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  1. #1
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    Would a Red Headlight be better?

    Would a red headlight at night would work better then using a white one? Red light is better at preserving night vision, so would this mean that a red light + better night vision, is superior to an equally powered white light with not as good night vision? To clarify things, I am thinking mainly in the context of rural roads, and trail riding. (Night vision is hard to preserve in an urban nighttime environments).

    Other then home brewed projects, the only light I know of that could be a candidate for such an experiment would be the new Dinotte 400L rear tail light.

    What about amber or cyan lights?

  2. #2
    Galveston County Texas 10 Wheels's Avatar
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    Head Lights White
    Tail Lights Red
    You want to confused auto drivers more than what they all ready are?
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  3. #3
    Senior Member Pig_Chaser's Avatar
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    Yeah, the old red flashlight is mainly for map reading and close work like that... definately not suitable for a headlight.

  4. #4
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    Quote Originally Posted by 10 Wheels View Post
    Head Lights White
    Tail Lights Red
    You want to confused auto drivers more than what they all ready are?
    Thanks for the reply! The thread was started to solicit a somewhat scientific discussion of possible headlight alternatives that would allow a more efficient approach to bicycle lighting. The intent is not to go down the typical "The world is flat" approach which you are taking.

    I agree this will probably confuse some drivers, however a confused driver tends to slow downmpt and be more cautious in an atteto figure out what is going on, as opposed to accelerating and smashing it. Regardless if it is on the front or back, a red light will signal to the driver that there is an object there and it is moving.
    On that note, a red tail light prevents the oncoming driver from being blinded, couldn't this be beneficial characteristic for a headlight also?

    Quote Originally Posted by ebrady
    To clarify things, I am thinking mainly in the context of rural roads, and trail riding.
    ....
    What about amber or cyan lights?
    Amber or cyan lights should also be considered in this subject as an alternative color, however even though the eye is more sensitive to this color and you will get a bigger bang for the lumens, night vision will not be preserved.

  5. #5
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    Quote Originally Posted by Pig_Chaser View Post
    Yeah, the old red flashlight is mainly for map reading and close work like that... definately not suitable for a headlight.
    You are right there, but what about something that puts out a lot more lumens then the old red flashlight? Like the Dinotte 400L?

  6. #6
    Senior Member Febs's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ebrady View Post
    I agree this will probably confuse some drivers, however a confused driver tends to slow downmpt and be more cautious in an atteto figure out what is going on, as opposed to accelerating and smashing it. Regardless if it is on the front or back, a red light will signal to the driver that there is an object there and it is moving.
    Yes, but everything in that driver's experience will tell him that the object is moving *away* from him, not *towards* him. That strikes me as a very, very bad idea.

  7. #7
    That Guy McTrey's Avatar
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    Add to that that it's easier for the eye in low/no light situations to pick out a white light as opposed to other color lights....even more so if the light is blinking or flashing.

    If I had to pick another color besides white, I would pick amber. It's still pretty easily seen and has the added bonus of being known as the universal "caution" color.

  8. #8
    Prefers Cicero cooker's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ebrady View Post
    Thanks for the reply! The thread was started to solicit a somewhat scientific discussion of possible headlight alternatives that would allow a more efficient approach to bicycle lighting. The intent is not to go down the typical "The world is flat" approach which you are taking..
    It's not a question of geography, it's survival. There's pretty much a global consensus on what light goes where on vehicles on the road. If you want to go on the road with a unique lighting system, you're risking your own and other people's lives. Pedestrians stepping from the curb will glance left, see a red light that they won't understand as a headlight, and they won't realize they are stepping out right in front of an approaching bike. Same for cars pulling out of driveways. They won't register that you are approaching at speed and they'll pull out into your path. Then you'll crash into them and blame them for being "flat earth" types.

  9. #9
    kellyjdrummer
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    As far as I have seen, red in the front is illegal. I know it's that way in Seattle. Actually, the law states "White light in the front, red reflector in the rear." I think amber is good for the front, but don't know the law on that one.

  10. #10
    Safety Zealot wyeast's Avatar
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    A single bright point of light is difficult to gauge distance to. Moreso if it washes out your silhouette. Other people on the road will take for granted a certain consistency - red in back, white in front. If you reverse that, people will not expect to close the distance to you as rapidly as they will, since you will be moving towards them. Especially as you approach intersections/driveways/etc. People will cut you off, thinking you're moving away from them instead of towards them.

    Losing fidelity of color can make it surprisingly difficult to figure out what lies ahead. With a red light, you'll barely be able to distinguish details, let alone tell the difference between pavement, gravel, or dirt while moving at speed.

    Also, as far as alternate colors, you'll have to check with local laws. Around here, it's white for the front, and blue (i.e. Cyan) is restricted to emergency vehicles.

