Guest post: A review of high-intensity rear lights for improved safety, day or night

Awhile back, OC cyclist Mark Goodley wrote a guest post calling for cyclists to ride with ultra bright bike lights both day and night for increased safety, following his own near-fatal riding collision

At the time, he mentioned he was working on a review of some of the brightest lights on the market, which would be easily visible in daylight. So I offered to post his review once he got it finished. 

And here is it, representing an exceptional amount of work and out-of-pocket expense.

……..

STAY WELL LIT and You Won’t be HIT!!!

In other words

SAVE YOUR Life, Ride Ultra BRIGHT, DAY And night”

A Bicycle Light Review

By Mark D. Goodley

Introduction: As a quick start; I was hit and almost killed last year by a car making an illegal turn… I was a lucky survivor. Many are not so fortunate. Even though I ride an average of 10K miles/yr., I’d never been a bike advocate or activist before; but seeing your own blood draining onto the street changes you. Within weeks of being released from the hospital, I started looking for a solution to the carnage. We had two more fatalities the next month further raising the stakes. What was the most expedient, reliable, and cost effective mechanism to preventing/stopping the fatalities?

You can say and preach all you want about driver and rider safety and education, but the truth is, you’re never going to get to every driver or rider. There had/has to be other options. I looked in all directions and researched numerous possibilities, and one statistic I found leapt out against all the others… To date, I have not found one, not a single fatality, hit from behind accident, (which out number all other cycling fatality accidents 2:1), when the cyclist was riding with today’s ultra bright rear lights turned on… that started me on the trek…  If you can give the driver 5-10 seconds (.1-.2 tenths of a mile at highway speeds) advance warning of your presence, you will not (at least statistically) have problems. In fact, from my and many others reported experiences, most every driver that passes you will appreciate the simple and effective “heads up” warning.

Cutting directly to the chase scene: Wear multiple ultra brite lights, day and night..  As a good rule of thumb; If  you can look directly at the light, it’s not even close to being brite enough. All the lights in this article are retina searing, some, more  than others.

The bottom line is, that after many months of searching police and sheriff records following my accident this past June, I still can’t find one rear end cycling fatality where the rider had ultra-bright rear lights flashing at the time of the accident. That is an impressive statistic to say the least; and one that no cyclist should ignore, take lightly, nor not heed.

Abstract:

Determining which rear end lights were most effectively seen, day and night by drivers. There are many dozens of lights to choose from. Which lights can be seen most easily? Which are the best Price/Performance options?

The minimum lighting standard I set for inclusion in this review was the light must be clearly visible flashing, in the daytime  .1 mile (one-tenth of a mile). At highway/road speeds, that represents between 10 and 20 seconds warning to the driver. An eternity in reaction time, and an early warning system to drivers.

A total of only 11 lights met this criteria, many more did not. Any of these lights will greatly enhance your chances of staying alive on the road. But there are profound differences between Good, Better, and Best, as you will see.

Prices ranged from $25-$200.

I intentionally did not make it easy to meet this standard. For the visibility tests, I chose early morning, around 8-8:30AM, bright cloudless days, when the sun was low on the horizon. The lights were placed roughly only 10 degrees east (North) of being directly into the sun. This is exactly the time when most cyclists have been killed, early morning or late afternoon, riding towards the sun.

Determining which is the best light is impossible. It would be the same as saying which bicycle is the “best.” Everyone has their own needs and budget. What works best for Fred doesn’t for Wilma, etc.

Please note, that as a matter of practical usage, ALL lights/batteries tested were rechargeable, in one manner or another. The intent was/is to take the typically heard excuse for not using lights, “I didn’t want to run my batteries down”, completely out of the equation.  Some lights were tested with rechargeable AA/AAA batteries, while others were USB rechargeable… In any case, no one can use that excuse again. Lights that did not have a rechargeable option were not tested, and in fact, are being erased from the market.

A power meter

A power meter

One light characteristic and function that becomes important to note to the reader is “lensing.” A light can appear to be extremely bright from one angle, but quickly loses effectiveness only a few degrees off this primary angle. To further complicate matters, more LED’s in a light may or may not be perceived as brighter, depending upon the relative photon count coming out from the individual LEDs. Therefore every light is a compromise of LED brightness, lensing focus brightness, viewable angle brightness, # of LEDs, and battery runtime.

P1020098

Testing LED lights is technically challenging. Numerous methods have been used over several decades. For this study I roughly followed the Modified Allard method for effective intensity. This calibrated protocol was combined with visual comparisons at .1 mile and .25 mile. The  empirical results of these protocols, were averaged.

Newport Corporation Optical 1918-R Power meter for determining overall light power, and Newport Corp optical table

Newport Corporation Optical 1918-R Power meter for determining overall light power, and Newport Corp optical table

Next, while the flashing color red denotes a heightened state of awareness in our minds, red lenses typically reduce overall perceived power by a significantly large factor. Again, everything is a compromise. Lastly; runtime of each light was tested and noted. The minimum was approx. 2 hours, which is usually acceptable  for a commuter who can and will recharge their lights at work, but not so good for the road cyclist who’s putting in 4-6 hours, and will be left unprotected.

Lastly,  note that all lights were paid for. None were “donated.” I wanted to eliminate any potential or possibility of the results being questioned or perceived as “bought” or “mailed in.” When multiples of light from a given mfg were tested, some were purchased at a discount which was appreciated to save my personal wallet a bit, but all were bought. Many of the lights were purchased at retail, multiples from some mfg’s.

  1. Best Overall Combined Brightest Light
  2. Best Price/Performance Light
  3. Brightest Single Angle tested Light
  4. Most Innovative light (and likely to be copied by competitors)
  5. Best Commuter Light

So, due to the large number of variables in testing, it seemed fairest to set several categories to list the order of finish, and “award” the winner, and hence for you to choose from: Each light has its own Strength and Weaknesses. What’s important to note is that all lights in this review passed the most basic of tests: Can the light be clearly seen flashing by a driver from a minimum of .1 mile (one-tenth of a mile)?

