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Home > Magazine > Gear > Bike/Action Lights Set-up & Tips

Bike/Action Lights Set-up & Tips
November 16, 2011

Here's the bike light combo I've been using for a few years: *Headlamp; *Sticklight, floody-type, with bar-mount; *Red blinky tail-light; *Big ol' Spotlight.

My set-up seems pretty good to me. Of course, I really do need a Spot-type sticklight, but whatever, I've been making-do with the Big Ol' Yeller.

I use these lights for every other purpose under the sun, I mean the moon. I use them every day, in fact. And I often use the Head and the Stick in combination.


HEADLAMP

The light I use the most -- as in every day -- is a Petzl Myo XP headlamp, available for about $60. I find this light to be pretty good for biking and skiing at night. It's far better than many others in the general price-point. It's 150 lumens on high, 50 on low. However, a smallish all-rounder light like this actually isn't sufficient for optimal nite bike/ski action. Whenever possible I supplement it and use a sticklight plus a handlebar mount. But as an allrounder, this is a great light. (A newer model, the RXP, gives more lumens and is custom-programmable, I read, to give each setting the lumens you desire, but it's also more like $90. I commonly use both brightest and lowest settings.) The brightest setting has a couple hours of run-time, lowest has many more. I use rechargeables -- and have been using the same half dozen of them for several years now -- they do seem to be getting low on their runtime, at a half-hour, say, on highest. I note that Lithium batteries are the best by far for cold winter work. They're pricey at a couple bucks each so I keep a set for winter-only.

I confess that I've accidentally broken a couple of XP's by somehow damaging the wire connection. I wish these things could be disassembled and re-connected as I bet I could fix them, but then maybe the waterproofness would be impaired. Anyway, Petzl has been a champ about replacing them all, thanks to the great warranty. I haven't read this warranty but it keeps on working, letting me keep on using this light. Every day.


STICKLIGHT

I use a $55 MTE-SSC-P7C from DealExtreme.com for my heavy lifting. It's 900 lumens! And in such a small package. I'm endlessly impressed by this light. However, it uses a special, larger 18650 battery, the key to such performance. Actually, the light is only $35, but 2 batteries and a charger will set you back a bit more $.

This is the only affordable sticklight I could find with a floody beam, thanks to the Seoul emitter. The Crees just don't cut it for bike/ski work. They're way too spotty/throwy. For biking/skiing you want to cut a wide swath at about 15 feet in front. Seoul is the answer.

This light also dies dead black without warning so I rubberband my charged spare onto it. It runs an hour on high, several on low, and it has 5 modes.

I note that Magicshine makes a comparable light from probably the same emitter for better runtime -- it has 2 or 3 batteries in a pack rather than just the one of my sticklight. The MS light kit is about $90 and includes a helmet mount from Geomangear.com. I note a controversy about this budget light, probably similar to many such lights, as reliability was shaky in its early phase, with replacements offered. They're now dialed in and should be great to order. Still the best value. They now also have 1500 lumen lights for about $150. And a true headlamp called the CJ, but it doesn't seem available in the US. Likely DealExtreme.com has them, or will.


RED BLINKY

If you ride, you need a red blinky. The Bike Planet Superflash is a great one -- 1/2 watt for, like, $15. They also offer the Turbo 1 watt for $25 which is actually what I have, but, ya know what, it's probably TOO bright. At any rate, it is totally annoying to bike behind a rider with a Turbo.


ABOUT BLINDING PEOPLE...

...Don't do it. Shining a light in anyone's eyes is a defensive fighting move. I only do it to a car-driver if I think they don't see me or if they're brighting me. Doublecheck the upper rim of your light (or PB Turbo blinky) beam and adjust it to be below the eyes of folks in front of you or bikers behind you. Of course, if it's raining or foggy, blaze away.


MORE VIZ TIPS

Wear or bring along something hi-viz -- a wrap-around ANSI 2 safety vest is dandy. And while you're at it, if you're riding with others, toss in an extra blinky. You never know who won't have one. Also, in winter or the "shoulder seasons," there's often a lot of shadows in the road, so flashing your blinky in the daytime is a smart idea. Lastly, make sure your lights are securely fastened and aimed right. Mere clip-on's can easily shift or point to the sky if you're not careful. ...And they can bounce off (and shatter) if you hit a bump.


THROWY SPOT

I'd say the only handy light I'm missing is a Cree Spot -- cheaply acquired from any hardware store or DealExtreme.com. A Cree Spot is the most common type of light since "throwy" beams seem more impressive than the usually more useful (to me) "floody" beam. (I like saying "throwy" and "floody." Who wouldn't!?) Anyway, I'm still relying on my big, heavy, old, yellow Million Candlepower charger-light for spot work. Lame, I know. Not at all transportable except in a car! And supposedly if you run those down they're dead for good. So, if you still have one, recharge before the light gets very weak! Anyway, whenever I need it, it's fun to use coz it throws a spot out there a couple hundred yards.

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