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Lights: How bright is actually practical?

Old 06-26-19, 07:26 AM
  #1  
MEversbergII
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Lights: How bright is actually practical?

I currently ride with a Cygolite Metro 700. I have not had a whole lot of night-riding lately, but I remember doing a few a couple months back and thinking the light was quite awesome and did a good job of illuminating my path at it's nominal 700 lumen output.

Cygolite (and others) make even higher lumen lights, however - upwards of some 1,100 lumen in the Cygolite Metro 1100 (and other unknown brands seem to claim even higher than that on theirs). Between these two are plenty to choose from as well.

Is there much point into brighter lights than my current 700? Especially in the Metro line, having as it does the same relatively narrow emitter facing. A wider spread at a higher lumen (to maintain or improve lux) is understandable but not all of them appear to be so.
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Old 06-26-19, 07:35 AM
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I have a light that is quite bright. I think it was originally advertised as 900 lumen. but after adding a wide angle diffuser & hood to spread the beam & not blind ppl, I wish it were brighter. so here's a vote for brighter but not without better beam pattern technology
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Old 06-26-19, 07:51 AM
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One thing to consider is that if (and this is a big “if”) the extra brightness is gained by a more efficient LED, and the runtimes are really the same the higher output, the brighter light can be run at a lower setting more often, thus extending run times.

I have a Cygolite 850, on my gravel/road bike and I almost never use the high setting, but it is nice to have for riding on a trail with a lot of obstacles or if I am going pretty fast on the road (which I don’t usually do at night).

On my MTB, it is not nearly enough. When I mountain bike in the dark I want a minimum of 1500 on the bars and 800 on my helmet.

I’ll also add to the comment that beam pattern matters a lot, and a wide pattern needs more lumens. I actually like the Cygolite Metro pattern a lot for street riding.
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Old 06-26-19, 07:52 AM
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Depends on the where you ride and the conditions you ride in.

The biggest reason for more light is if it's raining or the roads are very wet. IMO it takes about 4x the brightness of riding in the dry. Riding in urban areas with a lot of other light sources and more brightness is required as well.
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Old 06-26-19, 08:28 AM
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I've been commuting in Colorado Springs with a Niterider Minewt 500 (~500 lumens) for about 10 years. It's more than adequate for my needs and speeds. The beam pattern is what's important. It's a wide-ish spot with a nice off-spot spread. Other headlights were brighter and tighter, others were wider but dimmer. This one hit the sweet spot for price and performance for me at the time. And the battery life works for me; my ride home in the dark can be up to an hour in the winter with snow.

I think my next light will be one with a shaped beam and a horizontal cut-off. Those do an excellent job of lighting the road with even less lumens, which is why they are favored when using internal hub generators. They also cause less blinding of oncoming drivers, bicyclists and pedestrians.
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Old 06-26-19, 08:37 AM
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I think there should be a distinction between lights "to see" or "to be seen". If you are riding closed trails, and it is sufficient for you to see then I don't see an issue. However, "to be seen" is another issue. I would have someone video you riding at a distance (in sunlight) from the rear and see if your light is the first thing you notice (without looking for it). You may find that your rear light (power/patterns) are woefully inadequate.
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Old 06-26-19, 08:40 AM
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Instead of seeking a higher-lumen light, might it make more sense to buy another Cygolite Metro 700 and mount both to the bike? Then you could choose to operate just one when extra light is not needed or when you need more battery life, or operate two for maximum light output. I don't ride at night so I'm not sure if using two lights is common or not.
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Old 06-26-19, 09:01 AM
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Originally Posted by Spoonrobot View Post
Riding in urban areas with a lot of other light sources and more brightness is required as well.
This is a very important point.

It is a common misconception that brighter ambient light in an urban environments lessens the need for a bright light. Exactly the opposite is true. Competition from other light sources means you need to stand out and a brighter light is required to do so.


Originally Posted by road292 View Post
Instead of seeking a higher-lumen light, might it make more sense to buy another Cygolite Metro 700 and mount both to the bike?
Consider that the second light might be helmet mounted.