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    Quote Originally Posted by cooker View Post
    Pedestrians stepping from the curb will glance left, see a red light that they won't understand as a headlight, and they won't realize they are stepping out right in front of an approaching bike. Same for cars pulling out of driveways.
    Please read my original post.

    Quote Originally Posted by ebrady
    To clarify things, I am thinking mainly in the context of rural roads, and trail riding.
    I will clarify what I meant here....

    Trail Riding - dirt and gravel trails, ones like you would typically ride on a Mountain Bike.

    Rural Roads - Back roads in the middle of BFE (Ohio, KY, WV, TN in my case) if you even saw a car, it would be rare.

    So, pedestrians stepping off of a curb, is unlikely on a dirt trail or these one lane roads.
    Driveways on rural roads, yes it is possible, however on these roads, a light of ANY type would gain attention.

  12. #12
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    Here is a guy who tried it with cyan, he claims that cyan helps night vision, which is incorrect, the eyes are just more sensitive to it. He gets grilled for this by a couple of posters, but the project still looks interesting...

    http://www.instructables.com/id/Ulti...-lumens-with-/

    Anyone here ever tried cyan?

  13. #13
    sic transit gloria mundi rfomenko's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ebrady View Post
    Please read my original post.



    I will clarify what I meant here....

    Trail Riding - dirt and gravel trails, ones like you would typically ride on a Mountain Bike.

    Rural Roads - Back roads in the middle of BFE (Ohio, KY, WV, TN in my case) if you even saw a car, it would be rare.

    So, pedestrians stepping off of a curb, is unlikely on a dirt trail or these one lane roads.
    Driveways on rural roads, yes it is possible, however on these roads, a light of ANY type would gain attention.
    Man, rural roads or any other roads: it is ILLEGAL on public roads, period. Wait until the lighting conventions change. Otherwise, it's like playing the Russian roulette with those rare cars that you WILL encounter. What about the police? Are you prepared to tell them something like: "Officer, the red light makes me see better"? Do you know where they will take you?

    P.S. And another thing: white/yellowish light is simply better to see with. Otherwise why do you think was it chosen for headlights even before the cars were invented? The read-tinted glass was first produced centuries if not thousands years ago & if it was the best, there is no doubt that the front lights would be red now.
    Last edited by rfomenko; 07-27-08 at 07:52 PM.
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  14. #14
    Every day a winding road spinnaker's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Febs View Post
    Yes, but everything in that driver's experience will tell him that the object is moving *away* from him, not *towards* him. That strikes me as a very, very bad idea.
    Unless he is driving a boat on the water. Green right (starboard) and red left (port) in front, white in back (stern). Funny how it work out backward on the water. Or maybe it work out backward once we got on the road

    But I have to agree that red would confuse me at night on the road. I would assume that the vehicle was moving away from me.

    I really doubt a red headlight would be useful anyway. They really don't seem to cast very much light for any great distance. Perhaps if you had an HID
    "The world is a dangerous place to live, not because of the people who are evil, but because of the people who don't do anything about it."

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  15. #15
    headwinds suck
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    Quote Originally Posted by ebrady View Post
    Amber or cyan lights should also be considered in this subject as an alternative color, however even though the eye is more sensitive to this color and you will get a bigger bang for the lumens, night vision will not be preserved.
    As it's more sensitive to the eyes, I suppose it'd be more dangerous for both the biker and driver because it'll make it harder for a driver to locate the bike.

    Amber might be good though, it will be softer to the eyes since red light preserves night vision. cars also won't confuse it for a tail light.

  16. #16
    Senior Member yeamac's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ebrady View Post
    Would a red headlight at night would work better then using a white one?
    NO


    Everyone else is saying that, I'm just more direct.

    Also, from my experience with red light, while your eyes may be use to the red light, once you encounter a white light source it will ruin your "night vision" making the red not as effective until your eyes get dark adapted again.

  17. #17
    Safety Zealot wyeast's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by yeamac View Post
    Also, from my experience with red light, while your eyes may be use to the red light, once you encounter a white light source it will ruin your "night vision" making the red not as effective until your eyes get dark adapted again.
    This is an excellent point that bears repeating.

  18. #18
    Safety Zealot wyeast's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ebrady View Post

    Trail Riding - dirt and gravel trails, ones like you would typically ride on a Mountain Bike.
    Trail riding everything will appear dark - as the black/brown/grey of the ground becomes less distinguishable with the green foliage (which also do not reflect much red).

  19. #19
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    Rofl red light for front. This forum just keeps getting better.
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  20. #20
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    Quote Originally Posted by wyeast View Post
    Trail riding everything will appear dark - as the black/brown/grey of the ground becomes less distinguishable with the green foliage (which also do not reflect much red).
    Sound reasonable, what about cyan or amber?

  21. #21
    Bike ≠ Car ≠ Ped. BarracksSi's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ebrady View Post
    Sound reasonable, what about cyan or amber?
    Amber pretty much sucks as a quiet road headlight, never mind a surface with stuff to hit. I've often been out with my amber Dinotte rather than my white one, and I just can't see as well as with the white light.

