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Cycle Folsom Message Board Equipment and Tech Forum › Suggestions for Headlights, Tail Lights and General Visibility

Suggestions for Headlights, Tail Lights and General Visibility

Mike L.
Folsom, CA
Post #: 9
The days are getting shorter, but my hours at the office are not. I have worked hard all season to build a fitness level that I hate to lose just because it's dark out. I guess I could hit the gym or put the bike on the trainer, but I was saving that until the weather gets really nasty. Until then, I plan to ride in the dark.

In the past I rode with a very nice TurboCat set-up that I used for mountain bike riding. It was waterproof and, with the helmet and bike light, about as bright as a car headlight. It also weighed about 10 pounds (lead acid battery) and was state of the art about 18 years ago. I am looking for something a little lighter and a little newer.

The first thing I did when I bought my recent bike was to remove all the reflectors. Except for the small little reflector strips on the heel of my shoes, my visibility is currently zero. I would like to improve that. To take the initiative I have scanned the CycleFolsom discussions and found nothing related to this subject. I have also researched various lighting options, read reviews and compared the pros and cons. I have some ideas about what will work best, but I thought before I make a purchase I would first try and tap the collective knowledge of Cycle Folsom. What are you using and what do you like about your current system?
Stan S.
Folsom, CA
Post #: 49

Not sure what happened to last year's thread on this topic. It was extensive.

I use two headlights and one taillight.


Handlebar Mounted: NiteRider MiNewt 350 (not sure if this one is available anymore; I believe I paid $149 for it at Folsom Bike last year)
Helmet Mounted: NiteRider MiNewt 150-USB Plus ($109.99)

I like having both a handle bar mounted light and a helmet mounted light. The combo ensures you have plenty of light on the road in front of you, but you can also point ahead through a turn to see what's coming up.

If I was only going to buy one of them, I would get the MiNewt 150-USB Plus, which can be mounted on your handlebars or your helmet (the non-Plus version looks to be handlebar mounted only).

Tailight: I really like my Cherry Bomb LED light. I believe I paid $29 at Folsom Bike, less the Cycle Folsom Premium Membership discount. The battery easily lasts all season and it's really bright with both flash and steady mode. I bought it at Folsom Bike, but I don't see it on there web site. I know they still had them back in July.

Last year, Folsom Bike ran a 20% off sale. I inquired with them about putting together an advance purchase deal for the group, but haven't had any luck yet. I'll post it here if I see any sales anywhere, or line up a group discount. I would guess that Folsom Bike will run their light promo/sale soon.
Rancho Cordova, CA
Post #: 76
Hi Mike,
The first thing you want to do is get your bike legal for riding in the dark. There are specific codes for this in the Calilf Vehicle Code. Look it up, but you need side reflectors, rear facing reflectors on your pedals, and a forward facing white light visible from a certain distance (100ft+?). Also, regarding the light, the light is suppose to be visible from the sides, but rarely are any lights made this way. I ride a Performance branded Scatante cyclocross bike in the winter. First, the frame was $200. Second, it has eyelets for full fenders.

Here's how meet the regulations:
  • I ride GP4K reflective sidewall tires (they light up like giant donuts); I believe Specialized carries a reflective sidewall tire.
  • I have the same kind of retroreflective tape that is used on ambulances and fire trucks on the backs of my winter pedals (red) and crank arms (silver).
  • I have the same retroreflective tape (red) on the back of my fender.
  • I have black retroreflective tape (reflects white) on my front fork tips near the drop-outs.
  • I ride with lights (head and tail)

Now, none of this, except the tires, may meet the legal requirements of the law. Use your interpretation. It is something I'm comfortable with though.

As for lights, I'm shopping for a new rechargable head light and I'm just about ready to purchase the new NiteRider MiNewt Pro 750. It puts out a staggering 750 lumens (I doubt I will ever run it at the hi output) and you can find it for right around $200. In the past, a light that put out 300-400 lumens would be about $400.

