Longtime readers may remember previous posts about bike lights like this one, and my advice remains largely unchanged: Buy a headlight bright enough to see bumps in the road, don’t put it on flashing mode and don’t point it in people’s eyes.
Biking at night is wonderful. But shopping for bike lights can be overwhelming because there are so many different options at a wide range of prices. Most people don’t want to spend any time thinking about their bike lights. But unfortunately, you need to. So here’s my advice as someone who has gone through a lot of bike lights in my time:
- Make sure you have a way of keeping your lights charged. USB-charged lights are great. So are lights that can take AAs or AAAs, since those rechargeable batteries are common and cheap. Avoid lights that require annoying (and expensive) watch batteries, no matter how cute they are.
- Keep your headlight on steady instead of flashing. Flashing headlights might make you feel more visible, but they may actually disorient other people and make it more difficult for them to pinpoint your location. Some people with epilepsy can be harmed by strobing headlights. A flashing headlight is also illegal (makes you wonder why they even have a flashing mode, doesn’t it?).
- Don’t point your light in people’s eyes. It can be very easy to accidentally blind oncoming people. A lot of people just don’t realize how bright their lights are. You should angle your light slightly down so most the beam hits the ground in front of you. This splash of light on the road will make you more visible to people driving than shining the beam in their eyes, and it will help you better see potholes.
- Use your lights in the fog, in the rain and when the sun is low in the sky. Lights are not just for dark.
- Don’t leave your lights on your bike when you lock up. They will get stolen. Trust me.
- Use your common sense, and do what feels safe to you. Some people prefer to get decked out in reflective gear and light up their bikes like a Christmas tree. If that’s you, then go for it. Others, like myself, feel comfortable with a set of good front and rear lights.
If you want to invest some money in lights that you will never need to think about again, ask your local bike shop about dynamo lights. These lights are usually quite powerful and mounted somewhat permanently so you don’t need to remove them when you lock up. And they are powered by your motion, so they turn on automatically when you start rolling and never need to be charged. But they will typically set you back a few hundred bucks and may even require building a new front wheel with a dynamo hub. So it’s not a simple upgrade. But as someone with a knack for destroying or losing battery-powered lights, I’ve probably saved money by investing in dynamo lights instead.
Do you have a favorite bike light? Talk it up in the comments below.