    Sure, the amber version is a 140L and the white is a 200, but the white light on its dim setting beats the amber on its high setting.

  22. #22
    Safety Zealot wyeast's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ebrady View Post
    Sound reasonable, what about cyan or amber?
    Amber's passable. Being in the middle of the spectrum makes your brain sorta figure out colors a little bit. The trouble with cyan is that washing everything out into monochromatic hampers your ability to recognize things quickly. I used to get that running a green Inova X5 walking around in the woods.

    That's fine if you're moving relatively slowly, but on faster rides you may not recognize things like broken glass because everything is the same color. What might look like a dry gully might be a muddy ditch. Dirt could give way to sand.

    Believe me, I've been there. I got that green X5 because "by gum, the eye is more sensitive to green" and it was before the days of widely available high-flux white LED's.

    But those days are past. You can get white easily as bright as cyan or amber (even more readily available than the colored emitters)

    If it's just a matter of preserving your night vision so you "enjoy the ride", assuming you ride at a safe enough speed to do so, I'd get a multi-level light and/or mount different lights so you can turn down the power as your eyes adjust. Keep a good blinker going for safety, but dropping down from 180 lumens to 60 or 35 will help you still appreciate your surroundings as your eyes adapt.

    Having the multi-stage also would allow you to quickly turn up the heat if you get blinded by the rare passing vehicle so you can continue to see while you try to adjust your eyes down again.

  23. #23
    Prefers Cicero cooker's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ebrady View Post
    Please read my original post.

    I will clarify what I meant here....

    Trail Riding - dirt and gravel trails, ones like you would typically ride on a Mountain Bike.

    Rural Roads - Back roads in the middle of BFE (Ohio, KY, WV, TN in my case) if you even saw a car, it would be rare.

    So, pedestrians stepping off of a curb, is unlikely on a dirt trail or these one lane roads.
    Driveways on rural roads, yes it is possible, however on these roads, a light of ANY type would gain attention.
    I understand that you are mainly asking about what would help you see better when you're alone in the dark, but it's still important to consider what will happen on the rare occasions you encounter other people. On the trails, you might meet oncoming riders and since the trails are probably pretty narrow, and you'll have to squeeze by each other, and may not even see each other until you're very close, it's important that they understand in that brief instant that you are approaching (and they should squeeze right) rather than being overtaken (and they should squeeze left).

    Similarily on rural roads, approaching cars may want to turn left and the red light might make them think you are a wrong way rider heading away from them, and they cut across your path.

    So perhaps you need a white headlight plus an alternate one, and you can switch off the white and just use the alternate when you are confident there is no one coming.
    Last edited by cooker; 07-27-08 at 11:10 AM.

  24. #24
    Cyclist acidinmylegs's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ebrady View Post
    Would a red headlight at night would work better then using a white one? Red light is better at preserving night vision, so would this mean that a red light + better night vision, is superior to an equally powered white light with not as good night vision? To clarify things, I am thinking mainly in the context of rural roads, and trail riding. (Night vision is hard to preserve in an urban nighttime environments).

    Other then home brewed projects, the only light I know of that could be a candidate for such an experiment would be the new Dinotte 400L rear tail light.

    What about amber or cyan lights?
    I've actually done this using DiNotte's triple tail light. I figured that since it put out over 400 lumens, it should work fine. I used it off road, while I was climbing. I had a 600L and a helmet mounted 200L for descending.

    The biggest problem was not the washed out colors, but, rather, the lack of throw. Since the tail lights use a flood lens, the light didn't project far enough in front for higher speeds--hence using it only while climbing.

    I did seem to have better peripheral vision. I was able to see in the dark--where the light didn't illuminate--better. When the guy I was riding with--we both were using my tail light to climb by--turned his lights on (3W LED) they seemed very very bright, much brighter than normal. I can only assume that this was because my pupils were dilated so much.

    If I did it again, I'd use DiNotte's single LED tail light, with a spot lens, helmet mounted to complement the triple tail light. Or, as you suggested, use the 400L tail light, but again with spot lenses.

    It was an interesting experiment, but white lights were still better since the red washes out the color and you tend to lose some detail.

  25. #25
    Because I thought I could ks1g's Avatar
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    +1 on all the "No!" replies. If something other than a BRIGHT white light were really better, the competitive off-road/24-hr riders would be all over it. Ditto the raddoneuring community for on-road riding. Now if you had a reason to be less visible, IR goggles and an IR source might make sense, but you're not trying to sneak up on wildlife or people (I hope!).

    Others have pointed out the problems with a non-white headlight for on-road riding. In some states (such as where I live) if you are in an accident and were using a non-white headlight, you risk being found "contributory negligent" and there goes any chance you had of winning any court judgment or the guy who hit you paying a penalty.

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