When it comes to lights it seems that there are three things you could be trying to achieve by putting a light on your bike:
- Fulfill your legal obligations
- Make yourself visible to others
- Be able to see for yourself
The first of these is a worthy start point, ensuring your compliance with Rule 60 of the highway code otherwise, however unlikely, you could find yourself facing a penalty of £30. That said lighting on your bike should probably be down to a little more than legal duty.
Making yourself visible to others is likely to assist in ensuring your safety on the road, but if you are going to do any riding in unlit areas serious consideration should be given to the third of these options. With the state of many road surfaces, particularly in rural areas, that are suffering from underinvestment and inadequate maintenance regimes, being able to see more detail is becoming increasingly important.
To give you a flavour of the difference between option 2 and 3, we have been using a unit from the high power cycle light specialist, Lumicycle, to compare with a standard set of budget lights (5 light LED).
The Lumicycle unit we were using was an LED 3Si Elite26 about which the manufacturers have the following to say (from their own website):
The LED3Si has a penetrating beam perfect for riding at any speed on the road. The beam won’t annoy oncoming drivers but will make them very aware of your presence. The beam has enough width for illuminating the side of the road and can be used for trails and some off road riding. Two important safety features make this light essential for road riders and commuters. The glow-ring on the front of the light helps you to be seen from the side by other road users. This is critical when passing a left-hand side road, waiting to turn right onto a main road and also on roundabouts. The other feature is the integral eyelid that helps prevent any upward glare to the rider in dark country lanes. This system comes with the physically small, Elite 2.6Ah battery which fits easily under the handlebar stem.
Out of the box, the first thing that you will notice is the additional weight. While this may not make much odds on your hybrid, if you have been meticulously shaving weight from your regular road ride then adding a 400 gram light will seem a little painful; especially when our budget offering weighs in at just 96g. Much of this weight is the 2.6Ah rechargeable unit that straps under the stem, but before you dismiss it see how much benefit that powerful unit delivers.Photo Rig Bear in mind too, that at £200 this is going to be a much more serious purchasing decision too.
As well as trying out the lights on the road we ran a fairly scientific test to for our comparison so that we could provide a fairly objective view on performance. The test involved setting up a rig which help the lamps directly above a Canon DSLR with a full manual set-up, so that images it captured highlighted precisely the difference in light being emitted. The target for the lamps to illuminate was a banner placed at a distance of 3 metres and then at 5 metres from the lights. If you are interested in cameras as well, the set-up was as follows:
So had did each perform? Take a look through the gallery below to see just what a difference emerged in our test.
The great thing about this test is the results really do speak for themselves, you don’t need to be much of a physicist to see the difference, and understanding your lumens or your lux is not critical either?
If you want to see and be seen on the roads then setting off with a decent set of lights is going to make a pretty fundamental difference to you and your safety.