A bar light shows you where you are going. A helmet light shows you where you want to go.

Having both bar and helmet lights is an outstanding setup but if I had to run only one light it would be a helmet light. The Light & Motion Vis 360 Pro is excellent.


-Tim-
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Old 06-26-19, 09:10 AM
  #9  
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My Cygolite 460 is plenty brought enough as a 'be seen' slight in broad daylight.

It's underpowered as a headlight when riding in total darkness. Mainly because the strobe is flashing at 460 lumens in the daytime but the constant on headlight is probably closer to 300 lumens (I'm guessing)

It's fine for the relatively lit streets I ride on in the winter when commuting. But if I were going on an unlit totally dark street it wouldn't be enough.

Daytime though...just to be noticed...it's fine.
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Old 06-26-19, 09:17 AM
  #10  
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I think I run my light on the low 50 lumen setting over 90% of the time, and I do a lot of riding at night.
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Old 06-26-19, 09:19 AM
  #11  
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Pitch black, need to see the road, by * will be needing more,

Than streets lighted, in the city.. a 'be seen' and flashing lights..


* even then the white line on the edges of the pavement can be seen at the speed a bicycle is going,
without turning night into daylight..

a light source closer to the surface bring lit appears brighter.. aka foot-candlepower.




I do not own this brand https://cygolite.com/product/ any of it.. happy shopping..











...

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Old 06-26-19, 09:25 AM
  #12  
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Originally Posted by Kapusta View Post
One thing to consider is that if (and this is a big “if”) the extra brightness is gained by a more efficient LED, and the runtimes are really the same the higher output, the brighter light can be run at a lower setting more often, thus extending run times.

I have a Cygolite 850, on my gravel/road bike and I almost never use the high setting, but it is nice to have for riding on a trail with a lot of obstacles or if I am going pretty fast on the road (which I don’t usually do at night).

On my MTB, it is not nearly enough. When I mountain bike in the dark I want a minimum of 1500 on the bars and 800 on my helmet.

I’ll also add to the comment that beam pattern matters a lot, and a wide pattern needs more lumens. I actually like the Cygolite Metro pattern a lot for street riding.

That's a good question on the LEDs - I could probably glean this from runtimes. I will say I am wishing Cygolite would tell me what the output for the medium and low is on each of their lights - they only ever list what "high" is.

I had also considered getting a helmet light - do you have the less bright one on your helmet to reduce how much you blind people you look at, or is there another reason?

I am with you on the Cygolite Metro pattern - I really like the light I have now, so when looking at buying another I'd come across their brighter models and started wondering about those instead. The Metro 700 package with the 100 lumen HotShot is also a good value.

Originally Posted by road292 View Post
Instead of seeking a higher-lumen light, might it make more sense to buy another Cygolite Metro 700 and mount both to the bike? Then you could choose to operate just one when extra light is not needed or when you need more battery life, or operate two for maximum light output. I don't ride at night so I'm not sure if using two lights is common or not.
That was actually how I ended up looking at the brighter ones - I was on Amazon looking at a second 700 set when I saw their brighter offerings and started wondering about those instead. Might still do that regardless, though my electric horn might have to find a new home or something. I am planning on getting another bike in the near future, and I'd be buying it its own dedicated light set, so the more I know now the better. I don't do much night riding these days (might change in the future) but it's fun to think of myself as being prepared!

