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  1. #1
    Rides again HiYoSilver's Avatar
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    Recommendations for winter commute lighting

    In strange position of trying to start commuting in the winter. Yeah, I know it is not spring, but if can make it thru one winter should be able to make it year round. Won't start for about another 2-3 weeks as I need to get in better shape yet, and get the bike ready for commuting.

    I've done some research on bike lighting and trying to stay within the $80 to $120 range, it seems like the best bang for the buck is Light and Motion Commuter light.

    Climate data for Nov/Dec/Jan
    Morning Low: 23F, 16F, 15F. Darkness in am: 30-45 min. Darkness in pm: 30-60min.

    Thus I need at least 100 minutes of light burn time. With the colder temps, this could be challenging; especially if I get a flat.

    What do you think? Is the L&M commuter the best buy, or is there something else I should consider? I want to be able to travel safely at about 15-20 MPH and both see and be seen.

    Thanks

    Huff

  2. #2
    floor sleeper
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    Heh, get a front rack and mount this on it... http://www.lapolicegear.com/huse10capo.html

  3. #3
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    the L&M is ok. but they won't sell you longer cords and the plugs are not the common ones so you can't get antoehr barrery pack from anyone else. Plus as usual the chargers suck in that price range.
    you can make yourself a light for 120.00 or less and get more light if you want and a better charger.

  4. #4
    LeMond Lives! Dusk's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by robertsdvd
    Heh, get a front rack and mount this on it... http://www.lapolicegear.com/huse10capo.html
    I think you could wave off a 747 from landing with that thing! I'm not sure blinding the traffic that is coming at the guy is a good thing....LOL

    Cheers

  5. #5
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    Quote Originally Posted by huffypuffy
    In strange position of trying to start commuting in the winter. Yeah, I know it is not spring, but if can make it thru one winter should be able to make it year round. Won't start for about another 2-3 weeks as I need to get in better shape yet, and get the bike ready for commuting.

    I've done some research on bike lighting and trying to stay within the $80 to $120 range, it seems like the best bang for the buck is Light and Motion Commuter light.

    Huff
    The L&M's a fine light, but the truth is if you're just looking at a 10-12W halogen rechargeable light, you don't have to pay the L&M premium.

    You could get the Cygolite Night Rover with the NiMh battery. It's a little cheaper than the Commuter, and it has a dual beam headlamp. You can run at 6W for three hours, or 12W for 1.5 hours. With a bit of light management, you'll be able to use the light during the shortest days.

    Or you can get today's Mclight, the Night Hawk Raptor, a cheap little ten watt light. That thing is $40 at Performance. If I were you, that's the one I'd probably get.

    One note about your plans: the cold will shorten your battery life. That's true with any battery light. You might consider getting an extra charger, and keeping it at work. But that might tell against the L&M light, since they charge no small amount for their spare parts. You might consider rigging up an extra charger yourself at Radio Shack, too. Or you could buy a spare battery (or, in the case of the Night Hawk, just buy two lights.)

    Cygolite had a version of the Night Rover with a big lead-acid battery. The battery sits in a bag and hangs on your top tube. That one's not so bad, either, for your purposes. You'd really have to keep an extra charger at work. But, if you find this one anywhere, you could buy it for almost nothing.

    None of the lights in this price range will have a sophisticated charger. You might want to buy a timer, so that you don't forget-and-fry. You'll also have to remember to charge up every night.

    You can definitely be seen with lights of this kind, and the seeing is all right. Use caution until you get some experience guesstimating the appearance of road hazards.

    It's a good idea to bring a small headlamp flashlight along with you during night commutes. It would be very useful if you need to make repairs.

    From your riding time estimates, I assume your ride's about eight miles each way? It's always a good idea to ride and get in shape, but you don't have to do that before undertaking a commute of this length.

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    Quote Originally Posted by robertsdvd
    Heh, get a front rack and mount this on it... http://www.lapolicegear.com/huse10capo.html
    http://www.cabelas.com/cabelas/en/te...075&hasJS=true

    Hmmmnn... the link might be too big, but you can go to www.cabelas.com and look under camping, spotlights, for the Thor 10,000,000 candlepower light. It's the "civilian" equivalent of the spot above.

    I've got the slightly smaller Thor 3,000,000 light.

    Of course, in neither case should you take the candlepower measurements seriously. I have no idea just what manufacturers are claiming they're measuring anymore with numbers like these.

    These are *bright* lights, though. Even the smaller "3,000,000" light that I have has a 100W halogen bulb. The reflector's all right. The thing will cast a very tight spot to 800 yards or so, but the spill at close range is brighter than my HID bike light.

    I've thought about sticking the thing on my front rack, just for fun.

  7. #7
    Long Live Long Rides
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    Don't forget if your light is battery powered, the cold weather might shorten your run time a little. I use a gel-cel. I don't know if NiCads or NiMH will do the same. My 5 Amp/Hr battery will run about 4.75 hrs in summer but 3-3.5 in winter.
    Jharte
    Touring...therapy for the soul.

