You get home from work, it’s dark outside and the wind is howling. The last thing you want to do is go for a bike ride. Yet, like so many things in life if you can find the energy/motivation, it has its rewards. There’s a world out there which is a bit like the one you know except it looks and feels completely different at night.
When I was a stripling, bike lights were approximately brick-sized, weighed about the same and offered as much illumination as a candle. We couldn’t have hoped to have ridden off road at night. But things have changed, bike lights are several thousand times brighter, have long-lasting rechargeable batteries and are compact enough to sit neatly on your handlebar or helmet.
Why on earth would I want to get cold and wet in the dark?
A good question. On a practical level, for the average working person there are few daylight hours available for riding in the British winter. But, it’s more than that. There’s something transformative about riding at night, following a beam of light, that makes the commonplace extraordinary. Shadow and the play of light create an intense riding experience which is totally absorbing. Most importantly it’s good fun and seems to add another level of exhilaration to a ride. Each time we regroup all you can hear is laughter.
A window into another world: the lions of the Serengeti
Well, errr, badgers actually. A lot of people think badgers are flat things that live by the sides of roads, but on a night ride it’s quite common see the majestic “Sussex Lions” rampaging through the undergrowth. As you cross the downs you’ll also see the shining eyes of livestock, rabbits and foxes, and riding through Stanmer woods you’re often serenaded by owls. It’s an eerie other world and it’s a shame to miss out on it.
Illuminate me: cheap prices but low value
Not all lights are created equal. There are a few things to weigh up: brightness (measured in lumens), colour and focus of light, battery life, size/weight, mounting systems and repairability.
To ride off road in total darkness you’ll need a light that is at least 1000 lumens. Some manufacturers make inflated claims as to the brightness of their lights. Outputs are often not verified and you can end up with something dimmer in reality. The colour and focus of the light makes a difference too. A warmer light with a decent spread on the beam is generally what you’re after in order to avoid a too harsh and dizzying contrast between light and shadow.
Lots of cheap, bright lights available online appear to be a ‘bargain’ and some of my fellow riders have had success with them. Others have been less lucky with lights cutting out at crucial moments or in extreme cases going on fire. Sometimes the lights themselves are OK but the mounting brackets are poor and can break. With no spares available you can be left with a functioning light but no way of using it.
May I recommend…
The continuing evolution of LED and battery systems means there are now some very bright, long-lasting compact lights available. One I like, in particular, is the Bontrager Ion Pro 1300 RT. It’s a compact light with a good bracket that gives out 1300 lumens for around two hours on its brightest setting. At £99.99 this is the perfect starting point to dip your toe into night riding.
If you want to spend a bit more money, there are a lot of expensive options out there, some of which represent good value. There are two outstanding UK bike light manufacturers – Hope and Exposure – both of whom make fabulous lights and will repair them should they go wrong.
My twelve year old Hope light recently failed. I sent it back to Hope to see if they could repair it. It arrived back 48 hours later, repaired free of charge. Exposure has a similarly impressive record of standing by its products.
The current equivalent model of my Hope light costs about £200 (which is a lot of money), but it has been one of my best value biking investments, costing me roughly £16/year so far and it’s still going strong.
Come and see, and join us for a ride
We sell a range of lights and we are always happy to talk you through the options at various price points.
We run evening shop rides from Cycleshack twice a month on Tuesday at 6.30pm. Please see our facebook events page or send an email to email@example.com titled ‘rides’ and we’ll add you to our ride information email list.
Bontrager Ion RT