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Category Archives: Cycling At Night

Bicycle lights, reflective clothing and safety devices for riding your bike at night.

Lid Lights (Product Review and Giveaway)

I love riding my bike at night. With two bright headlights in the front and a pair of high-powered taillights in the back I am kind of hard to miss on most roads. However, one of the most common forms of bicycle accidents involve side impact—and headlights and taillights do very little to protect you from this kind of collision. The folks at Lid Lights recently sent me one of their new LED helmet lights to try out and I was really impressed with what they’ve put together. If you like riding your bike at night then keep reading—you might even be lucky enough to win a free set of Lid Lights (see details below).

Lid Lights LED Helmet Lights

Lid Lights LED Helmet Lights (Helmet not included)

Lid Lights consist of a pair of 12″ long flexible LED lights that attach to your bicycle or ski helmet with 3M adhesive tape (it comes pre-attached to the back of the light strips). If these strips are too long for your helmet (and they might be if you are putting them on a child’s helmet) then you can trim them down to size with just a pair of scissors (complete directions are given on the company website). Since these lights attach to the side of your helmet it makes it easier for cars to see from the side. In addition, helmet lights are usually about two feet higher off the ground than most taillights—and this also makes it easier for folks to see you!

Lid Lights LED Helmet Lights

Powered by a single 9-volt battery

The LED lights are incredibly bright and are powered by a single 9-volt battery. The whole unit only weights 3 ounces and the battery unit attaches to your helmet with a piece of Velcro (included). Typical battery life for this product is around 15 to 20 hours of continuous use. I would suggest you use rechargeable batteries—they won’t last as long between charges, but they are a lot more cost-effective.

Lid Lights LED Helmet Lights

An easy to use switch controls the blinking pattern

Lid Lights are available in two versions: one with a static light (always on) and a blinking version. The static light retails for $25 and the blinking version is $35. In my opinion the blinking version is the only way to go—blinking lights make you a lot more visible to motorists than an “always on” light. The blinking lights are controlled by a small switch so you can choose from 25 or so different blinking patterns. Lid Lights are available in several colors, including: Blue, Pink, Orange, Green, White, Yellow and Red.

Lid Lights LED Helmet Lights

The green LED lights are pretty cool at night!

The bottom line: If you ride your bike at night these lights are a no-brainer. Buy a cheap helmet and put a pair of blinking Lid Lights on them. I use very expensive helmets during my daylight rides (both for the ventilation and cool design). However, when you ride at night you don’t usually have to worry as much about ventilation and since no one can actually see the helmet you might as well just go with a cheap one! If you would like to see how the different color lights look in action you can head over to the Lid Lights Storefront (you can order them from this same page).

If you would like a chance to win a brand-new set of Lid Lights then leave a comment below telling me why you need this product. The contest ends at midnight (CST) on Friday, May 31, 2013. After the contest closes I will read through the comments and choose a winner based solely on my incredibly subjective mood at the time—however, humor in your entry is highly encouraged (just keep it clean). If you don’t need this light yourself you are free to comment on other entries. So I can remain impartial until the contest is over I will not be responding the comments left on this post. This contest is for U.S. residents only and only one entry per household allowed. I will send this product to the winner via U.S. Mail at my expense. Good luck!

 

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Nathan 3M Reflective Tape

Nathan 3M Reflective Tape

Nathan 3M Reflective Tape

I love riding my bikes at night and have purchased several headlights and taillights so I can ride safely. Powerful battery operated headlights allow you to see where you are going, and flashing taillights make your presence known to cars up to a mile away. However, since batteries die, lamps burn out and mounting brackets break, I always have a bit of reflective gear with me as well. Most jerseys have a bit of reflective piping—I guess that is better than nothing, but if you are looking for an easy and inexpensive way to be seen at night without the need of batteries I would suggest you check out Nathan 3M Reflective Tape.