  8. #8
    Rides again HiYoSilver's Avatar
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    Thanks for the suggestions. I was based on reviews of lights and comparisons of amount of light provided at night, but these were camera images. Eyes work differently. I really wanted some of the good $400 HID NiMH lights for the poor old eyes, but hard to justify until I prove to myself that commuting in winter is viable.

    Other than the suggestions given, I thought about using a lead acid in a small triangle bag, but it is soooo sensitive to the cold. I missed that L&M uses special connections. I knew they had a problem with recharging but did not realize I need 2 chargers. One at home and one at work. 14hr recharge time, ough.

    Yes commute is a miserly 8-10 miles one way. But don't want to bit off too much and get discouraged. So far by doing it slow, I have keep enthusiasm and have not had any aches and pains. I want to be able to get to work, work, get home all without any obvious distress.

    Thanks for the suggestion of bringing along a small flashlight. Duh, missed that one.

    So what about winter riding-- how many watts would you recommend for mixture of light rich city roads and dark bike trails?
    10, 15, 20, 35 or what?

    I would rather error on too bright than too dim.

    Huff

  9. #9
    Formerly Known as Newbie Juha's Avatar
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    Dark trails? I would suggest a dual beam lamp. You can run the low beam when you have ambient light, then switch on the high beam on the trail. In my experience 5-10w is enough for city, even for unlit sections of road commuting (heck, some Forum members commute quite happily with "just" 3w dynamo powered lights), but in the woods you are going to need more than that. My commute does not contain trail sections, but from what I've read you will need at least 25-30w combined wattage.

    And not all watts are created equal. The shape of beam(s), quality of reflector and optics, the color (temperature) of light all have an effect on the performance. Good dynamo lights, for example, have very good optics and beams, which is why 3w can be enough. The DIY route someone mentioned is also a serious suggestion: you will be able to tweak the various parameters at minimal cost to find a combination that best suits your needs.

    And I seem to remember Lithium-Ion batteries are particularly sensitive to the cold. Can anyone confirm this?

    --J
    To err is human. To moo is bovine.

    Who is this General Failure anyway, and why is he reading my drive?


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  10. #10
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    I use the Planet Bike Insight - $139 CDN at mec.ca. Three settings: 9/12/15 watts for battery life management. Says it's some kind of blue spectra something or other that makes it seem brighter that the wattage. Don't know about that.

    I know I ride in up to -25 to -30 C weather and it performs well. 9 watts is great to be seen. Part of my ride is dark and scary unlit, windblow bike path. The 15 watts is the MINIMUM for my eyes on these. It has the plug in and forget charger and I don't think an extra charger for the office is all that expensive.

  11. #11
    Rides again HiYoSilver's Avatar
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    Update: commute is about 25 minutes. It will be dark at beginning of day and twilight at best at end.

    Summer burn time would have to be at least 60 minutes.
    Say 90 minutes since ratings are overstated.

    What would be your comfortable minimum burn time for winter?

    Thanks

    Huff

  12. #12
    2-Cyl, 1/2 HP @ 90 RPM slvoid's Avatar
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    15-20 mph you need at least a 10 watt halogen.

  13. #13
    Just riding andygates's Avatar
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    Lumicycle! Great lights, loads of accessories and options. www.lumicycle.co.uk. This plug brought to you by a happy customer...

  14. #14
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    My DIY system uses a modern dynamo lamp (Lumotec) wired to a lead acid battery, using a constant voltage (ie good) charger.
    The burn time is 5hours, and you can uprate the bulb if you want.
    If you are going DIY, then don't bother trying to fabricate a lamp unit, just buy one or 2 of the Lumotecs. As Juha notes, these are designed to put light where a cyclist needs it, in a rectangular patch, and a peripheral star pattern. They also have a good mounting system at the fork crown. I can ride on unlight trails with it.

  15. #15
    Snakebite gritface's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by huffypuffy
    I really wanted some of the good $400 HID NiMH lights for the poor old eyes, but hard to justify until I prove to myself that commuting in winter is viable.
    I bought the Light and Motion HID light. Mainly for the fact that it doesn't take 14 hours to recharge with the included 3.5 hour quick charger. This is my first season using it and I'm really surprised. In the dark and overcast/daylight, drivers really pay attention. A lot more people will actually miss their turn and wave me through an intersection when I have my light on. I still ride as if nobody sees me, but I really do feel a lot safer and feel that more potential accidents are avoided. I can easily justify $400 now, although I did feel very uneasy paying that much for a light.

    Plus I've hauled the L&M on a couple backpacking trips already (it snaps off the bike pretty easy) and it's been nice to have. I guess if you can use it for more than one purpose, it becomes easier to justify as well.

    Now if I could just figure out how to quit losing my Vistalights. I've probably lost over $400 in replacing those things. Damn things jump out when I hit a bump, nothing brighter for a taillight out there. I've tried taping them down with fiber tape, and they still run away...

