How to choose your bicycle lights

How to choose your bicycle lights

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Those who habitually use the bicycle to move around the city, in the coldest season which is also the darkest, must surrender to buy a spotlight to see and be seen. Whether you have a city bike or a vintage bicycle like mine, you need to put your head into it and understand how to choose bicycle lights so as not to make unnecessary purchases and not to find ourselves with a useless device that makes us go around in an unsafe way. There are many models of bike lights and it is important to understand which is the most suitable for us and the type of use we have to make of them. In any case we must be sure that it makes us clearly visible to those who are on the road in the car and crosses us and at the same time that it illuminates our way.

Bicycle lights: types

Before knowing how to choose the lights for the bicycle let's make an overview of the various models that we will find on the market. We will face various terminologies and it is better to arrive prepared.

Let's start from dynamo lights, a little vintage but that we can still find on some models. The dynamo is a device that is also applied to the wheels of the bike and takes advantage of their movement, transforming it into the energy needed to keep our spotlight on. It does not always remain in operation but when we need it we bring the dynamo close to the wheel by activating it. It is a very classic way of shedding light but those who have tried it know well that when the dynamo works it is more difficult to pedal. Above all for this reason we can consider it an outdated system and try another more innovative and comfortable one.

The Led lights for bikes, for example, which today are perhaps the best known and most widespread. They are full-fledged LED lights therefore made with semiconductor materials that are able to emit photons when they are crossed by an electric voltage. Maybe we have some at home too and the light production mechanism is always the same. However, to obtain very concentrated cones of light, as needed by a cyclist on the road, the bike spotlights are also designed with a system of mirrors that amplify the brightness and do not let it disperse in space. These types of lights are capable of producing up to 276 lumens per watt, compared to 50 lumens for incandescent bulbs and 70 for HID ones. Let's see how these models work!

The incandescent halogen lights they have this long and difficult name but they are the classic light bulbs, no longer as widespread today as in the past due to the arrival of LEDs and other more comfortable solutions. These spotlights shine because a tungsten wire is heated, they are wrapped in glass and insulated because in these bulbs they contain an inert gas, usually argon. The lights of this type are produced with transparent or colored glass and have a power between 0.28 and 0.44 Watt, with the possibility of generating a maximum of 1250 lumens.

Let's move on to HID lights, che stands for high intensity discharge. We can also find them with the words xenon lights and inside them instead of the classic filament they have a small glass bulb that contains xenon. It is a gas that can emit light when its electrons are excited. HID lights are already a little brighter than incandescent ones, as they emit 20% more lumens for the same power. They always remain a fallback compared to the LEDs that are the best to date.

How to mount bicycle lights

There are three locations where we may need to mount a light on ours bicycle and it is good to know because its characteristics change from time to time.

The front bike lights come mounted on the handlebar or fork and are used to illuminate the space in front of the bike, below. Not too low, of course, but be careful not to blind the motorists who come to meet us along the same road in the other direction. The rear lights for bikes they are mainly used to make others pay attention to our presence, they are mounted under the saddle or on the tube that supports it, at a height of no more than 1 meter. There are also lights for the helmet which are less fundamental in the city but which become very important if you are about to take a dirt road. With a light on the head it is possible to illuminate wider parts of the road.

How to choose bicycle lights

The key feature for this essential accessory for a cyclist is the brightness. It seems trivial but looking at the many models that are on the market we can find ourselves forgetting our priorities and instead the thing we have to ask ourselves when buying is: "Will it make us light at night?" And then "will others see us with this light on?". Of course we must avoid too powerful spotlights so as not to disturb those who walk the streets with us. For reference, we can take into account that the minimum for a bicycle light is 300 lumens, otherwise we are not visible in dark conditions. The maximum is 700 lumens, the same value defined for car headlights. For the city, therefore, we can choose a led light from 300 - 500 lumens also because in our inhabited centers it is difficult for there to be true darkness. If we have to do some sections in areas without lights, for example in the countryside, we can also take spotlights from 1000 lumens adjustable in order to use them inside and outside the inhabited nucleus.

There is one FL-1 certification which assures us that the lumens expressed in the package correspond to the actual ones of the bulb but for manufacturers it is not mandatory. However, we can choose a spotlight that has it in order to know what we are buying to travel safer. Unfortunately, there are currently no obligations regarding the exact specification of the lumens of a light bulb and everyone can declare what they want. A recommended purchase is the adjustable bicycle light because we can use it whenever we want, and it is certified. The price goes up but then we have in our hands a light as it should be, safe, efficient and multifunctional.

Once the brightness expressed in lumens is fixed, we can take care of the light bulb technology looking for those that produce a wide beam of light and not very narrow as happens with those built going to savings.
To understand how to choose the light for the bicycle we need to be very pragmatic and focus on what we need. A light bulb must be easy to install and remove, so when we park the bike we can take it off and not be stolen. Here we find several simple and practical design solutions, we must understand the one that best suits the structure of our bike.

The light goes on too recharged. Like? With battery or USB cable. In my opinion, the battery is a bit awkward and sometimes it is a bit cumbersome to remove and change. Better by far the light with USB cable, the most modern ones even sport the micro USB cable.

If we are true metropolitan cyclists and not "Sunday" cyclists, we must absolutely verify that our light is waterproof because once in a while we will be surprised by the rain and even more so we will need to be bright and enlightening. Just like for smartphones, the waterproofing of a technological component is expressed with the IP standard. The IP67 standard is equivalent to the total impermeability of the piece, 1 meter of water for 30 minutes. Generally, most of the quality quality led bike lights have this standard, we verify that this is the case for ours.

Bicycle lights: tips

Online you can find excellent opportunities to buy quality spotlights. At 15 euros we find rechargeable bicycle lights also via USB, a set with both the rear and the front perfect even in the middle of the night and with a sensitive sensor that identifies 5 modes of use. High performance but also more expensive this spotlight with 2 LEDs and 1870 lumens, super bright waterproof, very easy to assemble and disassemble.

You may also be interested in our related article Bicycle lights: led, headlights, bike radar for every mtb or racing bike.


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