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Noob question about lights

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Noob question about lights

Old 09-05-16, 10:09 PM
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thunderseed
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Noob question about lights

So, what's the best kind of light for night riding in town?

I have this really powerful white headlight thingamajig, but when I was riding in the dark once I guess it shone in some drivers face and they were still quite a far ways and they honked at me so badly it nearly gave me a heart attack. I have been afraid to use it ever since.
I didn't want to turn it off then because I was on a very dangerous hill that has no bike lane and I also needed to see where i was going.

I think the light might be too bright though. Or maybe I had it pointed up too far so that it was blinding them? Any tips or advice you can give me?
Maybe that driver was just being a jerk?
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Old 09-05-16, 10:14 PM
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aimed too high most likely. being too bright is a bit vague - one's man 500 lumens is dull vs another who thinks it's nice and bright. but regardless, aim those lumens too high and you are blinding people vs alerting them you are there and shining the path in front of you.
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Old 09-05-16, 10:27 PM
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Well this might be a dumb question, but how high is too high?
It's one of those small but long cylinder shaped lights, so then I worry if I point the light beam at the ground, can drivers still see it?
And I don't want it directly in front of me, I like to have it about ten feet in front of me so I can see any obstacles I might ride into, but maybe that's angled too high?
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Old 09-05-16, 10:38 PM
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Originally Posted by thunderseed View Post
Well this might be a dumb question, but how high is too high?
It's one of those small but long cylinder shaped lights, so then I worry if I point the light beam at the ground, can drivers still see it?
And I don't want it directly in front of me, I like to have it about ten feet in front of me so I can see any obstacles I might ride into, but maybe that's angled too high?
that's a tougher question. one must imagine that car's headlights are engineered to be within fractions of a millimeter in place before sending them out to production - to balance light for the driver vs blinding oncoming traffic. as cyclists, we have to quickly attach a bright light to a bar and do it to within millimeters of a correct position in order to do the same.

trial & error, of which one could cost you a life.
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Old 09-06-16, 06:19 AM
  #5  
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Mount it on your bike, turn it on, prop your bike up and take a walk in front of it. In the dark of course. See it from their perspective.
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Old 09-06-16, 07:13 AM
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Hmm, I wonder if there are bike lights that have high beams and low beam settings like cars do.

I guess I could always just angle it down further when there are cars near and then angle it up again when there aren't any cars near.
I hope to be taking back roads that are less populated as much as possible so there may not be too many cars that I have to worry about, hopefully.
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Old 09-06-16, 07:40 AM
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I have a Knog front light, comes with different brightness settings, aimed low (mainly because public light is crap in my route and I need to see where I'm riding lol). This same company makes MTB lights with a higher lumen count that are not suitable for the road. I'd say look for lights aimed at commuting to be sure.

Where I live most commuters use the cheap silicone chinese lights, which are barely visible. My light is blinding compared to them, but haven't had complaints from motorists.
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Old 09-06-16, 07:42 AM
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I aim it inside the hallway shining at the far wall. As long as the bright spot is lower than the light itself it won't be shining directly into the drivers' eyes.

Our lights are not designed to shape the light beam, like auto headlights are, so even when aimed low if they look directly into it they will still see a bright spot. We can't really do much about that unless we're willing to buy some expensive, relatively dim lights sold in Europe. Or embark on some DIY modifications.
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Old 09-06-16, 07:42 AM
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Aim the main beam about 30 feet in front of your bike. Don't worry, cars will see you.
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Old 09-06-16, 07:47 AM
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Originally Posted by thunderseed View Post
So, what's the best kind of light for night riding in town?

I have this really powerful white headlight thingamajig, but when I was riding in the dark once I guess it shone in some drivers face and they were still quite a far ways and they honked at me so badly it nearly gave me a heart attack. I have been afraid to use it ever since.
I didn't want to turn it off then because I was on a very dangerous hill that has no bike lane and I also needed to see where i was going.

I think the light might be too bright though. Or maybe I had it pointed up too far so that it was blinding them? Any tips or advice you can give me?
Maybe that driver was just being a jerk?
Run it in a Lower Setting or Aim it Down more.

Do you have Good Night Vision?
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Old 09-06-16, 07:52 AM
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Inexpensive lights may not focus their beams well, so light goes where it isn’t needed or wanted. German lights use a different beam pattern, flat across the top so they don’t blind oncoming traffic. They also concentrate the light on the road, where you want it. If you are able to mount your light in a lower location than your handlebars, that helps too (mine are on my front racks).

The Busch & Müller Ixon lights do have high and low beams. The main advantage to using the low beams is the charge lasts longer.

Busch&Muller battery powered bicycle lights
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Old 09-06-16, 08:06 AM
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You need to see and be seen. Currently my favorite portable light for this is a Cygolite Metro 550 with the strobe over constant light. I can see by it and it's very eye-catching.

Also, as others have said, aim it down, I usually have the beam hit the road 40 or so feet in front of me.

Also some advice, if horns can scare you that badly, you need to get used to it. There are people who will honk at you just for being there.
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Old 09-06-16, 08:24 AM
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I have a lower power 180-degree white blinky facing front on the bike, so cars can see me at night, and I can aim my headlight down at the street and not have to worry about if cars see that. I also have a lower power white helmet light facing forward.
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Old 09-06-16, 08:34 AM
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Originally Posted by thunderseed View Post
So, what's the best kind of light for night riding in town?