This is a non retouched pic showing a light at .1 mile distance.  You can see even from this singular, non-flashing photo that the light is clearly visible.  The pic does not do the flashing, justice.

This is a non retouched pic showing a light at .1 mile distance. You can see even from this singular, non-flashing photo that the light is clearly visible. The pic does not do the flashing, justice.

Quickly (skip this paragraph if not interested in testing protocols).

How do you test for brightness? This is not as EZ as it map first appear. There are numbers of industrial, military, auto, and FAA lighting standards, and none for cycling. I chose to loosely follow the Modified Allard method which is the most common, and augment the approach with visual confirmation. This incorporates very high end testing equipment such a Lab spheres, CCD spectrometers, Optical power meters, and finally, after the numbers were in; good ole’ eyeballs. Lights were tested by observers at .1 mile and then at .23 mile, both directly line of sight, and then approx.. 30 deg. off axis center line. All lights were tested with full charges, either from their own USB batteries, or fully charged Li+ rechargeable purchased from Costco. Lights and mounts were weighed and noted in grams.

For a complete analysis description, protocol, data taken, etc., please see website or write.

Newport Corporation

http://www.labsphere.com/products/light-measurement-systems/led-ssl-systems/lcs-led-characterization-systems/default.aspx

LabSphere

http://www.labsphere.com/products/light-measurement-systems/led-ssl-systems/lcs-led-characterization-systems/default.aspx

1.  The Top 11 lights tested (in OVERALL combined viewpoint- Brightest order)

  • DINOTTE 300L $200 USD This light is very bright (though not the brightest) from all possible viewing angles.  It also has the longest battery life, USB rechargeable, and nicest flashing pattern. It suffers in cost and weight.
  • SERFAS TL-60  $60USD WOW doesn’t seem to do justice to this little dynamo. Placing first in brightness both on the meters and visually, USB rechargeable, decent runtime, weight and EZ mounting options for frame and helmet. This guy was the surprise entry. Suffers only in viewing angle. Ride with two or three and you’re set.
  • NIGHTRIDER Solas USB http://www.niterider.com/ This is a Great Light. A Very Bright, and Very Well built light.  This  was the third brightest light. The light angle spread is wider than most of the others, including the TL-60 above it. The design works well on both helmet and frame. I used electricians tape to cap off the end when using it on my helmet. Can’t go wrong here.
  • PLANET BIKE Turbo Super Flash $30USD I’ve bought at least half of dozen of these over the years… They’re reliable, bright, good flashing patter, affordable, run forever, and EZ to mount. Close on the Price/Performance curve, but not in the same brightness category as the two above it.
  • CATEYE Rapid 5 This all-time favorite is historically one of the best lights ever manufactured and set the standard for many years, and can still holds its own.
  • NIGHTRIDER Cherry Bomb  Another strong entry from NightRider, not in the same briteness category as the others above, but a good light nonetheless. A very nice light, extremely well built, you can feel the quality of everything about this light.
  • BONTRAGER Flare Nothing wrong with this guy,  good briteness, just not in the same category as the first few… Good mount and EZ to use.
  • PLANET BIKE Super Flash My defacto standard for many years and still a very reliable, long running worker… Briteness has been passed in the last year by it’s Turbo sibling and the others above.
  • SERFAS Thunderbolt Yellow; SERFAS Thunderbolt Red These two lights have taken the world by storm. Instead of a string of singular, tightly focused LED bulbs, the Thunderbolts utilizes an entirely different technology emphasizing a new Wide Beam approach. Although not as intrinsically bright as the top entries, the Wide Beam pattern really gets your attention as you get closer… and it’s the only light tested that is meant to be attached to the seat stays and forks… This light is a revolution. It suffers only in runtime, about 2 hours, which is more than enough for most commuters, but not in the running for road cyclist needs.
  • CATEYE Rapid 3 A decent light in a pinch and fine at night. But nowhere in the same category as the above top Escalon. It just barely made the minimum criteria.

2. Best Price/Performance Light

3. Brightest Single Angle tested Light

4. Most Innovative light (and likely to be copied by competitors)

  • THUNDERBOLT Pair of RED/YELLOW

5. Best Commuter Light Conclusion:

  • THUNDERBOLT RED/YELLOW COMBINED
  • TL-60
  • CATEYE Rapid 5
  • ALL the ABOVE
Pic below; from top left clockwise: 1. Dinotte 300, 2. Serfas TL-60, 3. Planet Bike Turbo 4. Planet Bike Flash, 5. Nightrider Cherry Bomb 6. Blue Test light (not reviewed), 7. Night Rider Sola, 8. Serfas Thunderbolt Yellow, 9. Serfas Thunberbolt Red, 10. Cateye Rapid 5, 11. Bontrager Flair

From top left clockwise: 1. Dinotte 300, 2. Serfas TL-60, 3. Planet Bike Turbo 4. Planet Bike Flash, 5. Nightrider Cherry Bomb 6. Blue Test light (not reviewed), 7. Night Rider Sola, 8. Serfas Thunderbolt Yellow, 9. Serfas Thunberbolt Red, 10. Cateye Rapid 5, 11. Bontrager Flair

While any of these lights will greatly increase the odds of avoiding mishaps on the road and help to SAVE YOUR Life, there is a definite pecking order…  Buy the best that your wallet can afford. Increasing Brightness means early warning distance, and distance means time to avoid you.

I highly recommend riding with multiple flashing lights. You will not be missed. One on your helmet, one on your seat post pointed level, slightly to the left towards traffic (to the right in UK), and at least one on your back seat stay. If you wear a backpack, at least one if not two more.

