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Lumens for riding in darkness

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Lumens for riding in darkness

Old 09-16-18, 04:46 PM
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Brad Bike
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Lumens for riding in darkness

I've never done any night riding, but would like to give it a shot. I have a daytime flashing "see me" light, but obviously need a headlight to illuminate the road. I am seeing lights with a range of lumens (400 - 1300) that claim to serve that purpose, so I'm trying to figure out what I really need. Online posts range from "I only use the 150 lumens setting because 700 is too bright/annoying to cars" to "you need at least 1000 lumens to properly see the road and stay safe", so they're not really helpful. My typical speed is around 20-21 mph, so I know this will impact how far out I need to see. Any advice on lumens?

Would also appreciate advice on brands. I have aero handlebars, so looking at the K-Edge Garmin combo mount, which is slender enough to fit my handlebars and uses a GoPro mount for the light. So the light would need a GoPro mounting option, unless there is a better mounting option that I haven't seen yet. Any advice is appreciated.


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Old 09-16-18, 04:53 PM
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I ride pretty much everyday at 0400. 750-800 works for me, currently using a garmin Varia that adjust lumens to speed and darkness. Previously used the one pictured above until it died a noble long death. Imho.. the tail light is just as important since getting hit from behind is more probable.. Trek Flare,cheap and bright.

Last edited by Mike F; 09-16-18 at 04:57 PM.
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Old 09-16-18, 05:30 PM
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It’s complicated. Lots of cheap lights inflate their lumens or have crappy optics.

It’s also complicated by the fact that you will want more light(s) if riding on unfamiliar roads versus familiar ones.

That said, you probably want to be looking at 450-1000. But don’t get too hung up on the numbers.
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Old 09-16-18, 06:40 PM
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https://planetcyclery.com/ravemen-pr1200-front-light
This is the one I use, Ravemen 1200. I mostly ride the back country roads here in Tennessee, which mean no street lights, pitch black. It helps that I ride roads I normally ride during the day so I am somewhat familiar with the road conditions and route. I would not hesitate going on new roads at night with this light. I keep it on full (1200) and it will last my train time of 1 1/2 hours. My speeds are around 18-20 and some downhill speeds of 35+. I too was concerned about lights that would be bright enough for 20+ speed and I think this one does the job for me. This will be my second year with this light and so far it has held up good. Although I only use it about 3 times a week for four 4 months last year so far. It may or may not work with your current mount. I hope this helps.
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Old 09-16-18, 06:48 PM
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I end up running the lights on low setting because the run time on high is very limited.

Unless you're commuting & have a definite, shortish time to the ride,

a nice bright light that runs for an hour sucks.

Likewise, one dedicated mounting point may not be enough if you end up like me,

bringing multiple lights with various mounts.


+1 what datlas said.

I recently got a cheap & small light from Amazon (81g) for a back up that is promising so far. Keep in pocket until needed.

L&M- like/don't like
Lumina- good but heavy
Cateye- don't like the mount (but others do)
Axiom (Performance house brand)- cheap but mount broke
ebay/Amazon cheapies- worth a try

Last edited by woodcraft; 09-16-18 at 07:01 PM.
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Old 09-16-18, 06:52 PM
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Lumens describes total energy output, not how brightly-lit a given spot will be. A 1-lumen laser pointer can create a bright dot, while a 1-lumen flashlight would be basically useless.

I was recently accompanying another cyclist home at night, because he didn't have his headlight with him. He was impressed at how bright my light was, and asked what its lumens rating was. I told him that it was capable of 200 lumens, but was using its half-power setting. He was stunned; his own light is 300 lumens, yet he much preferred the illumination of the 100-lumen beam from my Cycle Torch Night Owl!

Last edited by HTupolev; 09-16-18 at 06:56 PM.
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Old 09-16-18, 06:53 PM
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Donít go below 500 lumens under any circumstances. I have used a 500 for night riding on improved trails and back roads at 15-18mph, and it gets me home. I canít say itís enjoyable. You have to really pay attention. At road speeds, youíll want to see far ahead. Donít get overly impressed with what reflectors look like. Itís about lighting the important part of your field of view. Check out Fenix.
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Old 09-16-18, 06:54 PM
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Number of lumens is entirely dependent on your surroundings. In urban areas with sodium lights--you need more lumens to see/be-seen. Country or non-lit roads you can run a lower brightness mode. In rain you need more to simply see the surface of the road. This is the upside of multi-mode headlights, you can run them at lower output when you want, and get longer run time.


