Winter lights

There is a certain chopt logic amongst cyclists that lights have to be really really bright in order to keep you safe. On road.cc recently various posters were extolling the virtues of the ‘eBay special’, a 9 trillion lumens Chinese light that costs about 30 quid. I can see why people feel that über brightness equals safety. This is a misconception and a dangerous one. I’ve spent the past few evenings coping with the misdirected beam of overly bright bike lights. My retina was torn apart by a mountain biker with two ridiculously bright front lights, one helmet-mounted, thus dazzling anyone who happened to be in his line of sight. It was staggeringly, overwhelmingly bright. I pointed this out to him and he didn’t like it. The LED arms race is a total crock and does cyclists no favours at all. People riding round town with too much candlepower deserve contempt.

Lights without a directed beam, especially those worn on the helmet, blind cyclists and other road users. They’re also hugely inappropriate for use around town. Tone down the lumens and do everyone a favour. Get a hope vision 1 and point it at the road. That’s what it’s for.

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20 thoughts on “Winter lights

  1. iainjh November 6, 2013 / 7:49 pm

    I agree, if you are too bright a car might think you’re a motorbike instead of a vulnerable cyclist.

    • traumfahrrad November 6, 2013 / 8:14 pm

      Or just not see you because they’ve been blinded by the angle, height and brightness.

  2. iainjh November 6, 2013 / 10:08 pm

    Yep. And while I’m on here chapeau for your ride in the national HC, very few travel that far for the big events. Great to see a local rider give it a good go.

    • traumfahrrad November 13, 2013 / 9:57 pm

      cheers ian. i gave it a good go, was bloody hard.

  3. Chris. November 7, 2013 / 8:56 am

    You are spot on PJ, I have had motorist say to me how glaring some cyclists lights are. I have one normal on the front and two on the back, ordinary one and a super bright one, but the super one only comes on during a ride if, on my way out or back, a sea mist has rolled in. Down the far end of Cornwall they can be very dense.

    • traumfahrrad November 13, 2013 / 9:56 pm

      there’s a time and a place for a bright light. no-one likes it if a car comes through the centre of town with lights on full beam: that’s the effect.

  4. erwin wieringa November 7, 2013 / 10:04 am

    Being from the Netherlands but living here, this seemed to me an authentic English tradition. Opposed to the tradition in the United States where the houses are decorated at Christmas I figured here it was some cyclists. In the Netherlands we reserve these ornaments mostly for the tree..
    I do however think this might keep cyclist safer? When I used to cycle to school in my teens (through the polder) we’d have no lights on whatsoever which was very dangerous.

    • traumfahrrad November 13, 2013 / 9:55 pm

      the good old days of no lights, or maybe a fork mounted weird lamp thing. good times.

  5. Human Cyclist November 7, 2013 / 10:21 pm

    Not just front lights either. Flashing reds pointing up are killing me. I always wondered what those orange lenses were for with my glasses. Time to find out!

  6. bikevcar November 8, 2013 / 5:58 am

    I was recently given a ‘knog boomer’ front light. Not only is it so wildly bright that it blinded me, but the battery only lasted an hour & a half. Too powerful for its own good and not something I intend to use again

  7. Chris Brown November 8, 2013 / 11:16 am

    It’s not the brightness that’s the problem, it’s the lenses. Most bright cycle lights have conical reflectors and flat transparent lenses which throw their light as much to the sky as to the ground. If they were designed with decent reflectors and lenses which directed the light onto the road and forward but not up, just like car headlights, there would not be a problem.

    • traumfahrrad November 13, 2013 / 9:55 pm

      i read somewhere that in some european countries (probably germanland) it’s illegal to have the kind of eye-destroying chumplights people are toting round town.

  8. ian manners November 10, 2013 / 11:30 am

    +1 for the hope. I bought a leyzne a couple of months ago on a deal which seemed a bit too good. It was, it didn’t work. Sent it back and went for a hope vision 1. Around town it’s lowest setting is ample, and the one time I’ve ridden in the last month in true darkness it did the job spot on.

  9. Adam Ef November 11, 2013 / 10:08 am

    Spend half my evening journey back down the Railway Path totally blinded by commuters coming out of town with 1,000 lumens of flashing lights. The pulsing makes them doubly blinding. The flashing settings were originally designed for high powered security and police torches to disarm intruders, ie. shine the torch in their face on flashing mode and they become totally disorientated and can’t escape. Not ideal for pointing in someone’s face who is cycling towards you. One of my bug bears too. Still intending to fit a big mirror to my handle bars sometime to bounce their stun-rays back at them.

    • traumfahrrad November 13, 2013 / 9:54 pm

      today i got pulsed by a guy behind. it was really disconcerting. i told him so and he didn’t like it; saying ‘cars can see me’. it’s such a bogus argument. disconcert and endanger other cyclists in the belief that a quadrillion lumens makes you safer.

  10. levrier November 14, 2013 / 11:49 am

    There is nothing wrong with bright lights per se. It’s all about what you do with them – ie how (ie constant rather than flashing), where and how you point them and to a certain extent beam shape. Even the brightest lights out there don’t put out as many lumens as a standard car main(dipped) beam – and considerably less than modern Xenon HID’s

    • traumfahrrad November 14, 2013 / 8:32 pm

      true – and im sure some places, like germanland, have rules about where you point your thing.

      • levrier November 15, 2013 / 10:31 am

        It’s the car headlamps that are white rather than yellow – typically fitted on newer BMW / Audi etc. HID is High Intensity Discharge (ooerrr….)

      • traumfahrrad November 15, 2013 / 7:32 pm

        i don’t like them. they are too bright.

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