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How powerful a light for road biking/commuting?
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(mountainwalker) - MLife

Locale: SF Bay Area & New England
How powerful a light for road biking/commuting? on 12/04/2009 19:26:53 MST Print View

How powerful a light do you recommend? Any models you can recommend which use standard rechargeable batteries? Need this for road/commuting not night mountain biking. For night mountain bike trail riding you'd need a much stronger light.

Do you think a light like the EOS-R would be sufficient?

>> Bender <<
(Bender) - MLife

Locale: NEO
Re: How powerful a light for road biking/commuting? on 12/04/2009 19:32:26 MST Print View

I have never really done night riding but if you want a lightweight light I would find something with a lithium polymer battery. I don't think any of the standard replaceable battery lights are going to be very bright.

Asking on the bike forums will help but this is useful as well.

Edited by Bender on 12/04/2009 19:33:43 MST.

ben wood

Locale: flatlands of MO
Re: How powerful a light for road biking/commuting? on 12/04/2009 20:16:30 MST Print View

i have the EOS-R and i like it. it needs to be on the brightest setting though. i think it good enough for commuting as in the city there is usually some light from city lights etc. but in a rural area you may want something brighter. but as you probably know, stepping up from that light gets really expensive. i haven't used it that much so i can't say as to long term tests or battery life. i like that i can easily take it off the bike and use it as a headlamp. its plenty bright for a headlamp and it has a very round pattern. you can use rechargeable batteries in it, i have not so i can't say as to how well that would work.

you can probably get more of your questions answered on a bike forum like the other poster mentioned. just my 2 cents and not worth that.


Edited by benwood on 12/04/2009 20:17:28 MST.

Doug I.
(idester) - MLife

Locale: PNW
Re: How powerful a light for road biking/commuting? on 12/04/2009 20:25:00 MST Print View

Don't lose sight of the gear you already have. A good backpacking headlamp can work just fine for bike commuting. In the past, I often preferred one to a 'bike light' because trails and roads twist and turn, with the headlamp I could often see what I was soon to encounter better because I could look where I was going with the light instead of only seeing in front of me with a light affixed to the bike. Of course you can wear the EOS-R, but if you already have a good backpacking headlamp, I wouldn't go buy a light just for the bike.

You do, of course, want a very good rear blinking light.

Take care,


Mark Verber
(verber) - MLife

Locale: San Francisco Bay Area
Re: How powerful a light for road biking/commuting? on 12/04/2009 20:28:11 MST Print View

I found the EOS-R (50 lumen) was a bit questionable with the variable lighting of my commute while average 15-20mph. Going slower or being in the country without car headlights effecting eye adjustment it would most likely be ok. I preference the Fenix L2D (the LD20 is the current 2 AA from Fenix) which is significantly brighter (175 lumens). I typically use the L2D in strobe mode because it's more noticeable to cars and the strobe is on long enough to provide enough light for me to see where I am going. The Fenix L1D (90 lumens, always in my bag) has worked well enough when I didn't have the L2D with me or forgot to recharge the batteries. My wife's Zebralight was useless other than to make me visible to cars. I found the twofish mounts worked well on my handlebars. Don't forget a good rear tail light and maybe some side blinkers.


Edited by verber on 12/05/2009 10:03:53 MST.

Gordon Smith
(swearingen) - MLife

Locale: Portland, Oregon
HID on 12/04/2009 20:54:06 MST Print View

I've been bike commuting at night for years and I've tried a number of lights with varying degrees of success. Last year I finally ponied up for an HID light and haven't looked back. I got a Topeak Moonshine and love it, but there's several others out there as well. It's true that in the city there is generally enough street light to see where you are going. The real issue is safety as in being seen by motorists. For that purpose an HID rules supreme. Half of all cycling deaths occur at night. In half of those the cyclist had no light. When it comes to bike lights brighter is better IMHO.


James Naphas
(naphas13) - MLife

Locale: SoCal
Depends on where and how you are riding on 12/04/2009 21:28:22 MST Print View

I'd recommend that you check out the electronics, lights and gadgets forum on It's a fantastic resource for all things related to bike lighting for commuting, long distance riding and the like. I use two dinotte headlights (at a combined 340 lumins) and a planet bike superflash in the rear for road riding at 15-18 mph.