Remember...car light throwers are in the range of 1K to 4K lumens per side. Your piddly bike light is lower output than them, almost always.
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Old 09-16-18, 07:00 PM
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Originally Posted by PDLandis View Post
Donít go below 500 lumens under any circumstances. I have used a 500 for night riding on improved trails and back roads at 15-18mph, and it gets me home. I canít say itís enjoyable. You have to really pay attention. At road speeds, youíll want to see far ahead. Donít get overly impressed with what reflectors look like. Itís about lighting the important part of your field of view. Check out Fenix.
i ll agree on this.

i run mine on 250 and it feels barely adequate to dodge potholes.

1000 lumens feels bit overkill and brighter than scooters.

500 is sweet spot.
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Old 09-16-18, 07:08 PM
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This guide might be useful to help you choosing

https://road.cc/content/buyers-guide...rison-plus-how
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Old 09-16-18, 07:14 PM
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Originally Posted by Mike F View Post
I ride pretty much everyday at 0400. 750-800 works for me, currently using a garmin Varia that adjust lumens to speed and darkness. Previously used the one pictured above until it died a noble long death. Imho.. the tail light is just as important since getting hit from behind is more probable.. Trek Flare,cheap and bright.
I am using the K-edge and Garmin varia UT-800 with Garmin 520 as well. I also travel through Forrest preserve which requires more light than road. I have tried it on a commute yet, but the light is adequate for the forrrest - just not sure about battery life on high.

OP didn't say how long the battery has to last. Makes a big difference in selection.
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Old 09-16-18, 07:16 PM
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I'm sure the 750 would be fine. It's just super complicated. I used to ride with a light with just 200 lumens and it was fine, I got a light with 800 lumens and it was worse because it was a ****ty beam pattern, and I returned it and went back to the 200 lumen light.

- Beam Pattern (how the light distributes the light it outputs)
- Light quality (the cheaper more bluish leds are not as good at the same lumen output as better leds)
- Riding conditions (total darkness requires the least amount of light to see, a mix of total darkness with super bright lights is the worst that requires the most light to see)
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Old 09-16-18, 07:29 PM
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I have the K-Edge mount and use it with a Light and Motion Urban 800. 800 lumens and the light output is good for roads and trails, battery life has been very good and I like that it mounts via GoPro mount. My only gripe is that recharge time is slow and it canít be operated while charging, other than that I highly recommend checking it out.
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Old 09-16-18, 08:23 PM
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I've been happy with Cygolite products (as well as their warranty service.)

For night riding, I'm currently using the Cygolite Expilion 850 as well as the Hotshot 80 rear light (on steady, not blinking, at night). I wouldn't trust the Hotshot for riding through the night, as the battery life is limited, but it's fine for shorter rides.

The nice thing about the Expilion is that it runs while charging and the battery is replaceable. I usually run it on medium mode in town and either high or boost out in the country, though I cannot find specs on how many lumens each of those modes puts out.
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Old 09-16-18, 08:46 PM
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I use two flashlights as my bike lights. When I was shopping around in 2013 I noticed runtime, overall brightness and throw for most bike lights were not expressed in the FL-1 standard and it was very hard to determine what would be effective or not. One big thing is manufacturers marketing the max lumens an LED can output and not giving the true output that will come out the front of the light. "700 lumens" becomes 400 when loses and efficiency come into play. Throw is another thing, if a light is very bright but has no throw it can't define the road further out enough to be effective. If a light has too much throw it does not illuminate enough to the side and can hide things.

Flashlights had much better information available so I chose two Olight S-15 flashlights. Each puts out around 250 lumens and has a throw of 76 meters. During dry conditions I typically only use one at a time and switch over once the runtime has ended for the first. The light(s) work great even in very brightly lit urban areas. The only time I use both is when I am descending very fast, above 30 miles per hour or so, or when the pavement is wet/it's raining. At my regular riding speeds the lights allow me to see most obstacles and road features within 5-10 seconds so I can avoid as necessary or adjust body position.

If your typical speed is 20 miles per hour I would look for a light with at least 300 out the front lumens as well as a throw rating of 85 meters or more.
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Old 09-16-18, 09:06 PM
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+1 I run 2. one at the axle pointed exactly level, (on purpose), the other pointed down at the road from my K-Edge mount. In the morning/dark,I run everything at low power and the tail light on slow flash. In the afternoons everything on strobe. I can't tell you the number of times it has saved me. I've lost count. They really do startle drivers daily. Total output 1600-ish lumans max, but usually, I estimate under 1000 on low. The important thing, I think, is the 2 vantage points.

I don't know what setting=what lumen either. My estimate is low = 500 but I may be over estimating. It is a good clean white light and a decent pattern though. The difference between the Expelion 800 and the 850 is the lense on the 850 better focuses light destined for the trees to be thrown off the sides instead.

I never run high power. There just isn't a compelling reason to kill run time in my opinion. Low is more than enough & I think high hurts the night vision. It hurts my own eyes, that much I know.

