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How to select the best bicycle lights for touring

Alia Parker's picture
Moon X-Power 500 bike headlight. Cycle Traveller

Most cycle touring takes place in the day and as a result, the importance of having adequate bike lights is often overlooked. It's easy to forget that there are many situations in which visibility may be poor, whether it be dark and stormy, rainy, misty, foggy, dawn, dusk and of course, night. In any of these circumstances, you need to make sure you are visible, not just for your own safety, but for the safety of others using the road. There are many bike lights on the market and many of them won't be suitable for touring. For instance, some compact lights are great for catching the attention of motorists, but that same light might not throw a beam strong enough for you to see where you're going if there is no street lighting.

What you need

  • A bright front and rear light others can see
  • A headlight that throws a beam so you can see ahead
  • Flashing mode options (drivers associate flashing lights with cyclists)
  • Water resistance for rainy and damp weather
  • Good battery life if in remote areas
  • Multi purpose (optional)

How bright is bright enough?

Serfas Raider compact front light. Cycle Traveller

Even if you don't plan to ride in the dark, there are many circumstances in which you might find yourself racing the sun. If you're riding in an area with plenty of street lighting, a compact headlight like the Serfas Raider (USB rechargeable/70 lumens) or the Ilumenox Highpower (3xAAA batteries/85 lumens) will be fine. These lights are designed to be bright and attract attention and throw a soft glow of light immediately in front of you. However, if you are riding through areas with no street lighting, you will need a stronger headlight that will throw a beam of light ahead of you, allowing you to safely navigate obstacles. A safe brightness for riding is a light of at least 150 lumens or more. I personally recommend something between 200 and 500 lumens, such as the Moon Power 500 (lithium battery/500 lumens) or the Serfas 250 (USB rechargeable/250 lumens). They are both good quality, weatherproof options that will cover all your bases.

What is a lumen?

Light manufacturers use different measurements when it comes to determining how bright a light is, including lumens, LUX, candle power, metres and yards. These measures aren't directly comparable, which makes it frustrating when comparing products.

Candle power generally measures the intensity of a beam, while lumens measures the total production of light. The two measures are quite similar, but result in slightly different results. A LUX is the lumens per square foot. Most products will only provide one measurement, however, the Iluminox Highpower SS-L122W states all three, providing a good gauge. For this light, 85 lumens is equivalent to 18 LUX or 1800 candle power.

 

Rear lights

BBB BLS Highlaser rear bike light. Cycle Traveller

Rear lights don't need to throw a beam, but it is important that they are bright and have a flashing function. Drivers will notice a bright flashing red light faster and they have also learned to associate these lights with cyclists. Something with a minimum of 50 lumens should tick this box. The Tioga Duel Eyes (USB or AAA battery versions) rates well in this regard and claims to be seen from 1,500m away. The BBB BLS-Highlaser (AAA batteries) is another good option. Combine this with rear reflectors.

Multi-purposing

Weight is always a consideration for cycle tourers, so gear that serves more than one purpose is always handy. One option is to use a hiking headlamp instead of a bike-mounted light. These lights are not as bright as bike lights, but will get noticed by drivers and get you by in a scrape. The head strap can be used to position the light on a helmet or around a handlebar bag. Something like the Black Diamond Storm Headlamp (4xAA batteries) is 100 lumens, waterproof and also has a flashing option. These lights are then great for getting about campsites at night or reading in a tent.

USB vs Batteries

Many of today's brightest lights are now rechargeable because they drain batteries too quickly. This is great if you're staying in towns and able to charge your light, but it can be a little difficult when you're off the grid (unless of course you're creating your own power with a dynamo hooked up to a USB socket, but that's a different story. Read: How to create electricity and charge devices using your bike.)

Lithium AAA battery powered lights are a good option for touring because they last longer than normal batteries and can also be recharged when possible.

Water resistance

It's worth investing in lights that offer a high degree of water resistance. This is because touring often involves stints riding in overcast conditions and rain. It's very important to be lit up in instances such as these where visibility may be poor and roads slippery.

Note: All the above lights have received above average reviews. The lights mentioned in this article also rated well in a test by Bicycle Network Australia.

Images from top: 1. Moon X-Power 500 headlight. 2. Serfas Raider compact LED USB rechargeable front light. 3. BBB BLS Highlaser rear light.

Comments

Best light I is 1watt Cherry bomb rear light 2x aaa batt. you can see It in day time.
From Pushy $24.00....got one on my roady and on my tourer.

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