Originally Posted by jadocs View Post
I think there should be a distinction between lights "to see" or "to be seen". If you are riding closed trails, and it is sufficient for you to see then I don't see an issue. However, "to be seen" is another issue. I would have someone video you riding at a distance (in sunlight) from the rear and see if your light is the first thing you notice (without looking for it). You may find that your rear light (power/patterns) are woefully inadequate.
My (primary) rear light is a HotShot 100 - this is decent though I have considered getting a brighter (c. 200 lumen) model for improved daylight visibility. I also have a cheapy backup of unknown lumen bolted to my rear rack, but that's there 80% because the empty bracket on my rear-rack was bugging me, 20% in case my HotShot fails, falls off, or otherwise is not there.
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Old 06-26-19, 09:27 AM
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In my experience, for riding on the road 500-800 lumens is sufficient for a "to see by" light. The Metro is a really good option: inexpensive, reliable, good beam pattern and a great mount.
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Old 06-26-19, 09:28 AM
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Originally Posted by MEversbergII View Post
My (primary) rear light is a HotShot 100 - this is decent though I have considered getting a brighter (c. 200 lumen) model for improved daylight visibility. I also have a cheapy backup of unknown lumen bolted to my rear rack, but that's there 80% because the empty bracket on my rear-rack was bugging me, 20% in case my HotShot fails, falls off, or otherwise is not there.
I had a Cygolite Dice 50 rear and changed it right away when I saw a video of me riding and realized how inadequate it was (in comparison to my front light). I did switch to the HotShot 200.
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Old 06-26-19, 09:34 AM
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Must be a very personal thing. Bright enough for me is apparently a lot less than most people. I don't use a headlight for commuting since there is enough light for me to see where I'm going, and I honestly don't understand the need for a "be seen" headlight. I figure it's my job to avoid running into things. For road riding I have ridden thousands of miles in the dark with an Ixon IQ on low and have never really felt the need for anything brighter.
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Old 06-26-19, 09:36 AM
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Originally Posted by TimothyH View Post
This is a very important point.

It is a common misconception that brighter ambient light in an urban environments lessens the need for a bright light. Exactly the opposite is true. Competition from other light sources means you need to stand out and a brighter light is required to do so.




Consider that the second light might be helmet mounted.

A bar light shows you where you are going. A helmet light shows you where you want to go.

Having both bar and helmet lights is an outstanding setup but if I had to run only one light it would be a helmet light. The Light & Motion Vis 360 Pro is excellent.


-Tim-
I have for years wanted to design a handlebar mount with a pivot and a belt that goes around a pulley wheel under the light and the headtube so when you turn the handlebars, the light turns roughly twice as far. In other words, so it illuminates the corner you are entering, not the roadside where you do not want to end up. Still on my to-do list.

Ben
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Old 06-26-19, 10:08 AM
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Originally Posted by kingston View Post
Must be a very personal thing. Bright enough for me is apparently a lot less than most people. I don't use a headlight for commuting since there is enough light for me to see where I'm going, and I honestly don't understand the need for a "be seen" headlight. I figure it's my job to avoid running into things. For road riding I have ridden thousands of miles in the dark with an Ixon IQ on low and have never really felt the need for anything brighter.
Front “to be seen” lights are helpful when you are riding and vehicles pull up to a “stop” sign on an adjacent street. I can’t count how many times someone has almost rolled through only to catch my light and put on the brakes. We had a local rider killed last year because he was T-boned in exactly that fashion.
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Old 06-26-19, 10:21 AM
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something else to consider: if you are commuting on MUP's that high powered light that can turn night into day is blinding all oncoming users. especially if it is set to flash or strobe. brighter is not always better.
if the concern is getting more light onto the pavement so you can see any debris or potholes you might consider a second light mounted on the fork and aimed properly.
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Old 06-26-19, 10:33 AM
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Originally Posted by jadocs View Post
I had a Cygolite Dice 50 rear and changed it right away when I saw a video of me riding and realized how inadequate it was (in comparison to my front light). I did switch to the HotShot 200.
Does that have a clip mount option at all? I currently clip my HotShot to the MOLLE mounts on my backpack, and it seems the 200 only has a provision for seat tube / seat stay mounts. Not a deal breaker, though my seat tube is occupied and I'm not sure it would stay put well enough on my seat stays (narrow).
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Old 06-26-19, 10:35 AM
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The job determines the tool. "Practical" means an affordable tool which can do the job.
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Old 06-26-19, 10:38 AM
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I ride on the road and use a dynamo setup. It stays on all the time. Surprisingly the headlight is bright enough for me to see the road at night and people starting from a stop in daylight to see me. About four years ago someone texting on a cell phone nailed me with their mirror in daylight. I looked up bright tail lights on the web and found the Dinotte daylight visible taillight. The close calls went away and I can watch in my mirror and see them moving over from a distance.
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Old 06-26-19, 10:49 AM
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If I know my route and it is general well-lit I use about 250 lumens. More as needed.

