January/February 1995, p.8
The Brighter Side of Bike Lights
By Ed Ravin
Even if the streets you ride on at night are well lit, you need lights so that others can see you. More than half of all fatal bicycle accidents occur after 6 PM - with lights you're more likely to avoid a potential mishap, whether with a pedestrian, another cyclist, or a car.
What kind of light you buy depends on what kind of riding you do at night, and, of course, your budget. For twenty bucks or less, a pair of blinking Vistalites will suffice for being seen in the dark. Get a red one for the back and a clear for the front. You can spend fifty or sixty dollars and buy low wattage, battery powered lights that will be more visible and give you a dim patch of light to see the potholes by. Or you can drop $100 - $250 on a full strength system that is bright enough to illuminate your path on unlit roads or in the woods.
What's the difference?
Blinking lights: low cost, excellent visibility to other roadway users, and the batteries last forever. But they don't provide any light to see by, just so that others can see you. Most are waterproof and easy to clip to your bike, body, belt, or helmet.
battery lights: These range from $12 to $40, mount on the handlebars or
the back of the bike, use AA or C batteries, and provide enough light to see
what's going on in a dark spot of road. The batteries will go dim within a few
hours, and these models are rarely waterproof. If you buy one, spend a few
bucks extra for one with a halogen bulb - it produces more light from the same
amount of precious battery current.
lights: No batteries, but you need a little electrical know-how to set
them up. A generator gets its juice from one of the bike wheels, slowing you
down slightly. Modern generator sets such as Union or Sanyo use halogen front
lights and are bright enough to light your way on an unlit road.
High-wattage battery lights: Top-of-the-line models from Vistalite, Cateye, Turbocat and Night Sun have two bulbs (high and low beams!) which together are as bright as a single car headlight. They use heavy-duty rechargeable battery packs, and will give four or more hours of light (depending on how you use them) before needing a recharge. At a $100 - $250, they ain't cheap, but you'll ride knowing there's no stretch of road or woods too dark for you.
There's no excuse to ride in the dark without lights - every sane cyclist should buy something to help them stay safe on nighttime streets. Ride safe and enjoy!
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