 List Review Spreadsheet  
  Mfg Model BRITENESS Retail Weight Battery Runtime
    RATING 1-5 $ USD      
DINOTTE 300L

4.5

200

  USB 4 hr+
SERFAS TL-60

5

60

  USB 4 hr+
NIGHT RIDER SOLA

4

45

  USB 4+ hr.
PLANET BIKE SUPER FLASH TURBO

3

30

  AAA 4+ hr.
CATEYE RAPID 5

3

30

  AAA 4+ hr.
BONTRAGER FLAIR

2.5

30

  AAA 4+ hr.
SERFAS THUNDERBOLT

2

45

  USB 120 min
NIGHT RIDER CHERRY BOMB 1 W

2

25

  AAA 4+ hr.
 
Mark D. Goodley
USA Cycling Pro Race Mechanic
markdgoodley@aol.com

35 comments

  1. The Light & Motion Vis 180 (50-lumens, which I use on my bike) and the Serfas TL-60 both use a silicon strap that attaches to the seatpost which makes it much easier to steal than the NiteRider design. The strap on my Vis 180 came undone as I was riding along one night, cracking the taillight when it hit the pavement. For a $100 product, I was not pleased to find out that it was attached by a strap that that can easily come off. The strap also wore out from attaching and reattaching it to the bike when I would have to leave the bike unattended.

    I don’t understand why people who purchase multi-thousand dollar bicycles will attach lights that are in the price range that a mass market discount store would carry. Its as if they don’t want to add 100-400 grams to their already 81,000 gram+ rider and bicycle combination. This makes no sense, your not racing in the Tour De France where every gram of extra weight could cost you the win.

    Brighter headlights enable you to see more of the road. Brighter taillights also are more likely to be noticed by drivers that are approaching and those that pass will be less likely to cut you off by turning in front of you.

    If it was left up to car owners to pick a portable light to use as their car headlight as bicycle owners do; I have no doubt that there would be low-powered flashlights attached with electrical tape on the outside of cars and if the law allowed, these lights would only blink.

  2. Ken says:

    Dennis, I have the Vis 180 (which is a great light) and while I agree that the silicone strap isn’t the most robust mounting device ever, the light is designed to be removed from that bracket to avoid theft. You push the red button on the side and slide the light out of the bracket, leaving it on the bike. At least in theory, this would prolong the life of the strap, which I’ve never had an issue with.

  3. Joe B says:

    I’m surprised to see that the Cygolite Hotshot is not on the list. The Hotshot uses a 2W LED plus a tight-beam lens to throw a stunningly bright cone of light directly to your rear. I was a little worried at first that the light appears much less bright outside of that cone, but then I realized that it’s really rare for a driver to approach from the flank where the light is less bright. Battery life on flash mode is pretty good; I guess I got around 6-7 hours of bright flashing light per charge, meaning that my headlight always needed to be recharged long before my taillight.

    The downside to the Hotshot is the user interface: it’s WAY too complicated. Button1 turns the light on; while the light is on a long push of Button1 turns the light off, while a short push of Button1 cycles through flash modes. Flash modes are: steady, plus four different flash patterns. Pressing and holding button2 in steady mode dials the brightness up or down sort of like a dimmer switch. If the light is flashing, pressing and holding button2 causes the flash pattern to go faster or slower. Bottom line: I don’t want to mess with all that! I just need on-off bright-dim steady-flash!

    The Hotshot uses a mount that is similar to (but incompatible with) the populer PlanetBike mount. It charges via a USB-mini-b plug, so it is probably incompatible with your cell phone charger which likely uses a USB-micro-b. You can purchase it for around $40 with the charger, or $30 with a charging cable only. (For the latter, plug it into a USB charger you already own, or charge it off your computer.)

    • Wes says:

      Agree, though from what I can tell the NiteRider Solas is pretty much the same light as far as I can tell. I run 2 Hotshots, one helmet, one seat post. I’ve gotten many comments asking what it is because its bright. I also love the pulse option. Gives more on time for tracking than flash, but still is changing to get attention.

    • Eric W says:

      It’s very nice to see interst in the subject of lighting and traffic safety. I too also surprised to see that the Cygolite Hotshot is not on the list.

      Other researhers have found it to be amoung the brightest at two watts, and clearly the brightest for the buck. I run one, and I don’t hesitate to run it anytime it’s seems hinky – sunset, fog, tunnels, big overpasses in whatever mode feels obvious. Steady red for group riding, which can be dimmed down, so not to startle the rider behind you. Seems to repel cars at about 20 feet.

      Only the hundred buck lights seem brighter. I also run a tiny backup on my helmet. This repaced a Superflash were the mount failed and it left the bike somewhere for a beer on a long commute…

    • Mark Goodley says:

      Hi; Yes; I suppose it is impossible to test all the lights and some may have slipped between the cracks. i tested those that were available at the LBS’s and had seen on the road. I’ve been asked to do this review every six months or so, and will try to include it in the next update. Thank You for the comment. mdg

  4. D. D. Syrdal says:

    I can’t tell you how many riders I’ve seen on the road that I get within 10′ of before I can even see they have a nearly-dead light on their bike somewhere. If people don’t change the batteries regularly or charge their lights…I also see a lot of riders who don’t bother with lights at all during the day. I never could understand that. Even motorcycles have their lights on all the time, and they’re far easier to see, and people are much more accustomed to looking for them.

  5. billdsd says:

    I also recommend the Cygolite Hotshot 2 and the Portland Design Works Radbot 1000.

  6. Lois Rubin says:

    I have the Dinotte light with the battery that is separate from the light. They come both ways. That way, if the battery dies, which it has yet to do after 2 years of consistent use, it will only cost $50 to replace. The light lasts forever. I have yet to have it run down even after a 10+ hour ride. The only downside is that at night, if I am in a group ride, I have to ride at the very back because the light is blinding. Since that’s my usual spot anyway, no biggie.

  7. jg says:

    The Dinotte tested is not a 300L. It is the 300R with a self-contained battery. Most of the other Dinottes have a seperate battery pack with a cord that runs to the light. Dinotte’s are also made in USA.

    I have used the 300R for almost a year. Only a handfull of cars have Jerry Browned me in that time (it was a much more frequent occurence before the Dinotte). Numerous drivers have complemented me on the Dinotte at stoplights. I rarely ride with groups, but other cyclists seem to hate it because it’s too bright.

