Tag Archives: Night riding

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!

 

As thoughts turn to visibility on my daily commute. Here is some info and a few tips on staying visible while riding at night.

Visibility and you, staying safe while riding your bike at night

by John Brown, HaveFunBiking.com

With Thanksgiving long gone, we are firmly in the grip of winter. With colder days and darker nights, my thoughts turn to visibility on my daily commute. Here is some info and a few tips on staying visible while riding at night.

Types of Visibility

The main forms of clarity we focus on are passive and active. Things like reflectors and bright colors are forms of passive visibility, while lights and blinkers are great examples of an active visual form.

Passive visibility

Many rides start in the light and only devolve into darkness as the ride stretches on. Provided that your ride is under street lamps or some form of light, passive clarity will get you home safely. The lowly reflector is the most common form of passive visibility. Luckily, reflectors are required by the CPSC to be installed on all bicycles sold in the united states. Reflectors come in two colors, white (front and wheels) and Red (rear). Additionally, many apparel companies install reflective materials onto their products and work like the reflector on your bike, taking any light thrown at you and returning it back to the source. Where passive reflectivity falls short, is when there is no light source to activate the visibility.

Visibility

The simple reflector offers great visibility when seen by motorists.

visibility

High visibility clothing can help you stand out also.

Active visibility

When the area is devoid of a light source you need to create that light to keep yourself safe. For cyclists, Lights and blinkers are the most common visibility product. Where the light and the blinker differ is that blinkers are designed to be seen while lights allow a rider to both see and be seen.

Great lights are usually rechargeable and use an LED bulb. For riders who spend a lot of time off-road or on unlit paths, these lights are a necessity. While most mount onto the bars or helmet, there are a few companies who integrate lights into the bike or helmet.

visibility

You won’t get better lighting than the Magicshine Genie helmet with remote.

Blinkers are usually battery operated and use an LED to flash intermittently. These blinkers can easily be mounted to your bicycle and in some instances, are incorporated into helmets, gloves, shoes, saddles and handlebars.

visibility

Good rear blinkers like the Lupine Rotlicht are key.

What to use

Overall, think ahead before your next ride and pack to insure you can see and others can see you. Mount a pair of blinkers to the bike (one front and one back) so when you get stuck in low light conditions, you can simply switch the blinkers on. If your route is going to be unlit for any portion, a front light makes things safer. Additionally, be sure to wear highly visible clothing in combination with any other gadget.

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.

First look at an amazing new bike light, the MagicShine MJ-900B

by John Brown, HaveFunBiking.com

MagicShine might not be the first name you think of when going out to buy a bike light, but maybe it should? The company’s beginnings were humble. In 1999, Minjun Electronic (Magic Shine’s parent company), opened for business in Shenzhen, China with the intent to produce LED light components. As a result of the need for a high quality/low cost light, in 2008 MagicShine was created, bursting onto the scene with the MJ-808 light. In fact, that light produced a startling 2000 lumens at a cost less than ½, of its competitors. Now, almost 10 years later they continue to produce cutting edge lights at approachable prices, like the MagicShine MJ-900B.

What makes this Magicshine Light so unique?

The MJ-900B is a 1000 lumen, single beam, rechargeable LED light. This Smart Light mounts to your handlebar and it recharges with a USB cable. At maximum brightness, the MJ-900B has a runtime of over 2 hours. Overall, these stats aren’t unique to the MagicShine, what is exciting is that this light can connect via Bluetooth with an app on your phone to manage light power and mode. On top of that, it retails on MagicShine’s website for $79.99 (well below any of its competitors).

MagicShine

Out of the Box for the first time

Out of The Box

The MJ-900B comes in a sturdy box, with a clean, die-cut foam packaging so you shouldn’t expect any damage from shipping. In the box you will find the lamp, lamp strap, battery, battery strap, USB cable, and instructions. The lamp is exquisite in design, and uses what appears to be only super durable materials. The lamp in held in place via a rubber strap that hooks the lamp’s steel baseplate. Whereas the rubber strap isn’t unique, the fact that they use steel rather than plastic for the base is special. Additionally, the Lamp has large cooling fins cast into the back of the light which are both elegant and robust.

Lamp details front and side

The battery is well sealed and sports a large, soft, rubber base that should hold well against any type of surface. The 18” battery cord is removable for storage and watertight once installed. There is a rubber cap on the backside that can be opened to expose the charging port. Next to the charging port is a USB port you can plug into to charge other devices and a power button that displays the batteries current charge.

Detail of the USB charging doc, power indicator, and removable battery cable

Bluetooth app functions for MagicShine

I downloaded the MagicShine App to see just how well it worked. The first thing I noticed was that the App started without asking for access to any of my phone’s files (it’s a major pet peeve of mine when apps need access to unrelated parts of your phone). Once the app opened, you add your email address and receive an activation code through e-mail quickly. With the code in, the app connected to my light automatically. From there, it was super easy to navigate. Changing light settings or functions is as easy as tapping the icon and if you find settings you like, they can be saved for later use.

The Bluetooth app is really easy to navigate and expands the amount of control you normally have over your light

Moving forward

I am excited to see how long the light runs and how quickly the battery takes to recharge. As a point of reference, the light came out of the package with a full charge. Considering that package was most likely sealed months ago, it’s a good indication the batteries are pretty stable. Keep an eye out for the extended review coming up soon.

Reflectors are forms of passive visibility, while lights are great for active visibility. Read on to see where each one is helpful and most efficient.

Finding Visibility for Safety and Fun in Fall’s Limited Light

by John Brown, HaveFunBiking.com

With schools now in full swing, Halloween on every child’s mind, trees dropping their leaves and the days getting shorter we need to begin considering visibility while riding our bikes. The main forms of visibility we focus on are passive and active visibility. Things like reflectors and bright colors are forms of passive visibility, while lights and blinkers are great examples of an active visibility. Read on to see where each one is helpful and most efficient.

