Thursday, October 30, 2008

Let there be light...while riding at night

As the time change starts to approach us over this first weekend in November; it becomes a stark realization for many that their training time on the bike starts to shorten due to the lack of light. Now as much as I recommend taking a break and start focusing on off season training; its also important to get out on the bike and do some spinning as well. Offroad riding under the lights gives me back the peace of mind I've lost during the day.

Getting on the bike and riding in the early morning or evening requires some form of additional light or lights. So what is the biggest limiting factor in getting a light; well price for one; check out the lighting systems out there from NiteRider, Light & Motion, Ay Up, or Lupine; and one may just give up riding during the week based on initial reaction to cost. What I have found out though is based on your riding requirements; you really don't need to spend as much as you initially think.

Having purchased along with tested a number of lighting systems for 24hr endurance races; I can say that I look for the following; illumination, how light is system in terms of weight, and of course cost. Depending on the terrain and length of ride; I will ride with either one or two lighting system on the handlebar and another attached to the top of helmet. The light on the helmet makes the biggest difference to me; since I typically ride off road; since it doesn't bounce and is more stable then the lights on the handlebar; also riding on steep inclines/declines I get a better sense of whats in store for me.

These lighting systems have advanced greatly over the last couple of years; and you will start to see more systems that are LED (diode emitting) versus HID (gas emitting). Until recently HID was the choice; based on the brightness of the light emitted; LED has caught up in terms of brightness; and has advantages in terms of weight, dimming, life of the bulbs and durability. Battery wise; if its not Li-Ion based; its not worth it; Nimh is an old technology that will loses memory (charge) over time and doesn't do well in extreme conditions. As for disposable battery powered lights; I keep those to my short commute rides.

Right now in terms of cost and output (Lumens) NiteRider is producing the MiNewt Mini-USB that is lightweight (175 grams), can be mounted to helmet or handlebar, runs for 3 hours, and can be charged via a USB cable. For around 100 dollars; this system is worth a try; if I were doing trail riding with it; I would probably ride with two (helmet and handlebar)

As for high end; take a look at Ay Up; out of Austrailia; they offer three packages; road, mtb, endurance. The kits start at 260.00 US for the road version and run up around 600.00 for the endurance; and come with multiple mount systems, batteries, chargers, and lightsets. From my tests; Ay Up is durable, high powered LED's, long burntime up to 6 hours, and durable I've crashed with the lightsets attached to both helmet and handlebar and I didn't have any issues.

I will say I ride with a different system on the road then mountain due to the light and traffic around me. I tend to use a softer single light on the road so I don't blind other riders or drivers; plus I typically don't need anymore then 2 hours. On the mountain; I have lights on the handlebars; sometimes dual systems; one on the helmet; and a flasher on the back. This is more due to the terrain, not so visable corners, and the inclines/declines.

Don't let the lack of light stop you from riding; it not only extends your riding time but also is also provides safety on the road. Offroad; once you've ridden under the lights on a warm summer night; you will never want to ride in the light again.

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