I have two headlights, Light and Motion Urbans, a 500 and a 750. For battery life I run low lighting when I can but I have the option of going full blinding if I want. On an completely unlit and often tree-tunneled MUP I use both lights, one long and one close---I can afford to because no one uses it at night. if I am going quickly (relatively) I use more light---because each light can be aimed independently, I never need to blind drivers to be able to see the road adequately. If I am an unknown road where anything could show up .... etc.

Like @55murray and @kingston I find that “bright as day” lighting is generally overkill. For one thing, the brighter the lit patch, the darker the rest of the world. Soe like that, some don’t. If I were riding off-road, I would definitely go with @Kapusta’s massive overkill solution … but for most night ridesI just need to see obstacles in time to take sensible action.

Tail lights, max brightness, because I don’t ride in a peloton often.
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Old 06-26-19, 10:58 AM
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Originally Posted by MEversbergII View Post
Does that have a clip mount option at all? I currently clip my HotShot to the MOLLE mounts on my backpack, and it seems the 200 only has a provision for seat tube / seat stay mounts. Not a deal breaker, though my seat tube is occupied and I'm not sure it would stay put well enough on my seat stays (narrow).
It does not come with a clip. I think if you call Cygolite they will send you one that works with it. I seem to recall reading that in a review somewhere.
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Old 06-26-19, 11:31 AM
  #24  
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Originally Posted by 79pmooney View Post
I have for years wanted to design a handlebar mount with a pivot and a belt that goes around a pulley wheel under the light and the headtube so when you turn the handlebars, the light turns roughly twice as far. In other words, so it illuminates the corner you are entering, not the roadside where you do not want to end up. Still on my to-do list.

Ben
You have just such a pivot. You carry it with you all the time. It even allows you to adjust in the z direction. It's called a neck. Put a light on your helmet (or head) and you can make the beam shine wherever you like. No pulleys needed.
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Old 06-26-19, 12:56 PM
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Originally Posted by MEversbergII View Post
I had also considered getting a helmet light - do you have the less bright one on your helmet to reduce how much you blind people you look at, or is there another reason?
.
For street riding I don't use a helmet "light". More like a white blinky on the front (and a red blinky on the back) just to be seen at night.

As far as MTB.... If I plan to night ride, my setup consists of three cheap Chinese no-name lights. They "claim" to be something like 1,500 lumens each, but I doubt they are much over 1000, if that. I am really just guessing. I have two mounted on the bars and one on my helmet. So the short answer is that I have less on my helmet simply because it is only one light as opposed to two... but there is more to it.

For one, the lights on the bars use flood lenses, so it takes a lot more lumens to run them bright enough. I have one pointed down fairly close in front of my bike that I run on Low setting, and one pointed farther down the trail that I run on High (and turn off during climbs). On my helmet I use the spot lens, so it does not require as many lumens. I usually run it on Med or even Low sometimes.

Also, I don't like the light that comes from the helmet as much as from the bars. Because the light source is so close to my eyes, I can't see shadows as well, and everything kind of washes out. The light from the bars casts more shadow and I can see texture and features on the trail (and road) much more easily. The helmet has the obvious advantage that it can be pointed anywhere, so I do use it, but I don't want it too bright and washing everything out.

My MTB lights are kind of a pain to set up with all the external batteries and cords. If I am riding and planning to get back within a few hours before dark, and want a light just in case of emergency, I will just throw my cygolight in my backpack. It is not optimal for trail riding, but it will get me out of the woods just fine.

As far as blinding other people.... I try to remember to shut the helmet light off when we stop... or keep looking away from everyone.
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