Stepping Up the Lighting Game
To provide some background: Much of the time, I commute at night on my Brompton - which is equipped with built in dynamo lighting. I can never manage to remember how many lumens my particular version of the fabled B&M IQ Cyo puts out; I only know that it works for my needs. The headlight is adjusted/pointed perfectly for the specific bike it is permanently mounted to, and has been tested a gazillion times in all manner of conditions. Consequently, when I'm on the folder I need not worry about the dark.
However, as you might have noticed, I own multiple bicycles - in particular vintage ones that I love the ride quality of and insist on dragging all over the countryside despite owning a perfectly functional modern machine! Since fitting them all with top quality dynamo lighting is out of the question, I have a "traveling" set of easily removable battery lights that usually work just fine.
In particular, I own three battery operated headlights, all acquired some years ago: a Supernova Airstream (which was top of the line when it first came out!), a Light & Motion Urban 550, and a Nite Rider Mako 200. Often at least one of these will be on loan to a friend; the remaining will go on whatever non-dynamo bike I am riding. And that was how last night I found myself with only the Nite Rider for company, which I'd misguidedly thought would suffice. But the night was an overcast one, starless and moonless. And the road I ended up on was extra-remote, without reflectors or even white markings for guidance. The light was doing absolutely nothing for me. I could see the road ahead at walking pace. But as soon as I attempted even a tame cycling speed, all would fade to black. I kept calm at first, trying to half-cycle, half-walk, the remaining miles home. Then in the not-far-enough distance I heard the growling noises of wild animals, and fear got the better of me. When I got the worried "where are you?!" phone call from home, I caved and, snivelingly "agreed" to a rescue.
In fairness, rescues are pretty rare for me. When they do happen, I go through stages of emotion - from embarrassment, to anger at myself, to general frustration at not being as independent as I think I am or want to be. Thankfully, in the end this gives way to lucidity, where I try to take concrete steps to avoid the situation in future. In this case, that meant feverishly researching the latest offerings in battery lighting.
It occurs to me, I have not had a proper look at lighting options in some time. Now, whilst going through countless reviews, talking to local riders, and consulting twitter, one thing I quickly realised was that much, much brighter battery-operated lights are available today than what I currently own. According to my local bike shop, this is due to the recent popularity of night time mountain biking - though it's hard to say what came first - the night riding trend, or the bright lights. But in any case, if it's good enough to light up the narrow winding forest trails for those lunatics to bomb down with abandon, it should be good enough for me. And whereas the lights I currently own are 200 lumens, 550 lumens and 200 lumens respectively, there now exist options in the mid-1K lumens range without bulky external batteries. Now we're talking!
So I think that I shall gift myself this season an absolute blaster of a headlight for pitch-black country roads. Then I am going to keep this headlight fully charged at all times and shall never loan it out to anyone, so that there is never again a possibility of getting caught out. Aside from superb brightness, my criteria are for the light to be:
. easily swappable between bikes, and
. allowing for at least 1.5 hours of run time at its brightest setting.
And in case you are interested in the same, here are the two options I am considering:
Lezyne Deca Drive 1500XXL
wide, 3-light beam pattern
1500 lumens max
1 hr 45 min run time in max mode
247g; easy mount
wide, 2-light beam pattern
1600 lumens max
2 hours run time in max mode
260g, easy mount
Both the CatEye and the Lezyne can be found priced in the mid-$100 range, which I am willing to pay for a good light. And for those willing to pay around twice that for a handmade in the UK light, there is also this lightweight beauty:
Exposure Race MK10
round, 2-light beam patter
2 hours run time
183g, easy mount
For those who do not need quite that many lumens, other well-recommended options worth checking out are these compact darlings from Light&Motion and Nite Rider. However, for a combination of all the features I am looking for, at a price I can currently handle, I personally have narrowed it down to the Lezyne and CatEye. Once I choose one and use it for a bit, I will post a review.
Needless to say, super-bright lights such as these are absolute overkill unless you are cycling at night through the woods or along exceptionally dark country roads. As it happens, I do both on a regular basis, and so updating my battery lights seems well overdue. Never again do I intend to cry on the side of the road because I can't see where I am going. Happily, there are now more products to choose from than ever, if you'd like to step up your lighting game.