A serious question here- Why do you have a headlight? What is the reason, and how well do you think it does that? I am not asking for light reccomendations, but trying to understand peoples reasons and philosophy on headlights.
(As a correlary, tail lights I assume are only to allow you to be seen better.)
I use a headlight during the day on flashing mode to be seen. My commute to work has a stretch down Penn avenue where I maintain 30 mph and it is imperative that cars turning out into the road can see me from a distance.
I use a headlight at night on steady mode to be seen and to see the road ahead of me. If I’m coming home late from work, there are some especially dark stretches through the strip with potholes that will eat a bike wheel.
Pretty much the same here. Visibility in traffic 80% & avoidance of nighttime hazards such as branches & holes 20%.
Pretty much the same here. Visibility in traffic 70% & avoidance of nighttime hazards such as branches & holes 30%.
Ditto. 80% to be seen (flashing) 20% to be able to see (steady) When I am operating a steady light, I often supplement it with a small knog-ish flashing light.
Pretty much the same here. Visibility in traffic 60% & avoidance of nighttime hazards such as branches & holes 40%
When I ride at night a headlight is really essential. Without it it is like riding in space, very disorienting and somewhat dangerous.
For me, drivers seeing my headlight is a secondary issue. I guess it matters most at stoplights when drivers turning left from the opposite direction would run into me. But on my commute, those intersections are mostly well-lit, and I don’t depend on drivers seeing me anyway — I look at what they’re doing and estimate how much time it would take them to run me down from where they are. I unfortunately have to depend on drivers seeing my tail-light much more.
Same response, for the most part, as the preceding posts. I often ride home from work in the dark. I found that it’s critical for cars pulling out of side streets to know that a vehicle is coming. When I ride at night without one (battery dies, forget the light), someone nearly always fails to see me and pulls out in front of me. It was a pattern I recognized pretty quickly.
Mostly for visibility, some for cutting through the park on trails. Occasionally as a flashlight. Once at singer-songwriters show when he said “This song is from the 80’s. If anyone has a strobe-light they should flash it now.”
Firstly to see (I ride at night a good bit outside of urban environments, as well as in city parks and trails), secondly to be seen.
I usually go with a steady light on the bike, and a flashing light on my helmet that can be set to steady to serve as a “see” light in a pinch.
I’ve had enough close calls with motorists turning in front of me that I’d consider them pretty necessary for urban survival (even in daylight).
I use two headlights, one is for me to see ahead, the other is a blinky that makes me more visible (daytimes I just run the blinky).
In the back I use two tail-lights, both on blink during the day, one steady and one blinky at night.
The intent of the first taillight is to not get killed, the intent of the second taillight is to induce great guilt in the person who kills me. Seriously. (and, to a lesser extent, to have a robust capability in the event of a loss of the first light)
I use two lights, a PB super flash and a Lupine Piko 3. One is to be seen (flash) and the other is to see. If it is daylight I use both in flash mode. 750 lumens from the helmet is a mighty flash, the PB is pretty weak for the price but it has a stellar flash mode that makes up for its weak output.
To be seen. Lights catch attention at a subconscious level, esp flashing lights. I get more respect during the day using a front light.
At night it serves the above purpose and allows me to signal to drivers on side streets (or making left turns in front of me) that I am there by pointing the light at them.
If you’re not a small child most fatalities on a bike occur at night and/or drivers making a left in front of you. Lights help with both those things.
I have an older niterider system.
you really do not need a light for riding in the city and on moonlit nights you can even ride frick or schenley trails w/o a light. so, when I commute on city streets the light is mainly for visibility for motorists crossing from perpendicular angles.
however, when I rode the crush the commonwealth and other rogue night rides out in the hinterland- you absolutely need a light, especially if you are traveling at “road bike” speeds of 15-20mph+ just my 2c
Anonymous 02/29/2012 at 10:34pm #
Winter: 80% to see, 20% to be seen
Spring/Summer/Fall: 90% to be seen, 10% to see
I just upgraded my 10+ year old light with a new fancy bright thing. I was comfortable with my old light providing the “be seen” light, but was useless when commuting through the Panther Hollow trail this winter. There were some seriously dark nights & I couldn’t see the bright orange cone in the middle of the path until it was nearly too late.
There is also the little tidbit that they’re required by law at night.
2% because required
5% because I’ll buy almost any bike related gadget
3% to see
85% to be seen
5% to look out for raccoons when I’m taking out the garbage
not like I do it all the time, but the handful of times I have been on trails at night, I usually end up turning off the light so I can see, it wrecks my night vision. I don’t like having that cone of non-existence just a few feet away from me.
I bought it because I thought I’d need it to see at night, and to be legal. I still use it to be seen, and it helps with dealing with cargo/bike/self at night in the dark for whatever stupid reason (unbalanced pack, puncture, too cold/hot/tired/thirsty/whatever). But street lights work just about everywhere I need to see when it’s dark, and if there are no street lights, my night vision is often pretty good. But I move really slow.
Also helps me avoid the dog poo when taking out the compost at night, when I remember it.
So I don’t die.
Ejwme, I used my headlight last night also so I didn’t get shitshoe while taking out the garbage.
Section 3507. Lamps or other equipment on pedalcycles.