I have this really powerful white headlight thingamajig, but when I was riding in the dark once I guess it shone in some drivers face and they were still quite a far ways and they honked at me so badly it nearly gave me a heart attack. I have been afraid to use it ever since.
I didn't want to turn it off then because I was on a very dangerous hill that has no bike lane and I also needed to see where i was going.

I think the light might be too bright though. Or maybe I had it pointed up too far so that it was blinding them? Any tips or advice you can give me?
Maybe that driver was just being a jerk?
The driver was probably one of the old peeple.
Seniors have sensitivety to bright lights.
Your cheap LED headlight probably burned their retina.
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Old 09-06-16, 09:15 AM
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I use a generic CREE led flashlight instead of a purpose-made bike-branded one, if yours has a zooming head, narrow the beam, and point it downwards so (almost) all the light is usable for you, not wasted up in the air. Try blink mode, riding down the street -- if all the street signs are flashing back at you, you've got it pointed up too high. Also try a lower power mode. I run mine on medium, it's still plenty of bright, and the battery lasts longer.
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Old 09-06-16, 09:33 AM
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OK I can't resist offering one DIY trick for this, because it's really easy. I did this, and it flattens my beam out and reduces spill from the top.

Find a plastic Fresnel magnifier, something like this https://www.amazon.com/Full-Page-Mag.../dp/B001TLJXJ8. The full page size works best, but you can experiment with smaller sizes. Unscrew the lens of the headlight and trace around it on the magnifier, somewhere offset from the center, like a third or halfway up the page. (up from the center!) Cut the disc out, insert it into the headlight in front of the lens, and presto you've got a spread out beam angled down. If the shape isn't right yet, go further up the page and cut out another one.

Last edited by wphamilton; 09-06-16 at 11:50 AM.
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Old 09-06-16, 09:51 AM
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That's pretty awesome. You can experiment with discs cut from the center outwards in a line, and choose the one that hits your sweet spot. You should post this on the tips&tricks sticky.
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Old 09-06-16, 10:37 AM
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Maybe the honking was for some other reason altogether
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Old 09-06-16, 12:54 PM
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One person honking doesn't mean you have a problem, you should be able to find a compromise where you can see and not offend others like a lot of us have.
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Old 09-06-16, 02:32 PM
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I think it is important not to aim bright lights into people's eyes. @wphamilton's method is pretty good. Or you can do it outside. See where the top of the bright part of the beam lands 30 or so feet away. Make sure that is below people's faces.

Alternately, you can get a light with a shaped beam, such as the lights made by Busch & Müller. It's really easy to see the top part of the beam as it is the most intense. The cutoff is very sharp.
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Old 09-29-16, 02:20 PM
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If a car driver is blinded by your lights, imagine what it will do to the fellow cyclist facing you on a dark cycle path.
When it happened to me, I had to stop in emergency or I would have crashed into a tree off the path.
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Old 09-29-16, 08:37 PM
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It mostly depends on the kind of light you have.

Mountain bike lights have a wide area beam. You're going to blind anyone coming towards you with the light...period, pretty much.

Most other lights have a "flashlight" style beam, where there's a main brighter spot in the middle. You want to point the light down at the ground and turn the light on, Then move the light up right up to where the bright spot stops standing out as a bright spot - and stop.

You can also buy a light with an optically shaped light like @noglider said. The drawback is they don't put any light above the horizon which is kinda of weird - like if people are lit up you see their legs but not their face. And they aren't as widely available as other lights. B&M makes the Ixon IQ Premium. Has 6 hours of battery life, but some people think it's not bright enough. Specialized makes the Flux which has a shaped beam, and you can switch on a "high" beam, but it's pricey and it wouldn't hurt it to be brighter either. I use a shaped beam light (Philips Saferide, but they don't sell it any more) and a wide beam light on a very low setting.

It really depends on what kind of light you have now. If you turn it on and shine it at the wall, is there a much brighter circle in the middle of the beam?
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Old 09-29-16, 09:50 PM
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The B+M lights have a superior beam pattern. My Light and Motion 500 has a crude beam pattern, throws the beam everywhere. I clamped a sheet metal cowl onto it to control the light splay toward oncoming traffic, which works well.
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Old 09-30-16, 08:17 AM
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Originally Posted by RubeRad View Post
I use a generic CREE led flashlight instead of a purpose-made bike-branded one, if yours has a zooming head, narrow the beam, and point it downwards so (almost) all the light is usable for you, not wasted up in the air. Try blink mode, riding down the street -- if all the street signs are flashing back at you, you've got it pointed up too high. Also try a lower power mode. I run mine on medium, it's still plenty of bright, and the battery lasts longer.
Morning darkness has caught up to me and I've been riding with my headlight lately. I've noticed that with my current zoom setting, I get a spot centered maybe 8 feet in front of me, about 6ft wide, and maybe 12-15 feet long. The full ellipse of light is on the ground. My light does not cause the tail lights of parked cars to shine back at me. So I think I actually need to angle it up a tad -- I can see the street just fine, but it would be good to get a little more warning of parked cars for those sections of the residential streets that are between street lights.
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Old 09-30-16, 08:23 AM
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Even the most powerful bike light is not as bright as car lights. As others mentioned, you probably had the light aimed too high or towards the oncoming lane. Most bike lights also have settings for different intensities, but even on high they shouldn't be too bright if aimed correctly.
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