Monday, October 26, 2015

Cycling Lighting review for those dark fall night rides. Light and Motion Urban 800 and Planet Bike Superflash Turbo.

With fall comes cooler weather and shorter days and night rides!  Our Oakdale Bike Shop night rides start at 6:15 pm so we are riding in the dark now and that means you need to have good lights on the front and rear of your bike!  Lucky for us the LED lighting revolution has resulted in some great lights for your bike. Until now I had been using a Sigma TriLED light on my bike.  It was purchased a few years back and is older technology compared to today's lights.  At about 60 lumens it is just adequate for letting cars know you are there, but for after dark club rides on unlit country roads I needed something more.  This is where the Light & Motion Urban 800 comes in.  This light has a maximum output of 800 lumens with a medium setting of 350 lumens and a low setting of 175 lumens.  The battery life is okay, with an advertised battery life of 1.5 hours on high, 3 hours on medium and 6 hours on low and even longer on pulse mode.  I usually ride on medium as that is plenty bright for up to 25 mph.  My experience is that the battery lasts as long as they say it does.  It takes 6 hours to reach a full charge connected to the USB port on my computer.

headlight handlebar cycling bike night ridingThe light output is white in color which really helps with my vision on the road.  I have seen other LED lights that are more yellow or blue in color and definitely prefer the white as the shadows of holes in the road are better defined.  The beam of the light is fairly wide and even in brightness across the width.  I have seen some lights that vary in brightness significantly across the width of the beam.  This can result in you not seeing holes in the road!  Even though it is hard to quantify how even the light's output is from side to side of the beam I feel it is very important in the real world when riding a dark, bumpy road at speed.  You need all the help you can get when riding on pot holed roads during dark nights! You may notice that it also has side facing amber lights that help somewhat with visibility from the side, though some of that light is blocked by your hands and arms when riding in the drops or on the hoods.  However, the amber side light does help me see my Wahoo RFLKT+ cycle computer if I have it angled correctly, so I don't need to run its backlight thus saving its batteries.
headlight charging cable mount cycling

The light comes with a charging cable, a handlebar mount, a Go Pro mount and a helmet mount.  The handlebar mount is the one that I use.  The rubber strap slips over a hook on the mount and can adjust to different diameter handlebars.  It is generally easy to remove, though sweaty hands can make it difficult to grip the end of the strap.  I had to grab a paper towel after one particularly hot ride as the strap kept slipping out of my hand!  Charging uses a standard micro USB port which means one less charger and cable to keep track of!  Construction quality is very good and Light & Motion has excellent support, especially when purchased through your local bike shop, such as my LBS, Oakdale Bike Shopwhich has been rated as one of America's Best Bike Shops for 2013, 2014 and 2015!  The warranty is an excellent 2 years.

Of course you also need a tail light for safe riding at night.  I use a Planet Bike Superflash Turbo tail light on my bike. It isn't the sexiest looking taillight, but it does have a pretty bright flash mode, uses standard AAA batteries, and lasts for over a hundred hours on those batteries in flash mode.  The white case lights up with the flashes as well which really improves visibility from the sides.  It can be mounted on a seat stay, seat post or hung on a seat bag. The light angle can be adjusted up and down, a helpful feature for those group rides so you don't blind the rider following you.  We have all had those red spots in our eyes after a night ride following a particular bike with a way too bright taillight pointed straight in your eyes! 

I have used this light for 6 months on the same original batteries, riding with it on flashing mode during night and day rides for 2,000 miles.  I even left the light on over night once when I forgot to turn it off.  I finally replaced the batteries when it started to get dimmer and put in some Duracells so it should last forever now! Some have complained about the clear flashing part falling off during rides.  I have not had that occur to me even though we ride some pretty bumpy roads!  But, I would recommend making sure it is securely connected to the white body before using it.  

tail light for biking and night ridingOthers in my ride group swear by the Cateye Rapid X2.  It is a slimmer, sexier design that fits nicely on the seat stay using a supplied rubber band to hold it in place. It can also be mounted on a seat post or clipped to a seat bag with an optional mount.  This light is very bright for a tail light at 50 lumens and has six different modes from solid to very rapid flashing.  It is powered by a rechargeable battery that lasts from 4 to 40 hours per charge depending on the mode you choose.  It has six modes instead of just the two of the SuperFlash Turbo which can be useful at night to make it easier for someone following you to identify you by the flashing sequence. Also, the different modes each have a different battery life.  One disadvantage is that you can't aim the light up and down like the SuperFlash Turbo.  Really, the choice between the two lights comes down to which one looks better to you and whether you like the rechargeable battery or the replaceable AAA batteries.

I hope this information helps you get setup to ride safely out on the roads after dark.  My wife feels better knowing that I have excellent lights on my bike when doing the night rides.  The best compliment I received about the lights was from a guy waiting at a stop sign as I drove by.  He yelled out his window to me, "Dam, that is one bright light!".  So, don't let the short days hold you back.  Get some good lights and get out with a group and do some night rides. It is fun!