Bike Light Basics

The need for both front lights and tail lights is obvious at night, but they are a good idea during the day. Lights help you to see, and even more importantly, to be seen. When vehicle-on-bike accidents happen, the most common reaction of the driver is, “I never even saw them!” Big flashing lights go a long way in making sure that you are seen. To be safe riding your bike, you should invest in a high quality bike lights.

Technology – Lumens

Bike lights have come a long way in the last few years. You can buy small lights that are easy to use and charge and put out a lot of light.

Buy the brightest lights you can, the more lumens the better. These little bitty taillights that put out less lumens than your mobile phone simply do not cut it. Your front and taillight should be so bright that other riders and people complain about them. An average car headlight puts out about 800 lumens on low beam and somewhere around 1,200 – 1,500 on high beam. If you ride at dawn, dusk or in the dark, why should you have less?

Most light manufactures make a claim based on the estimated lumens but brightness depends highly on the quality of the materials, temperature of the surrounding area, and quality of the LED. High-end lights with an ANSI FL1 Standard will be consistent with their lumen measurement. This is compared to some of the cheaper knock-offs that can be overestimating the lumen measurement by up to 40 percent.

Price: You Get What You Pay For

Plan to spend at least $100 for the front light and $50 for the taillight. Lights are a very important piece of safety equipment. Don’t skimp on lights. Do some research starting at this page.

Number of Lights

The minimum you need is two: a headlight and a taillight. You might also want to consider an additional headlight that is mounted on your helmet. A helmet light can be easily pointed at what you need to see or whom you need to alert to your presence. Also, apparently it is easier for oncoming traffic to discern two lights approaching instead of one. (Think about a car with only one headlight.)

Flashing, Pulsing, or Solid

Based on a study regarding the effect of flashing lights versus a constant light on rear warning lights on snow plows, it appears that a flashing light is brighter to the eye, but the flashing aspect makes it more difficult to discern the distance and speed of the moving vehicle because of the strobing affect.

While it’s not definitive as to how that study relates to bicycles, I would suggest a flashing tail light at all times. For a motorist to pick out your tail light, particularly, from a sea of noise is very difficult. The surface area of the light is tiny, and it’s all on its own. Your light is just not important enough to notice amongst the jumble of signs, traffic directions and other cars unless it does something to stand out, like flash.

As for the front light, I would suggest a constant bright beam when it is dark and road illumination is needed. After dawn until dark consider changing the front headlight to a flash mode.

If you were involved in a bicycle accident, call me, Bill Shirer at Cyclist at Law. I can help you get the compensation you are entitled to under the law. Call 800-887-6188 today to set up an initial consultation.