It’s always upsetting when the clocks go back, and you suddenly find yourself leaving work in total darkness. There’s no reason to stop riding, though – with the right lights, you can keep on logging the miles exactly as you did over the summer months.
Most commuters have at some point fallen victim to a ‘bike light fail’, through fault of their own or fault of the lights themselves, but knowing the most common mistakes will help you to avoid them.
Here’s what to be aware of...
1) Running out of battery
It sounds obvious – but it happens a lot. If your morning ride to work is fairly long, and is likely to use up the majority of your battery, make sure you get into the habit of putting your lights on charge as soon as you sit down in the morning. Otherwise, you risk becoming distracted, putting it off until around 4.30pm, when it’s too late to get enough juice into them to cover your ride home.
A lot of lights these days come with a battery indicator – for example showing a green light when there’s plenty of milage in the battery, and a red light when it’s really time to plug in soon. Opting for a light set with this feature will really help you out.
If you just need lights to make sure you’re seen on lit roads, the Lezyne Zecto drive lights have this feature, and most brighter lights for seeing on unlit roads such as the Exposure Diablo will also give you an indication of power remaining.
If you have a very long commute, or frequently find yourself running the risk of running out of power, it might be worth considering investing in The Plug - this charging device uses a hub dynamo and can be used to power any USB re-chargable device.
2) Lights that are too bright
Yes, there really is such a thing. Lights for seeing on unlit roads and trails produce around 1,000 lumens, and this gives you the freedom to bomb around your favourite country lanes almost exactly as you would in the daylight. However, these will usually come equipped with lower settings, and these lower modes should be employed when riding on busy, lit roads.
Leaving the light on full power mode in traffic will not only rinse through the battery much more quickly, it will also dazzle other road users, which can be quite dangerous. Lower the mode, and direct the light downwards, rather than upwards when riding in traffic.
3) Using a helmet light only
Wearing a light on your helmet is a great idea – it allows you to point the beam exactly where you want to see – and you can indeed look directly at a driver and prompt them to react when necessary.
However, a helmet light should be paired with a light mounted on your handlebars. Otherwise, there is a risk that your bike could be missed by a driver approaching from another angle, for example side on if you happen to be looking the other way. Always opt for a light on your bike, and add a helmet mounted light as a bonus.
4) Not securing lights
It seems a little rich for me to write this, having once ridden home with a household torch sellotaped to my bike – but these things happen, and it’s why I’m qualified to list the most common mistakes.
Bike lights should be secured to your bike - if they’re not you risk them popping off, and being run over. Worse still, if it’s your rear light that smashes and burns, you may not even realise – turning you into an unwitting cycling ninja.
Always use the fixings provided, and check they’re in good working order before setting off. You can use zip ties for extra security, but not alone.
5) Covering your lights up
6) Not taking spares
Bright bike lights can be expensive, and no one expects you to have a spare 1,000 lumen front light. However, it is a good idea to have an extra set of blinkers, just in case something goes wrong. You only need spend £10 to £20 on these, and they’ll literally be a ‘get me home’ pair for when disaster strikes.
It’s a good idea to check that these are still in good working order every so often – just in case.
7) Thinking only need lights in the dark
The primary reason for using bike lights is to be seen and to see in the dark. However, low lumen lights used at all times will make you more visible to approaching road users. This is even more important in fog, or heavy rain fall, both of which can reduce visibility drastically.
Looking for new bike lights? Check out these ten best commuter options.