Lighting Up the Bikes for the Darker Half of the Year

You may have noticed that September 21st just passed. The Fall Equinox snuck up on me recently and Mrs. Money Mustache and I suddenly found ourselves riding our bikes home from various events in the dark. Since there’s no such thing as a “biking season” and a “non-biking season”, that means we had to adapt ourselves to the changing conditions. This reminded me that the same thing might be happening to You, too.

For the past few years, we had been making do with old LED camping headlights as our source of night-time bicycle illumination. They did the job, but this year with all three of the family members on bikes, I decided it was time for a safer and more visible arrangement. It took a bit of research, but I found some bike lights that seem to be a good mix of performance, convenience and price. Instead of hoarding the findings for myself, I figured I might as well share them here in case you are in the same boat.

It can actually be a bit tricky to choose the right light system, because these days you can set yourself back anywhere from $1.99 to $600 in the process.  The two dollar light might help you be seen as you weave your way home from the pub, but it won’t light up much of the road in front of you, and it will probably use only a disposable watch battery as its power source. The $600 light will blaze up the entire mountainside (as well as the next few closest mountains in the range) as you plummet through the 2000 foot descents in those all-night mountain bike races. But it will require fussy mounting, weigh in at almost two pounds, and the battery depreciation alone will raise your cost per mile of cycling to almost Lexus levels.

In the middle of this range are some happy lights, but mounting and charging options are inconsistent, and meaningful measurements of light output are sometimes non-existent. So I did my best, bought three systems for the family bikes, and I got lucky because the results have been great.

I selected one fancier high-intensity light for Adult rides, like my own night-time grocery runs or times when I find myself needing to ride home from Boulder at 2AM on a January night. Then I got two other lights for use around town. As a family, we generally don’t need to go further than about two miles after dark. Visiting friends, the library, a night event at school or a play downtown. So it would have been overkill to buy three of the bigger lights.

To keep it short, here’s what I ended up with:

The bright one: Niterider Minewt 150/Cherry Bomb Combo*. It’s a front and back light combo set for $70.
This is a handlebar-mounted light with an internal Lithium battery that you can charge with any USB cable (and it comes with a power adapter and cable too). Runs for 3 hours on maximum brightness, 4 on medium, 6 hours on minimum. Subjective evaluation after using for a couple of weeks: Pretty Effing Bright, and I wish these were invented back in my work commuting days! It also came with a similarly kickass rear flasher that makes your bike look like a police car.

The normal ones: Niterider Mako 3.0/Taillight 5.0 Combo (front and back set for $20).
The format is the same, but the lights are just not as bright. The “Mako” front light has exactly the same handlebar mount as the Minewt above. But it takes 2 AA batteries (just use your own high-power rechargeables in it once the provided alkalines expire).

Claimed run-time is 50 hours on solid mode, 100 on flash, but I bet this is bad documentation on their part – those sound about right for the rear flasher portion of this set. Since the headlight brightness is almost the same as the MiNewt on low, I’m going to guess about 6 hours of run-time between chargings (to be updated after further riding!).

I find it is still bright enough for 20MPH riding on roads and bike paths, it just doesn’t shine hundreds of feet ahead like the bigger light. Similarly, the rear flasher is just the standard brightness that most cyclists have, as opposed to the “Holy Shit! What is THAT!?” effect of the Cherry bomb in the pricier set. Significant Bonus: the Mako light has a flashing mode that the Minewt lacks, allowing a highly noticeable “police car” effect from the front as well, if you are riding somewhere with enough ambient light and you want yourself to be more visible. It even works during daylight hours.

To top off this review and make it more quantitative, I took the lights down to the Money Mustache Lighting Laboratory to measure the light output and take a few photos of light output for comparison. Here’s what I came up with:

Light NameBrightness
@Beam Center
(Lux reflected
from white wall
@12 feet)
What it Looks Like
Typical LED camping headlamp3
Mako 3.0 Bike Light29
Minewt on Low Mode35
Minewt: Medium Mode68
Minewt: High Mode136

Pictures were taken with an SLR camera with fixed aperature/shutter settings, so the camera would not automatically adjust to the different light levels to make them all look the same.

Overall, we are all pleased with our new lights and they are already in heavy use. The handy thing about these lights is that they all use the same handlebar mounting bracket. So the super-bright light can be fitted to any of our three bikes as night-time errands require. And when all lights are not all needed, Junior ‘stash has taken to attaching BOTH of the Mako3.0 lights to his own handlebars and setting them to flash mode, for maxiumum Police Car mode. That’s fine with me, since a visible kid is a safer kid.

Advanced Option: After publishing this, many readers piped up and taught me that even my 150-lumen light isn’t all that bright. A car headlamp, for example, is about 3000 lumens, although your pupils automatically dilate to compress changing light levels it doesn’t actually appear 20 times brighter. You can get a set of three 200-lumen LED flashlights with batteries for about $20 at Costco, and you can get 700+ lumen lights at dealextreme.com: http://dx.com/s/magicshine

Just note that while you will get more brightness for your dollar, the mounting system may be a bit more fussy, so this option is better for people who enjoy light mechanical tinkering.

Also on this topic (from last November): How to Ride your Bike All Winter – And Love it

 

*As usual, I’ve used commission-paying links that Nashbar provided to me for these lights, since it does not affect the price to readers.

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114 Responses to “Lighting Up the Bikes for the Darker Half of the Year”

  1. Nathan September 26, 2012 at 9:40 am #

    Yep, I’m realizing the need to light up already this year as well. One thing I do that I found helpful with a little bit weaker front bike light is I just wear my headlamp (have one for backpacking anyway). That way I get some light from the bike and a bit more in the direction I’m looking.

  2. Mama Minou September 26, 2012 at 9:45 am #

    So timely! Thank,s Mr. MM. I was also just realizing that I need to update my system, and my husband and younger son have been riding the tandem all over the place–they will need some illumination too. Nice to have some of that research done for me with price quotes.

    • April September 26, 2012 at 6:47 pm #

      Did you test the lights on any un-lit streets? I’ve tried a few and while they work well on streets with street lamps, they leave a lot to be desired on trails that are otherwise pitch black.

    • Nurse Frugal September 29, 2012 at 8:41 am #

      I agree, perfect timing as it is now getting darker much faster over here in So Cal. When I ride my bike, I don’t like to take any chances, so I think I’d go for the Nightrider Minewt/Cherry Bomb Combo! I’m going for the “newbie biker over here….get the heck out of the way” effect. ;)

  3. Peter Lyons September 26, 2012 at 9:45 am #

    Just researched these a bit myself. Best site seemed to be http://bikelightsreview.com/. I put a Lezyne Power Drive XL on my birthday wish list. Also, I currently just mount a cheapo LED light to my helmet with electrical tape. That way I never forget it and helmet mount works much better than handlebar mount in my experience.

    • Mr. Money Mustache September 26, 2012 at 9:59 am #

      That Power Drive XL looks pretty damned bright – 400 lumens vs. the 150 lumens of the brightest light in this review… which I already find to be amazingly bright. Could be worth the extra cost for serious commuters.

      I find that the “serious” bike community tends to get a bit overboard when it comes to lights, just like every other cycle accessory. They operate under the guise of safety and practicality, but every purchase ends up being taken to the extreme with this justification, so that people end up with $10,000 of bike gear that they are still constantly upgrading.

      So I like to play the middle ground, going for practical performance at reasonable cost. Heck, even the cheaper lights in this review are almost as bright as my Ultra-Amazing-At-The-Time two light halogen system I used for a daily long winter commute in the early 2000s. That thing had a frame-mounted battery as big as a beer can and various wires strapped around the bike. Bike riders today have it easy!