Nathan 3M Reflective Tape is one inch wide and comes in a 27-inch strip—it can be applied to your bike, helmet, saddlebags or any other hard surface. This tape has a very strong self-adhesive backing, so it should be considered permanent—and it is very easy to cut to any length you need. This reflective tape comes in three colors: Yellow, Pink, and Orange. I prefer the yellow tape since I think it stands out more than the other color choices. Nathan Sports claims that this tape is “100–200 times more visible than non-reflective clothing in low-light conditions.”

When I travel out of town with one of my bikes I usually carry it on a Yakima bike rack that mounts in the 2″ hitch receiver on my Jeep. Unfortunately, this bike rack sticks out a couple of feet past the rear bumper on the Jeep and I’m always afraid someone is going to run into it—so I applied Nathan 3M Reflective Tape on three sides of it and now it is visible from a long way off!

Nathan 3M Reflective Tape retails for $10 and is available at many sporting good stores, like R.E.I., The Sports Authority, and Dick’s Sporting Goods. I was also able to find it on Amazon.com for $7. While there are hundreds of safety products available for your bike, this one has to be one of the most cost-effective products you can find for cycling at night. By the way, this product is made in USA.

 

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Serfas Thunderbolt Headlight and Taillight

If you have not shopped for new bicycle lights in a while you will be surprised at how much things have changed in the past few years. Modern bicycle headlights are far brighter and lot less expensive than the were just five years ago. Not only are the lights brighter, but they also weigh less—and most lights now have rechargeable batteries as well. A few weeks ago the folks at Serfas sent me a pair of their new Thunderbolt USB rechargeable lights to review and if you are a commuter these lights will be of special interest to you. Thunderbolt is the name given to both the headlight and the taillight, but they are sold separately.

Serfas Thunderbolt Headlight

Serfas Thunderbolt Headlight

The Serfas Thunderbolt headlight is very compact (3.5″ long, 1″ tall, and 1.5″ wide) and provides 90 lumens of light. The light pattern is non-directional, i.e., the beam covers a wide area (just the opposite of a spotlight). The Thunderbolt headlight has a silicone body and is highly water-resistant, as well as being extremely lightweight (just 50 grams). There are four light settings available: high beam, low beam, high blink and low blink. You should be able to get about 90 minutes of use in the high beam with a fully charged battery. However, cold weather negatively impacts all batteries—when the temperature drops below freezing don’t expect a full 90 minutes of use. The high blink mode is what I used the most and was able to consistently get almost four hours of use per charge (Serfas only claims 3.5 hours). The headlight can be seen from a mile away, but at 90-lumens it is intended for commuters, not mountain bikers.

Both the headlight and taillight attach to your bike with a pair of silicon mounting straps (included) and should fit most bikes. These lights attach quickly—a trained monkey could do it in under five seconds. If you use the lights to get to work you are going to love this feature!

The best part about these lights is that they are USB rechargeable. Using the included USB cord you can charge these lights by plugging them into your computer (I used the wall charger for my iPhone instead). If you buy both a headlight and a taillight you will have two USB cords—you could leave one at your office and the other at your house so you can recharge the lights at either place.

Serfas Thunderbolt Taillight

Serfas Thunderbolt Taillight

The Serfas Thunderbolt taillight quickly became one of my favorite taillights! At 35 lumens it outshines most of the taillights you will find at your local bike shop, and since it is USB rechargeable you will never have to buy batteries for it. The taillight is primarily designed to attach to your seatpost (3″ of exposed post required), but you could also mount it on your seat stays. Like the headlight, the taillight has four operating modes (high beam, low beam, high blink and low blink). I never run taillights in the high beam setting—I believe the blinking mode makes it a lot easier for motorists to see you. In the high blink mode this light runs for three hours on a full charge.

As I mentioned earlier, the Thunderbolt lights are not designed for mountain bikers. However, Serfas has a wide selection of other lights available, including their brand new TSL-1500+ (1500 lumens of light with a three hour run time).

The Serfas Thunderbolt headlight and taillight retail for $45 each and are available in seven different body colors (Black, White, Red, Blue, Pink, Green, Yellow). You should be able to buy this light at any bike shop—if they don’t have it in stock they can order it for you. These lights are also available from Amazon.com and many other online retailers.

