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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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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.

With more darkness then daylight the zen and the art of night biking

by John Brown, HaveFunBiking.com

Seasons change and eventually we are left with more darkness than daylight, thus night biking. day. This annual march to the darkest day of the year was the inspiration Robert Frost needed to write Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening.  On occasion my “Little Horse” asks if “there is some mistake”, but of course Frost was talking about the animal and I the machine. The draw of the dark and cold is the same though, snow muffles sound and darkness can be beautiful. If you haven’t tried night mountain biking, I encourage it!

mountain biking at night

Snow, dark, and silence make mountain biking at night great.

Night biking, who turned off the lights?

You will need a good light to mountain bike at night. I recommend to start with something around 1000 lumens, but more if you can get it. Be aware of the beam pattern when you buy a light because while a wide and dim beam would be great to alert passing motorists of your presence. When mountain biking, you need all the light in front of you, so for that reason try to find a light with a rather narrow beam. Another consideration when buying a light is if it can be mounted on your helmet. Many riders prefer to sync their light with their sight line, so they can look around corners and up the trail if needed, while pointing the bike where it needs to go. By contrast, bar mounted lights only point toward where you are going at that moment.

Buddy system is best for night biking

Night riding is not a time to go it alone. It’s not as if the actual riding is any more dangerous or difficult, but if there is an issue, you are far less likely to run into a helpful passerby at night. Therefore, bring your helpful passerby along with you. The only issue I have had riding with others at night is the shadows that more than one light will produce. This issues is easily remedied by spreading out a bit further than you would in the daytime.

Night Riding in groups is fun and safe.

What to expect when night biking

The greatest part of night riding is it’s ability to surprise you. As an example, I find that trails I know by heart take on new dimensions when my light is focused but limited. This change of visual often directs me to take new lines and approach areas differently. Also, you see totally different wildlife in the woods at night. Coyote, owl, and bats are some of my more favorite night time friends. Finally, mountain biking at night gives you the feeling that you are going faster. I don’t exactly know the psychological reasons, but when you can only see 20-30 feet in front of you, those feet seem to accelerate faster than if your vision was unlimited.

Quiet

Riding a mountain bike at night is also a chance to enjoy the quiet. Fewer riders and less commotion helps me eliminate one more distraction and just enjoy the trail. Add in snow to muffle any sound that is there, and you have the recipe for a Zen like mountain biking experience.

mountain biking at night

Surroundings melt away leaving only the trail ahead.

“But I have promises to keep and miles to go before I sleep”

We all have a life outside of our bike, and far too little time to live it. Riding your mountain bike at night is a way to find hours you might not normally have to ride. After the kids are asleep, the dishes are done, lunches are packed and laundry folded, consider mountain biking an alternative to turning in for the night. You might just love what you find!

 

Rotllicht "red light" off the bike is great for visibility.

Rotlicht: Out of the box review for a one of a kind rear blinker

by John Brown, HaveFunBiking

Along with Lupine’s SL-A7 we received a smaller package containing the Rotlicht (German for “red light”). While on the exterior it looks t be a normal red blinking light, this little package houses big features. With the brightness of 160 lumens (higher than some front lights) and an internal rechargeable battery, this light might just be the best rear blinker ever made. Read on to see what else is hiding inside.

Unique blinker light features

One thing this light does that is totally unique, it gets brighter when you stop. Thanks to an accelerometer inside, the Rotlicht can sense when you are slowing and increase its output. Additionally, you can preset one of 20 different output settings (4 blink modes with 5 brightness levels).

Construction

As far a blinking lights go, this light is in a class by itself. Most lights are injection molded plastic, with poorly fitted o-rings designed to keep everything water resistant. How the Rotlicht differs is its CNC aluminum case. The lens and electronics are bolted into place and all the seals are snug and sure to be waterproof (although their site doesn’t give specifics as to how waterproof it is?). Also, the USB charging port is located on the back of the light, well protected from the elements, it uses a custom rubber plug to keep it dry.

