Cycling researchers claim that the first bike lights were powered by acetylene gas, which was produced when water combined with calcium carbide. While the light was strong compared to contemporary standards, the earliest bike lights required regular maintenance and possessed weak durability. The advent of battery-powered lamps during the 1890s eventually led to the development of bike lights powered by batteries. Before the widespread production of automobiles, cycling represented the primary mode of transportation, especially in highly dense urban areas.
Bike lights were not regulated in the UK until 1989, when the Road Vehicles Lighting Regulations governed bike lights. The regulations require cyclists to have a white front light, a red rear light, red rear reflector, and yellow pedal reflectors. While UK government regulations mandate minimum standards for light strength, the regulations do not discuss the optimal illumination attributes or other recommended bike light attributes. Bike lights can be purchased at bicycle shops, sporting goods retailers, and on the online auction site, eBay. Before purchasing a bike light, cyclists should first learn about the types of bike lights and their attributes, including: illumination, light source, water-resistance, durability, ease of operation, and convenience.
Bike Lights Overview
Bicycle lights augment cyclist visibility under night-time, and extremely dark daytime, conditions. Bike lights project a light beam in front of a cyclist to help navigate terrain and alert motorists. Either disposable or rechargeable batteries power bike lights, although technology has created a niche for electrical generating bicycle lights. Bike lights have become essential bicycle accessories, as a vast majority of governing jurisdictions require at least one bicycle light to be mounted for night-time excursions. Most jurisdictions require front lights, as well as some type of reflector light, mounted on the rear of a bicycle. In the United Kingdom, cyclist groups firmly resisted the mandated use of rear lights, believing that rear lights reduced the responsibility motorists have for safely trailing cyclists.
The best bike lights share many common attributes that start with the light itself. Rapidly evolving light technology and enhanced bicycle design improve the attributes that comprise the best bike lights, but the changes in technology and design do not minimise the importance of searching for the following attributes of the best bike lights.
Attribute 1: Illumination
Halogen bike lights were initially designed for off-road use, usually by mountain bikers who required more powerful illumination that covered a wider area. However, once the attributes of halogen bike lights became universally recognised, commuters and recreational cyclists began purchasing them for their bicycles. These high-powered bike lights operate from a NiMH, lead-acid, or Li-ion rechargeable battery pack. Many manufacturers produce halogen lights that possess the capability to emit a wide range of illumination that covers different breadths of ranges. This important illumination attribute prevents a bike light from blinding oncoming cyclists or motorists. This readily available, high-powered bike light provides cyclists with all of the important illumination attributes. The best halogen lights run on halogen bulbs that illuminate the entire breadth of a road or highway.
Attribute 2: Light Source
The best bike lights possess many attributes associated to the light itself. Cyclists should consider a steady light source over flashing lights, since steady light sources provide more visibility to oncoming motorists. Some manufacturers complement steady light sources with side flashers, which is an attribute to consider for cyclists who ride in the rain or fog. High-powered, head-on and side lights have become an important bike light attribute. Handlebar- or helmet-mounted bike lights allow cyclists to see around turns.
Attribute 3: Water Resistance
A bike light does not have to withstand a lengthy submersion in a standing body of water. However, bike lights that do not protect the light source from rain eventually lose the ability to project light. One of the more common problems that inhibit bike light effectiveness comes from moisture that develops because of high humidity. Cyclists who live in very humid climates should consider bike lights made with water-repellant materials. Water resistance is an often neglected bike light attribute.
Attribute 4: Durability
Most cyclists do not need a bike light that can hold up under intense cycling conditions, such as navigating the Pyrenees during the Tour de France. Professional cyclists encounter spills and tumbles that require rugged frames and impervious handlebars. While recreational cyclists do not need a bike made with Tour de France calibre materials, they do need a bike that can withstand the occasional tumble. The cover that protects the light sources should be constructed with highly-durable plastic or a polymer. Recreational cyclists can consider high-impact glass, but for their cycling needs, strong plastic provides more than enough protection to ensure longevity.
Attribute 5: Ease of Operation
Some cyclists, especially novices, believe that the more intricate a bike light's operation, the better the bike light performs. Ease of operation means a bike light that only has a few scroll modes, not myriad options that confuse cyclists, or worse, cause cyclists to switch on the wrong light strength. Some cycling experts recommend that three modes are enough for most cycling scenarios. Bike lights should be easy to mount and remove, as portability has become an important attribute because of an increase in bike light thefts. Most manufacturers include easy-to-understand bike light instructions in pamphlet and digital forms.