      • Peter Lyons September 26, 2012 at 10:14 am #

        Yup, I’ve been using a super cheapo Wal-Mart 2-pack of Bell Lumina headlight and tail light that I probably paid $25 for, and they are definitely adequate. Did the Boulder/Louisville ride many times in the last year (sometimes 3 or 4 times a week, almost always returning after dark). You definitely don’t need to spend big (or even medium) bucks, but someone asked me for a gift idea and this was the most useful splurgy thing I could find that I would get great utility out of, but would otherwise probably not buy for myself. Note the Power Drive XL has several modes so you can choose the balance of brightness vs battery life that suites the night. I definitely have to ride slower on the way home due to the visibility of my current light, so I’m looking forward to whizzing along with no fear of accidentally riding into Boulder Creek.

      • kevin September 26, 2012 at 10:32 am #

        Using LED flashlights with lithium-ion batteries is a much more cost effective solution. I have been using 1000lumen lights that i purchased for about $15.00 a piece. Bike lights of the same intensity cost around $500.00. I’ve included links to a 500lumen light and mount.

        http://www.dealextreme.com/p/ultrafire-wf-501b-xm-lt6-5-mode-510-lumen-memory-white-led-flashlight-with-strap-1-18650-55241

        http://www.dealextreme.com/p/cycling-bicycle-flashlight-torch-mount-holder-105213?item=42

        • Mr. Money Mustache September 26, 2012 at 10:42 am #

          Nice strategy, Kevin!

          I’d have to really see a side-by-side comparison to know if the 500 lumens is accurate. From my research on LED bulbs a while back, I find that the cheaper the lights, the more they exaggerate the light output. But at the price you have found, it would be hard to go wrong as long as the mounts are reliable and the system is trouble-free.

          • kevin September 26, 2012 at 10:46 am #

            I’ve been using these exact mounts for over a year, and I’m completely car-free, so I use them a lot. They barely even vibrate while mountainbiking. The 1000 lumen lights I have draw about 2.5A at 100% power and only actually produce about 800 lumens.

            • Heath September 26, 2012 at 11:34 am #

              Very cool idea! Used in conjunction with the Cherry Bomb, I’m sure your car visibility would be exceptional. The only thing is that I’d much prefer a AA battery system so I could use regular rechargables. But all of the AA torches seem to be much less bright (probably due to the much lower power output).

              • kevin September 26, 2012 at 11:42 am #

                AA batteries can’t produce high enough current to get the power output. (these flashlights can draw as much as 3A). Although these lithium ion batteries are rechargeable and can be found for relatively cheep.. My two lights at 800 lumens each are WAY too bright for the bike path. I usually only run one at 50% power, and even then almost everyone I pass says “Holy Shit Those Are Bright!” :-)

            • Clint September 26, 2012 at 2:45 pm #

              Do you think the 500 lumens you linked to would do me through a very dark, wooded and hilly greenway?

              • kevin September 26, 2012 at 3:18 pm #

                When you say “greenway”, I’m assuming you mean a greenbelt or bike path.. when I use my 1000lumen light at 50% on the greenbelt(the same as 500lumens at 100%) it is more than overkill. When I use my lights at 100% driving at dusk down heavy traffic streets, I’ve had drivers roll down their windows to yell ” wow, those are the brightest bike lights i’ve seen”. Which in my opinion is better than ” Sorry, I didn’t see you!!” But personally, I’d rather turn down my lights than wish I had a little bit more. I just linked to the first decent light I saw, but I’m sure you could find on that same website double the lumens for a dollar or two more.

            • Clint November 9, 2012 at 12:17 pm #

              Update. I ended up going this route and so far so good. I’ll add links to the light and mount I ended up buying With two batteries and a charger, it all came to under $35.

              I highly recommend this mount because it clicks/rotates into various positions.
              http://dx.com/p/360-degree-rotation-cycling-bicycle-mount-holder-clamp-for-flashlight-torch-black-147289

              And I like this light because you can adjust the beam wide to narrow. I have no idea if the 900 lumens is anywhere near accurate. I’m guessing not, but so far, just one flashlight is throwing plenty of light for me. I haven’t ridden home through a pitch black woods yet so this update maybe premature, but it’s definitely more powerful than my old, cheap bike headlight.

              http://dx.com/p/adjustable-focus-zoom-xm-l-t6-5-mode-900lm-white-1-led-waterproof-flashlight-black-1×18650-3xaaa-123421

              • Clint January 13, 2013 at 7:53 pm #

                Got to amend this one more time, in case anyone is reading: Don’t get this particular flashlight. It was a bummer (coil stuck to the battery terminal) and it is an extreme hassle trying to get a refund from deal extreme. I ended up getting a much better quality light from an Amazon seller as Douglas notes below, and it has been working very well, better quality. I do love this set-up though and one flashlight is plenty.

          • Douglas September 26, 2012 at 10:54 am #

            I concur on the deal extreme flashlights. You can also get the same flashlights from amazon for just a little more (and a shorter shipping time).

            I run a “claimed” 3000 lumen flashlight as my primary light.
            http://www.dealextreme.com/p/fandyfire-stl-v2-3-x-cree-xm-l-t6-3000lm-5-mode-memory-white-led-flashlight-2-x-18650-110758?item=18
            It simply allows me to roll faster in the dark sections. It also make the entire trail look like daylight. It was about $50 + $20 for the batteries and charger.

            I also have run various tail lights including a 5 watt luxeon bare LED on a home made wood mount. A planet bike knockoff from deal extreme and most recently a cygolite.

            All have the advantage of being seen in daylight while riding on the road. Not as important if you are on the sidewalk/path and assuming you will always yield to cars, but good if you are moving fast and have right of way, you want cars to see you and give you that right of way.

            -D

        • Tanner September 26, 2012 at 11:40 am #

          I like this solution. It doesn’t appear that it would work on oversized bars (31.8 clamp) though. You have any pictures of the setup on your bike? Also does it produce a good spray for peripheral vision or more of a direct beam?

          • kevin September 26, 2012 at 12:07 pm #

            deal extreme(the website I linked to) has at least 30 different mounts, so i’m sure you could find one more suited to your handle bars. I just linked the one that I’m using myself. As for the beam shape, mine produce a strong center beam that I aim about 6ft in front of the bike but also have a good spray that illuminates overhead branches and stop signs at 100ft away. the beam pattern is determined by the reflector on the flashlight. so, you just need to pick one with an appropriate reflector, or you can easily change reflectors.(have found replacements for a couple of bucks). I could take a couple of pictures of the setup, but, i’m not sure how to attach them in this feed. :-[

        • Huck September 26, 2012 at 10:29 pm #

          I too use these dealextreme lights. I mount one on my handlebars using two conduit mounts from your local hardware store (admittedly I could hurt myself pretty bad on these if I ever crashed and landed on my handlebars somehow). I usually strap another to my helmet so I can put light where I look instead of just where I steer. I swear by Eneloop batteries and a good MaHa charger that independently charges each battery. I run two PlanetBike SuperFlashes for tail lights….these suckers are bright and the batteries last a long time.

          • kevin September 28, 2012 at 5:35 pm #

            A charger that independently charges the batteries is a great idea. Most of the cheap chargers, charge the batteries in series, which is actually very dangerous if you try to charge two batteries that have been discharged to different levels. I have a cheap two battery charger that charges in series, so, I have to charge one battery at a time.

        • Hoppy September 28, 2012 at 12:05 pm #

          Kevin, thanks for the tips on the lights at extreme deal. I ordered them (as well as some rear lights for $3!) and hope they work out well.

      • Posted On September 27, 2012 at 8:40 pm #

        I’d have to agree that 400 lumens has got to be super bright!! I personally like to use the Dewalt flashlight that came as part of a kit (along with a 12V cordless driver). I strap it to my bike when needed, and use it for a regular flashlight at other times. The battery exchanges with the 12V driver, making it conveniently useful more often than a regular biker light.