 

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Glo Glov Reflective Sport Glove

Some us of ride our bikes at night because it is fun, others do it because they have no other choice. Regardless of why you are cycling at night you want to get back home safely—and that means proper lighting and reflectors. One of the greatest pieces of safety equipment I’ve ever bought was a pair of Glo Glov Reflective Sport Gloves and I never ride at night without them.

Glo Glov Reflective Sport Glove for cyclists

Glo Glov Reflective Sport Glove

Glo Glov Reflective Sport Gloves are lightweight gloves that have several pieces of yellow retro-reflective vinyl sewn onto the back (and a red piece on the wrist). These gloves are specially designed for outdoor sports and are great for cyclists, runners, walkers or anyone who has to exercise near road traffic—the reflective strips can easily be seen from 1/4 of a mile away. While a reflective vest and taillight will allow motorists to see you, these gloves will allow them to see you signal for turns (or for a stop if you point the red reflective strip towards the back). These gloves work so well that I’ve had several motorists pull up beside me at a stoplight and ask about them.

These gloves have a padded grip palm and you can wear them alone or over your regular cycling gloves. These lightweight (only 1.5 ounces per pair) gloves are highly breathable and made of a non-fraying fabric (80% nylon, 20% spandex). As for sizing, these gloves are advertised as “one size fits all.” Incredibly, this is one of the few times that a claim like this is actually true—the gloves should fit any size hand from Medium to XXL. I wear XL cycling gloves and the Glo Glov fits of them without any trouble (and they come off just as easy).

Glo Glovs are made in the USA and sell for $20 on the Glo Glov Website (price includes shipping). I would highly recommend this product to anyone who cycles or runs at night.

 

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Cateye TL-LD610 Rear Bicycle Light

The long days of summer have passed and a lot of us now find ourselves still out on the road when the sun has gone down. Without a good taillight it is hard for motorists to see cyclists on the road (and it doesn’t help that some cyclists ride in black gear at night). Fortunately, there are many good bicycle taillights on the market and Cateye, one of the world’s leading manufacturers of cycling products, has several great taillights and they are available at almost any bike shop in America. The Cateye LD610 Taillight is an affordable taillight that should suit the needs of most cyclists.

Cateye TL-LD610 Rear Bicycle Light

Cateye TL-LD610 Rear Bicycle Light

The Cateye LD610 Taillight has five bright LED lights and is powered by two AAA batteries. This taillight has four different operating modes (constant on, flashing, random, and side-to-side). Cateye claims the batteries will last up to 30 hours in constant mode or 60 hours in flashing mode—I have found this to be accurate in warm weather, but battery life in cold weather always suffers.

There are three things that make the Cateye LD610 worthy of your consideration. First, it has a tool-free universal bracket that should fit on just about any bike. Second, the mounting bracket allows for either horizontal or vertical mounting. Third, the side-to-side light pattern is one of the most effective light patterns I’ve seen on a taillight.

The Cateye LD610 is well-built and the batteries are easy to change (some taillights make changing batteries a real pain). I need to point out that when I ride at night I always use two taillights. Batteries die, mounting brackets break and anything attached to your bike can fall off.

The Cateye LD610 Taillight retails for $25, but it appears as though the LD610 has now been replaced by the LD650 so you might have to look for it on Amazon.com. Since I have not used the LD650 myself I can’t recommend it (yet), but after looking at the tech specs I have to believe it is even better than the LD610.

 

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Trek Beacon Bar End Lights

I enjoy riding my bike at night and as a result I have a lot of cool lights, reflectors and assorted gizmos to keep me from getting hit (I don’t use them all at the same time). This past winter I bought a pair of Trek Beacon Bar End Lights for the road bike I usually use at night and while the product looked great at the bike shop it failed to live up to its potential.

