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  1. #1
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    How many lumens to actually see? - and light recommendations

    Hi,

    I'm not short on lights. I have a B&M cyo (60 lux version) run off my dynohub on my fork crown and a fenix L2D on my helmet. However these get washed out by all the street lights and oncoming car lights such that I can't see the road any better than without them - unless the road is dark, which is when they really shine (sorry!)!

    The street lights and oncoming car lights don't do much to highlight potholes - of which I have plenty in my area.

    So I was wondering - how many lumens do I require to actually see the road all the time?

    Any light recommendations for this purpose? I have decided I'm open to dyno powered ones, and battery powered ones, but not those which cost a fortune - so torches are definitely in but I'm not forking out for another dinotte (I have one on the rear).

    Also any way I can run 2 dyno powered lights from my single dynohub?

    Thanks

    Daven

  2. #2
    Senior Member Northwestrider's Avatar
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    I have 200 lumens on the front which I find ok, but I do wish I had more. Maybe next year

  3. #3
    Senior Member gear's Avatar
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    850 minimum.

  4. #4
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    If you have street lights, I get by with 150 lumens. On dark roads without much light, I use a light with 700 lumens. Sometimes that's not quite enough to see potholes, so I agree with gears post of 850 lumens.
    You're just trying to start an argument to show how smart you are.

  5. #5
    Mad bike riding scientist cyccommute's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by StanSeven View Post
    If you have street lights, I get by with 150 lumens. On dark roads without much light, I use a light with 700 lumens. Sometimes that's not quite enough to see potholes, so I agree with gears post of 850 lumens.
    I find I need more when there are lots of competing light sources such as in the city. If I'm away from other light sources, I could use less light but don't.

    200 lumens is the low end of good light for night riding...especially in urban areas. 400 is better, 1500 is fantastic and 4500 is the bomb I've been using 2 Magicshines this year. While they are good lights, I kinda miss my Retinal Burners light output. I don't miss the weight, just the light.
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    I agree with cyc that you need more light in town then in the country. You might look at peterwhites site for a better dynohub lite like the E3 triple

    He has some nice comparison pics

  7. #7
    your nightmare gal chipcom's Avatar
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    I'd say that 120 lumens is about the bare minimum to "see", from my experience.
    It wasn't until the last few years that anything brighter got affordable for most, outside of DIYers.
    "Let us hope our weapons are never needed --but do not forget what the common people knew when they demanded the Bill of Rights: An armed citizenry is the first defense, the best defense, and the final defense against tyranny. If guns are outlawed, only the government will have guns. Only the police, the secret police, the military, the hired servants of our rulers. Only the government -- and a few outlaws. I intend to be among the outlaws" - Edward Abbey

  8. #8
    I am a caffine girl colleen c's Avatar
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    I played around with different light setup and various lumen output. I think it is important that beside how many lumen is needed, it is also important to how they are aimed. When I ran a MS900 at about 500-600 OTF, it was too floody and not enough throw. I ran some MG X Thrower at about 500-600 OTF lumen and they had a good throw but not enough flood. I agree that 800 lumen(not OTF) is about the minium but not from one single light source. I like 350 of those to be on the floody side from one light and 450 of those to be on the throw from another. I came up with those number because I have two flashlight that are 350 flood and the other 450 throw and the combine of the two is not bad at all.

    I'm running over 3000 manufactor rated lumen ( or over 2200 OTF lumen) only on the unlit parking lot which I cut through everyday. Out on the street, I cutback to about half of that. I find that somewhere about 1500-2000 lumen OTF is about where my lights and car headlight are about being equal in brightness.
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    Thanks for the info, might invest in 2 of those flashlights from china - 1 floody and 1 throwy. I like having a helmet light so I can direct light at people who might otherwise miss me, and a little blinky just lets everyone know I'm a bike. Will keep the dynohub light though as it is pretty good, and is always on

    Thanks again,

    Daven

  10. #10
    Senior Member no motor?'s Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by cyccommute View Post
    I find I need more when there are lots of competing light sources such as in the city. If I'm away from other light sources, I could use less light but don't.

    200 lumens is the low end of good light for night riding...especially in urban areas. 400 is better, 1500 is fantastic and 4500 is the bomb I've been using 2 Magicshines this year. While they are good lights, I kinda miss my Retinal Burners light output. I don't miss the weight, just the light.
    Did it take 2 Magicshines to equal the Retinal Burners?

  11. #11
    Senior Member socalrider's Avatar
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    Much of it depends on how fast you ride and how well the roads are lit.. 700 minimum for me, darker sections of roads, I turn on my thrower which adds 1200 lumens of more light.. I also have a small fenix p2d on the helmet running in sos mode just to be seen and stand out..

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    Senior Member mechBgon's Avatar
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    In a completely dark environment, I can do OK with as little as 250 lumens because my night vision can adapt and stay that way. It ends up looking like this to me:



    But as the others said above, it's different in the city, with streetlights and vehicles interfering. In that situation, I prefer to have tons of lighting. >1000 lumens would be a start.

