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I recently bought a bike and I'm looking at getting some lights for riding at night. I live pretty well lit city so I would just want them to make me more visible to drivers. What kind of things should I look for when purchasing lights for my bike?

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Cateye make some of the best bike lights available. I personally use the old version of the Rapid 5 cateye.com/en/products/detail/TL-LD650 at the back. At the front I have something a bit stronger but any go the cat eye offerings will suit you nicely. –  pingbat Oct 19 '11 at 16:38
    
I really like my Reelights. They work with induction but require some fiddling to attach. If you want something simple, bookman builds some excellent LED lights that are incredibly bright and stylish. –  cellcortex Oct 19 '11 at 16:44
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Nowadays, incandescent lamps (halogen, krypton, etc) are obsolete. Go for LEDs with any light you choose, even if running a Hub Generator (which I strongly suggest) –  heltonbiker Oct 19 '11 at 19:06

4 Answers 4

up vote 6 down vote accepted

The main things to look for when purchasing new lights:

  1. How bright are the lights? Can you see them for a few feet, a block, half a mile, etc?
  2. What is the angle of visibility of the light? It does you no good if you can only see the light from one single point - you want to be sure your light can be seen from a wide range of angles, especially for your rear light.
  3. What features are included? - Do you get multiple levels of brightness (for your front light) or different flashing modes (for your rear)? It's nice to have different flashing modes on your rear because it catches people's attention at lot quicker than a steady light.
  4. How long do the lights' batteries last? You don't want to get caught out with a dead battery (trust me, it's not fun)
  5. To go along with the above - rechargeable set or normal batteries? The rechargeable is a lot nicer IMO, because you don't have to worry about getting AA/AAAs every few weeks/months. However, it's a lot harder to bring or find backups if you're going to be out for quite a long time. If you go with AA/AAA's you can also use rechargeable versions, which would cut down on the cost if you use your lights often.
  6. Price point - How much is your safety worth?
  7. Theft/secturity - How often do you need to worry locking your bike up in an area where people can take / mess with your equipment? If it is quite often, you'll want to look into something that has a quick release from the light to the frame or rubber O-rings (those are fairly easy to take on/off often) - thanks Colin Newell
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+1 best answer. What about blinking? Battery type beyond rechargeable (those coin batteries are annoyingly expensive, for instance)? –  freiheit Oct 19 '11 at 18:50
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Personally, it depends on the time of the day if I use blinking or not - so it's nice to have a choice. During the day I'll have flashing when I'm in traffic to be seen, when it's dark out I'll have solid (front) so I can see if there are obstacles in the road. The rear should always be flashing IMO to get the most attention. –  MisterPhilip Oct 19 '11 at 18:54
    
As far as battery type, AA/AAA is nice because it is so common and easy to get in case you get stuck with dead batteries. You can also go with rechargable AA/AAAs and that can be a win-win! –  MisterPhilip Oct 19 '11 at 18:56
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Blinking/flashing is prohibited in Germany, and it is really disturbing. What is most disturbing: If you own such a device yourself, and have to hit 5 times the button, to switch it off again, jumping over all those blinking modes. Then, you hit by accident 6 times instead of 5, and have to push the button another 5 times. It's for morons. –  user unknown Oct 19 '11 at 21:30
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There is also storage to be considered, if you're leaving your bike parked in a public place you'll probably need to take them off and carry them about. –  Colin Newell Oct 20 '11 at 11:05

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Basically your variables (not independent) are cost, brightness, and battery life (if not using a generator). With regard to the battery you have rechargeable and disposable, which is perhaps another variable (definitely not independent of cost).

You need to decide first what sort of use you will give the lighting system, both in terms of brightness needs (is it just to be seen, or do you need light to see?) and in terms of frequency/duration of use. If you only use a headlight occasionally then a simple clamp-on disposable battery unit is apt to be fine. If you will use the light to commute morning and evening in the dark, and your total commute time is 90 minutes, you need something entirely different (ie, a good rechargeable system or a hub generator).

Unfortunately, I've not found a site that tests headlights for brightness and battery life, so you have to go by what the vendors say, which is often wishful thinking, or at least meaningless mumbo-jumbo.

But, for the OP, living in the city, probably most important is a flashing taillight, the brighter the better. The headlight can be a simple clamp-on model. I once had a flashing xenon strobe (intended for use on life jackets) similar to this and it was the cat's pajamas.

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I agree reviews are challenging to find. I suggest searching through forums to find posts like the following two on bikeforums.net or candlepowerforums.com. –  josh0 Oct 24 '11 at 4:55

The main thing that you would consider is cost, lights can go from a few to hundreds of dollars. Over here (Netherlands), a lot of people use cheap LED lights, like these: enter image description here

These work quite well, and are cheap enough you don't have to worry about losing them or theft.

One thing I would invest in are reflectors on your frame, and in your wheels, as they will greatly increase your visibility with almost zero cost and maintenance.

Something like this:

enter image description here

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I agree. I think that battery cost is much important, too, since you could easily spend much more in a few months of riding than the price of the light itself. –  heltonbiker Oct 19 '11 at 19:08
    
@heltonbiker - then again, you can always use rechargeable batteries which is what I use in my inexpensive lights. –  Gary.Ray Oct 20 '11 at 14:07

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