With Daylight Savings now in the rear-view mirror the logical and sometimes only way to keep up the riding hours is to strap a high-powered light to your helmet and/or handlebar and hit the dirt after work. If you don’t already have a good set of night riding lights, or if you haven’t updated your lighting in some time, here are a few things to consider when making a purchase:
1. Where to put your light(s) for maximum effectiveness
The ideal off-road nighttime cycling light setup includes two powerful lights. One mounted on your handlebar and the other on your helmet but budgetary constraints can mean that you have to choose between one or the other. A handlebar-mounted unit casts light further down the trail at night than a helmet-mounted light which is really handy at speed. It can be bigger and heavier without the issue of it weighing heavily on your head and neck. A helmet-mounted light, being mounted at the highest possible point, eliminates shadows on the trail cast by undulations and you can illuminate the trail around corners before you turn your handlebar. Also, a helmet mounted light is useful for trail-side repairs in the dark! Opinions are split as to which position (handlebar or helmet) is the most important but if only one light is available for use, my preference is definitely to have it helmet-mounted.
2. Compatibility and interchangeability
If you’re running more than one light, it’s handy to have lighting units with interchangeable batteries. If one of your lights goes flat, you can swap batteries as required. This isn’t a big deal, but worth consideration when making a purchase.
A lot of lights on the market are supplied with hardware for both helmet and handlebar mounting. For example, Gemini Duo Multisport 2200 (RRP $399.99) & the BBB Scope 1500 (RRP $279.99) come with both a handlebar mount and a velcro-strap style helmet mount.
3. Helmet light styles
There are plenty of adequately powered, offroad-capable lights on the market that have an integrated battery. While this style of light delivers the obvious benefit of not having to find somewhere to put your auxiliary battery (e.g. strapped to the back of your helmet or in your back-pack), these lights are generally expensive and/or heavy compared to lights with comparable output and an external battery.
Lights with auxiliary/external batteries can be cumbersome to use but generally have more lighting power, have interchangeable batteries and are barely noticeable on your head when in use.
4. Backup lights
It’s no fun getting caught out with a flat battery on your main light, part-way through a ride! I’ve been in this situation in the past and had to finish the ride with one hand on the bars and the other holding my phone, using the front light to see my way! Thankfully, I only had a short distance to go.
Definitely consider adding a small, ‘all-in-one’ light to your handlebar, just in case. The BBB Nanostrike 400 (RRP $79.99) is a great option due to its compact size, brilliant, 400Lm output and impressive 1050mAh battery that provides 8 hours of run-time on the ‘standard’ setting (2:00 to 48 hours of run-time depending on the mode selected!). With an adequate back-up light in place, you can run your main light(s) on a higher output setting without fear of being left in the dark!
5. Rear lights
Although red-coloured rear lights are an absolute requirement for night-time road riding and getting to/from your Mountain bike ride, they’re not generally used off-road. The flashing of a rear light can be seriously off-putting for riders following behind so remember to turn off those flashers when hitting the dirt!