Lighting 101

Without lights, you can’t ride your bike safely at night.  Period.  Let us help you choose the right lights for your riding.


There are two types of headlights in the world, “See-by” lights project a bright beam of light that genuinely illuminates the roadway. Their use is critical if you ride in an area without streetlights, where the surface of the road is not clearly visible. Most of these lights are rechargeable for economical use. “Be-seen” lights are by design more minimal, and won’t illuminate the roadway except in the darkest conditions where there is little ambient light. These lights typically feature a very effective flashing mode, which is both highly visible and battery-efficient.

Rear lights.

Rear lights are simple creatures. Most are red, and most feature a constant-on setting, though they tend to be more effective in the flashing mode. Rear lights are not required by law in NC, but are an obvious safety addition to your rear reflector (which comes in handy should your light fail). Lights are essential safety equipment, so be pro-active with your safety, and light up your bike.

Front “See-By“ lights:

The Cygolite Expilion 250 is a amazingly bright, small, and lightweight, with a convenient integrated battery. The slightly less expensive 180 is very good, too. (TIP: Angle your light just below level, so that the beam projects out quite a bit. This will make you much more visible to traffic.)

Front “Be-Seen” lights:

Planet Bike Blaze, available in .5-, 1-, and 2- watt versions. The 1- and 2- watt lights blur the line between Be-Seen and See-By. Excellent visibility in the flashing mode for all versions.

(TIP: Point your “be-seen” light straight forward, as if you’re aiming for the windshield of a car off in the distance. You are.)

Rear lights:

Planet Bike Superflash. The Superflash has been the go-to best-light-in-the world for a few years now. Featuring a .5-watt LED, it is incredibly bright, and visible for a mile.
Portland Design Works Danger Zone. Outstanding. The light features two .5-watt LEDs, and a more sophisticated firing pattern that is difficult to ignore.
Portland Design Works Radbot 1000. Featuring the same 1-watt LED used in some car tail lights and an innovative firing pattern, the Radbot is incredible.
(TIP: Point your light straight back, or very slightly up. I see many lights illuminating the ground, or signally passing aircraft! And, make sure that the light is not obscured by a seat bag, or an item on your rear rack. Even the brightest light will not be visible through your milk crate. Yes, I have actually seen this in action.)
Nathan Reflective Tape.  Despite (obviously) not being an active light source, Nathan tape deserves honorable mention. Lightweight and inexpensive, it’s an excellent means to increase the visibility of your bike. It’s especially useful in increasing side-visibility, and is very effective when applied to your helmet.
For additional help, please come find me at Cycle 9. Thanks for reading. —Tod

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