Cycling on the roads can be intimidating, especially when you’re doing it for the very first time, or that you haven’t done it for awhile. Between big roads, speeding cars and errant drivers, the noise and chaos can be overwhelming.
It takes experience to be comfortable cycling on the road. With experience, you will learn defensive riding, road behaviours and ways to act to avoid being put in dangerous situations. Experience will also give you more confidence. Another important factor in building self-confidence, peace of mind and comfort is the right kit! A good helmet, bright clothing (if you prefer), reflective bits on your clothing and most importantly, your lights!
We recommend a minimum of two lights when you’re cycling – a front light and a rear light. Front lights are supposed to be white and rear lights red. There are a variety of lights to choose from in the market, varying from a couple of dollars to even above a hundred dollars. Of course, as with everything else, you generally get what you pay for. More expensive lights generally come with better build quality, better illumination (are brighter), better battery life and come with more features.
Cycling can be an expensive hobby, and we often try our best to offer tips to save a couple of dollars. However, we recommend that you never skimp on lights. Lights are your first beacon (no pun intended) of safety and your first line of defence in protecting you from dangerous situations. Spend as much as you can afford on bike lights. In fact, when purchasing your first bike, we recommend setting aside a fraction of your intended budget on bike lights.
So what should you look out for when looking for your first pair of lights?
1) Battery life
Most bike lights nowadays come with built in rechargeable batteries. Try to get yourself a bike light with a battery life that can last you for the duration of your ride. You don’t want to be carrying a portable battery charger just to charge your lights halfway. Worse still, you don’t want your lights to fail on you in the middle of your night ride. In Singapore, most roads are lit but there are many darker spots in less busy areas. You may be visible on these roads, but your goal should be to alert drivers and not just blend in with the surroundings.
Of course, it goes without saying that the important thing regarding lights is the brightness. Brightness is often measured by lumens. However, we’ll go a bit further to mention that some light producers exaggerate their lumens ratings so it’s best you try and see the lights out for yourself. We can’t count the amount of times we’ve ordered lights online and found out that they’re not bright enough to cut it. Again, we’d like to remind you that you need to be bright enough to stand out from your surroundings, not just blend into them.
3) Waterproof rating
Bike lights have evolved in the last decade. Light producers have realised that they need to make functional lights to stay relevant and with advancements in waterproof technology, bike lights have adopted waterproof technology as well. We also live in tropical climate and get quite a fair bit of rain. As much as you say that you won’t go out for a ride in the rain, sometimes you get caught in the rain midway. It’s therefore best to get lights that are at least rainproof. Waterproofing is rated with the IP system. We recommend getting an IP67 light to make sure your lights are well protected by any weather, although IP65 is alright as well. IP rating can also be exaggerated by light producers. This inaccuracy can also occur in different methods of testing. Therefore, we suggest getting as high an IP rating you can get.
It is 2020 and bike lights these days come with many different functions and features. We think it’s a good move! That way, you’re not only paying for lights, you’re paying for more. Different bike lights come with different features. Some come with more light modes, some come with built in cameras, some even come with anti-theft technology. In fact, there are quite a significant number of lights these days that can be synchronized with an app on your phone, offering you more control, more customization and more features!
These are amongst the various things to look out for in a bike light. As mentioned above, do invest in bike lights to ensure peace of mind and more importantly, your safety and never ride without lights on.
Added note: Singapore doesn’t require you to ride with lights on in the day. There are countries which require you to do that. Again, you can choose to ride without lights on in the day, but if it gives you psychological safety and comfort, do so! It really goes a long way to making your ride more comfortable and making you more confident.