I use them daily for 3 years now. The batteries have held up well.

Originally Posted by wipekitty View Post
I've been happy with Cygolite products (as well as their warranty service.)

For night riding, I'm currently using the Cygolite Expilion 850 as well as the Hotshot 80 rear light (on steady, not blinking, at night). I wouldn't trust the Hotshot for riding through the night, as the battery life is limited, but it's fine for shorter rides.

The nice thing about the Expilion is that it runs while charging and the battery is replaceable. I usually run it on medium mode in town and either high or boost out in the country, though I cannot find specs on how many lumens each of those modes puts out.

Last edited by base2; 09-16-18 at 09:13 PM.
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Old 09-16-18, 09:35 PM
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Night rides can be fun. I use different lighting for urban vs rural.
In town I want steady lighting illuminating the street along with flashing to catch motorists' attention. And I do not want to blind oncoming drivers.
On rural roads I want redundancy and very bright lights for fast descents, plus varying intensity levels to match my speed and prolong run time.
On the left is a Bontrager ION 700, on the right is a Cateye Volt 1200. Full brightness they'll last maybe an hour, conserving batteries they'll last over three...that's as far as I've pushed 'em.


And I prefer to mount them under the bars like this

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Old 09-16-18, 09:40 PM
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I use an anker lc40 flashlight its 20 bucks on amazon and right now they have the bigger lc90 for 20 as well both are as cheap and as usefull as you can get . they are 400 and 900 lums but they do get hot andvneed a charge after every use . i mount them with 2 hose clamps , they are almost tac light quality they will blind and illuminate a path or road about 30 feet ..
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Old 09-16-18, 10:09 PM
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When I rode at night I used a Niterider 1800. 98% of the time I rode on 400 lumens, but as someone else mentioned, there are times you will need to see more and it is nice to have the extra lumens.

consider a helmet mounted light. Niterider has a long cord so you can put the battery in your jersey pocket. It will give much more run time and allow you to run the light in high without worry of running out of power before you get home.
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Old 09-16-18, 10:17 PM
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Originally Posted by Jazzguitar View Post
I have the K-Edge mount and use it with a Light and Motion Urban 800. 800 lumens and the light output is good for roads and trails, battery life has been very good and I like that it mounts via GoPro mount. My only gripe is that recharge time is slow and it canít be operated while charging, other than that I highly recommend checking it out.
I have the 800FC - Charges from dead to full in 2.5 hours.

OP: this one is bright enough for pitch black forest trails and has a wide beam pattern. Battery life on high is about 1.5 hours I think, although I have never ridden on high for that long.

My rear light is a Cygolite Hotshot 100. It has irregular patterns and is plenty bright to get you seen. It's bright enough that my friend is genuinely annoyed riding behind me in broad daylight
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Old 09-17-18, 05:13 AM
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Lupine Betty R 5000 Lumens LED






I am also a 430am cyclist 7 days a week and my light of choice is by Lupine of Germany with not inflated chinese knockoff lumens. The light I use is a 5000 Lumen 6 LED Light that usually I run at about 3200 Lumens and on occasion do bump it up to the 5k but it is brutal on people coming the other way. The lights are not budget friendly, but there is not another like like it in my opinion..
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Old 09-17-18, 05:38 AM
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Conditions play a big role. In open areas, moonlit, etc., sometimes you may want just enough to be seen, because brightly lighting one part of the road too much means not being able to see the rest. But if there really is no ambient light to work with at all, you're going to have tunnel vision regardless, so a lamp that can throw a lot of light down the road is indicated.
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Old 09-17-18, 05:46 AM
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I use two lights. The one on the handlebars is a garmin varia that adjusts with speed. It's pretty sweet but wasn't completely what I needed.

I also have a helmet mounted light. The one I have is a cheap explod-o-matic off amazon, so I won't recommend the brand as there is a possibility of burning down your house while charging it.

If I had to use one light, it would be a helmet mounted one. I like to be able to light up things where I look more than directly in front of the bike. Making a turn onto a pitch black road without seeing what is around that turn is not a comforting feeling.
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Old 09-17-18, 05:57 AM
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500 lumens on a wooded trail in complete darkness. It was enough to see the giant porcupine (not pictured) coming towards me, but I did think it was a bear at first.


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Old 09-17-18, 06:55 AM
  #25  
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Originally Posted by Marcus_Ti View Post
Number of lumens is entirely dependent on your surroundings.
^^^This. It would be a lot more useful if headlight manufacturers spec'd their products in foot-lamberts rather than lumens. (In layman's terms: lumens is the amount of light exiting the lamp; foot-lamberts is the amount of light that actually reaches the surface you're trying to illuminate.) But of course then they'd have to standardize their test procedures and it could get harder to fudge the numbers!
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