Trek Beacon Bar End Lights

Trek Beacon Bar End Lights

As the name suggests, Trek Beacon Bar End Lights are lights that slip into the ends of your handlebar, and Trek offers models for both dropbars and flatbars. The flatbar model for mountain bikes has two rear facing LEDs, while the dropbar model for road bikes only has one LED. These lights operate in either a steady or a flashing mode. These lights run on a single AAA battery (per light) and Trek claims you should be able to get 30 hours of run time per battery (I only got about 25 hours, but cold weather hurts battery life). To install these bar end lights you just have to remove the caps on both ends of your handlebars and slide the Beacon Bar End Lights into the ends of the handlebar.

Trek Beacon Bar End Lights

Trek Beacon Bar End Lights

In my opinion, there are three main problems with these lights. First, they are not very bright—they might be good for 1,000 feet or so, but not much more. Second, on most road bikes the rider is going to be in the way and make it impossible for cars coming up behind them to see the lights (unless you are a really skinny cyclist). And third, these lights self-destruct the first time you take them out of your bar ends.

When I get new products that include batteries I usually toss the batteries out and never use them because more often than not they are old, off-brand batteries. I am not sure why, but I decided the install the batteries that Trek included with the Beacon Bar End Lights—and as expected they only lasted about ten hours. When I tried to remove the lights from my bar ends to replace the batteries the rubber seal around the lights simply shredded. The folks at the local bike shop kindly replaced the lights, but the second pair also ripped the first time I tried to replace the batteries. While these lights were a great idea, they are poorly designed. Therefore, I can’t recommend these lights unless you buy them with the understanding that they are disposable after the first use.

Trek Beacon Bar End Lights retail for $20 a pair and should be available at your local bike shop. However, you would be a lot better off buying a good taillight like the Plant Bike Superflash Turbo or the Portland Design Works RADBOT 1000. Another great option is the Fire Eye 2.0 Helmet Light from Illuminated Cycling.

 

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BikeWrappers Removable Reflective System

If you ride your bike at night you already know how important it is to have a good headlight so you can see where you are going and a taillight be keep cars from running over you. However, many cycling accidents happen when a car runs into a cyclist from the side—usually because they couldn’t see the bike even though it was directly in front of them. BikeWrappers are the best way I’ve found to protect yourself from a side-impact collision while on a bike (in fact, they work from all directions).

BikeWrappers Removable Reflective System

BikeWrappers Reflective System For Bicycles

BikeWrappers are a set of highly reflective bands of spandex and Lycra that wrap around the top tube, down tube and seat tube of your bike and they make your bike nearly impossible to miss at night. When the headlights from a car hit the reflective BikeWrappers your bike will be visible at least 1/4 of a mile away. In addition, these reflective bands are reversible and you can choose from over 30 different styles for the non-reflective side. You can choose from many bright colors or interesting patterns, such as leopard print, camouflage, plaid, stripes, etc. I chose a bright yellow color for the reverse side of my BikeWrappers and use it for rides in daylight when it is raining. By the way, riding in the rain will make you BikeWrappers look pretty bad after a few hours—fortunately, they are machine washable.

BikeWrappers attach to your bike in under a minute using the Velcro fasteners that are sewn into the material. They will easily fit on just about any size adult bike. Since these wrappers are so easy to put on or take off you really one need one set of BikeWrappers regardless of how many bikes you own. However, since they are so inexpensive you might want to buy several sets just to dress up your bike.

BikeWrappers Removable Reflective System

BikeWrappers Are Reversible

When I ordered my set of BikeWrappers last year I assumed I was going to have to cut a hole in the down tube wrapper since the bike I wanted to use it on has three water bottle cages. However, when my order arrived I was pleasantly surprised to see that BikeWrapers were designed to accommodate the extra bottle cage (see photo above).

The only downside to using BikeWrappers is that if you ride through a busy neighborhood at night you are probably going to have people ask you to stop so they can see what you have on your bike (yep, it happens nearly every time I use them). People always want to know “what type of battery does it use?” They are amazed when I tell them it doesn’t use any batteries—it is just highly reflective.