        Here is the light, but I didn’t buy it this way, I got it as part of a kit/sale/combo at my FLHWS.

        http://www.amazon.com/DEWALT-DCL510-12-Volt-Max-Worklight/dp/B0043XX8AO

      • JZ September 28, 2012 at 11:39 am #

        I agree, I find particularly faceslapping the comments about how “This light is too bright to shine in peoples faces, so just aim it at the ground..” The whole purpose of a light is to put light in peoples eyes! If the light is too intense for the audience, I want the increase in intensity to stop there and any extra power to be put to use increasing my visibility in other ways, maybe by adding more lighting that shines in different directions or some such thing. I fail to understand what merit I get from having so much lighting power that I have to aim it into the ground; that’s a bit like buying a set of headphones that I have to wear earplugs underneath.

        • Martin September 29, 2012 at 2:36 am #

          Well the purpose of *headlights* really is to put light in specifically your own eyes – *after* it has bounced off the ground – thereby allowing you to see where you are going! Tail lights are for shining in other people eyes.

          • JZ September 30, 2012 at 5:00 pm #

            Not so much for bicycles where your main danger is other vehicles. And in any case, taillights are the accessory I was referring to being associated with the advice to ‘point it at the ground’.

  4. Use it up, wear it out... September 26, 2012 at 9:47 am #

    My regular commuting bike is fixed up with a (pre-mustachian) hub generator. I thought it would be more ecologically friendly than batteries (and it may be) but generally the wires are a pain. I still can’t believe how often I have to fiddle with them.

  5. Jimbo September 26, 2012 at 10:06 am #

    How visible do these things make you to cars? Very much visible? Just barely visible? Or ‘I better pull over there seems to be a UFO landing on the road’ Visible?

    • Mr. Money Mustache September 26, 2012 at 10:18 am #

      Visibility to cars at this level is great – even the cheapest lights accomplish that (although the Cherry Bomb rear flasher definitely takes it up a few notches). Above the $20 lights, it’s a competition for how much of the road/forest you can light up for yourself.

      • Rob September 27, 2012 at 3:50 am #

        Don’t forget a safety vest, looks silly but at dusk you really stand out. I wish motorcyclist would wear them over here (Spain) , all the weaving in and out of traffic is dangerous at dusk.

        In Munich (bike lovers heaven) all roads have dedicated bike paths and most people use Generator bike lights.

        Once in Sweden I got passed by a business lady in a suit going up hill, I got off to walk and she causally strolled by me, hang the ego up time.

        PS love the spell checker

  6. Freeyourchains September 26, 2012 at 10:12 am #

    Hav you tried generating some DC current from your those flowing spokes on your bike wheels? It should be enough current for low level, “I am here” lights.

  7. Clint September 26, 2012 at 10:12 am #

    I was just looking into this todday. I’ll be riding through a very dark greenway for the most part, lots of hills and curves and lined with trees. I was looking at this on Amazon. Any thoughts in comparison?

    http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B006QQX3C4/ref=ox_sc_act_title_1?ie=UTF8&smid=A2CKVH1A24MN29

    • Mr. Money Mustache September 26, 2012 at 10:17 am #

      Holy Moly! That weird no-name-brand light could be worth a try, although I wouldn’t be surprised to have parts that break or a battery that dies in a week (a 4.4 amp-hour battery alone normally costs that much, assuming at least 3 volts). 1200 lumens is a pretty outrageous claim, but even if it does 200 in real life, it would be a great value. If you get it, let us know how it goes!

      • Clint September 26, 2012 at 10:56 am #

        A few people in the comments complained about the lights failing to charge after a few weeks, so I think I’m back to the drawing board. Do you think any of your suggestions would work on a greenway? With enough light spilling to the sides and shooting far enough to keep up with downhill speeds?

      • Glen September 26, 2012 at 11:19 am #

        I’ve been using a variety of this light (there are a few slightly different versions around) that I got from Amazon about a month ago. It’s completely changed how I view night riding because for the first time I can see the road in front of me instead of just being seen.

        I can’t attest to the long-term durability, but most of the reviews are pretty positive. It’s also quite easy to mount, unmount, and recharge, and is quite stable on the handlebars. I often turn the light to medium or low when approaching pedestrians to avoid blinding them.

        You’ve got to be careful with the flashing mode though: I turned it on once after a car passed me and they pulled over thinking that I was the po-po. Seriously! :)

        The Radbot is a good option for a tail light, but there are a few blindingly good ones out there. Anything that causes cars to veer around me because they’re afraid they won’t be able to see is sufficiently effective in my view.

      • Brian September 26, 2012 at 11:34 am #

        The key search term here is “MagicShine”. The 900-1200 lumen sets are in the $70-100 range with an option rear blinky for $20 powered from the same battery. I have been using this set for 2 years of winter commuting and night MTB racing and it’s great. Just be sure to get the “improved” battery as the previous model had a recall.

        This is the end-all light for budget conscious full time winter riding and the light output is fantastic. Virtually all light sets on the market are made in China, and aside from Amazon, have had good luck ordering flashlights, taillights and headlights direct and low cost from Hong Kong at dealextreme.com, eBay, or dealers listed by Google Shopping.

        Another winter tip is a short roll of SOLAS reflective tape to place strategically on your frame and fork. You can get plenty on eBay for $15 and it’s another great way to not end up dead under a car. See a description here: http://www.colebrothers.com/biketape/

        • Connor September 26, 2012 at 5:33 pm #

          “Brian September 26, 2012 at 11:34 am #
          The key search term here is “MagicShine”. The 900-1200 lumen sets are in the $70-100 range with an option rear blinky for $20 powered from the same battery. ”

          There is a MS knockoff that can be had for ~$20 now..

          Helmet mount is the only viable option for really riding at night. Often multiple helmet, with a bar mount as well.

          http://www.ebay.ca/itm/Bicycle-CREE-XM-L-T6-LED-Bike-headLamp-Light-HeadLight-/170692028878?pt=LH_DefaultDomain_0&hash=item27be09a9ce#ht_9839wt_952

          • Brian October 2, 2012 at 7:36 am #

            That doesn’t include a battery

        • Bakari October 10, 2012 at 9:01 am #

          Its not totally clear from your comment, so I just wanted to clarify for other readers: the amazon light in the link IS a Magicshine.

          The mounting system sucks, but the battery and charger are excellent, and the light output is incredible.

      • Sean Stoops October 10, 2012 at 12:11 am #

        I scrolled to the comments section specifically to tell you about the off-brand lights on Amazon. I bought one of the 1000 lumen versions in June and have been nothing but pleased with it! I got on night group rides (living in Vegas, you learn to ride at night in the summers) and have blown everyone away by my light. I counted tonight and I’m up to 10 friends who have now bought the light on my recommendation!

        I read a lengthy review of all the different versions of the light and the guy said he recommends the 1000 lumen one for general riding. He said that as you go up in lumens, the more focused the beam becomes.

        Here is the exact light that I bought: http://www.amazon.com/Masione-Waterproof-1000-Lumen-Headlamp-Battery/dp/B005WPFVPC/ref=sr_1_1?s=sporting-goods&ie=UTF8&qid=1349849270&sr=1-1&keywords=masione

  8. BBaxter September 26, 2012 at 10:21 am #

    For anyone who doesn’t mind the weight of a 5AH Gel Cell battery and wants to build a really great set of lights check this http://nordicgroup.us/s78/headlights.html
    The halogen seal beam units are available at Home Depot in the garden section for about $12 for a set of 2. I have this system on 2 bikes and they really light up the night.

    • El Beardo Numero Uno September 26, 2012 at 10:52 am #

      Whoa, watch out for that NSFW image on that link.

      • Posted On September 29, 2012 at 9:06 am #

        Funny, I thought that too until I saw they blocked out the naughty bits…

  9. Georgia September 26, 2012 at 10:25 am #

    In NYC it’s the law that all bikes have a front light and red rear light (not that everyone follows this law, grrr). I just bought myself some spoke lights to make my bike more visible from the side. These are my front and rear lights, though, which are working fine so far: http://bicyclehabitat.com/product/bontrager-ion-1-headlight-flare-1-taillight-set-76177-1.htm

    • ghyspran September 26, 2012 at 11:57 am #

      I’ve got one of each of these on my wheels: http://www.amazon.com/Nite-Ize-Spokelit-Bicycle-Disc-O/dp/B001TKFZ7S/ref=sr_1_5?ie=UTF8&qid=1348681980&sr=8-5&keywords=nite+ize

      They’re pretty cool. They increase my visibility from the side somewhat, although they aren’t super bright. These guys are my main lights, which are quite visible; I can see my headlight reflecting off street signs at least four blocks away.

