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Bright Lights: How to make them useful but not obnoxious?

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Bright Lights: How to make them useful but not obnoxious?

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Old 11-06-14, 06:09 PM
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jralbert
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Bright Lights: How to make them useful but not obnoxious?

This is my second year of every-day cycle commuting, and this year I decided to address some of the deficiencies from last year: proper rain gear, a bike appropriately outfitted for all-weather riding, and a significant upgrade to lighting and visibility. To that end, I ordered a slew of red blinkies for the back of the bike, fanned out in an arc so vehicles get a good view of them both from behind and as they pass; I've been very happy with the results. I also bought one of those 3200-lumen CREE LED monster lights that I've mounted to my helmet. More than half my ride is on unlit trails, some in the deep forest - it is DARK out there - and the new light has been an absolute revelation. I can see everything! I can see a hundred yards or more downrange, and the light tracks with my gaze, unlike my bar-mounted battery lamp. Deer threatening to jump across the trail, pedestrians without reflectors, dogs off the leash, branches down across the trail - I see them all now, with plenty of time to react. I had been very happy with the improvement.

Yesterday, however, I was accosted while riding after dark by a very angry dog walker out on one of these unlit trails, who shouted that my light is "like staring into the sun", and that I ought to "turn it off and just ride slower". A good deal more expressive language was employed. I'm tempted to write the guy off as a crank - he seemed way angrier than the situation warranted - but at the same time, I don't want to be obnoxious to other trail users. I try to turn my gaze down and away when I'm aware that I'll be passing another trail user, but having done so in this situation didn't seem to appease this fellow at all. The light's switch is on the lamp housing itself, so turning it off for each pass would be awkward, and I don't think I'd enjoy proceeding at speed during the momentary full blackness that would ensue.

So of course I'm doing what any reasonable person would do: asking the internet's opinion! How would you handle this? I don't want to give up the fantastic visibility I've got now, I just don't want to blind people either. Thoughts?
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Old 11-06-14, 06:18 PM
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downwinded
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There have been a couple of threads concerning this of late. I'm sure someone be along shortly to offer
their opinion. Sometimes bright light threads get interesting.
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Old 11-06-14, 06:21 PM
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Get lights with a proper beam focusing/cutoff. Look for StVZO-compliant lights from Busch & Müller and bought from a German online bike shops.

here, for example

there are about 100 options by scrolling left and right

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Old 11-06-14, 06:35 PM
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Swap the lights so that you can use your hand to tilt or partially cover that light.
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Old 11-06-14, 06:41 PM
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I am for bright lights but 3200 lumens is a bit obscene.

I really like the shaped beams but I am too cheap to justify them, at this point.

I aim my 900 lumen handle bar mount lamp about 4 feet in front of my tire. I feel that is low enough to not bother anyone but I can still see. I am also riding in an urban environment. If I get onto busier or unlit roads I angle it up for more ahead visibility. Even with the low angle I still can see people and road hazards

I have selected my positioning by seeing how drivers react to me and when I see a really bright light I try to see what position they have it mounted. Mine is angled substantially lower than most and most blind me. But i adjust it according as situations warrant.

If I was on dark trail it may be different.

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Old 11-06-14, 06:42 PM
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A long time ago I took a week long course on designing lighting systems. One of the sections of the course was on car headlights. Long story short, the goal of headlight design is to get most of the light into a beam directed forward, but below the horizon. The amount of light that is visible to oncoming drivers should be tightly controlled, and whatever "spray" is left, is what lights up the sides of the road.

There are two problems with achieving this goal for bike lighting. First, the amount of control you have over the light beam depends on the overall size of the optics, and we don't want something that's huge. Second, we can't control how the light is installed or pointed. The results are an escalation of lighting power, typically pointed straight ahead.

I've been blinded by oncoming cyclists, and it's probably the biggest hazard of using the MUP at night, especially when the joggers tend to dress in all black from head to toe. I get pretty mad, but I don't curse at anybody. Sometimes I put my hand in front of my face as a signal to the oncoming cyclist.

My guess is that it will take some time for cycling etiquette to catch up with the lighting arms race. It would probably be hard to regulate, but somebody such as ANSI or ISO could at least set a standard for the lighting makers could voluntarily follow. Cyclists could demand a higher level of engineering.

For your helmet lamp, the polite thing to do might be to slow down and tip your head downward when you approach an oncoming pedestrian.