    Now if Dinotte would just make a self-contained headlamp.

  8. JD says:

    The extra early warning time also gives the yahoos more time to gather the stuff they are going to hurl at you. Even with multiple lights and flashers and hi-vis yellow reflective vest I still got hit. They even hit fire trucks on calls by the way. I have come to the conclusion that serial bike killers can operate with impunity in this community, with little more than a slap on the wrist if apprehended and convicted. I’m seriously considering becoming less visible for safety.

    • jg says:

      You’re right, all the lights and bright vests in the world won’t stop them. JD, those yahoos are going to seek you out no matter what. However, all the high visibility gear will help the other 99% of drivers avoid you. This stuff makes it easier for the vast majority of drivers to see and avoid you. It is not a force field that will keep you 100% safe.

  9. Todd says:

    I have one of the earlier Dinotte taillights- single beam, external battery and the thing is so bright I found the best way to run it is non-flashing with the beam tilted down a bit.

    The light is so bright the end result is that you basically get a rear headlight as light is thrown a good 15 – 20 feet behind you creating a nice buffer zone – like that laser DIY bike lane thing.

    Also, can’t say enough good things about the Planet Bike Superflash. That also been a favorite for a few years.

  10. Margaret says:

    Dear Mark,

    Thank you so much for taking the time and $$$ to research and review such a range of lights. I read the entire post.

  11. A word of warning about the Dinotte: I’ve come up on a Dinotte equipped bike from behind thinking I’m approaching a motorcycle. I expect a motorcycle to run at about the speed of traffic. It takes a couple of seconds for my brain to register the fact that I’m approaching a much slower vehicle from behind, and I can conceive the possibility of getting hit from behind because a driver doesn’t anticipate something that looks like a motorcycle traveling at bicycle speed.

    There’s endless discussion about the benefits and drawbacks of using flashing vs solid lights, but for red tail lights, blinking or pulsing mode clearly identifies your bike as a slow moving vehicle.

  12. Inge says:

    Has anyone ever thought about the possibility of these lights causing seizures in other cyclists? I personally have not had a problem with seizures but I find myself having to look sideways, because the lights really bother my eyes. If I could ride faster I would stay ahead, but let’s face it, the one with the bright lights isn’t always the slowest person.

    • karl says:

      I agree the lack of regulation should not invite us to be offensive with SOSing routinely strobe wise or use glare just to let others know we are ‘there.’

      I’ve only glanced at the reviews but note they are all essentially glare powered ignoring the advances in energy storage in terms of cost per watt and charging options in terms of the level even of consumption I endorse- a solar panel is after all a way of taking sunlight and put it into cheap copper wire to distribute in ways that not even fiber optics approach.

      So a watt of energy costs well under half a buck- forever, during the day. I saw the news about home led’s just being recalled and I’m not up to speed on that but will say it’s obviously both good and extremely unfortunate if not unfair.

      I’ve previously endorsed Emily’s kickstarter concept and the LA riders effort to direct red laser light to the road to create a virtual lane.

      Only recently has a car advertised it’s LED headlamps and would suggest finding out how hard one of those is to procure as the first step to anyone serious about f inding a decent b ike ‘light’ for night etc.

      Daytime running lights are very old news though and I’ve from time totime looked at t hose on alibaba etc.

      AS an owner of a now not being used large power battery I’m more then tempted to strap some serious light on it until I get another motor or recover the missing one.

      But some math is in order. The spark and other users of some fo the very best batteries that have in there cost mainly structural elements and literally amotrised engineering for custome tooling and engineering are well under a grand a kwh. BY that I mean nearly two thousand watts for an entire hour for mere hundreds of bucks, severa ltimes a day, for perhaps decades. A laptop is usually under a twentieth of one in storage. Other metrics are far more valuable perhaps, but if you get the drift a bike light maker who charges hundresd and argues the batteries are expensive is not being honest. I pointed out once that sony camcorder batteries more features higher quality etc. cost relatively very little and heard (but they are a b ig company!) essentially without any awareness that anyone can use there batteries to do whatever you want. Since many people might ride without running there camcorder or even laptop we tend to have batteries wer are not using.

      SOme of us even leave them behind and bring the charger instead only. My point is that if cost is an issue use halogen or flourescent. I just bought a big 95% dimming bulb and might try it on my bike soon as it’s not included a durablity rating.

      (old fashioned bulbs came in two flavors, essentially moble and fixed but we don’t see t his mentioned much anymore)

      (except that induction is durable but few are sold for bike use lol)

      RIght now I think at radioschack ideal packaged storage is half of some spam i’ve not studied says.

      I like the expression “bulk lighting” and have also argued to avoid lumens or worse (custom indexes) but instead talk about watts in versus out if necessary. I support multi watt output.

      As halogen is over ten watts for every one out that hard to do, but induction for downlighting or broad lane illumination is about one for five and led’s can give one for under two units of energy or watts in.

      So going back to your laptop b attery that can put out dozens of watts for hours, a dozen or more in output is easy to do without having to buy another battery if it’s available.

      Remember it’s about the bulk so fancy lenses etc. are not necessary but rather av oiding glare and cooling if led are the only challenges but largely trivial on a bike.

      Sensors are becoming available that can allow strobes to do there job and alert when collisions are projected. ALerting the rider not just those in cars of hazards.

      As some of us wear helmets but don’t bother to use daytime lights or rarely put more then a single watt of light on the ground even- wher emost of it shoudl if not all of it go at night, hypocrisy is more then routine it is responsible for most deaths.

      NObody sells as I’ve mentioned hundreds of dollars of safety.

      Its all vanity above a few dozen bucks.

      Buy a home impromenet store lightbulb- an ac invertor, duct tape even if not bailing wire, and your safe. Or demand better in custom engineered much more widely adopted. I’d say almost nobody uses there laptop battery even for the laptop in fact. Yet battereis are SO useful.

      And very little is saved making ones that fail so quickly.

      It is the proof that nobody uses them as buying more then one for a laptop is insane if not to use both in the same day.