BikeWrappers retail for $45 for a three-piece set and they are available directly from the BikeWrappers Website. There are very few cycling products that I recommend as highly as I do BikeWrappers. The photos above do not do justice to how bright the reflective material is. If you ride your bike at night you need to get a set of these wrappers before your next ride! This product comes with a “100% Money Back Satisfaction Guarantee!” (see company Website for details).

 

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Reflective Sleeves From Nathan Performance Gear

The more years that you have been cycling the more likely you are to have acquired a lot of specialty gear, i.e., clothing that you might not need all the time but are glad to have when the occasion arises. Reflective Sleeves from Nathan Performance Gear are an item every cyclist needs to have on hand. These Reflective Sleeves look like traditional arm warmers, but they are not—they are intended to make you visible to motorists at night and they keep your arms from getting sunburned during daylight hours.

Reflective Running Sleeves From Nathan Performance Gear

Reflective Sleeves From Nathan Performance Gear

Nathan Performance Gear Reflective Sleeves are made with a form-fitting, ultra-stretchy synthetic fabric. They have a long 3M Scotchlite reflective strip on each arm and when the headlights from a car hit it they can be seen from up to 1,200 feet away. These sleeves also offer UV SPF 50+ protection.

I often use these sleeves on nighttime rides—they make it a lot easier for cars to see my arms when I signal for a turn. One day last summer I forgot to wear my sunscreen and got a nasty sunburn on both arms. The following day I used these Reflective Sleeves to protect my arms from further damage and the sleeves worked perfectly. They are very lightweight and did not warm my arms up at all (they are actually made for runners and at a slow speed they probably do increase body warmth a bit).

On one of the sleeves there is a small pocket (about 2″x3″), but the only thing I found it useful for is to carry is a tube of Chapstick. There is also a silicone grip at the top of each sleeve to keep them from sliding down your arm.

Nathan Reflective Sleeves come in three colors (Grey, Yellow, and Black) and two sizes (S/M, L/X-L) and they run a bit small. The sleeves retail for about $25 a pair and I doubt if you find them in any bike shop. I purchased mine from a brick-and-mortar Dick’s Sporting Goods Store. If you cannot find them at a store in your area then you should check Amazon.com.

 

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The Eye Beam Front Lighting System

In my final post for 2011 I listed the Fire Eye 2.0 Helmet Light from Illuminated Cycling as one of the five best cycling products for 2011. The folks at Illuminated Cycling have recently enhanced their product line with the addition of the Eye Beam front light system. While there is no shortage of good headlights for cyclists already on the market, the Eye Beam has several nice features that make it worth considering. Erik Shaffer, president of Illuminated Cycling, was kind enough to loan me an Eye Beam headlight for a few weeks so I could review it and I really don’t want to send it back!

Illuminated Cycling's Eye Beam Front Lighting System

Eye Beam Front Lighting System from Illuminated Cycling

The Eye Beam is a lightweight 400 lumen headlight that offers a five-hour battery life while on high beam. Thanks to the carbon fiber and aluminum construction this unit only weighs 4.1 ounces and there is no external battery pack so you don’t have to route cables or have a battery pack hanging on your bike frame. This unit uses an LED that provides a 6500K light (a pure, white light). The housing on the Eye Beam is sealed so it is completely waterproof. With just one push-button switch on the back of the housing this light is extremely easy to use. The body of this headlight is six inches long and just one inch in diameter.

The Eye Beam has five operating modes (High, Medium, Low, Strobe and Slow Flash) and it always remembers the last mode you used. With a five-hour battery life I imagine most people will use this light in the high beam setting. However, most of the time when I used it I had it in the strobe mode since most of my “daylight” rides were on days with either heavy cloud cover or fog. The strobe mode is awesome and on days with low visibility it could easily save your life (it really helps keep cars from pulling out in front of you).

Illuminated Cycling Eye Beam on a bike handlebar

The Eye Beam mounted on the handlebars of a mountain bike

On the side of the Eye Beam you will find a Mini-USB port so you can charge the battery by connecting the light to a computer USB port or plug it into the wall with the included adapter.