Passive visibility

Most autumn rides start in the light, and only devolve into darkness as the ride stretches on. In these cases, most riders rely on passive visibility to get them home. Provided that your ride is under street lamps or some form of light, that passive visibility will get you home safely. The most common form of passive visibility is the lowly reflector. These plastic devices are required by the CPSC to be installed on all bicycles sold in the united states. You will find reflectors come in two colors, white (front and wheels) and Red (rear). Additionally, many apparel companies install reflective materials onto their products. Like the reflector on your bike, these reflective materials will take any light thrown at you, and return it back to the source of the light. Where passive reflectivity falls short, is when there is no light source to activate the visibility.

This jacket offers excellent visibility through color and reflective materials.

Sealsinz makes some cool winter gloves that are both visible and insulated

Active visibility

When the area is devoid of a light source, as a rider, you need to create that light to keep yourself safe. For cyclists, Lights and blinkers are the most common devices for light. Where the light and the blinker differ is that blinkers are designed to be seen while lights allow a rider to both see and be seen.

Great lights are usually rechargeable and use an LED bulb. For riders who spend a lot of time off-road or on unlit paths, these lights are a necessity. While most mount onto the bars or helmet, there are a few companies who integrate lights into the bike or your helmet.

MagicShine Bike Helmet and remote (inset)

MagicShine Bike Helmet and remote (inset)

 

Blinkers are usually battery operated and use an LED to flash intermittently. These blinkers can easily be mounted to your bicycle. In some cases, blinkers are incorporated into helmets, gloves, shoes, saddles and handlebars.

The Omni Bike Helmet, with photo receptor covered and lights on.

The Omni Bike Helmet, with photo receptor covered and lights on.

What to use this Fall

For the fall season, mount a pair of blinkers to the bike (one front an one back). When you get stuck in low light and high traffic, simply switch on the blinkers. If your route is going to be unlit for any portion, a front light makes things safer. Overall, just think ahead before your next ride and pack to insure you can see and others can see you.

 

Xeccom Lights Makes Biking After Dark Safer

Russ Lowthian

DSCF4099With Daylight Savings Time a thing of the past, until next spring, having a powerful bicycle headlamp can be a very important safety feature to maximize your cycling activities as the days grow shorter. Recently, here at HaveFunBiking, we were asked to review the Xeccon “Spiker 1210” Bike Light and “Geinea III” rear light. After using both of the lights in both commuting and trail riding scenarios, we found the Spiker 1210 with 1600 lumens, to the dollars invested, to a good buy.  For rear light visibility the new Geinea III also proved worthwhile to checkout.

DSCF4095

The light kit comes with several mounting options so it can easily be mounted to a bike helmet or to the handlebars.

For commuting one of our staff members with a night vision problem found the Spiker 1210’s, with 1600 lumens made all the difference. The light once again, allowed her the confidence to again safely ride after dark. With four steady light modes and four more strobe (Fast/Mid/Low/SOS) settings the Cree XP-G R5 LED lens can easily help alert oncoming motorists, while giving a person a wide beam to light to see the path or lane ahead – and in the high beam mode a riders has the visibility, at night, of a full two-lane width road under normal weather conditions.

The Xeccon 1210 kit comes with several mounting options so the light can be easily mounted to a bike helmet or the handlebars of a bicycle. In all of our tests, we found it was best to use the 1210 as a bar light to project a wide light pattern in front of the bike and use a smaller lumen spot helmet light as a companion, for added visibility. The light kit also comes with a lithium battery.

DSCF4103

Mounting the battery under the seat was one option that worked well

The Li-ion battery that comes with the 1210 is in a well-protected waterproof ‘brick’ casing that is rated at 7800mAh.  At full power, (high beam) it can light up the road or trail for approximately four (4) hours. On the low beam mode setting we found the battery will last up to 12 hours. To monitor the battery level the unit has a built-in color indicator light to show you what percentage of time you have before you need to re-charge.

For mountain biking at night we found the same configuration worked well by mounting the 1210 unit on the handle bars and using a second light mounted to the helmet. This setup made maneuvering the off-road single track trails, at night, equal to riding on a dark cloudy day or near dusk/dawn conditions.  Here is a U-Tube video showing how this light preforms on a single track course at night.

Xeccon’s Geinea III

DSCF4097

This little taillight shine bright or flashes a red beam of over 160 lumens.

This rear light has to be seen to be believed. This little beauty, the Geinea rear light will pump out 160+ real lumens of light, weighs only 23 grams, and is easy to mount and recharge. Housed in a red case this lightweight tail light has evolved to make it user friendly. Any one of the four modes (steady high, steady low, slow strobe and fast strobe) can be used in the day or night for safer visibility. Putting this rear light, side-by-side several other popular rear light models on the market we were very impressed. At night the light beacon shows the silhouette of a rider over 150 yards out and in daylight the strobe mode is eye catching.

The Geinea, has an optical lens reflector built into the aircraft-grade, waterproof aluminum casing and allows a runtime of  a little over an hour on the high-beam or it can last up to over six hours on the flash-mode. With a build-in 80mAh, USB rechargeable battery the Geinea III can be fully recharged in less than 2.5 hours using any number of electronic devices, having USB connections for charging.

Along with bicycle lights, Xeccon also makes lights for underwater diving, Here is their website http://www.cycling-lights.com/spiker_1210_cycling_light.html for more information.

Just an FYI, in the United States, Daylight Saving Time will again resume at 2 a.m. on the second Sunday in March, so a brighter light will come in handy for the next several months.