How it fits

One of the best parts of the Rotlicht is how secure it mounts. The aluminum case acts as a great foundation for the lights long rubber pads. Those pads keep the light nearly immovable when mounted with the included rubber strap. I have ridden this light for a few weeks without it slipping down or twisting on the seatpost.

Moving forward

Like any product tested here in Minnesota, I am really excited to see how it handles the cold and wet winter ahead. So far the Rotlicht has shown remarkable promise even after being subjected to a cold, wet, salty ride. Stay tuned for a complete review.

The Lupine SL-A4 Road Light is by far the brightest, clearest, and most capable 900 lumen bike light I have ever used. Read on to learn more.

Lupine SL-A7 Road Light, out of the box and amazing first impression

by John Brown, HaveFunBiking.com

I really didn’t know what to expect when I heard we were going to be reviewing Lupine’s new SL A7 light. You see, Lupine is a brand I always hear excellent things about, but until now have not had the pleasure of trying one myself. This is by far the clearest and brightest 900 lumen light I have ever seen. It turns out the light uses a custom reflector and lens to focus the light exactly where you need it. Hearing amazing things about their quality and durability as I researched the light. My first experience with their product reinforced everything I have heard and more. Read on to learn more.

Lupine road bike light out of the box

What I did know as I opened the box, Lupine is a German based company. They do all the development and production in house and the light comes in a robust box with ample foam padding. The padding is precisely cut to fit the components and hold them firmly in place. based on their excellent packaging, I would say it’s unlikely your light could arrive damaged due to shipping. In the box you will find the lamp, battery, charger, two straps, mounting hardware and a pair of small wrenches. Overall, the light looked great and was rather light weighing just over ½ a pound. After reading about the light I was saddened to see its output was only a 900 lumen. Typically,  I find most lights below 1000 lumens to be rather dark for my commute. Turns out, I was way totally wrong as you will see.

Lupine

The SL A7 mounted to my handlebar.

My first impression

Like I said, 900 lumen lamp isn’t usually a lot of light. What I have learned with the SL A7 is that the amount of light is not as important as how that light is used. Turns out the light’s lens is as important as the light’s final output number. We will touch more on this later.

First, I mounted the light to my bike. The light uses a handlebar mount that appeared to be delicate. That elegant mounting system is easy to use and surprisingly holds the lamp firmly in place. I then secured the battery with the shorter of the two supplied straps and it showed no signs of moving.

Lupine SL A7

Detail of Lupine’s SL-A7 elegant mounting hardware

First Ride

Upon kicking off for my first ride with the SL A7, I could not believe what I saw. This is by far the brightest, clearest, and most capable 900 lumen light I have ever seen. The light uses a custom reflector and lens to focus the light exactly where you need it and not waste any of the beam.  It is difficult to explain, but the beam almost appears to be a solid bar of light, running horizontally, across your field of vision. In addition to Lupine’s mastery of the beam location, they seem to also offer a better color than I am used to seeing. Again, it’s hard to explain without seeing it, but the light has a color that seems to eliminate excess glare and shadow. I was able to see more than I typically can, and see it clearer.

The battery run time is published to be 3 hours. In my initial test, received every minute of that 3 hours before recharging. The battery itself was really keen with a push button charge indicator that worked well.

Lupine SL A7

Detail of the 6.6 Watt Hour battery included with the SL A7

Future tests

Although designed for on road purposes, I plan to take this SL-A7 light off road for a test. Our trails are pretty smooth, so I don’t think vibration will exceed the lamp’s mounting capabilities. Additionally I want to see exactly how much light this thing can throw in the woods. Another big concern of mine is to see how the light handles cold temperatures in the upper Midwest. So expect a lot of sub-freezing rides comments in my next review. All in all, if this light continues to perform like it did initially, I see a very good final review coming. Stay tuned.