    • pippingeek September 30, 2012 at 2:29 pm #

      Actually NYC law only requires use of lights for those who ride in the dark. Still too many people who don’t follow it. Mine aren’t massively bright (I hate riding towards someone on a 2-way bike path whose lights are so bright I can’t see anything because it’s burning out my retinas) but they flash, which is better for car visibility anyway. I use the same Planet Bike ones mentioned below.

  10. RubeRad September 26, 2012 at 10:32 am #

    I have a friend who outfitted his bike with a Hub Dynamo and lights that run off of that power. He says he can barey feel the extra resistance (and only when the lights are on), and the lights are plenty bright. And he will never need to buy batteries or charge his lights.

    It did cost him I think a few benjamins, and a hub-based system means you need to replace a wheel, or at least rebuild/relace, which is not a trivial process.

    But it sure beats the old-fashioned generator riding on the side of your tire, I had one of those when I was a paperboy, and what a DRAG (literally!)

    There are also other bright things that are fun to put especially on kids bikes. See here for pricier things, and these are only a buck!

    • frompa September 27, 2012 at 4:58 am #

      I’ve used a hub dynamo system for the past two years. Mine is a German-make – Busch + Muller – and it replaced the wheel dynamo by the same manufacturer, which I used without a problem for about seven years. To use this system, I had to learn how to build a wheel, a process which was its own barrel of fun, and increased my confidence that I can fix one more thing on my bike. (But you can buy them installed.) The system turns on or off with a single switch on the front light and also powers a plenty bright enough BIG taillight; both front and taillights stay lit for a minute or two after I stop pedaling, so I stay visible at stop lights. I’ve had brighter lights (like my headlamp for mtn biking) but for my mostly city riding, this hub dynamo system is terrific, easy to use, and always there when I need it.

  11. Sparrow September 26, 2012 at 10:41 am #

    Thanks for the review! It is starting to get really dark in the pre-dawn mornings, and this was very helpful!

  12. Jason September 26, 2012 at 11:03 am #

    here’s my 2cents. or should i say 2benjamins: http://revolights.com/

    • Executioner September 26, 2012 at 3:09 pm #

      I’ve been following Revolights for a while now. They are still in their infancy. I think this is an excellent concept, but I’m personally waiting for them to tweak the production models a bit before I take the plunge. Also, they are only available for a very limited set of wheel sizes at the moment, and not rated for winter riding conditions (read: salt) which really doesn’t suit me here in New England.

      Still, I have my fingers crossed that they will work out the kinks and end up with a great all-around product in the near future.

  13. Chris September 26, 2012 at 11:05 am #

    Go to Costco and buy the 3 pack of CREE Techlight flashlights. These powerful, compact flashlights are 200 lumens. They go on sale for $15 often which puts each flashlight at around $5. Mount them on your bike with some worm drive clamps and a piece of rubber around the handle bar. These flashlights have a low, high and strobe setting. I use the strobe during the day for extra safety. At night the 200 lumens is more than plenty to get me home safely. Can’t beat $5 plus some worm drive clamps for cost and value per bike.

    • ultrarunner September 26, 2012 at 12:11 pm #

      I’ve bought 3 sets of these over the years… for a total of 9 lights. I have have zero that still function.

      I run 100 mile trail races, so I figured these would be great “semi-disposable” lights… there are times where I need a light for the first two hours of a race (say, for example, it starts in the dark at 4am). I then drop the light in my drop bag at the first aid station and continue on without it. The problem is, you don’t always get your drop bags back at the finish of the race… so I didn’t want to leave my expensive (Fenix and Gerber) LED lights.

      I’ve had better luck using the el cheapo lights from DealExtreme…but I still get around 25-30% DOA / Dead after a week rates… but at $7 for a 250 lumen light, it’s worth it and they seem to last longer than the Costco ones.

  14. Christine September 26, 2012 at 11:15 am #

    I’ve been looking into retro reflective tape (http://www.instructables.com/id/Bright-Bike/) for more visibility. Do you think it would be better to just add more lights instead? The revolights look cool….but $250?! That’s more than my bike is worth.

    • Jason September 26, 2012 at 1:20 pm #

      Revolights are expensive because they are pretty well engineered, and are from a brand new start up company, which I helped to fund (through Kickstarter)

      My main reason for supporting them is that people can see you from the sides (how I’ve been hit 3 times) regardless of if they have THEIR headlights on or not.

    • Mark September 26, 2012 at 1:33 pm #

      Retroreflectors only send light back to the source. If you look at the guy in the video, as soon as he is slightly off angle from the light and camera, his bike goes dark. That means it’s not as effective for turning vehicles.

      Retroreflective tape is definitely useful though, I have 3m reflective tape lining my seat stays, my fork, and some on my wheels but I also run 2 Superflash rear lights and a crazy bright front light. I’d pick lights over tape if you’re making a choice between the two though.

      The revolights definitely look cool and help a lot with side visibility. From the video though, I think I’d still have to run front and rear lights along with them though. Plus they are way expensive…

  15. Sheryl (Cdn Gwen) September 26, 2012 at 11:23 am #

    When my daughter raced mountain bikes, I bought http://www.ayup-lights.com/ for her. They are more on the high end scale, but anyone concerned about weight (mainly a concern for helmet mounts) as well as brightness and length of time on a recharge, these lights are awesome on every scale (except price, but to me they were worth it).

  16. rjack September 26, 2012 at 11:43 am #

    I have some light from Planet Bike. Planet Bike has a really cool Light Finder which shows how bright a light is in the dark and the illumination distance:

    http://planetbike.com/page/learn/lightfinder/

    I own the Blinky Safety Set:

    http://ecom1.planetbike.com/3035.html

    These lights are not good for illumination of the road (I have other lights for that), but they are great for making you visible to car drivers. I put the Red Blinky Light on the back of my helmet and the White Blinky Light on my handlebars. I set both to rapid flashing.

    The thing I like about Planet Bike is that they donate a portion of the profits back to biking causes.

    I also wear some reflective bands on my arms:

    http://www.amazon.com/Vedante-Super-Reflective-Sustainable-Packaging/dp/B001KUOYS8/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1348681935&sr=8-2&keywords=reflective+bands

    Finally, I wear a reflective vest. People have pulled up next to me in a car and said that I look like a Christmas Tree. I say “Great! People don’t run into Christmas Trees.”

  17. Jamesqf September 26, 2012 at 11:50 am #

    The police car from the front effect might actually be illegal in many places.

    Other than that, I like using a reasonable bike light plus a headband light, which puts light where I look. Plus it’s rare for the batteries of both to be dead at the same time.

    • jwitt September 26, 2012 at 6:11 pm #

      Even a flashing rear light is technically illegal in many places (or sometimes just not sufficient to meet the rear-lighting requirement). But, everywhere I’ve lived, enforcement of bicycle lighting laws is pretty rare; I see people riding with NO lights almost every day.

  18. elai September 26, 2012 at 11:57 am #

    I put my lights on my helmet, so I don’t have to worry about mounting/dismounting lights on various bikes, and don’t have to worry about forgetting them on bikes and having them stolen. It’s also really quick compared to mounting/dismounting lights. For the front I use a princeton tec eos light ($50, 80 lumens, waterproof) and the back I use the Planet Bike Blinky 3H ($20, self leveling so it always is facing straight on).

    • Christina November 3, 2012 at 6:32 pm #

      I might end up doing this. I had a really nice front light at one point that I left on my bike and was stolen. Now I bike home in the dark a lot because I’ve taken off my lights to protect them and ended up forgetting them at home.