BTW, I agree with the recommendation of the fenix LD series lights by the previous poster. Using 2 AA versions on the front probably provides around the same lumens and perhaps a better pattern than my setup at a lower cost.

Christopher Plesko
(Pivvay) - F

Locale: Rocky Mountains
HID's are dead for bike lights on 12/04/2009 21:30:52 MST Print View

All the new hotness is LED powered. Dinotte has some good lights. Magicshine is cheap. Ayup and Amoeba are cool too.

The EOS would get you home but it's not quite enough light to be ideal for me. It's my "caught out" headlamp.

Rick Dreher
(halfturbo) - MLife

Locale: Northernish California
Re: How powerful a light for road biking/commuting? on 12/04/2009 22:36:24 MST Print View

Hi EJ,

I'll caution that you can overshoot your road bike light as easily as you can your MTB light, although you don't have to worry as much about the terrain.

I'm pretty happy with the combination of a NiteRider MiNewt headlamp and Princeton Tec Swerve taillamp. The MiNewt flashes when there's ample street lighting and I only need to be seen and the steady beam is bright enough to go 15 mph or so on good pavement. The Swerve is really bright and is alternately narrow and wide on flash mode.

I would not rely solely on an Eos unless I was puttering along at <10 mph on deserted streets.



Michael Meiser
(mmeiser) - F

Locale: Michigan
a quick synopsis of bike light tech and theory on 12/05/2009 06:27:47 MST Print View

I do a LOT of night riding. I love it.

Mostly I use a cheap LED headlamp I picked up at Target for $25 (no longer sell them). It's 136 lumens and I run it on an external 4AA battery pack. In the summer the battery pack is velcro'd to the back of my helmet. In the winter I dangle it around my neck or down my back inside my clothing so the cold doesn't have any effect on my light's longevity or brightness. I tend to get about 6-8 hours out of either rechargeables or new batteries.

== AA's vs. proprietary batteries ==

The reason I go with AA is for flexibility. For commuting I use rechargeable AA's. When out touring I cannot stop to recharge my batteries every other day. I usually use the hand me downs from my digital camera.

It also helps to be able to pick up batteries anywhere if you forgot to bring a spare set or recharge yours.

== brightness ==

BTW, 120 lumens is the brightness of the Nite Rider Mini Newt USB. Generally 120 lumen appears to be enough brightness for commuting.

When out in the back country and far from civilization and car headlamps your eyes adjust btw and you can go down to as low as 45 lumen... which is more a typical headlamp. Of course if you're riding with someone else with a brighter light it'll throw off your eyes. As will oncoming traffic.

== consumer LED tech ==

Right now they are making a lot of breakthroughs in the efficiency of LED lights. This technology is trickling down into the mainstream market pretty quick. Last year (maybe closer to two years now) Luxeon LED's were the thing running at about 85 lumen. This year it's Cree which tend to run 120-150 lumen. It's about time for something new to eclipse this.

Because of the advances cheaper consumer lights are leapfrogging the mid range bike specific light models. The Nite Rider Mini Newt being a great example. My the Mini Newt is a very cool light my $25 target light puts out more light then it and last longer.

Target no longer carries the light I use but there are many on the market you just have to keep an eye out for them at big box stores and hardware stores.

Fennix makes a great headlamp called the HP10 that claims up to 225 lumen. Super efficient, many modes, runs about $65. Probably the best thing I've seen on the market.

I have also seen 4AA headlamps at Lowes for $30 or $40 that claim 150 lumen. And Cabellas sells one similar for $30-40.

These all run on the Cree LED's.

There are also some breakthroughs happening on the higher end but i won't get into them here.

== headlamp vs. handlebar ==

If I could only have one light it'd be a headlamp. Because of the low angle of delineation between it and your eyes it picks up well on anything reflective.

This is great because it picks up car reflectors, road sign's, mail boxes, and a favorite thing.. animal eyes (cats, raccoons, rabbits, deer, etc.).

This keeps you from getting that myopic numbing feeling from staring at the patterns made by the halo of light from a handlebar light. It keeps you looking out ahead and looking around as you should.

I also quickly shine people who are approaching with their brights on and it seems to be just bright enough to be effective at getting to turn their brights off.