While every other headlight I own is designed to sit on top of your handlebars, the Eye Beam is intended to mount under the handlebar. I don’t know why someone hasn’t thought of this before! When a headlight is mounted on top of the handlebar it is prone to tilt, but since the weight of the Eye Beam is hanging below the handlebar I found it to be very stable.

At the time of purchase Illuminated Cycling offers you the choice of four different lenses (Narrow, Medium, Wide, or Elliptical) for the headlight. You can see their Website for the way different lenses impact the light pattern. This choice of a lens is especially important if you are going to be wearing a helmet mounted light as well. While riding at night I prefer to have a wide light pattern on my handlebar light and a narrow light (spot light) on my helmet. Unlike many other lighting systems, the Eye Beam uses lenses, not reflectors, to shape the light beam and this provides a very pure light that is free of optical impurities.

The Eye Beam front lighting system is hand-built in the USA and is available from the Illuminated Cycling Website for $135. Illuminated Cycling is an American company and their lights are designed and manufactured in the United States.

 

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ADVmonster Waterproof Bicycle Headlight

If you ride your bike at night you probably already have a decent headlight or two. However, if your lights are more than a few years old you might be pleasantly surprised by how headlight technology has improved over the past few years. Eighteen months ago I replaced my old headlights with new ones that  were eight times brighter, half the cost and offered a longer battery life than my old lights. Two months ago I bought a new ADVmonster Waterproof Bicycle Headlight and in my opinion it is the best value in a cycling light you are going to find this year.

ADVmonster 1,000 Lumen Waterproof Bicycle Headlight

ADVmonster 1,000 Lumen Waterproof Bicycle Headlight

The ADVmonster Bicycle Headlight provides a blinding 1,000 lumens of light. This light works in four modes: High, Medium, Low and Flashing. While I do not have the equipment necessary to do an official test, I can tell you that the medium beam on the ADVmonster light appears equal to that of the high beam of the JetLites A-51 720 lumen headlight in both brightness and light pattern. I was able to get a full three hours of light (High Beam) out of this unit with the included 8.4v battery pack. The manufacturer claims your should be able to get 50,000 hours of use from the LED light, and that the battery can be recharged between 500 and 800 times.

Rear View Of The ADVmonster Cycling Light

Rear View Of The ADVmonster Bicycle Headlight

This light can be mounted on either your handlebars or helmet with the included mounting hardware. The handlebar mount is basically an oversized O-ring, but it functions quite well and I’ve not had any trouble with it. The helmet mounting strap works, but it is not as well-designed as some of the other light mounts I own.

The ADVmonster light is not very heavy, especially considering how powerful it is. The headlight itself is under five ounces and the battery (with mounting bag) weighs nine ounces. The unit has a durable black anodized finish and is 100% waterproof (not just water-resistant).

Battery Pack For The ADVmonster Bicycle Headlight

Battery Pack For The ADVmonster Bicycle Headlight

On the back of the light is a sealed illuminated rocker switch. Once you plug the light into the battery the switch turns green to let you know it is getting power—it is very easy to see this switch in the dark! The cord between the light and the battery is 50 inches long, so if you want to mount the light on your helmet and put the battery in your jersey pocket you will have plenty of cord. I mounted my light to the top tube of my bike by using the included battery pouch (it attaches with two Velcro straps).

During the past two months I’ve used this light mainly for daylight rides with the light in flashing mode. We seldom have nice bright sunny days during winter in the Upper Midwest, so most cyclists just kind of blend into the background as they ride down the road. The flashing mode on the light is so incredibly bright that oncoming vehicles have no trouble seeing me from over a mile away! Even if you never ride your bike at night you will still find a lot of use for this light if you ride on cloudy or overcast days.

The ADVmonster Bicycle Headlight retails for $120 and is available from the company Website. The kit includes the 1,000 lumen LED light, battery, charger, handlebar mount, helmet mount and storage box. This product comes with a one-year warranty.

 

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