I’m obsessed with visibility. Up here in the top left corner of the country, it’s dark in the morning, and dark when I come home. And I ride on poorly lit bike trails and a few questionable streets with bad lighting and randomly surfacing potholes. Plus we have this thing here called leaf paste, which is basically what happens when leaves drop on the trail and start to turn into a kind of mush after a couple of weeks of rain. Seattleites have a weird affection for leaf paste, but on a bike it’s pretty slippery stuff. You don’t want to hit it unawares.
Bottom line: You need to see and be seen. Which means forget about those stupid little cheapo deals that put out about as much light as six fireflies strapped to a handlebar mount.
Here’s what I found out about headlights. There are basically two kinds: The cheap kind, and the good kind. The cheap kind are usually less than $30, run on a couple of AAs, and are really only good for letting other people know you’re coming. And they’re just OK at that.
The good kind are rechargeable, put out serious amounts of light, some at blinding levels, and accomplish two purposes really well: They light your path, and they let cars, people, dogs, whatever else, really know you’re coming. The good kind are also expensive, starting at around $80 at least, and going all the way up to ridiculous. Like over a thousand bucks. Really.
My choice: the Serfas TSL-250. Around $130. Overall, I love it. It’s much more compact and lightweight than other serious light choices, and puts out a very respectable amount of light. The 250 is for 250 lumens. You’ll see other lights rated by watts, and I never could figure out how to compare watts to lumens. But the cheaper lights tend to go by watts, the expensive ones by lumens. I wouldn’t go less than 250 lumens if you really need to see. Going more gets really pricey very quickly. Many of these lights also come with separate battery packs, which you also have to hang off your bike somewhere. This might give you more longevity, but I didn’t want to mess with it.
Things I like:
- The really great quick-release handlebar mount. It’s super-stable, and it also comes with a helmet mount.
- The USB recharging cord, which plugs into an AC adapter, so you can charge it through a socket or your computer.
- Size and weight, 150 grams, which seems to be much less than competitors.
- The brightness!
Things I don’t like:
- The button, which switches it from full-intensity down through several levels to strobe mode, then off. It’s hard to push with a glove on.
- The battery seems to offer good duration, I’ve yet to run it down completely on a ride. But it’s got a weird quirk, the indicator flashes red (low battery level) in cold weather, even when the battery has a good charge. I found this out on the website. Hope they get this resolved soon, because it’s annoying.
I got mine at Second Ascent in Ballard, which is currently my favorite shop.