01 April 2009

Originally posted at my old blog geekcyclist.blogspot.com

At work we recently switched from a standard 5x8 schedule to a 4x10 schedule. Among the other complications of this change is one of particular concern for cyclists. While in the past there was a major portion of the year where I could ride without lights, it seems I will need to use my lighting system year-round now. A couple of co-workers have asked what kind of lighting system I use so I thought I would share my experiences here.

####See or Seen There are really two issues with bicycle lighting. Can you see, and can you be seen by others. In an ‘urban’ setting you may only be worried about being seen since street and building lights may provide plenty of light for you to see. Your speed can also be a big factor in this as well, as the faster you ride the more important your ability to read road conditions becomes.

For ‘being seen’ almost any reasonably bright white light will do and one that flashes may be better than on that only has a steady-state mode. On the bikes my family owns I have used several different manufactures and models, but have been very satisfied with several models of Cateye brand lights.

For my commute, I typically ride through a couple of industrial areas that are not well lit. I also ride at an average speed of around 16-18 mph through those areas, so the AA battery driven lights don’t typically cast enough light in an appropriate pattern for my commute.

A wide range of lights are available that are more suitable for this use. Eddy’s bike shop in Ohio put up a great light comparison page. You can click on various systems and see the illumination, beam pattern and light color.

####My Recommendation The difference in cost between a AA or AAA battery driven system and the brighter rechargeable systems is significant. Unless you know that your speed and the road conditions require the brighter, more expensive systems, I would recommend you start with a low-cost light with a flashing mode. Then, if you decide it’s not bright enough for your needs you can still use it in flashing mode, or as a helmet light when you upgrade.



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