Attribute 6: Convenience
Bike lights powered by rechargeable batteries provide cyclists with the ultimate in convenience. All cyclists have to do is adhere to a regular charging schedule. Bike lights powered by AA or AAA batteries require closer scrutiny. However, cyclists who choose to power their bike lights with AA or AAA batteries should choose a bike light that makes it easy to change the batteries. Since portability has become an important bike light attribute, cyclists should look for bike lights that are compact and easy to store.
Types of Bike Lights
Most of the laws that govern the use of bike lights emanate at the local level and vary according to breadth of coverage. However, bike light laws at least require the most rudimentary type of bike light, which is referred to as an emergency light. Cyclists have other bike light options and the type of light chosen determines the bike light's attributes.
Emergency bike lights typically attach to a bike handlebar or frame by a band that stretches across the light. Button cells power emergency bike lights, and thus, this type of bike light does not produce much power. Most cyclists purchase emergency lights to carry with them in case the primary light source fails.
Small flashers also mount on either the bike frame or handlebar. They are larger and more reliable than emergency lights. Long-lasting AAA batteries power small flashers, which often fulfill the legal requirements for mandated rear lights.
Torches represent the first type of bike light that not only allow cyclists to be seen, but also provide enough light for cyclists to navigate on roads. They are front lights powered either by AA or AAA batteries, as well as a rechargeable battery pack. Many manufacturers bundle torches with rear lights at discounted prices, a practice that some eBay sellers have mimicked. Torches fulfill the bike light legal requirements of most UK jurisdictions.
A battery pack that attaches to a bike light provides more power than a standard torch. Cyclists who train after dark or ride an off-road bicycle prefer using rechargeable battery systems to power their bike lights.
Cyclists who want their bike lights to be permanent bike fixtures choose Dynamo bike lights. Most Dynamo lights provide up to 3 watts of power, which is more than enough to project bright front and rear light. Moreover, this type of light requires little maintenance and it continues to provide light when a cyclist is stationary, such as at an intersection.
Head torches allow cyclists to point light at sources outside of their travelling sphere. They are excellent bike lights for cyclists who need to project light on windy roads and on either side of their bicycle. Manufacturers mount head torches or attach a bike light on a helmet with the use of a headband.
How to Buy the Best Bike Lights on eBay
You do not have to visit the nearest bicycle shop to find a bike light that possesses the six important bike light attributes. eBay hosts sellers who offer bike lights that emit proper illumination levels, while also providing durability, water resistance, ease of use, and convenience. Cyclists simply find these sellers by typing keywords into eBay's search engine. The search engine works the same way as any simple search. Type specific keywords into eBay's search engine, and then scroll through the search results to find the seller who meets your bike light criteria. Specific keywords can include "tandem bike light" or "new bike lights".
Vetting potential eBay bike light sellers may appear to be a daunting task, but eBay makes it easier by designating their best sellers as top-rated sellers. These sellers have earned a strong reputation for selling high-quality products and offering favourable delivery terms. Look for the electronic top-rated seller ribbon that eBay places by qualified seller product photographs. You should only consider a top-rated seller who lists most, if not all, of the six important bike light attributes. You can find this information by reviewing seller product pages.
Cycling has not only become a popular hobby in the UK, for many, cycling has become the primary method of transportation. Congested roads and rising fuel costs have prompted people to traverse the roadways on two wheels. Because of the increase in cyclists, the information available about how to purchase bike lights has become pervasive. Cyclists should start their research by learning about the different types of bike lights. While LEDs have historically been the bike light choice, halogen bike lights have moved from the professional racing circuit into the recreational cycling market. While some people come across copious amounts of information on how to buy bicycle lights, they can streamline the buying process by paying close attention to the six important bike light attributes.
The six bike attributes all contribute to ensuring cyclist safety to varying degrees. Illumination comprises the most important bike light safety attribute, as a bike light's illumination power determines efficacy, and hence, a cyclist's safety. Cyclists should also search for bike lights that have multiple light modes, but not too many, which can cause cyclist confusion. Bike lights should be resistant to moisture, especially the moisture that forms in humid climates. Look for bike lights made with extremely strong polymer materials to protect the light source. Finally, ease of operation and convenience, while not deemed important by some cycling enthusiasts, are important attributes to consider when purchasing a bike light.