(a) Lamps and reflectors. — Every pedalcycle when in use between sunset and sunrise shall be equipped on the front with a lamp which emits a beam of white light intended to illuminate the pedalcycle operator’s path and visible from a distance of at least 500 feet to the front, a red reflector facing to the rear which shall be visible at least 500 feet to the rear, and an amber reflector on each side. Operators of pedalcycles may supplement the required front lamp with a white flashing lamp, light-emitting diode or similar device to enhance their visibility to other traffic and with a lamp emitting a red flashing lamp, light emitting diode or similar device visible from a distance of 500 feet to the rear. A lamp or lamps worn by the operator of a pedalcycle shall comply with the requirements of this subsection if the lamp or lamps can be seen at the distances specified.
Comment: Many car-bike crashes occur at night and involve a poorly illuminated bicyclist. Bicyclists should understand that headlamps serve two purposes: a) primarily, they advise other road users of their presence (vitally important to prevent unsuspecting motorists from cutting across the paths of cyclists they cannot even detect), b) secondarily, illuminate the bicyclist’s path.
edmonds59 said it all. And while it might not be raccoons, my 5% is to find the lost item under the couch since none of the flashlights in the house work when you need them, so grab the light off the bike. And remember to put it back when you’re done with it!
I use it to be seen for sure, to stay in compliance with the law, and occasionally to see. Most of where I ride around town is illuminated with street lights but enough of it is not that I value having the light. Also, even if I could see enough by natural or street light, I would be restricted in speed, and I feel much more comfortable going faster with a light.
Edmonds, you take the garbage out by bike? That’s one hell of a driveway!
I have several small quick release Planet Bike type lights. I often use them as “loaner flashlights” when I lead night hikes in the woods. The clip on ring makes them easy to carry/hard to lose, and they throw a decent amount of light. Sometimes even the very tiny lights are all my participants need to feel safe in the woods at night.
My headlight helps me when I’m at my cruise speed at maybe 8 – 10 mph. Going downhill or racing through some sketchy stretch before the cars get there, if the natural light doesn’t cut it, I have to slow to leisure-speed.
With fog or snow, somethmes I would see better without the light. These are times when it is critical to have the light to be seen, though.
Cars have headlights to see. Running and taillights to be seen. More and more, headlights to see only man-made self-reflective indications of the way.
“More and more, headlights to see only man-made self-reflective indications of the way.”
Not sure what you meant by this comment.
It’s so that buildings can see them coming and get out of the way.
So I agree that cars need headlights to see- and they usually have streetlights to help. And it is a pain in the arse when people leave their brights on blinding you by way of your mirrors is not when they approach from the front.
I have to admit I asked the question because I find myself often approaching another cyclist on the Jail trail or heading into Panther Hollow on the road and I am blinded by their light. I have no idea what they look like or what they ride as I shield my eyes until they pass.
If in fact most of the light is deemed necessry to be seen, does it really need to be angeled straight ahead and not slightly down?
I usually turn of my headlamp when I am on the jail trail until I see someone approaching to save my battery and because I can see just fine through there. I do turn it back on when I get on the street.
@helen s: That is the exact reason I prefer headlights that conform to the German StVZO standard, which mandates a sharp cutoff at the top of the beam. The standard is designed, in part, to avoid blinding oncoming traffic.
Symmetrical optics are great if you’re riding in the woods and want to watch for branches and vampire bats and whatnot…the asymmetrical beams just seem so much nicer for the sake of other travelers.
@helen S – of freeway and such at night, I’ve found that if they do not have good relexive sptrips or reflectors next tot he road, then a cars headlights are not enough. The road, objects and animals on the road, and anything next to the road is largely invisible.
Then road looks well-lit, but almost everything you see is designed to reflect.
I agree about lights glaring. I’m particularly peeved at blinking lights pointed at my eyes. Why would someone even have a blinking headlight off-road?
I suspect that people conflate “being visible and easy to track” with being obnoxious. Similar to people who drive with the hi-beams on all the time.
Once from Point Park, I saw a bike on the north shore trail with blinking lights so st00pid bright they were irritating even accross the wide Allegheny.
@helen and reddan: whilst on the road during the day I make it a point to aim my flashing lights at driver’s eye level.
@dmtroyer Daytime is different.
Unless, of course, you are like the adams apple I ran into weaving through a crowd on the sidewalk with some bazillion lumen light flashing in people’s eyes. Left orange spots on my eyes even in the sunshine.
Manfred Mann knew. That’s where the fun is. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lcWVL4B-4pI
There are some dynohub lights coming out that don’t make you choose between daytime conspicuity and glare free StVZO optics at night. I have one of these on order….
Quoting Peter White’s site:
“New for 2011, Busch & Müller introduces “Licht 24”; useful light, 24 hours a day. This new feature addresses the issue of daytime visibility for cyclists. The best cycling headlights focus the light onto the road surface. So if you want to use your headlight for increased visibility by approaching drivers during the daytime, you need to adjust the beam upwards. These new Busch & Müller headlights have additional LEDs for daytime riding. They look the same as the other CYO headlights, but with the addition of a row of four LEDs just below the lens. In daytime mode, the “T” setting on the switch, the daytime LEDs are switched on at full intensity to make the cyclist more visible to others. At the same time, the main LED or “driving light” as B&M calls it, is set to a reduced intensity. Senso mode “S” on the switch has the daytime LEDs at full intensity during daytime, and when the sensor determines the ambient light level is low, switches to nighttime mode. The daytime LEDs are dimmed somewhat, and the driving LED is at full intensity. The “driving LED” is the same as in the regular CYO headlights.”
Holy cow that Peter White site has too many lighting options, my brain froze.
That site is just plain dangerous – I know it is quality stuff but $$$. That’s also where I found my dream $5k commuter bike.
I find new gems buried in the peter white site all the time.
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