long throw that can reveal the route far ahead. If you ride on city sidewalks and streets, you need a wider swath illuminated so you can spot potential hazards like potholes and debris.
Last, you must consider how easily a bike light can be attached to and removed from your bike. If you regularly lock your bike outside in public places, your light might be at risk for theft if you leave it attached to the bike. A unit that can quickly detach is one you don't have to worry about losing to a thief.
Choosing A Bike Light For Improved Safety
While making sure you can see well when riding at night is important, it's of equal importance that you can be seen by others. That means two things: first, you need to choose a rear light that is highly visible, and second, it means you need to choose lights that won't negatively affect the vision of motorists, pedestrians, or other cyclists.
A bike's tail light should be red, just the same as a car or truck's rear lights are. This is true because red light causes the least disruption to a person's night vision. Choose a bike tail light that can flash for added visibility, but know that this function is usually only necessary if you are on a busy roadway or city street and need to stand out from the group.
When considering your bike's headlamp, make sure to choose an option that can be dimmed and/or angled as to not shine directly in the eyes of motorists in opposing traffic. A bright light shined right at a driver can make them disoriented and make it harder for them to determine exactly where you are. Make sure it is easy to change the brightness settings of your light if you choose a unit with multiple output settings; you should be able to adjust the light in a matter of seconds and without looking down at it. Some bike lights cast a broad, flat beam that illuminates plenty of ground but has little impact on those facing it; these are a good choice for the cyclist frequently riding in traffic who needs to be considerate of others' vision.