Monday, 15 October 2012

What Rural Commuting Lights ?

I thought this reply was worth a separate post to collect any comments and experiences from others.

Between the villages of Cottenham and Histon it is seriously dark and even with solar edge lighting you'll want for more lighting than the weak £20 set outputs.

It's a bit of a minefield buying lights and the technology moves fast and cost has been astronomical. Bear in mind that my product knowledge is very limited.

I have fair number of lights and would currently recommend those that contain LEDs based on on XPG-R5 technology for the general commuter - having a nice friendly spot and enough brightness. For road bikers who travel at speed or mountain bikers riding offroad at night, I would step up to XML-T6 which is even brighter and has a wider flood beam, but not too friendly for oncoming car drivers because of that flood effect.

I am using some cheap (unbranded) Chinese imports that use these technologies but wouldn't recommend that unless you are the type who owns a soldering iron.  I know someone who has Exposure branded lights and they are very good quality and also lots of money but will last you years. There are a lot of other good brands out there that I am not familiar with.

My friend has an Exposure Joystick which is based on XPG-R5 and it is bright enough for mountain biking round Thetford Forest at night. If you were a casual commuter you might be able to step down the range but research carefully. Confusingly the Joystick £145, Sirius £115, Spark £95 all run on the XPG-R5 technology, with different amount of Lumens (brightness). I just don't know which would would compare to my cheap Chinese torch.

The lights are expensive but what I can tell you is that over the last few years anyone I've met over the last few years who spent under £100 on branded lights has been disappointed with the light output.  Right now, £150 will definitely get you a branded light that meets commuter expectations, perhaps £100 will too but I just don't know.

I recommend looking for sites that compare light output from different lights. Torchy the Battery Boy's light database is a good place to start.  You might find your current light on there and beam shots from other lights so you can compare.

Now you know why a lot of people are taking (quality) risks with cheap Chinese imports. Told you its a minefield!  Over to the rest of the internet for opinions.

For more details on the lights I am running, see my previous post Night Riding Thetford Forest

Update: I fell across another set of beam shots linked from this front light buying guide. There's a nifty beam shot comparison feature with prices.


  1. RSP Asteri - very bright blinky 2AAA rear, very very bright torch-shaped rechargeable front. I think mine were ~£45. I have two sets and no complaints.

  2. I have a focusable headtorch based around a XML-T6 led, which can go from full road flood to 1 foot circle about 20 feet ahead.
    Also a pair of "smart" make 45(?)lux handlebar lights, one aimed on the road ahead, one aimed at the kerb.
    Also a pair of cateye rear lights, one flashing, one fixed.
    During the winter months of 2011/2012 i exceeded 2000 miles of night riding around dark fenland roads with no problems.

  3. Ay Ups. Two sets, one on the bars, one on my helmet. An Exposure back light - very bright.

    I don't commute as such but get a fair few winter miles in (in the dark). This set up is bright enough for off road racing and with a 6 hour burn time, you don't have to charge them up every five minutes.

  4. I just use my MTB lights on the road - I would recommend the Exposure lights - the joy stick is pretty good. I use what I term a "retina burner" Cateye at the back - in the end, you have to rely on your own instincts at times, for self preservation.

    Here, Bristol way, you need to choose you out of town route with a little care - there are some dark and twisty roads, that whilst "direct" are best avoided in the dark. Personally, I don't try and enforce my right to cycle on some roads - its just now worth it

  5. Off-road lights dazzle other road users and are not road legal-for good reasons. I have been blinded by these and using them on the road is deeply antisocial. Use of such lights could cause other road users to crash, as I nearly did when he blinded me with his MTB headlight on a towpath. I wasn't impressed.
    Far better to use proper road-legal lights BS approved or German StVZO K-rated approved lights that put the light where it's needed and don't dazzle.
    Lights reviewed with detailed explanation of numerous models, beam geometry and beamshots here:

    I use the B&M Ixon IQ (battery), B&M IQ Fly (dynamo) ( I have three of the latter on different bikes) They put out loads of light and are probably sufficient for all but the fastest riders while downhill racing.