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  1. #1
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    Lights

    Most touring occurs in daylight I am sure. However, for various reasons including rain, fog, fighting headwinds resulting in longer riding hours than planned, getting lost and even leaving at zero-dark-thirty to try to avoid the heat of the day, bicycle tourers carry bike lights.

    Out of curiosity, what kind of headlight/lights do you use? Not safety reflectors or strips. Lights.
    Battery/solar powered or dynamo?
    Manufacturer? Model?

    Right now I'm using a cheap, found at a thrift shop for $1 headlight - but I got what I paid for and am looking to replace it.

    Oh, and I'm not asking/talking about headlamps (you know, those you strap to your head/helmet)... just bike headlights.
    Last edited by drmweaver2; 08-31-10 at 07:39 AM.

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    Godfather of Soul SBRDude's Avatar
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    I have an old Nite Rider system that I used to use for mountain bike riding at night and commuting at night. I like it because it's rechargeable and is very bright.

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    Senior Member staehpj1's Avatar
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    I use cheap (usually $5.99 on sale) blinkies like this:


    I use the headlamp that I use around camp if I want a headlight. Something like this:

    OOPS! you weren't asking about that.

    While I do often ride for an hour before sunrise, I still don't think that is enough to bother with rechargeable batteries while on tour.
    Last edited by staehpj1; 08-31-10 at 08:46 AM.

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    I am a believer in redundancy. I have a Planet Bike blinker on the reflector mount of my rear rack, a Planet Bike superflash in the light loop on my saddle bag, and a Trek blinker fastened to the retention loop on my helmet (using a 1/2-inch-wide rubber band). For front, I always have a NiteRider UltraFazer Max (the switch tends to go on a little too easily, so you might not want it). I will often travel with my NiteRider Pro 600 light. It's generally set to low beam for maximum battery life, but can go to high beam in case a driver in front of me is obviously not paying attention.

    Your needs might be different. I just like riding late and at night better than most.

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    For touring, ignoring those things you are "not asking about", I don't carry any light that shines forward on the bike. I think most people carry rear blinkies. And I do use one of those things you are "not asking about," but I won't mention it because you are not asking about that.

    Commuting is another story.

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    Hi,

    Shimano hub dynamo, Lumotec IQ CyoR senso plus LED 40 LUX, and Toplight Line plus. Really bright, and comfortable especially the sensor control in tunnels etc.
    Christian

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    Quote Originally Posted by John Nelson View Post
    For touring, ignoring those things you are "not asking about"...Commuting is another story.
    There are reasons I wasn't asking about headlamps; the reasons are similar to your statement about commuting. Basically by trying to limit the discussion to headlights, I'm trying to focus on "apples" not "growing fruit".

    Weight issues, LED vs incandescents, wide vs narrow beam, dynamos vs batteries - all of these are easier to compare without also having to consider "light where the bike is pointed"(very touring related) vs "light where you are looking"(more commuter related in my mind). Also, headlights don't also preclude the use of head lamps. That's why I'm trying to focus on headlights here.

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    " I'm trying to focus on "apples" not "growing fruit"."

    Which is fine, except that people who a) realize night travel is often impractical on tour, and b) like to travel light, will often combine functions into less lights. I used to carry a cateye headlamp, and tail light, and use the cateye headlamp as my around camp flashlight. The same thing gets done with headlamps. I am moving towards using a camp flashlight as my headlight. I like to carry it between fingers in my left hand, but want a handlebar mount for it. I am not nuts about weight, it just don't generally use the light much on tour. The only time that comes to mind is when in towns, which is sorta back to the comuter like uses. I like to ride through the whole day, which means like 12-16 hours on the bike. I am normally at the campsite by dark. So my main use of lights is around the tent.

    I use a flasher on the back of the bike in rain, and I just tie it into the straps that hold my sleeping bag on. That is the simple way to ensure it's light doesn't get obscured by the load. Some day I will make a proper tailight. A lot of the mounted euro lights are too close to rack to show properly since tents and bags can overhang the rack.

    I might consider going to a dynamo if what Chris of velo orange says comes true, and the hub is touring grade:

    "I recently mentioned a new dynamo hub design that I thought was revolutionary and might make existing high end dyno hubs obsolete. We have a production-ready sample that we'll be testing over the next few weeks. But I can already tell you that the build quality looks very impressive and, if my calculations are correct, it will cut overall rolling resistance by more than 50% compared to any other (production) dyno hub that I'm aware of, while maintaining the same 3w/6v output"

  9. #9
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    I keep two miniature blinky LED lights, one facing front, one facing rear, on my bike at all times. I can turn them on while pedaling. It's convenient not to have to fish for them in my panniers. Plus it's good to be make oneself a little more visible at a moment's notice. While climbing a pass in the Alps, I rode through several long tunnels, and was glad to be able to switch them on easily.

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    Senior Member staehpj1's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by drmweaver2 View Post
    "light where the bike is pointed"(very touring related) vs "light where you are looking"(more commuter related in my mind).
    Not sure I get the distinction as to why one is more touring related than the other.

