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Importance of front light?

Old 09-04-12, 05:47 PM
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smurray
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Importance of front light?

How important is a front light if I won't be riding in complete darkness? When I ride to work in the morning, it's about 15 minutes before sunrise. I can see just fine, but I'm wondering how important the front light is for visibility/safety reasons. The reason I ask is because the way my bars are set up, there is really no good spot to mount the light. Anywhere I put it seems to get in the way of either my brake lever or my hands. Would it be unsafe to just use my blinky rear light at this time?
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Old 09-04-12, 05:49 PM
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Originally Posted by smurray View Post
How important is a front light if I won't be riding in complete darkness? When I ride to work in the morning, it's about 15 minutes before sunrise. I can see just fine, but I'm wondering how important the front light is for visibility/safety reasons. The reason I ask is because the way my bars are set up, there is really no good spot to mount the light. Anywhere I put it seems to get in the way of either my brake lever or my hands. Would it be unsafe to just use my blinky rear light at this time?
It's still a pretty good idea to have a front light, steady or flashing, to make you visible.

Additionally, your state's law might require it.
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Old 09-04-12, 05:50 PM
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Put it on your fork.

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Old 09-04-12, 05:52 PM
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Originally Posted by smurray View Post
How important is a front light...
Just think of how close they get in the day time - Yes a light weight flashing LED is important - Especial at dusk and dawn...
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Old 09-04-12, 06:07 PM
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Originally Posted by smurray View Post
How important is a front light if I won't be riding in complete darkness? When I ride to work in the morning, it's about 15 minutes before sunrise. I can see just fine, but I'm wondering how important the front light is for visibility/safety reasons. The reason I ask is because the way my bars are set up, there is really no good spot to mount the light. Anywhere I put it seems to get in the way of either my brake lever or my hands. Would it be unsafe to just use my blinky rear light at this time?
Depends on how important safety is to you. Around here, the time of sunrise varies, but if you are actually always riding 15 minutes before sunrise, then a cheap "be seen" light or two should be fine. On my route, there are enough things that change, such as branches and other debris, that I need to see fairly far ahead. If there is absolutely no way to mount a light on your bike (which seems hard to believe), then get a helmet mounted light.
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Old 09-04-12, 06:08 PM
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Lights are a good thing.
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Old 09-04-12, 06:11 PM
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If an accident is going to happen, it's because the other person didn't see you coming, whether they're coming out of a parking lot, turning across an intersection, opening their car door, whatever. As a driver, I've even lost sight of bikes after I've passed them because they didn't have a front light -- which makes for a tense few moments while I try to figure out if I can safely turn right or not.

Another thing to ponder: last time I checked, DC's bike laws, for nighttime riding, require a white front light and a red reflector for the rear at minimum. Even our city government feels that the front light is more important.

In this city, the amount of background visual clutter makes a front light more important.
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Old 09-04-12, 06:21 PM
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Ok, so it seems the consensus is I need to figure out a way to mount the light. It's not that I can't mount it, but doing so severely limits my hand positions on my bars (bullhorns).

On a somewhat related note, should I be setting my front light to solid or flashing? I have the red rear facing light flashing, but I've never been sure what the best option was for the front light when it's not so dark that I actually need it to see.
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Old 09-04-12, 06:27 PM
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Some folks use a helmet mount but I think they use lighter lamps with limited illumination. I have mine mounted on my fork crown. Generally lower is better if you want to see road hazards.

-G
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Old 09-04-12, 06:58 PM
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There are mounting options besides the handlebars. There are several different ways of mounting them on the fork blades. I usually mount mine on the fork crown. On my bike with a front rack the light is mounted to the rack. None of my lights are on the handlebars.
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Old 09-04-12, 07:05 PM
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I got a lot of skunks in my area. So not only is it important to have lights that allow you to be seen but it's important to see where you're going. I never want to come close to a skunk.
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Old 09-04-12, 07:06 PM
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Before sunrise there is very little traffic so drivers often tend to treat stop signs as "slow down real slow" signs. They are generally not expecting to see a cyclist at that time so you need that front light to signal that something out of the ordinary is happening - STOP!
Heck even with the front light you need to be cautious with a car that is supposed to stop at a stop sign rolling into your path. I generally move out further into the traffic lane to give the driver a couple of extra feet to notice me and stop.

Without a front light you are also setting yourself up for a "left hook" ( car going in opposite direction making a left turn into you)

Last edited by bubbagrannygear; 09-04-12 at 07:17 PM.
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Old 09-04-12, 08:02 PM
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I tend to think that the front light is actually more important than the back. Car headlamps will illuminate you from the rear, but not from a side street. I also believe that blinking is better than steady, as it draws the eye. I have no data to support either of these conclusions.
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Old 09-04-12, 09:15 PM
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I value my life and my ability to see what's ahead, so they're pretty goddamned important to me. Consider also that you may find yourself riding past dark someday.
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Old 09-04-12, 09:28 PM
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I have a spock mini that I set to flash on my handlebar stem, the I have a bright Planet Bike light on the bars.