  19. Mike Earl September 26, 2012 at 12:06 pm #

    Mr. MM – timely and excellent post, as always. How does the Mako 3.0 compare with the basic Bell Dawn Patrol LED Headlight (found on Amazon here: http://amzn.to/UWaZYO)?

    Thanks for all the incredible work you have done and continue to do! You are impacting so many lives.

    • Mr. Money Mustache September 26, 2012 at 1:06 pm #

      I couldn’t tell you about Mako vs. that Bell light, but in general I try to avoid AAA batteries, because they hold less charge and the rechargeable ones are always dying on me. For some reason, AA is better, and my favorite is built-in lithium rechargeables just for the sheer convenience if you’re doing daily charging.

      Also, I appreciate that grand compliment, but come on… it’s just a post about bike lights. Let’s make things a bit more challenging for Mr. Money Mustache here :-)

      • Grant September 26, 2012 at 8:09 pm #

        For shame! There is no such thing a “just a post about bike lights”!!!

        adding my 2c: the lights you bought are indeed awesome, convenient, and reliable – I have had a few sets of Niterider lights over the years and have always been happy with them.

        For night mountain biking (with young kids, after they are in bed is the only time I can reliably get out!) I am running Ay-Ups (Australian brand, they do ship internationally), but I bought these years ago. I think if I were buying now, I would just go for several sets of MagicShine lights from DealExtreme (many friends are using these now).

        As an aside, for additional visibility, having a helmet mounted light really helps – especially as it moves with your head. So if you are at an intersection, you can turn your head and shine it at drivers around you – obvioulsy not trying to blind them, but it definitely catches their attention.

      • lecodecivil September 27, 2012 at 6:32 am #

        Perhaps he meant impacting in the literal sense: constant face-punchings to the foolish!

  20. Climbing Rocks September 26, 2012 at 12:34 pm #

    Thank you for sharing this – this article and the winter clothing article from last year have both helped me tremendously. I’ve tried several different headlamps, but so far none have proved satisfactory for the kind of riding I do. It’s becoming more of an issue with the changing season, and I’m definitely going to look up those lamps.

  21. Jaswisco September 26, 2012 at 2:31 pm #

    Blinking lights are considerably less safe than constant lights – the reason is that it is very hard to judge the distance and speed of a blinking light compared to a constant light. If traffic or pedestrians have trouble knowing how far away you are and at what speed you are travelling, this makes it harder for them to act in a safe way.

    This information is a little dated – taken from the book “Effective cycling”, but in my own experience I have found this to be the case when cycling/driving around folks with blinking lights – it can be hard to know if they are coming at you or away from you. Look for yourself and notice the difference…

    • Francisco Noriega September 26, 2012 at 2:57 pm #

      I agree.. blinking lights are harder to judge speed/distance BUT they are easier to see, and most cars will know it is a bike.. so perhaps both?

      What I’ve been wondering lately is about a BREAK tail light. In my opinion, when cyclists are on the road, and have a car behind them, it is hard for the cars to tell if the cyclist have breaked or not, since you have they can’t tell until they actually see that they are getting closer to the biker… in some cases too late.

      I remember when I used to drive, how much I hated cars with broken tail lights since they made it so hard to break from a nice safety distance.

      I found a cool wireless one that can be put in blinking while riding+constant while breaking or constant while riding + brighter constant when break (so like a car at nighttime).

      It’s not too expensive.. about 29.. but I don’t know how good it will be.. http://amzn.com/B004D2KBFA

    • Step-through September 28, 2012 at 6:42 pm #

      Second that – a steady light is more instantaneously obvious to a driver as “moving vehicle on the road going x direction at z speed” -the information they need to make the appropriate correction in their own direction/speed.

      I tend to run two front and two rear lights, for redundancy and the option to have one of then flashing or dual steady.

  22. Francisco Noriega September 26, 2012 at 2:43 pm #

    What about Side lights? I read somewhere (can’t remember) that most bicycle-car accidents are actually lateral, and most bikes don’t have much side lighting, except for the tiny reflectors on the wheels.

    Personally I went for the mini monkeys from monkeylectric. (http://store.monkeylectric.com/) They are a bit expensive ($50) but still within the range of what you paid for your front/back lights and lets admit it they look AWESOME.

    (ok confession time I actually got 1 for each wheel.. perhaps more than what I needed.. but they look really cool)

    For the front lamp I’ve using a 300 Lumen Cygolite (http://amzn.com/B005DVA37Q) for over a year and I have been very pleased with it, similar form factor to the one you choose.. but I wasn’t as mustachian back then so I paid about 110 just for the front light.. :S

    I still feel good since it is a very good light and I live in Washington, so its even darker most of the year.

    For the tailight I just got a regular type that most people have.. still thinking about upgrading it…

    • jet September 26, 2012 at 9:07 pm #

      you don’t really need lateral lights because in that situation, the car headlights are on you so you just need good reflective qualities – you can get small quantities of 3M reflective tape on ebay which will do the job while being unobtrusive during the day on the bike, also really good front and rear lights have good horizontal visibility too

  23. Jdog September 26, 2012 at 2:45 pm #

    Hey,
    Great timing on your post. I have wanted to start commuting to work on my bike. However, since I work third shift this means it is either dark when I leave or dark when I come home. I’ve been looking for some headlights to keep myself safe. I will definitely look into these. Thanks again.

  24. gooki September 26, 2012 at 2:57 pm #

    As someone else mentioned, if you do your research right, the LED lights out there are fucking awesome value for money. I purchased a KEYGOS-KE-1, 2x Lithium Ion batters, changer and a 5 led rear light for $29.95 inc delivery. You can find these on Ebay:

    http://www.ebay.com/itm/KEYGOS-KE-1-1300Lm-CREE-XM-L-T6-LED-Bike-Bicycle-Light-Flashlight-Torch-SET-/251047719018

    The light output is insane. The supplied rechargeable batteries are good, and it’s lasted out winter just fine.

    On top of that you get a super bright torch for camping, hunting or emergencies.

    The only downside I’ve seen is it’s a focused beam not a diffused beam.

    • Mr. Money Mustache September 26, 2012 at 4:34 pm #

      See, that light (while it still looks nice) is a perfect example of Lumens Bullshitology.

      In the following article, I tested a very expensive $100 light bulb that uses the fanciest CREE LED chips in the world. It kicked the ass of all other bulbs by delivering 958 lumens from a 14 watt bulb.
      http://www.mrmoneymustache.com/2012/03/05/so-i-bought-you-a-40-light-bulb-today/

      To have a flashlight produce 1300 lumens, even in the unlikely event that its LED chips are as good as the ones in my $100 light bulb, it would have to draw at least 19 watts of power. From that 3.7 volt battery pack, that means 5.14 amps (or 5140 mA). Since it claims to be a 2400 mAh battery, you could expect about 28 minutes of light output.

      In reality if you measured a light like that, I betcha it would come out between 100-300 lumens, and the battery might have 1200 mAh of usable capacity. Which is still extremely nice and bright, don’t get me wrong.. it is just that these no-name-brand companies are fooling everyone with their lumen numbers because nobody is calling their bluffs.

      This is just like those white plastic computer speakers they used to sell that had stuff like “1000 WATT PEAK MUSIC POWER OUTPUT!” stamped on them.. when in reality, they contained between 0.01 and 0.1 watt amplifiers.

      • kevin September 26, 2012 at 7:17 pm #

        as a physicist and an owner of cree led flashlights my measurements of the output of these flashlights makes your evaluation of their output extremely inaccurate…

        • Mr. Money Mustache September 26, 2012 at 8:19 pm #

          Are you joking around with me, or are you going to post some better numbers for us, Mr. Physicist?