    In choice of lighting, for most of us, it probably makes a lot of difference when and where we tour.

    I know that I often ride for an hour or more before daylight and on wide open straight roads like those on my Santa Fe Trail tour I found a rear blinkie plenty adequate without any front light. The roads were straight and the few trucks (often 3 or 4 per hour) could see me for miles before they passed me. Intersections were almost non existent but the few there were I could see a mile or so to either side.

    Other locations or conditions may require better lighting.

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    I carry a Planet Bike Superflash rear light, a Planet Bike 1-watt front light (though I'd take a look at the 2-watt version if I was to buy again), plus a Petzl Tikka Plus 2 headlamp when I'm on tour.

    I've only had to use the combo once, but found that it worked pretty well. The 1-watt headlight is brighter than I would have expected for a cheap light, as is the Superflash blinkie. I found it was nice to have the headlamp to throw some light onto stuff that might not have been illuminated by the headlight (think: street signs). I suspect that the headlight will chew through batteries pretty quickly, so you'd probably want something different if you planned to ride in the dark regularly or for extended periods of time.

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    Travelling hopefully chasm54's Avatar
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    This Cateye ld 1100. Superb rear light, highly visible but unlikely actually to blind the driver behind, long battery life, very impressive product imo. I use it during the day (one bank of LEDs only, blinking) in heavy rain or low-light conditions.
    There have been many days when I haven't felt like riding, but there has never been a day when I was sorry I rode.

  13. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by John Nelson View Post
    For touring, ignoring those things you are "not asking about", I don't carry any light that shines forward on the bike. I think most people carry rear blinkies. And I do use one of those things you are "not asking about," but I won't mention it because you are not asking about that.

    Commuting is another story.
    Ha ha. I love it.

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    I like a headlamp for doing stuff around camp when it's dark. I also like a headlight on my bike that will always be facing oncoming traffic, no matter where I'm looking. If the batteries run out in one, I can use the other to change the batteries in the first. The weight of either light without batteries is negligible, so if you're going to carry more than one set of spare batteries anyway, you might as well carry a spare light.

    LED over incandescent without question. More dependable, more efficient.

    Wide beam over narrow beam. It's more important to be seen than to see.

    Batteries over dynamo. It's good to have a light that you can use off the bike as well as on the bike (see above).

  15. #15
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    Replaced a wired up battery thing, I had created, with a round tube thing to mount a handlebar LED
    light , low on the front rack, closer to the pavement.. you have a bright flashlight also , as a result..

    Have a rubber velcro strap thing to mount a flash light there, too , so a flashlight can serve as a headlight..

    Day to day .. winter, hub dynamos are excellent, unlike bottle dynamos they dont slip when tire is wet.

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    I often use a blinking red tail light even during daytime if it is overcast or if the sun is in front of me where the sun could blind drivers. Rack or bike mounted lights that allow you to aim it straight back is best. Lights that are attached with a belt clip onto a backpack or clipped onto clothing usually shine their light where nobody can see it.

    I prefer the ones that use two AA batteries and can be bolted to a rack. But they are getting harder to find, most newer ones use AAA batteries and can't be bolted directly onto the rack.

    After driving a motorcycle for 40 years, I have concluded that you should assume that you are invisible to other drivers that are coming towards you.

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    I used to use a CatEye HL-EL 500 like this http://www.rei.com/product/745539 It was ok for being seen, but not so hot for seeing. There was enough light to see the road surface, but the beam wasn't broad enough to see stop signs or street signs.

    Last year I switched to a NiteRider MiNewt 150 - similar to this newer 200 lumen version from REI http://www.rei.com/product/793936 It is light weight and bright with a 4.5 hour battery life. The downside is it uses a proprietary rechargable battery with a 3.5 hour charge time. Tail lights are Cateye TL LD 1100 http://www.rei.com/product/760726 and Planet Bike Superflash http://www.rei.com/product/756360

    The lights are mounted on the bike only when needed. During the day they hang out in the bottom of the panniers.

  18. #18
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    magic shine on front, 4D Toplight (non blinking) on rear, MS claims to last 4 hrs on high, 6 on med, and 8 on low--also has two flashing modes--slow and faster.

  19. #19
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    For front lighting, I use a Planet Bike 2W Blaze and have the helmet mount, as well as a handlebar mount. Good light, really bright, and an annoying blinking mode that can't be ignored if you're touring through a city or town during the evening. I also carry a Petzel Tikka Plus for around camp, and as a spare.

    For tail lights, I use a Portland Design Works Radbot 1000 mounted on my rear rack (best tail light I've ever used from the perspective of being seen. Blink mode is enough to induce epileptic seizure at 500 yards), and a Blackburn Mars 3 on my seatpost as backup.

    I try not to tour after dark but have gotten caught short of my destination a few times, and the lights came in handy. Better too many lights than too few - I can always keep the lights off if they're not needed.