I ride all year. I ride in the dark on the bike trail commuting to work and such. I love riding in the dark. I also believe in riding with "running-lights": lights designed more to be seen than to see with. Often times I can ride with no lights in the dark on the bike trail just from the city glow. But it is a good idea to have some tiny lights that don't blind on-coming cyclists on the trail, but they still see you.

You'll see my set-up in the near future when we're riding together.

Rancho Cordova, CA
Post #: 77
Be polite, dim the light.

For everyone,
If you are riding on the bike trail at night, consider dimming your headlight for oncoming cyclists. Just like turning your hi-beams down while driving. The easiest thing to do is just cup your hand over the light. Or find the switch.

I hate being blinded by people riding right at me with mega-wattage lights to the point I can't see where I'm going and I'm seeing sun spots for the next 10 minutes.

Also, strobe lights are for discos. Take your strobe lights dancing, not out on the bike trail. It is exceptionally hard for others to judge your distance with a strobe. Don't get me wrong. Strobe settings are good for being seen and standing out in other well lighted situations like on roads with street lights, neon signs, & car lights, but they have little use on bike trails.
Stan S.
Folsom, CA
Post #: 60
Just in case people miss it in the header at the top of this web page, NiteRider lights are all 25% off at Folsom Bike through September 27th. Sales is limited to stock on hand, so if you're interested do some comparison shopping and hopefully you'll end up at Folsom Bike.
A former member
Post #: 9
Great suggestions. I have a NiteRider MiNewt 150 that I use as a helmet light. I have had it for several years and am very pleased with it.

I am looking to replace a Light & Motion light set that weighs as much as a Hummer.

Some folks I know have a Magic Shine - but they had a recall a year ago due to battery issues which they are claiming have been resolved. $90~ for 900 lumens. I liked how bright it was. I see that they have them on sale now at Amazon. But I think I would prefer NiteRider. They feel and look sturdier to me.

Thanks for the tip at Folsom Bike. I will visit them tonight to see what they have.

Steve W.
Folsom, CA
Post #: 35
I train all winter, rain or shine, and log approximately 2-2.5 hours of night time riding 3-4 days per week on both roads and trails. I ride the south canal trail on Tuesday nights, a loop up in El Dorado Hills on Wednesday nights, and a loop from Douglas Bvld, to Indian Hill and back that includes back roads on the way out, and Auburn Folsom road on the way back. I use these routes because they are perfectly suited for my training program.

To the point: Staying alive is important to me, so being visible is paramount. Over the years I've come opinion that no light generating less than 250 lumens is useful to me, even if it accompanies other lights. Lights fail, batteries run out, etc. If you have multiple lights and one of them is 150 lumens while the other is 500 lumens, the 500 lumens light will be the one that fails and you'll be at risk.

Also, when descending, you will easily outrun a 250 lumens light unless you ride your brakes. For this reason, my main light is at least 500 lumens, my supplemental light is 250 lumens. Even at 500 lumens, at speeds over 20 mph I can't see fare enough down the road to take safe corrective action should an obstruction suddenly appear in the road. If you're going to ride in the hills, you need big wattage in your light.

The human eye is attracted to movement even more so than to light. Moving light is your best option for being noticed. Reflective surfaces can significantly help in this area. I wear reflective ankle bands (REI, less then $10). They bob up and down with every pedal stroke, this is the sort of movement that catches motorists eyes.

Brian made some great observervations in his reply. Be considerate and dim your lights when passing head-to-head with riders in the opposite direction while riding on the trail system. I like to cup my hand over the light with my fingers slighly spreadout, this allows some light to filter through so I can see where I'm going, but also prevents the other rider from going temporarily blind.

As Brian pointed out, please don't use blinking lights on the trail system, just don't do it, if you don't know why, have a friend ride toward you at night in a dark secluded area with a blinking light - 'nough said on that.

