How to choose bike safety lights?
Points to consider when choosing bicycle safety lights
What is a bike safety light?
Technically every bike light is a safety light. However, some bike lights do not keep your safety in mind whatsoever. Cheap cycling lights provide little to no safety, they provide a false sense of safety, often leading to more accidents. A quick example; a cyclist with cheap lights believes all the cars see him or her but the light is not visible from more than 10 meters off. Far too little room for drivers to react to sudden situations. With a good bike safety light we mean lights that are made with your safety in mind. Cheap lights only think about your wallet! Safety doesn’t have a price, so please think about this when making your purchase. Whatever light you end up buying, it must have your safety in mind. This is what we mean with bicycle safety lights.
How to pick a bike safety light?
Just like anything else, to buy a good product you need to way the pro’s and con’s. There are a few criteria that a light must absolutely cover, then there are a few extra’s which are nice to have but nothing all too important. USB rechargeable is important for ease of use, but is not an absolute must. For some people it makes more sense to have a AA or AAA battery safety light. Everything depends on your use and the type of cycling you perform – whether it is as a commuter early in the morning or as a sporadic cyclist who only rides mid-day. Here is the list of most important features to consider when purchasing a bicycle safety light.
1. Lumen/Strength of the light
TO SEE OR TO BE SEEN
Bicycle lights have two functions. One is the ability to light up the road so that you can see better. Avoid potholes, see traffic signs or pedestrians, … The other function is to be seen. For a front light it is best to have both, you need to be able to see and you need to be seen by other drivers. Ideally you want two lights; one that points down to light up the road and not blind other drivers. The other points up, is less intense, and is meant to highlight your presence on the road amongst other drivers.
For a rear light the story is quite different. You only need to be seen, no need to light up the road behind you. Additionally, you need to make sure not to blind the drivers behind you! They need to notice you (draw attention) and see you when they drive by. When a light is too high in Lumen there is a great risk of blinding the drivers which in return leads to more accidents. We strongly recommend keeping your rear light below 200 lumens. The ideal number of lumens for a rear light would be between 100 and 150 lumens in city use – up to 200 lumens when you are on open roads.
2. Ease of use/Attachment
BUY AN EASY TO USE BICYCLE SAFETY LIGHT
Very often a bike safety lights are seen as a hassle. Putting them on, taking them off to avoid theft, dirt preventing easy use, recharging, a broken LED, … We admit, using a cycling light rarely provides joy. But then again, that’s not it’s function. They are made to provide you with more visibility, so that you would be safer when cycling…. nothing more.
For this reason ease of use is second on our list of criteria when buying a bike safety light. With an easy to use light you will enjoy how easy it is to use – given that you have enough experience suffering from poor bike lights. A good bike safety light is:
- Easy to place – within seconds
- Easy to take off – within seconds
- Never comes off by itself
- USB rechargeable (not for everyone)
- Placed where you want – no limitations
The first three speak for themselves, the USB rechargeable is a choice you must make yourself. Now let’s avert our attention to the last point “placing it where you want” as this is often forgotten. Not all bikes share the same design, some are actually quite unique with different frames and whatnot. It is also possible that you already have an integrated rear light (for example on electric bikes) where you would normally place your bicycle safety light. Being able to place the light where you want is a luxury that you can adapt with every ride. It allows you to use the light ‘situationally’ if that makes sense. For RIDR Lights it could be that you want both laser lanes to be on one side of the bike rather than on both sides. If you know car’s only approach from that side, it could be beneficial to place it on the side of the bike (given that you have in integrated light providing rear visibility). It is even possible to place our RIDR Lights on the side if you which. Point being, ease of use is quite important on a bicycle safety light.
HOW MUCH DOES A SAFETY LIGHT COST?
From our recent survey we found that the average cyclist spends up to $ 200 (per year) on safety gear. Half (50%) of that is used to purchase a front light, 30% is used to purchase a rear light. It’s also a general consensus that a front light should be stronger, and thus can be more expensive than a rear light. However, from the EU cycling statistics we find that most accidents happen from the side and rear. Quite rarely are cyclists hit from the front, so why spend more money on a front light? Sometimes faulty presumptions manipulate us into making the wrong decisions. But is $ 60 not enough to purchase a rear light? We believe it’s more than enough, yet other brands feed on the feeling of being unsafe.
BIKE SAFETY LIGHTS COMPARED
Safety lights exist in different shapes and forms. There are rear lights that provide some side visibility, there are side lights that only provide side visibility, there are cheap laser lights (like the ones on amazon) and expensive laser lights (like the Lezyne Laser drive). But at double the price of a RIDR Light you could ask yourself …”But what’s the difference?”.
Let's be honest, of course there are differences. The Lezyne has a stronger battery for example, whilst RIDR Lights have more visible laser lights. RIDR provides a double pattern, along the bike. Lezyne provides single lines trailing behind the bike. When a car approaches from the side, RIDR Lights are more visible. When a car approaches from the rear, the Lezyne will be seen first. Every lights has it’s pro’s and cons – both lights are very good bicycle safety lights. Keeping in mind that the Lezyne is double the price for half the laser lines, you as a consumer will have to make a choice.
4. USB and Waterproof
USB RECHARGEABLE SAFETY LIGHT
Two quite important features, but depending on your cycling habits they are quite optional. USB rechargeable speaks for itself, we end up with less wasted throwaway batteries. A problem for the next generation, the mountain of used batteries. Something that we can help tackle now by making the right choices. Again, this is situational. We’ve had a RIDR state that they prefer AA batteries because that way, on long journeys, he always has a spare pack. RIDR Lights can be charged with a power bank, or any electric power source, so this problem can be avoided.
If you cycle with an electric bike you will sometimes find a USB socket on the bicycle itself. Should this be close enough – or your cable long enough – your RIDR Light can even be charged whilst cycling. Although this is far from optimal, it remains an option when you run out of battery. Additionally you should look at charging time vs time in use. Having a light that takes 5 hours to charge for a 30 minute use is quite useless.
WATERPROOF SAFETY LIGHT
Also situational, having a waterproof light. If you never cycle when it rains (shame on you!) then this will be irrelevant. When you cycle in the rain you will need a minimum of IPX5. If you mountainbike and have dirt flying all over the place, then we recommend going for IPX6 or higher.
- IPX4 – resists moisture
- IPX5 – resists rain
- IPX6 – water resistant up to 1m pressure
5. Settings and Modes
The use of a bike safety light also depends on the modes it can be used in. We prefer a light with at least 3 options – blinking, rapid blinking and solid state. Ideally your light has more options – for example choosing between eco or turbo mode. This way the same safety light can be perfectly used for city or open road cycling.