For safety reasons I will also briefly shine cross traffic stopped at lights, stop signs or coming out of driveways and parking lots. This is a huge safety feature as getting cut off is the most likely way to get hit. Cars typically cannot see you especially in the city where there are all sorts of bright lights and distractions.

I also like that my headlamp can either be thrown in my bag or permanently attached to my helmet and taken inside. No security issue.

There are however a couple disadvantages to the headlamp.

The light from headlamps tend to flatten out the road a bit because it doesn't cast shadows across pot holes and bumps.

Of course the advantage of having a narrower beam that can cast light out further then a diffuse handlebar light may give you more warning and thus offsets this problem.

Snow, heavy rain and above all fog all bounce back headlamp light in your eyes.

Handlebar, or even lights mounted on your fork cast really good shadows across bumps and pot holes on the road making them stand out. However the have to be wider and are therefore more diffuse. They won't cast light out as far out as a more focused headlamp.

Also because they only shine straight out you can't see where you're turning too. This is mostly only a problem with twisty / turny trails though.

So what's the answer?


If you can swing it go for both. They work great in tandem. Handlebar light for the near ground and headlamp for the far ground.

== safety lights ==

That said don't forget about and don't underestimate the need for blinky / strobe safety lights.

As I said if I only had one light it'd be my headlamp, but for commuting especially in the city safety lights are key.

Blackburn Fleas are really hot right now. Ultra minimal, tiny, bright, USB or AA rechargeable makes them great for commuting. Just plug it in to your computer at work during the day.

There is also the Planet or Serfas brand "Super Blinky". These things are fairly cheap ($15-20) run on two AAA forever, claim visibility for a mile and certainly deliver it.

I have one on every one of my bikes. They are the brightest thing on the market. They change the way cars respond around me. I.E. they actual slow down and give me space.

I think some people actually think I might be law enforcement when they first see the light. Best light ever.

Finally... don't underestimate reflectors. Especially wheel and pedal reflectors whose motion get attention and define you as a bike. They appear far brighter to cars then bike lights because they reflect back a cars own much brighter lights. However if you're not in front of a cars headlights then they're invisible... which is why you also need safety lights as well.

A good example of when reflectors fail is when cars are sitting at intersections and cross streets you're approaching. You're not actually in their beam until you're in front of them and by then it's to late. Cars pulling out into you or right in front of you is definitely one of the most dangerous scenarios. Especially in busy urban and suburban environments.

If I just had a $1 for every time some jack*ss on a cell phone followed the person in front of them through a four way stop sign I'd be rich.

== idealized setup ==

An ideal setup would be:

1) 120 lumen or higher fairly focuses headlamp

2) a 85+ lumen or brighter wide / diffuse beam fork or handlebar mounted light for the near ground

3) a super blinky tail light

4) a flea or other strobe mounted on the handlebar

5) standard pedal, wheel, handlebar and seat reflectors.

That said... I have a lot of bikes I jump around between and don't ride so much in the city so I often just go with the headlamp and superblinky tail light.

Mark Verber
(verber) - MLife

Locale: San Francisco Bay Area
Re: a quick synopsis of bike light tech and theory on 12/05/2009 10:18:53 MST Print View

As I mentioned earlier, I have been using Fenix flashlights with twofish mounts and have been very happy with it's performance. I took this approach because I already owned the Fenix flashlight. A key reason for my happiness is that my daily commute falls within the battery life at full brightness. Every two nights I swap/recharge the batteries. An advantage of the purpose driven bike light systems is that they tend to have beefier batteries so you have more ride time / charge.


Todd Williams
(ctwillia) - MLife

Locale: Depends on the weekend
Bike Safety and Lights on 12/05/2009 15:00:46 MST Print View

Don't skimp on the lights and reflectors, spend some money here and stay alive longer. I was just recently hit from behind with two blinking lights by an 83 year old man at night. Now that I am back on the bike after three months, the safety budget is almost endless, and it makes a huge difference when you look like Christmas tree going down the road, almost all cars give me a full lane pass which was unheard of before.

So my visibility system goes like this:

- Blinking Light & Motion LED light
- Another high powered LED on non-blinking mode for potholes

- Two bright red LED blinking lights on back
- One red LED blinking light on the helmet

- Hi vis yellow windbreaker
- Reflective construction vest

Cars give you a lot more respect when you say to them don't you dare hit me.