      Yet plenty of warranties are sold with the promise of a new batterry for far more then a real long lasting (much more then two standard) batteries would of cost in total.

      TO summarise- if you have to buy a bike product use a small power assistance battery. Some lithium 12 v olt models exist but plenty that will operate a semi truck light are available. Garbage trucks etc. got teh first led bulbs as they are abusive.

      A bike is very gentle and can use a utilty subsidised gas plasma bulb- they can serll for two for a buck and put out a thousand lumens (watts of light out) and tin foil ev en can project it for urban use. At that price you can throw them away when you get there knowing the mercury is nothing compared to what not driving spared us and stop them from filling a socket for decades to waste eight or more of every ten watts consumed in some refrigerated ‘house’ freeing those sockets for bulbs that put out more light in watts then they consume as has already been demonstrated as possible in using heat for some of the light.

      THEre are also very delicate low pressure sodium fixtures being surplussed out for those really downhilling down nature trails at midnight not wanting to disturb otherwise wildlife or there own night vision which if mounted on your body would survive most trraisl i bet for months at least- as long as you don’t crush them lol.

      LIght is available so cheaply in bulk it is an illusion you have to pay dearly to get as much as you might benefit from- ok? It being cheap means strobing is obsolete for running long periods purposes. FOr a while cooling requirments dictated it and I own a 900 lumen neat strobe that is great fun not just unbelievable as a bonus on my second hand electric trike in it’s fistful of power aspects if not outright phalic delight. IN bulk it should sell for $30 or so, not $130 or more routinely. It’s only fifty cents worth of light however focused! TOO focused, much too much focused I’ve argued above. Light your feet and you won’t provoke as many pervs etc. if your to light yourself up as wer should not just those coming opposite to our direction. Light in eyes blinds- light is t o be bounced off of colored things we want to avoid not be avoided by. As owners of artificial suns we can keep it out of other people eyes and create virtual daytimes and prevent anyone from not seeing where we are planted not just going without any glare at all.

      Glare is for car heads. It is for highway speeds and one way fantasies. Twinkling as in stars is fine- but please don’t forget that I care about a future where we dominate in numbers, very unlike anywhere at all right now. WE can afford to buy it in real bulk, doing so will promote an end to so many having to sulk for so few daring to spare the air etc. use of a car. So many slaughtered despite so few of us risking ourselves. SO many! SO few! Fewer going forward despite many more riding is trivial. Ask for how far, how many cubic yards of tarmac all around oneself is at how many times DAYLIGHT around your feet and don’t mourn not being able to see any constellation as safety is far more sweet. Having such a skirt costs less then a buck a day, much less, across a natural lifetime.

    • Mark Goodley says:

      Good Question: Yes; the topic has been researched. The frequency required to cause seizures is an order of magnitude (much faster) higher than the frequency of any of the bicycle lights. mdg

      • karl says:

        Mark do you know what magnitude means? We use the decimal system- so generally that means ten times as magnitude is what column the decimal is in in linear scales. But this is very very simple stuff- how many times per second, something often d iscussed in gaming- to 3d or not 3d for example etc, when playing in 3d is to suffer insufficient power to do so at the same ‘frequency’ of ‘moving’ pictures.

        A car only blinks when it’s turning. I do not see how blinking beyond twinkling has necessity sufficient to offset it’s nuisance. If your relying upon a muscle driven generator using sufficiet bulk light instead might be necessary- but the law generally requires passive reflectors regardless of how much ‘jamming’ of there mode of alerting might also be present. Do you think a driver will notice there headlights bouncing off someone elses reflector if the field is alive with blinking? I assume none of these lights are light activated- if hit by a car headlight responding with a burst of “lookout I’m here significance” despite that being trivial to even protect as concept not just implement.

        DO modern marine lighthouses move? They might blink- like cop cars do etc., but only during emergencies or when parked. TO move and blink is to cry “your running into me” when most who see it are not. That flash of red can be enhanced, and should be, but not just ran continously to do so is to further the esseence of sociopathy that so often is the rule among the early readopters of this formerly univeral mode of mobility.

        P.S.

        SInce some have not seen a foggy lightbeam circling that which endnagers those who ignore it- not the lighthouse itself!, think of your laptops ‘sleep’ light. Ironically that is digital- the long ramp up and down, simulation fog and motors and soothing low voices instead of histerical impositions upon cognition. Be seen but don’t distract needlessly. Gas strobe lights had to be on in full adn then go dark- they are after all basically a spark. We must do better then that now- for we are in cities, and not reefs but china among bulls.

        THe

        • Karl says:

          a second hand bulk buying opportunity as if the lights alone where not enough pallots to constitute a lot- are those sirens? air horns? seriously someone should buy these and break them down to use on our book rack around town.
          http://www.publicsurplus.com/sms/all,az/auction/view?auc=884928
          NOTICE THIS LINK IS TIME SENSITIVE IF YOU WANT TO BID! DAYS LEFT AS OF NOW THOUGH. I’m also studyinig the latest specs on led’s AVAILABLE online in single quantities- including a genuinely round one that costs about $100 each but without any lens is just about perfect for bikes. Some say “direct to air” (not the same one) which is a new expression to me. After I wrote my first comment on this trhead though I realisethat indeed a induction bulb with photovoltaic panel would make a great daytime running light for a bike. After my last comment prior to this though I realised that I should emphasize further my speculation on the evolution to prpesentn day blinkers- that refelctors are essentially being simulated ina dumb, not smart, not selective, ‘jamming’ in fact I argued way. Why do reflectors work so wellwhen they do? BECAUSE IT’S OTHERWISE DARK! Street lights in other words increase the danger by drowning out reflections from headlamps of assualtive vehicles besides wasting awesome amounts of energy. An out of state university just used solid state technology without sensor/following optimisation to replace low prfessure sodium which is why I mentioneod those fixtures being availalbe and cheap if too precious for moble use if frame mounted- the pointi though is that light bleaches teh filth of gas stations- have youever looked at the top of a pump? Most attenedants tdon’t see it so get away without scrubbing the s cum away every day as every other spot gets rubbed. WE who ride use less energy to do so then literally that emitted in fumes of those who don’t usingi no vapor recovering whatever to fill there tanks. Nashbar has solar cateyes for cheap right now but talks about candlepower instead of lumens and isn’t obviously rear facing as this topic/review requires despite my straying apparently so I don’t belabor that- but I am very intrigued by the daytime running light being solar powered issue as duringi the DAY strobing is less not ok. And if i mentioned it at all 40 cents a watt is so hot we got to use it! Do people understand that you pay more for a battery to deliver watts then PV costs now? So using battery power during the day is crazA. WIth panels so unbelievably cheap for our purposes a hat, a helmet, almost anything can be covered to add music and safety etc. to our being uncovered otherwise. Of course small panels cost more per watt- but how much more? These old fasioned polic bars would cost less to power not just buy with pv then many tiny usb useless in the day a pain to charge anyway lights. Frankly it’s so obscene tosee the reviews of one of the blinkers I got also as a free bonus- it cost 30 bucksor so, and someoen wrote in saying they used a bunch of them on there rig.