          (And by the way, we engineers are supposed to be the ones who are good at getting the numbers; you physicists just come up with general formulae and theories :-))

          • kevin September 27, 2012 at 4:35 am #

            My apologies, I was being lazy and trying not to write a lengthy response. My “as a physicist” wasn’t meant to be pompous, but to infer competence. When I purchased my cree lights a year ago, I was working on a research project using lasers to separate elemental isotopes. In the lab, I had equipment for measuring the output of the lasers that I used to measure the output of two 1000lumen cree flashlights. The values i measured were 770lumens for one light and 790 for the other(average of 78% of the claimed value). In your statement you claim 100-300lumens from a 1300lumen light(7%-23% of the claimed value). Which you backup with “I betcha”.
            Running at high power, these lights draw 2.8A. Using 2800mAh batteries(which surprising actually produce 2800mAh), I have an hour of run time. But, I typically only run at 50% power, which extends the time to 2 hours.
            Continuing the playful banter on the subject of Engineers and Physicist…What most engineers fail to acknowledge is that a physics degree qualifies someone to work as an engineer(I myself have worked as an electrical engineer, a nuclear engineer, and starting monday an electron-beam field engineer), but, I’ve never met someone with an engineering degree who holds the title of physicist. ;-)

            • Heath September 27, 2012 at 6:25 am #

              And THIS is another good reason why I read MMM. Great fucking comments! Though I must say, I’ve never seen a commenter so thoroughly rise to a direct challenge from the master himself. :-)

              These ’1000 lumen’ cheap-ass lights from DealExtreme are looking better and better. My only fear (based on the other comments) is their longevity. I know they’re cheap as balls, but I’d rather not be generating that type of waste on a regular basis just to replace them.

              Also, would it be simple to mount one of those to a helmet? Clearly I could use tape, but I was dreaming of something a bit more intentional and removable.

              • kevin September 27, 2012 at 6:46 am #

                I’ve heard of some people have issues with longevity, but no issues here. I use them nearly everyday including in the rain and snow and have yet to have any issues. Surprisingly, after an estimated 200 charges and discharges, the batteries seem to be holding up well too.
                I bought a 20 ft roll of velcro strapping at a second hand store that I use for strapping a light to my helmet through the vent holes. It also works well as a pantleg strap to keep your pants out of the chain. I just cut a 1 or 2 foot piece off the roll as needed. If you do end up ordering anything from deal extreme, plan on it taking for fucking ever to get here from china. Both times i ordered anything from there it took about a month.

            • Mr. Money Mustache September 27, 2012 at 8:22 pm #

              OK, now we’re talkin’. So you got 780 lumens from 2.8 amps (much less than 1300 lumens, but still more than my pessimistic Betcha number).. was this with only 3.7V? If so, that’s about 75 lumens per watt, which is only a bit better than my $100 light bulb (68), so it’s believable.

              So it sounds like we are in agreement that Lumens Bullshitology is a widespread practice.. just that I am too pessimistic with my betcha correction factor.

              My apologies if we are boring the other readers with this nerdery.. it’s just that this LED light stuff is useful to learn about for future projects. This little piece of tech is a big part of the world’s future energy saving plans.

              • kevin September 27, 2012 at 9:20 pm #

                We are definitely in agreement about Bullshitology. But, the emitters used in these lights ARE pretty impressive anyway. The lights that I tested were rated at only 1000lumens and have the cree XM-L t6 emitter. According to the specs, this emitter has a max current rating of 3A. So, It’s unlikely that it is the emitter used in their 1300lumen lights. I was in fact using the 3.7V battery. But, these batteries actually measure 4.2V and 3A @ 100% charge. This elevated voltage reading only lasts for the first 2 percent of discharge and might account for some of the discrepancy between measured and claimed value. I honestly don’t recall if my tests in the integrating sphere took place at 3.7V or 4.2V.(I hadn’t anticipated my results being peer reviewed a year later).

  25. Executioner September 26, 2012 at 3:15 pm #

    I’ve been commuting in the darkness of New England winters for 3 years now (going on 4) and I’ve been satisfied with the following strategy:

    1. Handlebar-mounted bright white light (flashing): BE SEEN
    2. Rear-mounted bright red light (flashing): BE SEEN
    3. Helmet-mounted bright white light: SEE
    4. Handlebar-mounted side/rear facing red lights (flashing) BE SEEN

    I actually get more consideration from cars when I’m riding in darkness with this light setup than during bright daylight.

    I’ve been happy with cheapo lights for #1 and #2. For #3, I splurged and bought a NiteRider MiNewt Mini-USB Plus (with helmet mount), but in my opinion it was well worth the cost (super bright, and always focused on what you want to see, even if it is beside or behind you). For #4, look for Trek Beacon Bar End Lights. They are pretty inexpensive and in my opinion really complete the BE SEEN part of the equation, because they shine to the side in addition to the rear, and give an extra dimension of width to your overall illumination (for vehicles approaching from behind).

  26. Josh Tolle September 26, 2012 at 3:56 pm #

    Mr. MM – This isn’t directly relevant to this post, but after your roof rack post the other day, I thought you might like to spend a little time poking around Bike Hacks to get some ideas for things you can do to make your bike more…better. There are a number of posts about bike lights out there.

    As a disclaimer, I have no affiliation with Bike Hacks nor anybody involved with the site. I’ve found it to be a good place to find innovative ideas pertaining to bikes, YMMV.

  27. Dave September 26, 2012 at 4:06 pm #

    Perfect timing!!. I started bike commuting this summer rather than taking public transit. With the long hours I work I realized I need to get some lights this weekend because it’s dark in Boston by 7PM these days. Problem solved.

  28. Jon September 26, 2012 at 4:22 pm #

    I just spent $25 on some reflective tape, a portable bike pump, and a safety vest. Thought I was doing ok with my front headlight/blinking taillight combo until someone cut me off this morning on my way to work. I was at full clip and I hit the brakes so hard that I flew over my handlebars on a busy street. First accident since I started commuting to work a little over a year ago. I’ve been telling myself I needed to be more visible but hesitant to spend the money. Thank God the crash wasn’t worse than it could have been! A new bridge is going up in my area soon which will hopefully make my horribly unsafe commute better.

    • Mr. Money Mustache September 26, 2012 at 5:28 pm #

      Wow Jon! Glad you are okay! Hopefully that first bike crash is your ONLY one.

      I’ve had only one bike accident in my life about 15 years ago, and it was entirely my own fault (looked the wrong way crossing a one-way street at night).

      Driving defensively (i.e. expecting every car driver to be completely inattentive) really works wonders, even if it may not have prevented your own accident today.

      • Jon September 26, 2012 at 5:52 pm #

        true. One of my downfalls when I’m riding is that I tend to get lost in my own little world. I enjoy having the time for thinking/reflection but considering the roads here in Chesapeake and Portsmouth Virginia I should be more attentive. It’s almost a 10 mile ride so introspection makes it a lot more bearable. Have to confess I find myself drooling when I hear about “bike lanes”, “bike PATHS(!!!?!), “hills”, and other luxuries that are not found here!

    • jet September 26, 2012 at 8:12 pm #

      Reflective tape is good but it’s not going to help you unless the car headlights are shining on you!! My recommendation is to beef up that front light so you look more like a motorbike. I would go for something that is at least 400 lumens. I use Ayup lights, but they are an Aussie company. You might find something good at Deal Extreme. Their 1000 lumen lights are more like 400-600lumens though.

  29. Austin September 26, 2012 at 4:37 pm #

    I got one of these:
    http://www.ebay.com/itm/US-CREE-XML-XM-L-T6-1600-Lumens-HeadLamp-Headlight-Bike-Bicycle-Light-Lamp-XM6-/350604672990?pt=LH_DefaultDomain_0&hash=item51a1aabfde

    And it is so bright that cyclist going the other direction complain. I usually turn it down to lower setting if I’m on bike trail.

  30. jet September 26, 2012 at 8:10 pm #

    My front lights of choice are not as cheap as yours MMM, but they ensure a 100% give way rate from traffic because they think I am a motorbike. They are from an Aussie owned company called Ayups. I have had them for 3 years now and they are still going strong, and I have been increasing my riding over the last 3 years as well, did 6,000ks last year and looking like hitting north of 7000ks this year.