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Old 11-06-14, 06:42 PM
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Originally Posted by no1mad View Post
use your hand to tilt or partially cover that light.
I also do this when needed. Or as a signal flash to let someone who may not see me that I am there.

Last edited by joeyduck; 11-06-14 at 06:45 PM.
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Old 11-06-14, 06:49 PM
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Originally Posted by Gresp15C View Post
It would probably be hard to regulate, but somebody such as ANSI or ISO could at least set a standard for the lighting makers
Not sure if this is a troll or not:

Germany: Bicycle lighting in StVZO/TA (current as of 2010-9-2, updated with changes up to 2013-12-6)
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Old 11-06-14, 06:51 PM
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but perhaps it would be good to start reading here:

Bicycle lighting, mostly powered via dynamo, and USB power from dynamo
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Old 11-06-14, 07:09 PM
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I just drape my fingers over it.
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Old 11-06-14, 07:24 PM
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That may be a overkill, if the light is anywhere near the rated output. Probably nowhere near that. Still, aim it down and away. Some people are just haters, so they'll find fault in anything you do.

I'm glad for a megabright helmet light. Last night a van started driving toward me on the bike path. I hit them with my light briefly, and they slowed down, but didn't stop. Then I lit them up with the full "wall of light" which stopped 'em dead in their tracks. They probably thought it was an alien abduction.
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Old 11-06-14, 07:30 PM
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Originally Posted by alan s View Post
That may be a overkill, if the light is anywhere near the rated output. Probably nowhere near that. Still, aim it down and away. Some people are just haters, so they'll find fault in anything you do.

I'm glad for a megabright helmet light. Last night a van started driving toward me on the bike path. I hit them with my light briefly, and they slowed down, but didn't stop. Then I lit them up with the full "wall of light" which stopped 'em dead in their tracks. They probably thought it was an alien abduction.
You live in a strange, strange place.
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Old 11-06-14, 08:40 PM
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Originally Posted by jralbert View Post
..... The light's switch is on the lamp housing itself, so turning it off for each pass would be awkward, and I don't think I'd enjoy proceeding at speed during the momentary full blackness that would ensue...... How would you handle this? I don't want to give up the fantastic visibility I've got now, I just don't want to blind people either. Thoughts?
Changing setting while riding is not hard. You can see at the 8:25 mark of my video;
I cycle through the settings flashing, off, low steady, hi steady, flashing, off, etc. with
no problems. I've even done it with thick gloves during winter.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MLeZ...gKaIoDLA#t=503
#t=503
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Old 11-06-14, 08:54 PM
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Originally Posted by acidfast7 View Post
You live in a strange, strange place.
Everyone already knows how strange Washington is. Did you just figure this out?
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Old 11-06-14, 08:54 PM
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Originally Posted by alan s View Post
Everyone already knows how strange Washington is. Did you just figure this out?
I find DC quite boring on global perspective!

Sorry
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Old 11-06-14, 09:04 PM
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I do not have any experience with 3200 lumen bike lights. Does anyone know how many lumens the average automobile headlight puts out on the low beam?

I ask because I'm commuting also, using a single 750 lumen light mounted on my handlebar, a road bike. It ain't enough light, but I'm hesitant to go to one of the heavy battery packs with a power cord attached.

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Old 11-06-14, 09:16 PM
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You have a helmet mounted light, probably aimed where you'd be looking when looking "straight ahead".

But you're a human being with your head on a flexible neck, and eyes that can look up or down or side to side without turning your head. Reverse this, bring your head down and to the side rather than looking straight at people. That will reposition the light beam, then you can bring your eyes back up and to the the trail so you can see where you're going.

Learning to look away from where you aim the light will take some practice. But once you master it, you'll be free to keep the light out of people's eyes, while having as much light as you need (or want).
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Old 11-06-14, 09:28 PM
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Perhaps is the problem is the height of the light. With it mounted on your helmet you are not very far off of a straight shot into a pedestrian's eyeballs. With that much power there probably isn't much you can do about it. It seems that if you are riding a path with dog walkers a low setting should provide ample light if you are riding at a responsible speed.

I run two of the 3 led Cree lights up front....each stated at 3800lm. They probably don't really put out anywhere near that but even at half the claimed power I would still have 3800lm. I have them mounted on a pvc tube ran between the front basket support legs and they are aimed down a bit. I've never had any cars flash their high beams at me as they do when your forget to dim your lights while driving a car.
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Old 11-06-14, 09:30 PM
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Originally Posted by TallTravel View Post
I do not have any experience with 3200 lumen bike lights. Does anyone know how many lumens the average automobile headlight puts out on the low beam?