          Throwing money at almost any problemi is to be an oink oink pig. THINK before you spend, solve sustainably for all instead of just demnostrating further unmitigated cyclogall. That hundrek buck thosuands oflumen assembly at mouser…wow… it means we can now accomidate deaf drivers with light horns to make lightning strike at noon at the push of a double A powered light bazooka to spare us furhter bloody lagoons. FORGET AIR horns- we need to recognise the full potential of light to warn… in fact now i realise the effect is that of the red light camera! Imagine- when making a left get those snoozing to think they might be getting a ticket before they run right over you bored of the usual thicket. (the photo flash is large and heavy in the median but we wouldn’t use such obsolete showmanship, just full power on the otherwise wound down to 1% led ‘plower.’ (it would also goto high when braking or turning etc.)

  13. Ralph says:

    I currently alternate ride 2 bikes for my commuting pleasure. Both have relatively smaller lights front and rear. Both are set to blink. For after dark I have a magicshine rear 3 watt left on solid and their 1400 lumen light mounted on my helmet set on solid. The problems I’ve had at night have been bike riders I’ve come up behind think I’m a car. The light doesn’t get washed out by car head lights. However I have had people who have seen me in cars deliberately pull out in front of me, because they can, or bikes are slow…
    High intensity blinking lights are really bad to use on trails. They really are bad for approaching cyclists. So if you are using a trail set it to a low level or cut the flashing. You have no need for the flash and you are bothering your fellow riders.

    Ralph

  14. Allan says:

    Hey Mark, thanks for doing this much needed and appreciated review. There’s a couple of rather small questions I had reading this,
    “Lights were tested by observers at .1 mile and then at .23 mile, both directly line of sight, and then approx.. 30 deg. off axis center line.”

    Seems rather odd that the distance would be .23 mile rather than .25, but as long as all the measurements were done with no variance then “no harm no foul”.

    At the Nightrider spot above you state,
    ” I used electricians tape to cap off the end when using it on my helmet. Can’t go wrong here.”

    I’m having a little difficulty figuring out what you are saying here.

    I’ve been using the SuperFlash for a quite a number of years now. I’ve since gravitated to the Turbo. I’ve also lost quite a few cause I clip mine to my seatpost. After having my Turbo came unclipped THREE times in one afternoon, I’ve decided to start shopping around and see what’s out there.

    I don’t have any idea how many bike shops I’ll have to go to to see all these lights, but it would great if you could do some kind of “display” at some announced bike event? I would think (and hope) there’s enough interest in doing this. The reason I would like to see them is get a feel on the design of them and see how well the clip is, that is if they have one.

    I have started hitting up other riders and talking to them about what they’re using and one of the lights I was impressed with was the Cygolite Hotshot. I’m still up in the air about which one I want to gravitate to. It’s the Turbo for now. (That’s with a ziptie on it.)

    One thing I’m hoping it can be know to all owners of the high powered rear lights is that they are rather irritating to be riding behind in a group ride. The only way I try to roll in a group ride at night is on steady, no flash.

    I can ride with the light on full blast and not worry about my battery being dead now. For one I carry extra AAA batteries with me. For another I now recharge my Alkaline batteries with a successfully made charger for these batteries.

    Great review and hope you build up on this by adding more lights and maybe a few more points (mounting) included.

    • Karl says:

      Rereadingi your thoughtful appreciation and immense experience referred to just now I’m reminded of bose and seinheiser and the revolutionairy -not kidding- in ear disruptors for pilots to communicate by, as it’s very recentand one thing us mounting cameras on our bikes is teaching us is that SHIT IT’S NOISY OUT THERE! So pilots lost there hearing for like half a century before donning protection- yet we have yet to to the point that if seen with protection we risk prosectuion.

      SO in ear isa must, not just foro th erest of us 1970′s or whatever far from now budding shucks. And for pilots ther emight be no difference, but in open air highwayor whatever terrestial jaunts car tire cancelation alloows us ot hear horns, protect our cilia, and even listen to reason or whatever accompanied satired treason (or worse). Like bluetooth our ear protectors could have blinkers to keep back our left passing stinkers. Many air headphones cost a grand! In ears also approximate that- but we are many c ompared to them, and a makretuntapped entirely for someone to hurry and slam.

      IN fact it’sthe left ear mainly that needs both covering and snarling towards those unwelcome hovering. Motorcyclists have there music in therehelmets yep- forgot that almost, so should we get with it and maybe to the tunes add some color or better broadcast our intents pehraps our speed digitised and show so that those who think we can stop if they turn in front of us have less excuse to blame when instead are crashed frame on frame.