The front spock is pretty bright, but you do have to get into the habit of changing the batteries. It flashes and my neighbors say they can see me coming when its dark. The other light I have pointing so that it will give me a decent line of sight for 10 feet or so. This helps me watch for surprises coming up in front of me. .

Last edited by silmarillion; 09-04-12 at 09:32 PM.
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Old 09-05-12, 03:19 AM
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I set mine to flash and use it anytime I'm riding on the roads. I feel the flashing light gets noticed quicker than a steady light.
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Old 09-05-12, 03:26 AM
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The fork crown is a really useful location. You may have to fabricate a mount.
B&M make a fork crown mount for their bar-mount battery lamps. They are a German company so comply with the most exacting lighting standards.
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Old 09-05-12, 06:39 AM
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I think a front light is just as important as a back light, if not more so. Everyone is afraid of getting hit from the rear because they don't feel like they can control that, but you are just as likely or more to be hit by someone pulling out from a side street or parking lot, or turning in front of you. My front light has saved me from getting hit many times because I see drivers starting to pull out and then stopping.

If you can't fit a light on your handlebars, put it on your helmet. In many ways, a helmet light is ideal because you can turn your head and look right at drivers who are poised to pull out. To mount a light on your helmet, get a powerful LED flashlight with rechargeable AA batteries and attach with a Two-Fish block mount. Or buy one of several bike lights designed to mount on a helmet.
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Old 09-05-12, 09:24 AM
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Originally Posted by smurray View Post
On a somewhat related note, should I be setting my front light to solid or flashing? I have the red rear facing light flashing, but I've never been sure what the best option was for the front light when it's not so dark that I actually need it to see.
As a driver, I love to see flashing lights on bikes. They are very visible.

When I am riding my bike on bike paths, I hate a flashing light in my face.

Streets => Flash Mode
Pathways => Steady

Also, never mount a red rear light facing forward.
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Old 09-05-12, 09:45 AM
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Check your laws. I know PA requires a front light when riding after sunset/before sunrise and recommends a flashing red for the rear. Even if you can see fine, it doesn't mean cars can see you. Dusk/Dawn have the worst visibility.
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Old 09-05-12, 09:54 AM
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a front strobe helps people see you. a bright one helps them see you from a distance which helps them plan how they pass you. I've found the real advantage though is for traffic coming at you from a side street. that nice big bright obnoxious front strobe gets their attention fast and so they press on the brake harder (actually stopping their vehicle) before going into your line of travel. mine has saved me numerous times from just such possible collisions.

also, on sunny days we disappear in the shadows of trees no matter what we are wearing. especially when drivers wear sunglasses. so I always use my strobes, even on bright sunny days. sometimes I feel a bit foolish, but then my life gets saved and I feel fine ...

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Old 09-05-12, 10:16 AM
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Originally Posted by smurray View Post
Ok, so it seems the consensus is I need to figure out a way to mount the light. It's not that I can't mount it, but doing so severely limits my hand positions on my bars (bullhorns).
How much stuff do you have on your bars? Are they unusually narrow, too? It's almost always possible to find another inch of space for a light. Post a pic, too, if you like.
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Old 09-05-12, 11:23 AM
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Originally Posted by smurray View Post
How important is a front light if I won't be riding in complete darkness? When I ride to work in the morning, it's about 15 minutes before sunrise. I can see just fine, but I'm wondering how important the front light is for visibility/safety reasons. The reason I ask is because the way my bars are set up, there is really no good spot to mount the light. Anywhere I put it seems to get in the way of either my brake lever or my hands. Would it be unsafe to just use my blinky rear light at this time?
It's entirely possible that the oblivious will hit you no matter how hi-viz you are but why give them the excuse?

Last edited by HardyWeinberg; 09-05-12 at 11:35 AM.
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Old 09-05-12, 11:24 AM
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Originally Posted by BarracksSi View Post
How much stuff do you have on your bars? Are they unusually narrow, too? It's almost always possible to find another inch of space for a light. Post a pic, too, if you like.
Don't forget these things to mount lights down on your fork legs.
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Old 09-05-12, 12:01 PM
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Originally Posted by HardyWeinberg View Post
Don't forget these things to mount lights down on your fork legs.
Yup, those too. There are others that are all-plastic and don't use a metal band, so they'd be safer for carbon forks (or use some clear tape underneath).
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