    My second light set choice is a dynamo set up, which is primarily for touring but very handy for commuting since you don’t have to worry about flat batteries. I have a Busch & Muller IQ Cyo and it’s pretty kick ass bright, and has a really good beam pattern too, with plenty of side spill to help with peripheral vision. A good place to get dynamos and dymano light setups is german website bike24.net – it’s a legal requirement in Germany to have dynamo lights on road going bicycles so they make some good stuff

    Rear flashers are almost all bright these days, and i think as long as it’s rechargable and is bright then it’s a good option. Just remember if it’s super bright it is better to run it on steady rather than flashing mode in order to prevent causing cyclists behind you to have seizures.

  31. ultrarunner September 26, 2012 at 9:27 pm #

    If you are a geek, like me, check out MTBR’s DIY bike light porn,er, forum:
    http://forums.mtbr.com/lights-diy-do-yourself/

    I spend ENTIRELY too much time in this forum… but the knowledge in the group is just incredible. Many are total bike geeks building impossibly bright and completely useless lights.. but the posts detailing the build are absolutely incredible, and it really appeals to us engineers.

    Here’s a very slick DIY 3,600 lumen build:
    http://forums.mtbr.com/lights-diy-do-yourself/rubix-quad-d-bin-p7-light-3-600-lumens-568134.html

    And the 8,600 lumen WTF light:
    http://forums.mtbr.com/lights-diy-do-yourself/wtf-quad-sst-90-ssr-90-light-8-600-lumens-743211.html

    They also do a yearly “Bike Light Shootout” where they review a whole mess of commercially available lights:
    http://reviews.mtbr.com/2012-bike-lights-shootout

    :-)

  32. Redeyedtreefr0g September 26, 2012 at 9:27 pm #

    I have to say, this post is WAY late for me as I’m a school bus driver :P

    I had to solve the issue of lighting again since the bottle-generator set that I got for free (off a free craigslist bike, whoo!) ended up dying. I washed my bike and it stopped working WTF? Was the dirt on the tire really the only method of friction for that thing to spin? In trying to get it working I accidentally cracked the old cheap plastic bottle also, so meh.

    I came up with a solution in about 60 whole seconds, and I’m seriously surprised at the effectiveness: I got out my flashlight, and attached it to my handlebars.

    I have an LED Maglite flashlight that I got way back in 2009 when I started driving. They were relatively new and I loved the idea of being able to just turn it off and on again and get a 25% power option to save battery life. That’s plenty bright enough for pre-tripping a bus. It also flashes and has an SOS flash mode.
    http://www.maglite.com/AA_Cell_LED.asp

    A while ago I saw an awesome youtube video showing a guy simply cutting the tube from inside a bike tire and using it to hold a flashlight. You cut an oval in one end, measure around your handlebar and cut another oval or slit (to allow the other end of the tube to point upwards also by passing through itself), thread the tube through and continue the wrap around until it points up again and you can cut the length and your final oval. Your flashlight mounts through either end with the tube also providing padding between the metal of the flashlight and your handlebar.

    So, I did exactly that: in less than a minute (I happened to have an old tube laying there, picked up from a parking lot) I had a bright and safe light that isn’t going anywhere. It doesn’t bounce or shake, I can adjust the aim, and I can easily turn it brighter or dimmer. The Greenway is white pavement so even though its pitch black out there at 5:30am, I can use the 25% power setting without straining my eyes or going slowly.

    Since that flashlight has lasted so long and been relatively abused (dropped, run over once with a bus, survived caving expeditions, etc) I think I’ll just buy another one and not lose the colored lenses that come with it, so I can have a red rear light too!

  33. Derek P. September 26, 2012 at 10:00 pm #

    (Note: I ride 80 km a day and live on a bicycle)

    I’ve been battling lately with lighting on my bicycle… My previous front light rusted out after a few months and stopped functioning. Rear light fell off somewhere never to be seen again. Nice mid to high quality stuff too.

    Gone back to my old stand by of cheap LED lighting. Not overly bright, but enough for traffic to see me. Honestly they seem to last longer than some of the expensive stuff I’ve used in the past.

    If you really want to eat cheap (a few dollars at best) on lighting, pick up a LED flashlight on Ebay from Hong Kong or such. I had one for a really long time and as long as you tape up the screw together pieces so the water doesn’t get in, they’ll last you forever. I just tape the light to the handlebars….

  34. patrick September 26, 2012 at 10:46 pm #

    These 1000 lumen lights from Deal Extreme are awesome – easily strapped onto a bike and super super bright. You can also get a head strap so they’re good for night biking / orienteering.

    http://www.dealextreme.com/p/mj-808e-ha-iii-cree-xm-lt60-3-mode-1000-lumen-led-bike-light-set-4×18650-57100

  35. Marlene September 27, 2012 at 1:54 am #

    I guess Europe is waaay different: over here on most commuter bikes you´ll have a dynamo attached that generates the needed juice for front bulb and back bulb. With LED´s their quite bright also. So no continuous recharging of batteries, not additional toxic landfill once the batteries die. Only a bit more restistance whilst pedalling – o wait – extra workout!

    • jet September 27, 2012 at 8:31 pm #

      I don’t notice the resistance from my shimano hub dynamos at all

  36. Steen September 27, 2012 at 2:53 am #

    Hey
    I live in Denmark, Copenhagen, where everybody rides a bike. You have to ride with light, when it is dark or else you will get a fine. 6 years ago I bought a pair of reelights (http://www.reelight.com/), that makes power to the led light with magnets on the wheel. I never had to buy batteries since then. I have now light on my bike all year for no cost but the cost of the reelights.

  37. TrekMan September 27, 2012 at 7:32 am #

    A while back I was shopping around for a tail light and someone linked to this article. He goes through about 20 of the most popular bike tail lights and gives the run down on batter life, brightness, flashing patterns and mounting materials.

    http://bicycles.blogoverflow.com/2012/03/tail-light-review/

  38. vwDavid September 27, 2012 at 9:29 am #

    I find it best to go grocery shopping in the evening after the kiddo is in bed. This means towing the bike trailer when it is dark. Do you add extra lights to your bike trailer?

    I think my rear red blinker is somewhat obscured by the trailer and the trailer doesn’t have an ideal mounting location.

    What do you suggest?

    • Mrs. Money Mustache September 27, 2012 at 9:39 am #

      We use velcro to attach a blinking red light to the back of our bike trailer. We have a roll of velcro that comes in handy fairly often (fixing Jr MM’s velcro shoes to make them last longer and attaching lights to bike trailers, for example).

  39. s. September 27, 2012 at 11:50 am #

    I don’t see Knog lights getting any love here. Too bad. I love mine.

    http://www.knog.com.au/gear-lights/

    They are probably more “be seen” than “see” lights, but they have whooped the problem of mountability. They have silicone bodies that snap onto themselves, so it takes me all of three-quarters of a second to swap my headlight between bicycles.

    Looks like they also have brighter “blinder” versions than my Gekko.

    About $15-30/per on Amazon.

  40. Bill Russell September 27, 2012 at 2:52 pm #

    I am a randonneur. Randonneuring is long distance, self supported bicycling with time limits. We ride through the night, so we know lights.

    The rando standard for taillights is the Planet Bike Superflash. These simple AAA powered beauties can be seen up to two mile away.

    Most randos choose generator hubs for front lighting; the gold standard for power, reliability, and efficiency is the German SonDelux, most often paired with the Schmidt headlight. No batteries ever needed and the hub can be used to recharge electronics during the day when the light isn’t needed.

  41. scottphillips September 28, 2012 at 7:32 pm #

    Jus bought a Diamondback edgewood at Dicks sporting goods earlier this afternoon in St.Joseph,MO,MMM,been riding it around the mall,already sore,but feeling good,luv it.sorry to get off subject.

  42. Alek Hartzog September 29, 2012 at 8:55 am #

    Reelights are incredible. Never have to worry about batteries, plenty bright.

