Tag Archives: bicycle lights

Being visible is paramount to staying safe while riding and there are many different types of lights available to help with that pursuit. But, the king of them all is the Dynamo light.

A dynamo light is an upgrade you should consider for this fall!

by John Brown, HaveFunBiking.com

Being visible is paramount to staying safe while riding and there are many different types of lights available to help with that pursuit. But, the king of them all is the Dynamo light. Dynamo lights use a bicycle mounted generator for power, staying lit while riding at night and low visibility times of the day. Read on to learn how Dynamo systems work and why they are so dependable.

Dynamo Light: Where Does The Power Come From

With no battery, you generate power with your motion. For a Dynamo light to work you need to attach a generator to your bicycle. Generators are rated for either 3.0 watts to power both a headlight and taillight, or 2.4 watts to power just a headlight.

Generator types

The two main generator types are hub type and bottle type. The hub type is built into a front wheel and generates power as the front wheel spins. Bottle type generators mount onto a bikes frame or fork. Bottle generators have a small wheel that rests against the tire and generates electricity as the tire spins the wheel. Typically, the hub type generators have lower resistance than the bottle type and won’t wear out a tire as quickly. Bottle type generators are typically less expensive and can also be installed on your bike without rebuilding or replacing the front wheel. Another benefit of bottle type generators is that they can be disengaged during daylight hours so you can ride resistance free. That being said, as hub generators become more efficient and less expensive, the bottle generators are becoming less common.

Hub generator from Shimano and wheel generator from Busch + Müller (photo Courtesy of Busch + Müller)

Front Light types

Of all the light types on the market, high output LED headlights rule the roost. These HLED lights use very little power to deliver a ton of light. While we are talking about light, most headlight’s power are measured in LUX. The differences in power can be seen below. In addition to light while riding, most headlights have a capacitor to store power and allow the light to shine for a small period while the bike is stopped.

dynamo light

This is the same section of road under 20, 50, and 100 LUX lights

dynamo light

A few headlight options from Supernova and Busch + Müller

Rear light types

Rear lights use LEDs and blink while you ride. They can be mounted to the bicycle’s chainstay, seat post, or fender. These rear lights are typically wired from the front light, across the bike, and to the rear light. While it’s easy to run wiring through a bike built to accommodate them, it is difficult to cleanly run wiring on bikes not made for them.

Benefits

Lighting in general is one of the most important aspects of safety on the bike. While you don’t need a dynamo lighting system to be safe, they do offer some advantages over battery powered lights. First benefit is you can jump on your bike and go because you never need to charge a dynamo light like you do a battery system. Also, dynamo systems can be upgraded to charge products via a USB port. Finally, Dynamo lighting systems enjoy the feature of being extremely durable.

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No matter your level of bicycle riding skills, bike lights are essential to make sure you have a safe ride, day or night. Bike lights aren't only needed when the sun goes down.

Bike lights will help to keep you safe day and night!

by John Brown, HaveFunBiking.com

No matter your level of bicycle riding skills, bike lights are essential to make sure you have a safe ride, day or night. Lights aren’t only needed when the sun goes down. In fact, lights are super helpful when riding in conditions where traffic may be present or their is limited visibility. That’s where proper lighting comes in. Plus many states, like Minnesota require you to have lights on your bike. The two types of bike lights on the market are lights that allow you to see and lights that allow others to see you.

Bike lights that Help You See

Lights that help you see are usually high output LEDs that cast a focused beam of light in front of you. These lights start at 600 lumens and increase in output from there. Their size and run time depend on the battery. As an example, rechargeable and battery-operated lights are usually larger, while lights run by a generator are smaller.

So, how do you know which one is best for you? It all depends on how often you plan on using it. The battery-operated kind work well as backups in the rare chance you get caught in the dark. The rechargeable kind are best if you plan to use them on a regular basis, and want to save on the cost of buying batteries. If you ride long periods of time in the dark, then it’s hard to beat a generator-powered light. Any of these lights will be great for unlit roads, trails, or paths.

When you look to buy a light, they are all compared by the lumens they produce. What’s a lumen, you ask? Well, lumens are the most popular description of brightness. In the past, lights were measured by the amount of energy they consumed (watts), but with the creation of LEDs that get more light output with less power consumption, measuring brightness with watts has become impossible. Simple rule, more lumens equal brighter light. As a comparison, the iPhone flashlight is less than 10 lumens.

Bike lights to Help People See You

The lights designed to be seen use an LED to flash intermittently when turned on. surprisingly they can be as small as a few coins stacked on top of one another, and have run times in the hundreds of hours. Additionally, they are usually easy to move from bike to bike if needed and are great for city streets and well-lit paths. Some riders are now finding added security in running these lights during the daytime.

