Feeling a bit burned out? The regular
trails boring you? Sick of TV? Friends,
you need to try night riding. You will be
more focused, more excited and more
adventurous. Everything will seem new.
YOU ARE NOT A COMMUTER
Lights fall into two categories: lights
designed to help you see and lights designed
to help you be seen. A to-be-seen light is what
you’d use for commuting on lighted bike paths
or roads. The only goal of these lights is making you visible to other riders and motorists.
They are not bright enough or rugged enough
for off-road nighttime trail riding.
The to-see lights are more expensive and
blast a beam that would blind motorists if you
used them on the street. They are designed
to be tough, and they are not cheap. A good
to-see system will run in the $350 neighborhood and may cost $500 or more if you plan to
match your daytime speed.
LED VS. HALOGEN
Entry-level lighting packages are split
between halogen incandescent lamps and
multiple-LED (Light Emitting Diode) systems.
The bottom line is that, given the same battery,
halogen lamps put out much more usable light
than LED clusters, but halogen lamps drain
batteries much faster. Burn times for halogen
systems are around two hours, while LED
systems can burn most of the evening on the
Sorry, but a light’s claimed lumens, a measure of the total “amount” of visible light emitted by a source, is about as good a reason for
buying lights as claimed gas mileage is for buying a car or claimed megapixels are for buying
a camera. We won’t say that light companies
lie about their lumens, but they sure get creative about the way they measure them. Don’t
buy a light based solely on its claimed lumens.
TWO HEADLIGHTS ARE
BETTER THAN ONE
It used to be that you had to have two lights
(one on the handlebar and one on your helmet),
but the new lights illuminate so well and are
sometimes so easy to detach from the handlebar that the two-light setup is now optional, not
mandatory. Still, a helmet spotlight and handlebar floodlight give you the best of both worlds.
ONE IF BY LAND
If you have one light, mount it to your handlebar rather than to your helmet. Using a helmet-only light creates weird shadows that make the
trail surface hard to read. If your handlebar light
mount is not an easy-on/easy-off design, carry
another light in your hydration pack in case you
have a mechanical failure and need to see the
Many powerful lights now house their batteries in one unit. The cons are that they are more
expensive and their weight is positioned higher.