  16. #16
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    I live in a rural area in the UK.

    I cycle to work in the dark (40mins) and come home in twilight (50mins). I use the CatEye dual 2*10w system. I only use both lights coming down fast hills and use the single point light on the unlit roads. I try to extend the battery life by switching to other battery powered lights when I get to the city + going home. This means that I can manage at least 3 return journeys on one charge.

    The lower powered lights I use are the flashing CatEye LED front light. I use the flashing super bright 5 LED CatEye on the back of the bike combined with a cheapo flashin 3 LED light on the bag on my back.

  17. #17
    Senior Member landrover's Avatar
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    I'm getting two NITE HAWK RAPTOR 10W LIGHT SYSTEMS to drop under my handle bar..It was on sale for about 40 bucks per at Nashbar.

  18. #18
    Rides again HiYoSilver's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by gritface
    Now if I could just figure out how to quit losing my Vistalights. I've probably lost over $400 in replacing those things. Damn things jump out when I hit a bump, nothing brighter for a taillight out there. I've tried taping them down with fiber tape, and they still run away...
    I ended up getting a vistapoint 10w,20w Halo duo with NiMh pack. It snowed last night so not able to see how well they light up the road. The connection between the battery pack and recharger/lights is extremely poor. You have to use a plies to get the connections free. I expect to upgrade to HID after a year of commuting. The recharge time is 6..8 hrs.

    For rear, used this cateye from REI, http://www.rei.com/product/47843639....HP_CYCLING_TOC, 10 lights, running on 2 AA batteries, 50 hrs run time. It is bright. Big disadvantage is it expects to be mounted to saddle post. Had to use plastic ties to strap to luggage rack. After the roads clear, we'll see how it survives bumps. I put on 4 thin white straps, if they break I will put on the heavier straps. Had to use rack mount as post mount hid the light just as soon as the rack bag was fastened.

    Huff

  19. #19
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    Quote Originally Posted by gritface
    Now if I could just figure out how to quit losing my Vistalights. I've probably lost over $400 in replacing those things. Damn things jump out when I hit a bump, nothing brighter for a taillight out there. I've tried taping them down with fiber tape, and they still run away...

    What Vistalite taillight are you using? And where are they attached?

    I have lost only one Vistalite Super Nebula taillight so far and had one or two close calls when I heard one falling on the ground. In the "close call" cases, they were related to a springy home made bracket that broke loose.
    Michel Gagnon
    Montréal (Québec, Canada)

  20. #20
    Si Senior dbg's Avatar
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    I use the shimano dynamo front hub generator and love it. No batteries to worry about at all ever and the light is spectacular front and back. It does put a noticeable load on your "roll." I have a switch to turn it off which helps a bit, but hey, it's a commutter bike not a racing bike, and I want to see and be seen.

    dbg

  21. #21
    Rides again HiYoSilver's Avatar
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    Trial run update

    Bottom line, 30w halo lights are not enough. I should have gone with HID's. Ugh, ugh. I can only see clearly about 1.5 houses ahead of me at night. I have to slow down too much to really enjoy night riding. As this is with not yet being back in biking shape. ugh, ugh....

  22. #22
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    Quote Originally Posted by huffypuffy
    Trial run update

    Bottom line, 30w halo lights are not enough. I should have gone with HID's. Ugh, ugh. I can only see clearly about 1.5 houses ahead of me at night. I have to slow down too much to really enjoy night riding. As this is with not yet being back in biking shape. ugh, ugh....
    how fast are you going? you can change the bulbs to give a tighter beam farther ahead for very litttle money.

  23. #23
    Rides again HiYoSilver's Avatar
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    I don't know, can't read cyclometer at night but guess between 20 and 25, most probably about 21 as I was feeling good. This was a dual system. 1 20w which appears to be a spot and 1 10w which is a flood. Side to side view is good. Distance is the one I am concerned about. It may be rider education issue. I was expecting a bright oval of light in front of me. If I move the 20w light more parallel to ground, then I don't see the light oval. I guess I will have to set it up with a stationary object and a stationary bike to get better feel for how far I can see with this setup.

  24. #24
    displaced AZ Wildcat Clayton's Avatar
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    I use the Cygolite Night Rover with the NiMh battery mentioned by Meriwether and am not having any problems with producing enough light to see by. My commute is in twilight in the AM and completely dark in the PM. So far the run time of the NiMh battery has not been a problem for the 21 mile round trip. I'm still waiting to see how the temp will effect run time, it was 26F when I left home this morning.

  25. #25
    Rides again HiYoSilver's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Merriwether
    It's a good idea to bring a small headlamp flashlight along with you during night commutes. It would be very useful if you need to make repairs.
    Don't think I remembered to thank you for this idea. I bought a very small very light but bright light from REI last weekend. It is in my travel bag for just such an emergency. It's so small and thin I figure I can hold it in my teeth to get the spot in just the right place.

    Huff

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