      Active traffic noise cancelllation- a car is not necesary to counter the din, only the thinnest of mylar to push back the pressure from bouncing tar… solar powered, safer so as not to be criminalised soured, let’s ride!.. yes all mentioned… together in one, proximity and other light sensing, boredome defusing, grid charging oblviating, such is our best future on our left half of our face let it be installed…. the best part of course is that in blinds only to our fface, the rest of space available to all who with us race. (others can mockup prototypes to show asap as it’ll be a while before mine will glow)

  15. Allan says:

    Well I finally broke down and got an alternative to my Turbo Superflash. I managed to get a Cygolite Hotshot after reading a review here, http://bicycles.blogoverflow.com/2012/03/tail-light-review/ He rated this light as the “Grand Master” winner of his shoot out. BTW, the Superflash Turbo was rated the “Editor’s Pick”. I’m liking it so far cause it stays on my seat bag far better than the Turbo. It’s amazing what a little thought on design parameters can do on a light.

    Good bye AA and AAA batteries. Even the head light from Cygolite are no longer using these batteries.

    • Karl says:

      I have bought in bulk at 90% off normal retail one amp hour universal chargers with built in off grid backup etc after getting ripped off paying a third of that on a supposed six amp hour model at a nieghberhood specialty store otherwise similar to the first retailer. When I bought these across three days of angst I had forgotten what there real market is in DTLA especially- livestreaming, as those who do that collect them like baseball cards and every amp hour is that many more gigs of live video they can report with. To merely capture video in whatever def for later recovery is of course so quaint- like convenience stores closing with vhs tapes to boot along with the safe for those criminals who had the idea before the sunset might recall with nostalgia.
      TO be responsilble to the community is as to ones family- life insurance to afford college on one income as a new commercial shamelessly appeals to the minivan driving parent now with, and for us Dad’s our final broadcast archived safely out of the reach of those who might stop only to lift it from us otherwise even if not to scrape us off there undercarriage. To not waste any flash without a syncronised ‘shutter’ snapping what’s reveal for eternity just as our headphones suppress the dark roar of the wheels, our blink needs to subliminally echo “by the time you see this the data reflected back will have left my helmet’s antenna”‘s refrain as like some Sweet Sixteen’s parties soundtrack might inspire so it can deter. A “snap out of it” of a prompt to smile, for you are not alone there, and you should “stop doing that” just because some lizard has your back none can protect us from your snout. The ambulance that races us as close as possible to the ER before our time of death is confirmed by the work at home doc in some other timezone uses wifi- so should we demand access to it at every light and in between for this police service. It should be a app with many immitators on not just smart phones but now even camera’s- sold at Target, not just $5 if not $10 extra bucks a month if bought at Verizon like some only apparently amazing deal on a chopper that actually flies.

      I have continued to argue in other words that if the market does not offer in it’s value model enough esteem in it’s outrageous markup then buy something else as well. The cardboard bike puts flat proof tires without all of our’s financial reach- or doesn’t depending on how you ride. At present the width of a bike lane varies almost squat from rural to cliff canyoned by dozens of floors of otherwise highly accomidated souls. Safety comes with popularity and vicariously the two reward each other which is something we should all be compelled to honestly admit we have so far resisted irrationally. I recently read a review of a road bike that argued how special the perfectly attached in america stickers on that titanium build would make any owner of it stand out as special. Be special by showing what smart money can do especially when early to the risks we face. The combiination of life insurance and riding can’t be beat as you can name us widely as beneficiary should your other efforts not stop that bell from tolling despite the pride not tarnished but only polished should it take you from us. Let the multimillion dollar payers forage well on those who insure those who kill us- another most vicarious cycle to endorse and promote againstsuch ‘oil’ and such sketchy skateboards as will be celebrated again in public without any real dissent from those of us who pedal to admire there lethal hum or lack of it but ever more lethal guzzling of bio or nuke or worst solar limited supplies. Nothing after all is more limited then solar energy- Ireland knows that in taxing based upon window girth for those lucky enough at least to enjoy it for not just there place of birth. Nothing except of course our own, to which we falsely both humbling and vainly usually groan. Someone comes into buy a light for safety- and leaves you with pieces of gold but not less ignorant- in that contemporary evil is defined. It’s not necessary to concede our life is not worth an extra hundred buck or thousand in obnoxious strobes- but rather to instead or also ignore what less can be done to stem the bore- to stop Tesla, the one getting the free publicity despite saying no to real quality as it being too expensive, from putting those who could inspire, who instead of putting hats on little girls could spare them lethal whirls in death machines known as cars, who sunflower faced can fiercely race to definitely outpace anything you need a license for in the city.

      TO afflict rather is our duty- not dress up like already typically slain religious icon’s all blinky and commerce being no excuse nor the entire point. NOTHING we can do as individuals that merely spares our life makes much of an impact- except that which brings more of us out, and avenges civilly with torts and yes that’s to legitimise our courts gives opportunity to sort out the facts to stop basically every other child who if they ever ride quickly aborts doing so to ultimately join the mob of, petrol or not much, but by reasonable definition larger and therefore venal contraption adopting Borks. Our numbers are so small that even in comparison to those hero’s who would ride instead if with technology better fed we just are part of the problem. If you ride your bike so as to afford to fly your jet recreationally and land where you took off instead of staying home and having more freedom in simulation with less joules being lost then it’s too our greater danger that your savings instead does us cost. I realise that among us our the most evil on earth- who only care about how to push off us should some bullet meant for them come tumbling down on a stranger- anyone but them- tinier or not Tim or Jim or Jane. Fact is I’ve argued that THEY are more common among us then in cars- that right now more of us are bad then good then those who we would think should. So is reality. I see in cars those who want to not drive them, but are too responsible and/or confused being denied the facts and marketed too literally on top of and in ways that mask most of our goo.

      So keep your clothes on if you must- every day of the year even, but don the helmet knowing that for every bullet it dodges a dozen are bread and kill. It’s sweat feeds the yeast that chills and contributes to the irration bitters those true vultures with petroleum gills require for there shills to land. It’s so past time for us to be organisiing for real- to speak up as it’s not too late and say- this one, and that, and the other, on it we will spill, if only those sociopaths grills can be banned. that yes it’s our land

      the cars are not needed- are playinig chicken, and democracy has the vote of a rider being enough to counter there dealers spielers and heel’ors but not feelor’s. So I thank you again for point out here that a two fold approach guarantee’s victory- be not just willing to die to vote, but actually vote, and die, so fewer of need ultimately cry.

