Choosing LED Lights for Bicycles

Bicycle LightAs people are increasingly choosing to rely on bicycles as their primary mode of transportation, more and more cyclists are now sharing the road with cars. Because bicyclists are more vulnerable to injury than motorists, it’s important to practice proper bicycle safety in order to remain safe and avoid life-threatening accidents.

One of the key components of safe cycling is making yourself as visible as possible to motorists. Many drivers aren’t used to keeping an eye out for cyclists, and bicycles are much more difficult to spot at night than cars. You can increase your visibility – and safety – by outfitting your bicycle with the proper LED lights.

According to a recent survey by the Bicycle Transportation Alliance in Portland, Ore., where bicycle commuting is a major part of the city’s culture, only 80 percent of cyclists had sufficient front lights, and only 75 percent had proper rear lighting. Oregon law defines adequate front lighting as a white light visible from at least 500 feet away, while rear lighting should be visible from up to 600 feet away.

Following are some tips for outfitting your bike with LED lights for safety.

Why Choose LED Lights?

There are many options available for front and rear bicycle beams, from halogen to LED lights. As LED light technology has continued to advance, this type of bulb has become increasingly popular among cyclists. Here’s why:

  • Power. Today’s LED lights can put out hundreds of lumens in one powerful beam. The more powerful the light, the farther away you can be seen, which means motorists will have a better chance of spotting you. Some LED lights can be seen from miles away.
  • Efficiency. An LED headlamp has a much longer battery life than many other types of lighting, so you don’t have to change the batteries as often or worry about your light dying while you’re in the middle of a trip.
  • Durability. With no filaments or glass bulbs to break, LED lights are better able to withstand a bumpy ride than many other forms of lighting.
  • Compact design. LED headlamps and lights are typically smaller and lighter than their incandescent brethren, which makes them convenient for attaching to handlebars.

Tips for Using LED Lights on a Bicycle

There are many different options available for mounting LED lights on your bicycle. At minimum, your bike should have a front LED headlamp as well as a rear light or reflector so you can be spotted for both directions. While commercial lighting kits are available, these can be expensive, leading some bicyclists to rig up their own do-it-yourself lights. There are even gadgets available that allow you to mount a regular flashlight on your handlebars.

Choose high-quality lights. Not all LED lights are created are made for quality. Some cheaper LED lights are less durable or too weak to meet the legal standards for bicycle lighting. Look for high-quality lights with powerful, focused beams and durable casings.

Look for dimming and strobe options. When cycling, you may find yourself in a situation where only minimal lighting is needed. You may also want to use a strobe to get attention. LED lights that offer different brightness and strobe settings provide maximum versatility, so you can tailor the lighting to your current situation.

Carry a spare LED headlamp. It’s always a good idea when cycling at night to carry extra lighting with you. An LED headlamp that can be worn over your helmet can provide valuable backup lighting without taking up a lot of precious space. If you end up having to repair a flat, or if one of the lights affixed to your bike burns out, a spare LED headlamp can be invaluable.

Make sure it’s legal. Sometimes the law can take a while to catch up to technology. LED lights may not be considered legal for bicycles in your jurisdiction, so check before you buy.

Sharing the road with motorists can be dangerous. With the right lighting, you can exponentially increase your safety when bicycling at night.

[Photo by: shig2006]

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