Reflectivity

Another great way to ride safe in the dark is to use reflective products. Thanks to advancements in reflective technology you can find clothing that is completely reflective, looks like normal fabric, and glows when hit by light. There are reflective stickers you can adhere to your bike, and reflective bags you can mount behind the saddle or on your handlebars.

How to be Seen

Visibility is about safety so it’s best to use a belt and suspenders approach. A headlight will allow you to see and be seen from the front. Match that with a reflective jersey and you become visible from the sides as well. Mount a rear blinker and you become visible from 360 degrees.

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I have seen many people put off using a commuter bike because they felt they didn't have the right bicycle, not realizing it was already in their garage.

Building the ultimate commuter bike with what’s in your garage

by John Brown, HaveFunBiking.com

I have been using a commuter bike almost exclusively for the past twenty years. In that time, I have seen many people put off commuting by bicycle because they felt they didn’t have the right bike. While the right gear is important, many don’t realize that the right equipment is closer than many think. Take a look at how I would built the perfect bike for commuting, it may surprise you how close it might be to that bike hanging in your garage.

The ultimate commuter bike

For the sake of this article, we will start with a bike that is similar to what most people already have hanging in their garage. The Marin Farifax SC1, an aluminum hybrid with V-brakes, 24 speeds, and a flat handlebar. This bike is comfortable and efficient for most riders and durable enough for the rigors of daily riding. Additionally, the tires use a puncture resistant layer to fight flats.

commuter bike

The Fairfax SC1 is similar to bikes you will find in garages everywhere.

Bare minimum to be a commuter bike

As a bike goes, the Fairfax SC1 is pretty much commuter ready out of the box. If I were to add one thing it would be lights. Being visible as a commuter is job #1. While commuting, you typically share time and space with cars, so it is important to let them know where you are. I like to use a good tail light and a strong head lamp. The tail light is kept on blink mode while the headlamp shins bright and steady. This way, vehicles approaching from behind can see me easily, and the light from my headlamp allows others to see me and me to see them.

I would also recommend the basic tools necessary to fix a flat tire. That includes a spare tube, pump, tire levers, patches and a 1-$ bill. If you have never changed a flat before, practice once or twice at home before heading off on your first trip.

commuter bike

Being visible is a must

Next best thing

If I were to make another suggestion, it would be for a rear rack with bags, or a good backpack. While both options are designed to carry your stuff, they do their jobs slightly differently. A rack a bags work well to keep the weight of your gear on the bike and off your back. This option is far more comfortable than a backpack, but can be more jarring to the gear you carry (a real concern if you lug a laptop around). The backpack is not as comfortable, but is better for your gear, and easier to use if you have more than one bike. For either option I look for something waterproof. Eventually you will get caught in the rain, and keeping your gear dry is a necessity.

commuter bike

A rack and this bag from twowheelgear make carrying your gear easier.

On the subject of Dry

While not a necessity, fenders are a welcome addition to any commuter bike. I prefer the permanent, bolt on, style fender. I find they keep you dryer and stay in place better than the clip on variety. The fender does an amazing job of keeping you dry when the road surface is wet.

commuter bike

Fenders round out the commuter bike build.

The ULTIMATE commuter bike

Ok, I know “the ultimate” gets thrown around a a lot and it’s probably a better headline to grace the cover of cosmo than HaveFunBiking. So This is an overview of My ultimate commuter. As a base, I will start with the Marin Fairfax SC6 DLX. This commuter ticks a lot of the boxes for my ultimate bike and is not the only one on the market. Look around to see what is available in your market, and test ride to see what you like best.

commuter bike

Marin’s Fairfax SC6 DLX is a fully loaded commuter.

I like the Fairfax SC6 DLX because it uses a generator front hub, Internally geared rear hub, belt drive, full fender set, hydraulic disc brakes and a full carbon fork. The things I would change to make it even better is to use lighter rims (light weight wheels make a bike ride easier), and a Carbon handlebar to quiet some of the road noise. Other than that, I would probably loose the rear rack (as I prefer a backpack) and install some egg beater clipless pedals

Everything else

Beyond the bike there are lots of other topics that arise when you start commuting by bike. Things like what to wear, how to care for my bike, rain riding, etc. Rather than focusing on those concerns, I encourage you to think about how you are going to enjoy your increased fitness, what are you going to feel like when you loose those extra few pounds, and what amazing things will you create after you kickstart your mind aboard two wheels.