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Lights

Despite the bewildering range of lights that are available they fall into two basic types – lights to see by and lights that allow you to be seen. 

Be seen lights

Lights that allow you to be seen are emergency lights for when there is sufficient light to see where you are going but you need something to warn other road users that you are there, e.g. if there are street lights, it is early morning/dusk, there is mist/fog.  These lights will not provide enough light to see by. 

Even if you are not intending to ride in the dark you should have a set of emergency, be seen, lights fitted to your bike.  Fog can descend without warning on high ground, even in the summer, and if you get caught in a sudden downpour even a little spray from wet roads can render you almost invisible.

There are a number of be seen lights available, some so small and light you will not even notice that they are there.  Good examples are:

Blackburn Flea
Knog Leds

Rear lights are the most important for being seen.  Whilst you may have some chance of avoiding a collision if an oncoming vehicle crosses your path because they haven’t seen you, with traffic approaching from your rear you will can only rely on the driver to avoid you.  So if you are going to spend more on a be seen light make it the rear.  An excellent rear light is:

Cateye TL-LD1100 LED Rear Light

Lights to see by

Lights to see by mean just that.  There are various options at a wide range of prices providing various levels of just how much you can see!  As you might expect, the more you pay the brighter the light and the lower the weight (in general).  

Options:

Dynamo powered

These are lights wired to a dynamo (powered either through your wheel hub or a friction mechanism resting against your tyre wall).  These provide the convenience of instant power at anytime without having to carry batteries.  You are the power source so there is a marginal amount of extra effort required (although with massive improvements in light technology, considerably less than a few years ago).  The initial set up costs, especially for a hub powered system, may be higher than a battery light option.

Battery Powered

There are a wide range of battery powered lights that fall into two broad categories, rechargeable and non rechargeable.  The benefit of a rechargeable light is that you do not have to keep buying new batteries, which can prove to be expensive.  The disadvantage is that if your light runs out of power before you reach your destination you are a bit stuck (unless you have a back-up light). 

A good rechargeable option providing good lighting at a reasonable cost is:

Cateye HL-EL610

Tip:  This light has a reasonably flat top and can double as a route carrier if your route is cut to size and attached with rubber bands.

The alternative is to go for a non rechargeable light but to buy rechargeable batteries for it.  This gives the benefit of being able to carry spare batteries but avoiding the cost of constantly having to buy new batteries.  If you hunt around a bit rechargeable batteries can now be purchased for roughly the same cost as ordinary batteries so the only additional add on cost is the price of the recharger itself, if you don’t already have one.  Rechargeable batteries come with a mAh capacity rating.  The higher the number the longer the battery will last before needing a recharge (and the longer it will take to recharge).  So a 1000 mAh battery will not last as long as a 2500 mAh rated one.

A reasonably priced non rechargeable with excellent light output is:

Hope Vision 1

The down side of this particular light is that once the battery power is used up it just cuts off.  There is no dimming or warning, it just stops!  This can be worrying if you are doing 30mph downhill at the time.  If you click the button (if you can find it in the dark at high speed) it will come back on for a time at a lower light output.  To overcome this potential hazard you would need to change to a fresh set of batteries in plenty of time before the current set are to expire. 


Do I need to have lights?

Legally

If riding at night (the hours of darkness defined in the Highway Code as the period between half an hour after sunset and half an hour before sunrise) your bicycle should be equipped with the following:

Front Lamp

One is required, showing a white light, positioned centrally or offside, up to 1500mm from the ground, aligned towards and visible from the front. If capable of emitting a steady light it must be marked as conforming to BS6102/3 or an equivalent EC standard. If capable of emitting only a flashing light, it must emit at least 4 candela.

Rear Lamp

One is required, to show a red light, positioned centrally or offside, between 350mm and 1500mm from the ground, at or near the rear, aligned towards and visible from behind. If capable of emitting a steady light it must be marked as conforming to BS3648, or BS6102/3, or an equivalent EC standard. If capable of emitting only a flashing light, it must emit at least 4 candela.

Rear Reflector

One is required, coloured red, marked BS6102/2 (or equivalent), positioned centrally or offside, between 250mm and 900mm from the ground, at or near the rear, aligned towards and visible from behind.

Pedal Reflectors

Four are required (if manufactured after 1/10/85), coloured amber and marked BS6102/2 (or equivalent), positioned so that one is plainly visible to the front and another to the rear of each pedal.


Practically

You should always carry emergency ‘be seen’ lights.  You can be caught out with poor visibility at anytime in a sudden downpour or mist on higher ground.  You have to give approaching traffic, from the front or rear, as good a chance of seeing you as possible.