Bike Lights: How Bright Is Bright Enough?

"In Part 1, we discussed the latest in bike-light technology and how you can make those advances work for you. Next, we'll take a look at your options."

On a bike, everyone needs a light to get safely through the night. But not all bike lights are created equal.

Before you buy a light for your bike, think about the kind of riding you'll be doing. This information is what you should use to determine whether or not you need the brightest LED light on the market or if you can get by on something a little cheaper.

Keep the following information in mind as you make your decision.

More: An Intro to Bike Lights: A Safety Tool for All Seasons

Be Seen by Others

Every cyclist needs a light at night to be seen by other traffic using the roadway. Cars, trucks and motorcycles need to be aware that you're out there competing for a place on the road. Even though it's dark, cyclists have the same rights to use the roadway as they do in daylight. We don't surrender those rights just because the sun goes down.

It's important to factor pedestrians into this equation as well. These days, crosswalks are only an afterthought when people want to cross a road on foot. I see more and more people, including mothers with small children, hustling across a busy highway right in the middle of the road. At night, you won't be seen unless you have lights. It's that simple.

To be visible to others, you won't need the $500 LED version that lights up the whole street. A 200 lumens light on the front of your bike will provide plenty of light for you to be seen at a distance of at least 20 or 30 meters.

More: Why Bike Lights are Important...Even in Daylight

To that end, you'll want lights on both the front and rear of your bike. Cars have the same setup. It's not just a coincidence. On the front of all bicycles, the law requires that the light be white. On the back, the light should be red.

Setting your lights to flash mode is the safer option in terms of visibility. This mode draws more attention to your presence, which is why the lights are there in the first place. However, if you're riding on poorly lit streets or on a trail where you need to see where you're going, the flash mode may not be your best choice.

Brighter Lights for Rougher Roads

It would be great if our roadways were freshly paved each year and swept clear of debris once a week, but unfortunately that isn't always the case.

More: 10 Things I Learned From Being Hit by a Car

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