  13. #13
    I am a caffine girl colleen c's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by mechBgon View Post
    But as the others said above, it's different in the city, with streetlights and vehicles interfering. In that situation, I prefer to have tons of lighting. >1000 lumens would be a start.
    I forgot to mention. On raining day through downpour, I do prefer the >1000 lumens. The rain drops along with the wet road just absorb the lumens. On those days, I usually run all my lights on high. No complaint from drivers yet.
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  14. #14
    xtrajack xtrajack's Avatar
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    I am really fuzzy about the difference between lux, lumens, and watts. Well, I understand that watt is a unit of power. I guess what I am saying is that some lights are rated in watts, some are rated in lumens, some are rated in lux. I am not sure how they compare to one another.
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  15. #15
    Mad bike riding scientist cyccommute's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by no motor? View Post
    Did it take 2 Magicshines to equal the Retinal Burners?
    Not quite. More like 2.341726 And that's just to replace one. I used to use 3 Retinal Burners...I may go back. It's nice to be seen from space
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  16. #16
    Mad bike riding scientist cyccommute's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by xtrajack View Post
    I am really fuzzy about the difference between lux, lumens, and watts. Well, I understand that watt is a unit of power. I guess what I am saying is that some lights are rated in watts, some are rated in lumens, some are rated in lux. I am not sure how they compare to one another.
    A watt is the unit of power or how much power it takes to make light. It's not a bad measure but the amount of light can vary depending on the way the light is made. For example, a 10 watt tungsten filament light has a different light output than a 10 W halogen. Watts, unless you are comparing the same (or similar) lamps, is pretty useless. When you are talking about LED, the efficiency is so high that a 10W LED would burn holes through metal

    Lumen is the measure of the light output of the lamp. The light from a lamp putting out 200 lumen will be independent of the power necessary to run the lamp. The lumens are measured at the light source.

    Lux is a measure of how many lumens/unit area the light puts out. This is highly dependent on the way in which the light is focused. If the lamp has a narrow reflector, the Lux can be quite high, i.e. the light isn't too spread out. If the lamp has a wide reflector or no reflector, the Lux can be quite low.

    If you want to compare raw output, lumens are probably the best measure. As I said above, a 200 lumen lamp is going to be a 200 lumen lamp independent of the optics.

    Lux tells you how much light you'll see on the road but you need to know the area of the light beam, the spread and distance from the source. That's a few too many variables to make it worthwhile for quick comparison.
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    Senior Member no motor?'s Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by cyccommute View Post
    Not quite. More like 2.341726 And that's just to replace one. I used to use 3 Retinal Burners...I may go back. It's nice to be seen from space
    I'd like to see you and Collen C light up all your lights at once, it would probably look like a football field lit up at night.

  18. #18
    Senior Member gear's Avatar
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    Along with lumens.

    When considering a headlight for the purpose of seeing (as opposed to being seen), consider the beam of the light. Will you outrun it on a fast downhill? How wide is the beam pattern? If you outrun the beam it is useless, your now riding in the dark. If the beam is too small you will only see what is right in front of you, once you spot something to avoid, you will want to see to either side of the object to avoid so you can choose which way to turn to avoid the obstacle. A nice strong, wide beam is most desirable in a light.

    Also features like easy charging (I had one setup that required removing the batteries each charge, this wore out in no time), good waterproof connectors (no connectors is better), mounting that swiveled in an accident (fixed mounts break off) and allow the lights to be moved to another bike easily.

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    Good point, am not too concerned with floody beams - I want something to see the road ahead am currently searching for a good throwing torch

  20. #20
    Mad bike riding scientist cyccommute's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by gear View Post
    Along with lumens.

    When considering a headlight for the purpose of seeing (as opposed to being seen), consider the beam of the light. Will you outrun it on a fast downhill? How wide is the beam pattern? If you outrun the beam it is useless, your now riding in the dark. If the beam is too small you will only see what is right in front of you, once you spot something to avoid, you will want to see to either side of the object to avoid so you can choose which way to turn to avoid the obstacle. A nice strong, wide beam is most desirable in a light.

    Also features like easy charging (I had one setup that required removing the batteries each charge, this wore out in no time), good waterproof connectors (no connectors is better), mounting that swiveled in an accident (fixed mounts break off) and allow the lights to be moved to another bike easily.
    That's where the lux measurement would come into play. A high lumen count and a low lux indicates a very broad beam such as a flood light. A low lumen count and a high lux indicates a very narrow spot light as does a high lumen/high lux. Unfortunately, you hardly ever find light companies listing both lumens and lux. If they do list lux, you have no idea how the measurement was made.

    Something that I miss from my halogen lights is the ability to run different beam patterns. The Magicshine comes in only a rather wide floody beam. I'd estimate it at around 25 degrees. The halogens I used to run came in 35 degree, 22 degree, 12 degree or even 7 degree beams. At 7 degrees and 1500 lumens, I had to follow laser safety protocols
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  21. #21
    Dog Chaser BetweenRides's Avatar
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    Great discussion on light usability. I've been night riding for only 3 years, so I'm a novice at this compared to many here. My first light was a NR Sol, which is probably 150 lumens. I was happy with it at the time, thought it was the bomb on group trail rides. Where I noticed it was lacking was when I took it out on the road by myself - very easy to outrun the light and it felt quite unsafe. So I supplemented the NR with a Fenix L2D flashlight mounted on the bar. Huge improvement, doubled the light output plus I could aim them near and far for better usable area. Only drawback was washout when another rider had a brighter light behind me.