And you get compliments from all the construction workers on you vest!

Michael Meiser
(mmeiser) - F

Locale: Michigan
Re: Bike Safety and Lights on 12/05/2009 20:41:16 MST Print View

I forgot about the vest thing. I have a friend that swears by them and I can't disagree... though admitedly I don't use them.

Arapiles .
(Arapiles) - M

Locale: Melbourne
Re: How powerful a light for road biking/commuting? on 12/05/2009 21:45:04 MST Print View

I ride to work 4 days a week (tram to/walk back on Fridays).

There's two types of lights: "be seen" and "see". The EOS R is a "be seen" light - and it's marginal at that. My flashing light - a Cateye EL520 is significantly brighter than that.

Funnily enough I find that I need brighter lights in the poorly lit parts of the city more than in total darkness - it's a contrast issue.

My "see" lights are a pair of AyUps, one on the handlebars, one on the helmet. They don't use the current generation LEDs, but nonetheless they do put out 300 lumens each. New gen LEDs - just starting to be available now - are significantly brigher.

I do also have a Busch & Muller IXON and an IXON IQ - the IXON (which was a replacement of one with a faulty switch) is kaput after being dropped (I'm thinking of modding it with a P7) and the IXON IQ got sent back to Germany because the LED was in the wrong place - God knows when I'll get it back. The point about them is that they don't dazzle oncoming traffic - but unfortunately have surprisingly poor quality control.

My rear lights are the Cayeye TLD1100 which I really rate - I've ridden behind the Planet Bike type strobe lights and they're not that visible in city traffic clutter (just annoying) but the TLD1100 is, because it's so much bigger. I did have a FlareLight: they're a good idea and very visible, but are junk, mine fell apart within a week so I took it back and got a refund - wait for the gen 3 version with proper connections and switchgear. My bike came with a B&M light built into the rack which is triggered by movement - it's quite convenient.

Ideally I'd have a SON 20R dynamo and either an Edelux or an aspherical single LED Supernova. But that would require a new front wheel ... and the approval of my wife.

Michael Meiser
(mmeiser) - F

Locale: Michigan
Re: Bike Safety and Lights on 01/29/2010 08:39:32 MST Print View

@Charles Williams (ctwillia):

I have two or three tips for you:

== "Super blinkies" rule ==

One... do check out the Planet Bike or Serfas Superblinky. I'll bet you the cost of the light that you've never seen a better or brighter tail light. They're well priced too.

== headlamps rule ==

Two: You sound like you don't use and haven't tried a headlamp.

I cannot recommend these enough.

The single best thing they're for is for shinning cars approaching from cross streets.

These cars CANNOT see you until you're in their beam (which is to late) or until they are in your beam (which is also to late).

The headlamp allows you to shine them (and I mean very briefly) way back when there 100's of hards from the intersection.

Even if you and they are sitting still at a stop sign or light it's amazing how many drivers still don't register you.

I've had idiots come out of their own driveway without stopping and cross clear to the wrong side of the road nearly hitting me.

Second... they work well for approaching cars too. This is not so much to be seen as they'd see any of your lights and reflectors but they often don't remember to shut off their brights. A quick flash or two (by head nodding) with the headlamp and they'll be sure to register and shut off their brights.

Third, headlamps pick up anything reflective up to a half mile away. The reason for this is the low angle of seperation between them and your eyes. In a word: bounceback. This works REALLY well for cutting down on the tunnel vision and night blindness caused by oncoming cars and street lamps and general light poliution. it lets you see things far in advance of when you normally wood.

Forth... look around. A headlamp allows you to see things even if they're 45 or 90 degrees off to your right (in addition to letting them see you). No other light does this.

If money is no object I highly recommend spending $65 on the Fennix HP10. They max out at 2.5 hours at 225 lumen on 4AA or 7.5 hours at 120 lumen. They also have many strobe modes. People are raving about them on the candlepower forums and other user forums.

== reflectors are undervalued ==

I heard you mention reflective vest and that's extremely wise. You probably have your full compliment of reflectors but I thought I'd mention this anyway.

Reflectors are when in the beam of a car far brighter then any light. This is because car headlamps are 500+ lumens. The reflected light therefore appears brighter to them.

