Ultimate Guide to Bike Lights
Buying bike lights is not a walk in the park. While they may seem small and compact, there are lots of complicated features that you have to consider.
To help you with this, we came up with a brief on how bike lights work. This includes identifying the various bike lights, the suggested power source, required brightness, and more! Hopefully, this guide will help you determine the best bike light for you.
Kinds of Bike Lights
There are three major kinds of bike lights, front lights, rear bike lights, and brake lights.
The first kind, which is the front lights, is installed on your bike to give you visibility. This means that its primary objective is to light up the road to allow you to clearly see any obstruction that might go along your way in cycling.
The other two kinds, the rear bike lights and the brake lights, are both considered bike tail lights. They are usually placed on the back part of your bike.
Rear bike lights are installed to make you visible on the road. This means its function is for you to be seen by other vehicles on the road or the pedestrians. On the other hand, brake lights are used to signal other cars about your movement—especially if you’re coming to a halt.
Both kinds of tail lights are essential for your road’s safety. They reduce the risk of road accidents or road crashes. This is why most states require the use of both tail lights.
Batteries or Power Source
As of the moment, there are four kinds of power sources for bike lights. The traditional batteries, the rechargeable lithium ions, solar-powered, and the dynamo.
The traditional batteries are your regular AA or AAA batteries. While the rechargeable lithium ions are similar to cellular phones that can be recharged via USB cable.
The solar-powered bike lights mostly come with small solar panels that trap sunlight and convert it to energy. Lastly, the dynamo lights convert the kinetic energy produced when you pedal your bike into a power source.
The most acceptable range is at least 10 hours of battery life despite continuous use in terms of battery life. This allows you to cycle for an entire day or night without the need to stop just to recharge.
The battery life of the various kinds depends on their manufacturers and the brightness of the lights. But most of the time, rechargeable lithium-ion batteries have the longest lifespan.
The lifespan of regular batteries is mainly affected by their storage time, while the solar-powered battery may be faulty at night or in places with little sunlight.
On the other hand, dynamo batteries are at least 3x slower in recharging compared to other kinds. This is because it entirely depends on the kinetic energy of the user. Should your bike run slower or only for a short period of time, you may not recharge your bike lights.
Rechargeable lithium-ion batteries are also the most convenient. Simply because you can easily recharge them through your power banks or with your other gadgets. The least convenient is also the dynamo batteries, especially if you don’t use your bike every day.
The minimum brightness of bike lights depends on their function.
For front lights, the minimum light output is at least 600 lumens. This level of brightness will give you the ideal visibility for any type of road and any time of the day.
On the other hand, the minimum light output is at least 50 lumens for rear bike lights. Any bike tail lights that go beyond 50 lumens will not give you the visibility that you need to drive safely on a busy road.
Another essential thing that you have to consider in the brightness level of bike lights is the optics. It’s the mechanism of how the light is reflected by mirrors to achieve optimal visibility. When the light has poor optics, it has the tendency to cause blindness to lookers, which may cause accidents on the road.
The ideal kind of optics is the Total Internal Reflection technology or TIR. It’s also the kind of engineered optics used by high-end automobiles and planes.
With TIR, the lenses are positioned in such a way that the light is projected evenly and efficiently at close, long, and wide angles without the tendency of over-exposure. This high level of visibility also reduces the risk of blind spots from larger vehicles.
Furthermore, engineered optics allow you to make the most out of your light’s brightness without the need for much power. Therefore, even though you’re only using your LED bike lights at 50 lumens, it will register up to 90 lumens because of the TIR technology. Therefore, you can run for a longer period without the need to recharge.
Daytime and nighttime running
Yes, you still need bike lights even when riding in a well-lit city area during the daytime.
As we mentioned a while ago, one of the functions of bike lights is to make you visible on the road to avoid accidents. In fact, according to research, almost 68% of bikers’ accidents in the city happen during the daytime.
This is because it is harder to be seen in the daytime in the middle of a busy street. A compact bike light is nothing compared to the bright lights of the cities and the tail lights of larger vehicles.
The recommended level of brightness for city daytime biking is 100 lumens. However, this isn’t what’s essential in daytime biking. It would help if you were looking for light customization that will enhance your visibility on the road in your rear bike light.
Skip the LED bike lights that offer only a fixed or constant setting. Instead, go for the ones that have the burst, flashing, or pulsing setting. Any of these three can help you be more visible to drivers of larger vehicles.
On the other hand, it’s best to have at least 300 lumens in the city and 600 lumens in trails when running during nighttime. Just like in daytime running, having a customized light set-up specifically burst will be helpful in cycling in the middle of dark foggy roads.
Last but not least is the light positioning.
The recommended angle for both the front and bike tail lights is 3.5 degrees towards the ground. This position will give you the optimal sight of the road and will make you visible as much as possible.
Aside from this, it’s also essential to consider the beam angle of the light itself. For front lights, it’s essential to have both acute and broad light. This means that aside from dispersed light, there should also be a part in which the light will be concentrated. This is the necessary lighting for full road visibility.
On the other hand, rear bike lights should have an optimal broad beam angle to make you visible.
While both front and rear bike lights are easy to position, mounting brake lights may be a bit more challenging.
You should connect most brake lights to the wheels of the bikes to detect when you’ll hit the brakes. These kinds of brake lights, while a lot cheaper, are harder to install. They also have the tendency to be damaged easily since their wires may easily be torn apart while biking.
So, it’s best to go with smart brake lights with wireless motion sensors in buying brake lights. This way, you can mount your brake light just like a normal tail bike light without the need for any wiring installation.
Most smart brake lights have better motion detection, too than wired ones. They light up when you slow down and even before you hit the brakes. These advanced alerts give other vehicles time to slow down and maintain a decent distance from you upon hitting the brakes.
Now that you already know how bike lights work, it’s now time to secure some of your own! Always remember that bike lights aren’t just mere accessories—they are your blanket of safety when hitting the road.