By Todd Anthes
(Athletic Mentors Multisport Team)
Bike lights have come a long way. It used to be the case that any decent unit needed a separate large battery unit. However, all but the “Seca” units discussed below have a self-contained small rechargeable energy source.
And given the rise of distracted driving, the proper light set up is no longer just something for rides in the dark. In my opinion, lights are now a necessity on all rides.
I have three primary light set ups, as follows. I tend to favor the Light & Motion brand, but given the output/lumens and other features, I am sure there are other acceptable options.
- The All the Time, Every Time, Set-Up (“ATET”).
- Whether it’s a bright sunny day or cloudy flat-light conditions, I run one of the Urban series lights on the front handle bar of my bike (https://www.lightandmotion.com/choose-your-light/urban), usually with the light under the bar, which is my personal preference. The light is set up in the “pulse” mode. I have a number of these units, either 800 or 1000 lumens, and these are very bright blinking lights that can be seen from a great distance.
- On the rear I run the Vis 180 Pro (https://www.lightandmotion.com/choose-your-light/vis-180/vis-180-pro), strapped to my seat post. Even when I rode a tri-bike, I found a way to strap this to the aero post. I always run it in the “pulse” mode, and you might think that 150 lumens aren’t that visible. But try and ride behind this light in “pulse” mode in a pace line and it is blinding. There are other settlings, but when in a pace line, I usually just turn it off. Note that some of the people I ride with regularly mount a Vis unit on their helmet.
- The “It Might Get Dark” Set-Up. I complement the ATET with one of two modified set-ups.
- If I am going out and my return might be at dusk, I put another Urban light in my jersey pocket. If it gets dark, I strap it to my handle bar on the other side of the bar from the “pulse” unit. I use the light in one of three of four intensity setting. At the highest lumens setting, this will get me home safe if I have under an hour and a half or so left on the ride. The other settings preserve the battery life longer.
- If I go out and I know that it will get dark, I carry or pre-install one of the Tazi units (https://www.lightandmotion.com/choose-your-light/taz). I have a few iterations of this unit, but the new 2000 lumens Black Pearl unit is incredible. It is brighter than a car headlight. I usually strap this to my handlebar and on its highest setting, I can get an hour of really bright light. You can also mount a Tazi on your helmet but read below.
- The “It’s Dark” Set-Up. When I am leaving in the dark, and if the ride is going to be on a trail or involve a lot of turning, I mount a Seca unit (https://www.lightandmotion.com/choose-your-light/seca) on my helmet. It can be mounted on your bar, but this 2000 to 2500 lumens unit makes night riding like riding in the day. The reason I mount in on my helmet is that the Urban units set on a low angle provide light 7-12 feet ahead of the front wheel, but the Seca unit helps me see around the turns. At its highest setting, which I rarely use, you can plan on an hour and a half of really really bright light. The Seca units also have a separate head band you can purchase that fits over a hat. This a great for hiking or walking the dogs in the dark. The Seca unit does have an external battery, but it is not that large and easily fits into my jersey pocket. I often run the cord under my coat or jersey and then into the pocket.
I ride a lot in “darkish” or dark conditions. I am kind of a night owl, and often find myself heading out later than expected for a ride. In the fall and winter, a proper light set up can make the difference between Zwift and riding outside. And let’s face it, Zwift is cool, but we would all rather be outside . . . provided we can see (and are not too cold . . . but I have another blog on that).