While it pains me to acknowledge reality the truth is the days are shrinking and the nights are growing. Every day we’re meeting people ‘caught out’ by the time at which it went dark. Wit that in mind we thought we’d put pen to paper and ink eight questions you should ask when buying a new set of lights. If you’ve got more please feel free to add them to the comments section below. We love to hear your wisdom.
1: What do I actually need?
If you only ever ride in areas of significant ambient lighting your needs will be very different to those commuting along unlit trails. Be clear about your exact needs, all of them.
2: Is it visible in day light?
Swedish car manufacturers Volvo were onto something. If your choice of bike lights aren’t visible in day light walk away; whatever it is you’re looking at it’s not a light it’s a toy.
3: Are they waterproof?
It rains. A lot. Even if you don’t ride in the rain (you should) the probability of you dropping your lights in a puddle or other large wet area is petty considerable.
4: Does it pass the gloves test?
If it’s dark it’s also likely to be cold or at least colder than the day time temperature.
That sunken switch elegantly recessed into the top right hand corner of your rear light might look good on your kitchen table or in an art gallery it’s like to be an absolute nightmare once you’re wearing gloves. Avoid! You are not buying art!
4: Do I enjoy corrosion?
If you don’t have a strange fetish for corrosion steer well away from traditional battery operated lights. In a damp environment the connections will quickly corrode. Note that theBritish environment is often damp even when it’s not raining.
5: Ease v brightness; which matters most?
With bike lights displaying in excess of 1000 lumens there’s a need for some serious power storage. Said power storage will require a little TLC when removing lights. Is it worth the hassle?
6: Can I afford cheap lights?
At the end of a typical day you reach into your bag and retrieve a set of bike lights. Sadly said lights are no longer working. On a scale of one to ten how inconvenient is this? If the answer is above 3 be sure to invest in quality.
7: What’s my memory like?
Having encouraged you to consider USB rechargeable lights the key word is now ‘rechargeable’. Charging lights takes time. Will you remember? If not you need to consider lights with a long battery life. Leaving your lights on strobe will prolong battery life.
8: Does it . . . .erm. . . .flash?
I recently read of a rear light with two strips each of which had 41 separate functions! While that’s excessive more than one (on/off) is a must. Most beneficial of all is a simple strobe effect. Front and rear lights should be left on strobe whenever traveling through an urban environment. The beams of light emitted from said unit will then bounce off the retro reflective paint used on all road signs. A flashing road sign will surely raise the awareness of other road users to your presence; aka the primary function of any urban bike light.
9: Do I have deep pockets and ride long (very long) journeys?
If you do think about dynamo lights. They’ve come on a long way from their early days. Avoid cheap dynamos. A light which goes out every time you stop is clearly not a good idea. You need a three figure budget sand good set up skills.