The key reflectors are those that define you as a bike

1) wheel reflectors

2) pedal reflectors.

The motion of these not only attracts the eye, but lets them know right away you are a cyclists.

3) The rear and front reflectors are also great

4)reflective sidewall tires are also a major plus. They offer a large visible area from the side.

5) as mentioned the vest

6) triangle reflectors... often used by tourers and on things like non-motorized zehicles, amish buggies, farm trailers, etc, etc. univeral symbol for caution and will trick cars into thinking you're a bigger vehicle then you are so they'll slow down.

7) pannier bag reflectors. I've always noticed that cars behave differently when I have my pannier bags on with sewn in reflectors on the back. They make you appear wider. Cars tend to slow down and give you more space.

Anyway... I think that's about it.

If you were to put all these to good use you'd really look like a UFO. :)

Mark Regalia
(markr) - MLife

Locale: Santa Cruz
Dorcy makes great lights for the price on 01/29/2010 09:20:25 MST Print View

My friends and I have been setting up systems using Dorcy flashlights and headlamps from Sears. For 30-40 dollars you can get a white light (not blue) that puts out from 150 to 170 lumnens and uses 3 AAA batteries that are easy to replace. They claims several hours of operation and you can just carry a few extra batteries just in case. For years we used NiteRider and other bike brands just to find that in a couple or years we had to replace the very expensive dedicated batteries. Recently I saw one LED lamp in my local bike shop that had same output as the Dorcy that costs over $200. It seems laughable now. I personally think the bike light companies are finished unless they give up trying to sell multi hundred dollars lights.

You can buy after market handlebar clamps for the Dorcy flashlights for a few bucks.

Michael Meiser
(mmeiser) - F

Locale: Michigan
Re: Dorcy makes great lights for the price on 01/29/2010 11:05:49 MST Print View

These Dorcy lights seem expensive for what they are.

The lumens sound very high, but the longevity sounds very poor.

That said... Sears is one of the few places I haven't looked. I'll take a peak next time I'm in the area.

Ben 2 World
(ben2world) - MLife

Locale: So Cal
Re: How powerful a light for road biking/commuting? on 01/29/2010 11:11:14 MST Print View

IMHO, if you are just bike commuting -- and there are street lights -- then you don't need a light to see -- you just need one to be seen. I have one small white LED at the front (powered by just one AA battery to give you an idea) -- plus a red LED light in the back (the kind that blinks).

You can buy these pretty darn cheap at Wally World, Target or K-Mart.

Edited by ben2world on 01/29/2010 11:17:30 MST.

Andrew Wilson
(andreww) - MLife

Locale: Vosges
Enough said on 01/29/2010 11:48:43 MST Print View

I was thinking of posting my very wise input, and then I skimmed through the content above and realized that there's very little that hasn't been said. I will second the proposal that the most important thing is to be seen. That is, unless you live beyond any streetlights.

If you do live beyond streetlights, (or where they don't hit where you ride) I've found the most difficult thing seeing at night is the competition from oncoming car headlamps. Once they're in front, unless your light is quite bright, your riding blind until they pass.

Over here near Germany, the mecca of bicycle lighting (because of very consistent law enforcement, unlike here in France), hub dynamos are almost standard on new bicycles above the bottom tier. One of these with a halogen lamp, or better an LED, is quite impressively bright, almost as annoying as a car light to ride against.

Jack H.
(Found) - F

Locale: Sacramento, CA
Re: How powerful a light for road biking/commuting? on 01/29/2010 11:56:57 MST Print View

I'm car-free so here's my current setup. I find it brighter and more eye catching that 98% of other people's commuting setups that I see. Only the rare person with expensive mountain biking setups is more visible that I am.

I'm using a Planet Bike Blaze 2 watt on the front and a Planet Bike Superflash on the back. I used to also ride with my backpacking headlamp, but bought a new helmet and it doesn't fit anymore. Really pretty bummed about that because I think that headlamps are great for safety. I'd also like to buy another superflash for the back and a light setup that makes me more visible from the side. I highly recommend the PLanet Bike products, their flash pattern is more eye catching that most other brands. I often see drivers and pedestrians staring straight in to my lights, like they're mesmerized deer in headlights.