    I use rechargeable batteries in all the lights, and carry a set of fully charged rechargeables. I haven't gone on a tour long enough to run out of batteries yet.
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    coprolite fietsbob's Avatar
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    Back of my rack is a B&M toplight senso, it is a battery light , front there is a Dynohub and a 3w halogen lamp

    Bike taillights that blink are not legal in Germany, so they don't.. when passing thru a dark tunnel the light does blink,
    but slower than Blinky lights sold in the US but the sensor turns the light on automatically when the tunnel darkens
    so you dont have to stop and turn it on, in the daylight. it turns off again in the sunlight

    Nightime its a steady light.

    another piece is a nite rider 'head trip' .. battery pack is on a cord ,
    so when its cold out the battery performs best,
    because you have it inside your jacket.

    But all the lights I see are not compatible with helmet rain covers
    so dry head or light becomes a trade off.
    Last edited by fietsbob; 08-31-10 at 01:09 PM.

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    Senior Member wahoonc's Avatar
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    Depends on the bike. One bike has a headlight and taillight powered by a bottom bracket mount generator. Which is backed up by a Planet Bike SuperFlash. On my expedition tour bike I use a battery powered headlight and taillight backed up by a Planet Bike Superflash. Those are an older set of Blackburn lights that I got new at a yard sale for $1. I also have a helmet mount light that I quite often carry for back up and setting up camp in the dark.

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    I use two cheap AAA blinkies. If I need light around camp at night, I wear my baseball cap back to front and attach the light to the fastener.

  23. #23
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    Quote Originally Posted by drmweaver2 View Post
    bicycle tourers carry bike lights.


    Oh, and I'm not asking/talking about headlamps (you know, those you strap to your head/helmet)... just bike headlights.
    No, bicycle tourers don't as a matter of course carry bike lights. Most of my riding I carried a 2AA cell halogen light that I used no more than a few minutes at night in camp. To see the road it takes WATTS and that takes a rechargable battery set-up or dynamo/LED lighting. A basic 2AAA PlanetBike Superflash and 3AAA headlamp can suffice for dusk riding and LOW speed riding at night but you'll burn through those AAA batteries if the headlamp is burning it's 1watt high setting.
    A 3AAA headlamp with strobe function is worth having for the same reason you'd use a 2AA superflash taillight, to be seen. If you want a headlight for riding at night be willing to spend big bucks for a dynamo system or burning through batteries.
    Personally I wouldn't attempt a night riding capability for touring.

  24. #24
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    Quote Originally Posted by LeeG View Post
    No, bicycle tourers don't as a matter of course carry bike lights. Most of my riding I carried a 2AA cell halogen light... .... Personally I wouldn't attempt a night riding capability for touring.
    Yet your answer shows you've thought about the question. Go figure.

    FWIW, numerous bicycle touring journals around the 'Net confirm that many bicycle tourists engage in riding in low light situations for reasons I mentioned in the original post, sometimes deliberately, sometimes due to circumstance. Either they are riding in the dark or they have lights showing the road ahead; my money is on the latter.

    For me, a front light's primary purpose is illuminate the road ahead; letting people in front of me know where I am is purely secondary especially since I ride with traffic, not against it. Others obviously feel differently. Riding at night may be necessary or desirable at some point; riding in the rain or at dusk/dawn is more likely for me. "Burning through"/recharging batteries is merely an expected expense if not using a dynamo. Dual-use items tend to mean compromising something. In the case of lights, I'm debating whether cost, lumens, battery life or battery replacement is where I feel is appropriate to compromise. It's logical to assume those who've toured have already made that decision; it wouldn't be inconceivable to periodically re-evaluate that decision.

    The statements you made about battery life and "wattage" are so vague as to preclude direct address. What concerns me more than "wattage" per se is the lumens-to-cost ratio, however that cost is incurred. "eneloop" batteries and other rechargeables (whether via AC outlets or solar panels) can lower financial costs. Or, one can simply suck it up, treat batteries for the lights as mere consumables and purchase them as required like food. Choices, choices.

    Dynamo's may have high initial finacial cost but over time their cost-per-lumen seems lower than batteries (the disadvantage is their weight when not being used/providing light). Then again, dynamo's don't have to be "big bucks" expenditures unless you're figuring $50 to be big bucks. $50 dynamos are readily available on eBay and my "local" craigslist/freeserver lists. With some people spending >$400 for a single wheel, $50 certainly doesn't seem to meet the "big bucks" definition to me. Hub dynamo's, otoh, could easily be big bucks expenditures - but possibly part of that >$400/wheel.

    It seems to me that "a night riding capability for touring" seems at least worth discussing - from whatever perspective. I choose to limit my own considerations, for now, to those not including headlamps.

  25. #25
    Senior Member Northwestrider's Avatar
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    For me it's Dinotte on the front and back, however a very good option is a $20 flash light including batteries from Loews that I believe is called the 60xxx which lights up the road quite well. On the back I also use the oft mentioned Planet Bike Super flash.

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