  16. IISMIndia says:

    It’s very nice information on the subject of lighting and traffic safety. People should change the batteries regularly or charge their lights. Regular maintenance is good for batteries long life. Thanks for this valuable information.

  17. Birgit says:

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  18. Rachael says:

    I absolutely love your website.. Pleasant colors & theme. Did you develop this site yourself? Please reply back as I’m hoping to create my own website and would like to learn where you got this from or what the theme is named. Thank you!

  19. Chris says:

    Excellent article. Thank you.
    I have been amazed at how much more room and respect vehicles give me since I upgraded to a Dinotte 400R tailight and xml-1 headlight combination I bought for $320. I was motivated to upgrade after getting sprayed by a skunk I didn’t see because my former cheap headlight was so weak. I got sick from the smell and it was a big hassle washing everything.
    Cars slow down and wait till it is safe to pass much more often now where they were always trying to sqeeze by when there was little room before. Many more cars move over to the other lane when there are 2 lanes available than ever did before also.
    The 400R really stands out in the daylight but Dinotte has a similar but even brighter daylight only version for slightly more money. My 400R is as bright or brighter than the brightest brakelights of any car.
    It is so bright I have to turn it down when I ride with others but the 400r has 3 brightness settings for steady. Even low steady is very bright but OK in company. It is easy to change settings.
    There are 3 flash modes but all are bright. I love the burst of 5 strobe mode with pauses in between kind of like an emergency vehicle.
    The road is a huge pool of bright red for 20 feet behind me. In one spot I was shocked to look in my rear view mirror and see six Stop signs all lighting up like lollipops for the six blocks behind me. They were so bright I thought an emergency vehicle was behind me but it was just the reflection of my own tailight.
    It is very rugged, waterproof and well built machined aluminum with a huge array of nylon mountings included that all quick release easily.
    The batteries last a very long time and mount easily with secure velcro straps. I like the fact that the battery packs are separate so they can be more easily replaced than built in ones if they ever go bad. Dinotte batteries and lights get good reviews for long life and durabilty. I can get a replacement battery for $40 if I ever need one in future years,
    I wear the headlight on my helmet so I can shine it around some of the switchback corners better than handlebar mounted lights. I also give any threatening cars a flash by flipping my head up and back down quick.
    At midnight a car was zooming across an empty parking lot headed for a potential collision with me where they were reentering the street I was on. I knew they couldn’t see me because of parked cars but when I flashed him 3 times quick they slammed on the brakes and stopped instantly because they thought I was the police.
    Another time a large rowdy crowd of late night party folks filling the street totally cleared off to the sidewalks. I could hear them joking to each other as I passed by that they had thought I was the police.
    The medical bills from any one accident this light might prevent would more than pay for this. Saving your life is priceless.

  20. Brian says:

    Fantastic article. I have searched for hours for the information you packed into one nice neat article.
    Over spring break I bought three bicycles…on for my self and one each for my children 10 and 14 years old.
    We are having a blast our longest ride so far has been 9 miles.
    My question concerns head lights. How many lumens are required to make a headlight viable for day light visibility?
    Or would it be better to just add another flasher?
    Many of the tactical flashlight makers have as an accessory different colored filters. I would like to see this available as a standard accessory for bicycle headlights. run the most visible color for daylight and a different color for night.
    Any chance on doing a headlight test? I am really not concerned about particular makes and models…just what are the required lumens for daylight visibility and what colors are best. Flashlight mounts are readily available so I am seriously considering this option.
    Thanks for all your hard work and efforts.
    Brian

  21. Janice says:

    Re. the NiteRider Solas USB Tail Light: It is not clear to me what you mean by “… to cap off the end when using it on my helmet”. The end of what?
    Also, does this light come already equipped with the Li+ battery and the USB cable & adapter ready for charging from a domestic power outlet?
    Thanks for a great job of research. Very encouraging.

  22. mark says:

    Hi;

    Almost 2 years now since my near fatality accident. No further incidents to report since riding with Ultra – BRIGHT lights during the Day time… In fact, cars continue to steer far clear of us as we ride… and many continue to audibly (Thanks…)/ physically signal (wave) express gratitude to our calling attention and warning drivers of our presence and location.

    In the two years since finding/identifying the discrepancy in accident rates, between the Haves, (With Ultra Bright Lights), and the Have Not’s;

    I still have NOT heard/found one single accident, never mind fatality accident, where the rider(s) had Ultra BRIGHT lights operating… I’m NOT talking about cheap lights you couldn’t see from across the street…Rather; those FLASHing lights that are CLEARLY visible/noticeable/visually irritating from 1/4- 1/2 MILE away during the Daytime!

    More and more cyclists now ride with Ultra Bright lights during the DAYtime to call attention and signal/Early Warn drivers to allow ample time to identify a cyclist and avoid any conflict.

    There will be another Light Review this summer… the Cygolite Hotshot, and others will be added to the list and compared. Please Don’t hesitate to email your recommendations that you’d like to see reviewed.

    Regards,

    markg

    Ride BRIGHT and SAVE YOUR LIFE !!! DAY and Night…!!!

  23. Chelsea says:

    Thank you so much for this helpful article!

  24. […] Biking In LA: A review of high-intensity rear lights for improved safety, day or night […]

  25. Greg says:

    Great review – thank you! Would love to see a review of the Light and Motion Vis 360 plus and some of the other new tail lights. Serfas and others have lots of new models. It would also be nice to give a shout out to the American made lights: Cygolite, Dinotte, Light & Motion, some Nite Rider models, etc.

    I subscribe to the “the more the better” and have the Cygolite Hotshot and a Planetbike Turbo but plan to add a vis 360 system which means the Cygolite will go from the back of my helmet to a rack mount.

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