Flashing lights on city streets are a great thing. There is more ambient light and your little 1000 lumens teeny tiny light is swallowed up street lights, vehicular head lights, and myriad other light sources. You practically become invisible. With at least 500 lumens in flash mode all of the reflective street signs become disco strobe lights; often times you will notice drivers scanning there review mirrors looking for what they belive to be and emergency vehicle coming up behind them. I ride in strobe mode nearly all the time on when riding in traffic on city streets at night.

Strobe mode is not recommended when descending at speed; it's bad ju-ju.

Also, as mentioned in a previous post: everything you wear should be reflective. You want to look like the Elecrtic Horseman in as freakish a way as possible.

Finally, on rainy nights, visibilty through a windshield is super sketchy, on rainy nights I try to stick to the South Canal Trail. There are no slippery turns, no vehicles, no un-necessary dangers to speak of. I consider the American River Bike Trail to be the least safest place to ride in the rain at night; I much rather prefer to ride in off-main street neighborhoods with good street lighting.

Just my humble opinions.

A former member
Post #: 10
Another point to consider too is the run time and corresponding Lumens of the light.

My Nite Rider MiNewt600 at High which gives out 600 lumens can only last 1.5 hours. Perfect for a short 20-miler trail ride. For Medium, 400 lumens for 3 hours.

So given Steve Ward's recommendation above, if you're planning to ride more than 3 hrs and want a light > 500 lumens, you might want to consider a 750 or higher.
Scott M.
user 12891876
Folsom, CA
Post #: 1
I concur with Bryan and Stan in all regards so I'll stick to other ideas. I commute all winter with two headlights -- partly for illumination and partly because it sucks to get caught without a light in an emergency. Here are a few more thoughts and ideas:
- Put fresh batteries in your tail light. The best tail light on the planet is just dead weight unless you've got a freshy in there. And use a legitimate tail light (I use Planet Bike). The little lights are cool but aren't sufficient for commuting on the road.
- Get used to riding with illumination. Headlights make trail surfaces look flat and change your depth perception. Those are important things to consider before you push it through an S curve.
- Riding in groups at night can be more difficult than riding alone because light from the person in second wheel causes a huge shadow in front to the first rider. It's best to ride a little to the side.
- Most Car vs. Bike accidents occur at dusk. With darkness coming on early, it's easy to under-estimate daylight and get caught in the dark while you're riding those last few miles home on surface streets. I carry my spare light in my commuter backpack just in case.
- The helmet light is incredibly useful for spotlighting drivers pulling out from side streets.
- Riding at night is freekin' cool. Most all winter I have the trail to myself -- myself and the deer, owls, cayotes, hawks, rabbits, skunks, and other nocturnal critters.
- Performance bikes sells reflective clothing. I use a pair of reflective shoe covers that positively glow.
- To re-emphasize Bryan's comment: DIM YOUR LIGHT and/or look away from the trail or turn it off when you are approaching oncoming riders. Nothing kills night vision like a halogen shock to the eyes -- save it for the drivers who are about to pull out in front of you.
Stan S.
Folsom, CA
Post #: 62
Great comments. Wish I'd seen all these as I was buying mine last year and the year before. I'd strongly echo Scott's comments about being prepared to dodge a critter hear and there at night, and Steve's comment about riding at night in the rain on the trail. Did that once last year and decided I won't do it again.

One note regarding Steve's comments about lights less than 250 lumens... Logically, I'd agree with you, but in practice I've been really pleased with my NiteRider MiNewt 150. Surprisingly so. I can't explain it, but compared to my Logically, I'd agree with you, but in practice I've been really pleased with my 150. Surprisingly so. MiNewt 350 lumens, the output of my 150 seems whiter and appears just as bright (or really close to it). Also, the battery lasts significantly longer than the 350, which has saved my butt a couple times on the last 10 to 20 minutes of a ride. I now wait until the dark has really set in before I turn on the 350. I use the 150 from the start so I can be seen and to brighten things up from dusk on.
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Folsom, CA

Founded Jun 30, 2010


Jim Ramseier, Brian, Mel Wade, Rob, Rowland Fellows, Stan Schultz
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