I ask because I'm commuting also, using a single 750 lumen light mounted on my handlebar, a road bike. It ain't enough light, but I'm hesitant to go to one of the heavy battery packs with a power cord attached.
You can try mounting your light on your helmet. It doesn't make your light stronger;
but the ability to finely focus your beam might help. Light and Motion's Taz 1500 claims
to be brighter than car lights; one unit. I've used cheap chinese lights claiming 3000
lumens in the past. Yeah it was bright; but stopped working after a few weeks.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=huyC...IoDLA&index=10
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Old 11-06-14, 09:37 PM
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Originally Posted by 1nterceptor View Post
Yeah it was bright; but stopped working after a few weeks.
It does seem to be a crap shoot with those. The reviews of them on Amazon seem to be loaded at either end of the scale----they either work or they don't. The three that I've had for over a year are still working and the battery packs still hold the charge as when they were new. Luck of the draw, I guess.
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Old 11-06-14, 09:41 PM
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Interceptor: I rode with my light on my helmet for quite a number of miles, and hated it. The lower the light to the ground, the better it highlights the road, bumps, rocks, contours, ruts, everything. Take that same light and mount it on the helmet and it becomes an accent, not a tool.

I think the answer for me might be two lights--750 on my helmet and a stronger one near my front fork/hub, highlighting the bumps. All of them would help alert the drivers ahead of me to my presence.

Which brings me back to my question, how bright is 3200 lumens?
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Old 11-06-14, 09:54 PM
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Originally Posted by TallTravel View Post
Which brings me back to my question, how bright is 3200 lumens?
Interceptor's video is a 3000lm light.......200 more isn't a thing.

Maybe this page will help you.
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Old 11-06-14, 10:12 PM
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I have a light on my bike, aimed down toward the ground about 20 feet ahead of me. And a spot light on my helmet, aimed down. In my normal riding position the helmet light spot hits where the bike light hits. If I tilt my head up, it lights up cars, pedestrians, etc. so I can avoid blasting people, unless they need blasting.

Sending your light a hundred yards is totally unnecessary, unless you are riding 100 mph or are trying to shoot something. I'd use a milder light and aim it down.
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Old 11-06-14, 10:41 PM
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Originally Posted by TallTravel View Post
I do not have any experience with 3200 lumen bike lights. Does anyone know how many lumens the average automobile headlight puts out on the low beam?
There's quite a range. A standard 9004 automotive halogen headlight puts out 700 lumens per headlight, so 1,400 for the pair.

BUT, note that auto light makers are often held to their claims, while bike light makers routinely engage in wild puffery. Many nominal 1,000-lumen bike lights actually put out something around 5-600.
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Old 11-06-14, 10:56 PM
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A few generations ago, when car headlights were routinely passing 500 lumens and many were at 1,000, lawmakers regulated headlight beam patterns and how the lights could be aimed. This was before high/low beam headlights became standard, just a single beam pattern like most bike lights.

They didn't have the complexity of modern headlight regulation, not even as complicated as German bicycle headlight regulations. Instead, they were simple rules that any car owner could verify on their own. For example, here in Washington, the rule says:

The head lamps shall be so aimed that when the vehicle is not loaded none of the high intensity portion of the light shall at a distance of twenty-five feet ahead project higher than a level of five inches below the level of the center of the lamp from which it comes, and in no case higher than forty-two inches above the level on which the vehicle stands at a distance of seventy-five feet ahead
That rule doesn't legally apply to bicycle headlights, but it has 60+ years of experience with motor vehicle headlights, since back when they were yellowish 6-volt incandescents.

Aim it so that the top of the beam is angled slightly down, 5 inches in 25 feet, and any painful glare will be projecting below the eyes of oncoming pedestrians and drivers.

High-intensity bicycle headlights are a relatively new issue with the increasing efficiency and dropping cost of LEDs. The law hasn't caught up with the changes, but it's just a matter of time. As a local elected official, I've heard the complaints from my own constituents about being glare-blinded by bicycle lights, both on the trail and on the street. I tell them it's not something for local regulation, they should contact their state legislators. In my opinion, cyclists should get in front of the issue to push simple, reasonable rules like this. The alternative is to wait for AARP or AAA or some legislator with a personal vendetta to push unreasonable limits on lighting power, onerous equipment specifications, or other harmful overreactions.
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