  43. cambridgecyclist October 1, 2012 at 1:08 pm #

    I’ve been using an Olight T25 “tactical flashlight” (whatever that is) for the past three years. Previously, I’d used a high-end Light and Motion system with a lithium battery pack. It was bright, heavy, and the proprietary battery packs would lose charge capacity over the course of a year or so of regular usage.

    The mounts on standard-issue bike lights are made of a plastic that gets brittle in the coldest winter weather. When they break, replacements are usually not available without buying a completely new light. Standard-issue bike lights are also not usually easy to mount using a DIY, generic or universal bike light mount. A universal flashlight bike mount set me back about $5 and has been working consistently for three years at this point. It uses a velcro strap and goes on the bike in seconds.

    The flashlight itself has been dropped many times and is undamaged except for some scuff marks on the paint. It still has the original bulb. It uses two AA batteries; niMH rechargeables are good for thousands of charges and light enough so that a spare set of batteries can be carried in case the first one runs out. The light lasts over 8 hours in flashing mode. The light gets very bright (car drivers have commented many times on how bright this light is).

  44. Peter Mc October 3, 2012 at 10:44 am #

    I’ve just gotten into the year-round biking this year. We had our first snow here in Calgary this morning and my bike light came in the mail last night! Awesome so far. I took an educated gamble and ordered a little reviewed light on dx.com (http://dx.com/p/cree-t6-dual-xpe-r2-3-mode-1800-lumen-3-led-white-bike-light-w-battery-pack-105489).
    I have an interesting commute to work that involves 5% street riding, 60% paved path riding and the rest is gravel path switchbacks up/down a fairly steep hill in the woods. Because of that and my early starts, I decided I needed a little extra brightness. This unit has left an excellent first impression! The lights are very bright and there is 3 different settings you can work with to adjust brightness. The physical build quality seems very good and the o-ring style mount is working out pretty well, even on some larger bumps along the ride.
    Although some may say that these Chinese lights are lower quality, I figure it’s a safe bet for me as I am fairly adept at repairing mechanical and electrical units should something fail.
    BTW, it’s great to see so many comments in the bike light section! It’s good to see so many fellow Mustachians talking about night/cold riding gear. Should make MMM proud!

  45. CanuckExpat October 4, 2012 at 11:41 am #

    During most of my riding almost exclusively on routes with street lights, I’ve found I’ve been good only adding enough lights to make sure I am a little extra visible in the dark. I have a pair of Planet Bike lights (http://amzn.to/RfTrmQ and http://amzn.to/R0LnGg) that seem to have done the job. I think I got the pair for ~$25 total when on sale at REI . My biggest complaint with all the lights I’ve ever had has been the mounting system: once you go over enough potholes, the mount seems to fail long before the lights ever do.

  46. Bakari October 10, 2012 at 1:00 am #

    Gosh, I really hate to contradict MMM, but I have to 2nd the MagicShine from dx.com recommendation.
    Alot.

    Here is a picture of a 150lumen nightrider mineut:
    http://www.piccomp.co.uk/LightsComparison/_MG_9499%20Niterider%20Minewt%20X2%20Dual%20half.jpg
    (older model, but same rated light output)

    here is the exact same picture, same camera, same location, but lit up with a MagicShine:
    http://www.piccomp.co.uk/LightsComparison/_MG_9496%20Magicshine%20half.jpg

    Here’s an indepth review of bikelights, with independant testing of lux output, graphed against price:
    http://forums.mtbr.com/lights-night-riding/light-performance-vs-price-analysis-745788.html

    notice that, for sub $200 lights, nothing comes close to the light output per dollar of MagicShine.

    and finally, a series of pictures of lights (in UK currency, but you can get the idea):
    http://www.bikeradar.com/gear/article/best-mountain-bike-lights-28195/

    I got a 1200 lumen MagicShine for about $50 from dx.com.
    The mounting system sucks, but the battery lasts several 2 hour commutes, has a smart charger, and a red led to let you know when its getting low. It has a low power mode and flashing mode. It gets mistaken for a motorcycle. If I used flash mode at night, I could probably pull over cars.
    I can literally see the road ahead of me better on my bike than in my truck, since I got this light.

    • Mr. Money Mustache October 10, 2012 at 9:06 am #

      Great find, Bakari and others! I have definitely been outsmarted on the bike light issue (which is part of the point of having a blog like this in the first place), so I’ll add your Magicshine link to the body of the post so more people will see it.

      I still think it is worth noting that there are two camps of bikers: the tinkerers who don’t mind homemade mounting systems, and the on-the-edge people for whom a really convenient no-effort bike light makes the difference between riding and driving.

      You could argue that it is antimustachian to pay for the convenience of the Niterider system, but in the case of enticing people to bike more, I am willing to sacrifice my principles. Even the fact that you don’t have to take out the batteries or use an external charger on the Niterider is significant. Any computer with a USB port can charge it. Multiplied across 100 chargings of the dark commuting season, and you can see where convenience trumps a $20,50 or even $100 extra expenditure.

      • Bakari October 10, 2012 at 6:07 pm #

        Oh no, don’t get me wrong – I totally agree that for many people the convenience is worth a higher price (although the magicshine does come with a handlebar mount – not a very good one, but you don’t necessarily have to build your own)

        It wasn’t the cost difference that I am enthusiastic about, its the brightness.
        If one only rides at night rarely, and/or only on well lit streets with plenty of street lights, then it isn’t going to matter. But if you ride at night a lot, or on roads or trails with no or few streetlights, having something with 500-1000 lumens really makes a difference.
        I put off getting a real see-where-you-are-going light for the last 15 years, because they used to be $300 and up, so I never really knew what I was missing. I imagine you are in the same boat, and stepping up from a little one LED blinky to the mineut already seems dramatic. I have only seen pictures, but I suspect going from it to the magicshine will be just as dramatic again.
        For those who ride at night alot, or in pitch black conditions, but what the added convince of the Nightrider system, the Nightrider MiNewt Pro and Lumina 650 offer about twice the brightness of the 350

        • Bakari October 12, 2012 at 7:34 pm #

          Well, as it happens, I have been outsmarted too!

          I just got the following comment over at my own blog, regarding my recommendations for bicycle lighting:

          “Dedicated cycling lights don’t hold a candle (ha, ha) to the latest crop of LED flashlights in terms of lumens per dollar. There’s MUCH more competition in the flashlight market. I’m in the process of upgrading my headlight, and I’ve found several flashlights already that I favor over the latest crop of bike lights. And when I finally pull the trigger and upgrade, I’ll have a bright flashlight too. Actually, two. Flashlights are cheap enough that I’m going to go with two for redundancy.

          BTW, good advice on the reflectors. It boggles my mind when roadies try to save 2oz of weight by removing all the reflectors. I’ve come up on kids in a subdivision at dusk riding with no lights, but I immediately recognized the presence of bikes by just the pedal reflectors. – Billy”

          I’m not sure if he accounted for the cost of mounting system, battery pack, and charger or not, but just a cursory look around the internet suggests he may be on to something. Just thought I’d pass that along

  47. James October 17, 2012 at 2:04 pm #

    Personally I use a Cygolite Expillion 420, got it on sale for under $100, bright enough on medium for good visibility, low for decreased visibility, but the flash can be seen at least 1/4 mile away, during the day.

    The one thing I think you failed to mention though was cost of replacement batteries. Some of the rechargeable systems have battery packs that cost just as much or more than a new light system.

  48. The Accumulator October 18, 2012 at 3:20 pm #

    Thanks for the great post and the comments which inspired my hunt for a new light. Just got a Lezyne Macro Drive and am thrilled to bits with it.

    300 lumens – lights up the unlit cycle path I use like the Mothership in Close Encounters

    3 hour charge on the brightest mode – plenty of room for error / forgetfulness / scenic routes

    USB rechargeable – plug it in at work for a little pay back

    Brilliant mounting system – genius in its simplicity

    It wasn’t the cheapest but I’m from the UK so I’m used to that.

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