    This year I go a Strykr with 700+ lumens/52 Lux output according to reviews. It is fantastic and now I can't believe I rode with less light than this. I guess I'm starting to get addicted as I'm contemplating getting another light just to see what riding with 1200+ lumens is like.

    To add to what cyccommute said, beam pattern is crucial to the type riding you are doing. The Strykr is one of the few single headlights that comes with two interchangeable optics - one flood, one spot. There is a significant difference in light usability with them. The flood is perfect for slower trail riding, as it really lights up the immediate area in front of the bike. I supplement that with a spot helmet mounted flashlight for seeing father ahead or around corners, but if I approach speeds greater than 18-20mph, I start to outrun the light. If I'm going to be riding more on paved trails or roads, the spot is the better optic to use, as it feels very safe at higher speeds. I supplement that arrangement with my flashlight mounted on the bar and pointed more towards the immediate area in front of the bike.

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    I usually ride at 15mph+ so find myself outrunning my lights quite a bit. They just don't have the power to light up further ahead hopefully a good throwing light will sort that out. Might as well get one of those red ultrafire lights for the rear too.....I love lights!

  23. #23
    Dog Chaser BetweenRides's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by daven1986 View Post
    I usually ride at 15mph+ so find myself outrunning my lights quite a bit. They just don't have the power to light up further ahead hopefully a good throwing light will sort that out. Might as well get one of those red ultrafire lights for the rear too.....I love lights!
    That's a good thing, because it sounds like you need to keep buying new lights and experimenting until you have the right one for every situation!

    If you've ever seen pictures of Coleen's bike or socalrider's flashlight collection, you might be headed in that direction.

  24. #24
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    100 lumens bare minimum. You will not be able to go faster than 12mph safely, and oncoming car lights will wash your lights out temporarily, but you can definitely coast home at 10-12mph on a measly 100 lumen light. (I def wouldn't recommend it.) A Fenix L2d on medium is about this bright, and it's pretty weak.

    A Fenix L2D @ 180 lumens is what I'd consider the minimum for actually riding and not just surviving. At under 15mph, it's perfectly adequate, but over 15mph, it gets a bit dicey, and leaves you anxious about what's ahead. That said, I've done quite a number of 18 mile dark commutes with nothing but 1 Fenix L2D, and average 15-17mph with it. Wasn't exactly fun, but wasn't dangerous, as well.

    500-750 lumens (Magicshine range) makes a big difference. You can literally see pretty much immediately up ahead, so speeds up to 20mph are actually comfortable. Ironically, the throw of the MS is the same as the 180 lumen Fenix, but the spread is much bigger, which definitely helps. Above 22mph, even the MS gets dicey since the throw isn't that far.

    I myself wouldn't run more than 750 lumens as headlights, just because when I've seen other folks with them, they're quite irritatingly bright, even from the far side of a 4-lane road. I know a good number of folks here do with no problems, but I think it's overkill in a traffic situation where there are others to worry about. If you're averaging 22+mph on your commute though, I'd go for 750+lumens - you'll actually need it, and motorists will actually welcome seeing you if you're moving that fast.

    I'm still living dangerously and running my recalled battery pack MS on my infrequent bike commutes (18 mi each way) but when I do, I average 19-20mph according to my Garmin - which means my moving time is closer to 22-24mph (it's flat the whole way) due to stoplights dropping the average time. The MS is very good to these speeds, but that's probably the upper limit unless you feel like taking risks.

  25. #25
    I am a caffine girl colleen c's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by BetweenRides View Post
    That's a good thing, because it sounds like you need to keep buying new lights and experimenting until you have the right one for every situation!

    If you've ever seen pictures of Coleen's bike or socalrider's flashlight collection, you might be headed in that direction.
    They can very addictive. If you have multiple bikes, then it is worthwhile to buy and try different lights since the less favorable light can be used on the non primary bike.

    What more important than the addiction is the safety factor. Having those extra lumens saved my butt more than once. I recall traveling on the main road 5am in the morning where my traffic had all blinking red yellow lights and cross traffic had blinking red lights. The traffic on my road at that time of the morning has hardly any cars and the cross traffic are single lane comming out of residential street. I was travelling with my two throwers on when I heard a tire screeching sound from a locked brakes. I took a quick look at my mirror but saw no cars and than I saw a taxi just barely stopped at the crosswalk from the side street from my right. He had no headlights on and just his parking lights on. I did not see the warning sign of a car approaching from the side street because usually I see their head lights shine pass the intersection as I get near the intersection. I believed he was going to run his blinking red traffic light and then saw the lights from my thrower and reacted on that before actually seeing me. Time like this is when I glad I had those extra Lumens working for me.
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