What is Lumen ?

Bike lights for night

Lumen is a measure of total visible light emitted. It can also be written as lm . Nowadays all the bike night lights are measured in terms of lumen. The stronger the Lumen , the stronger the brightness. In older days we called lumen as Watts.

Lumen Guide
Lumen Guide

Lumen would be equivalent to the light emitted of full moon in clear sky. Similarly smartphone’s backlight will be equivalent to around 18 – 25 Lumen. A car headlight would bright as 1200 Lumen. In terms of Bulb, a 40 Watt Bulb is equivalent to 450 Lumen of light.
60 Watt bulb is equivalent to 800 Lumen of lights.

Lumen emitted light & Lux Intensity Measured.
Lumen emitted light & Lux Intensity Measured.

Lumen on general is referred to as the light output which actually is not the only parameter to qualify the quality of the emitted light.
In cycling terms there is another word called Lux which in conjunction with lumen can help to determine the quality of the light.
Lux is a surface area where the light is spread.

How much Lumen is needed for bike light ?

Answer depends on what conditions you are riding the bike.

In standard terms :
In daytime ride it would be good if the bike lights are above 100 lumen.
In a Rural ride a good lumen would be of around 400-600 Lumen.
Similarly in day time urban commuting will require around 50-200 Lumens of light.

As per Australian Road Rules, you must have a white light flashing or steady on the front , a red light flashing or steady on the rear light and a red reflector on the back.

Best bike lights for night ride

Bike lights for night ride
Bike lights for night

In night bicycle rides , one might need above 1800 Lumen. We actually have reviewed new 1800 Lumen Bright Eyes Rear Light . If you are looking for something which is cheap bike light then please check our previous posts on bike front lights and bike rear lights the review and features .

What to consider before buying Bike light ?

There are various factors to determine what right night light to choose for the bike.
One of which would be to choose a narrow beam pattern which will not dazzle any oncomers.
We have covered this extensively a buying guide on bike lights.
You need to make sure that a bike will need a brighter front light and mediocre lumen rear light.

Best Off Road Riding Bike Lights

Riding off road bike is always adventures and a bigger challenge which gives a whole new dimension for your ride. Even familiar trails at night are risky and misguided , if right lumen bike light is not chosen.

Hence we always recommend to have a brighter lumen night light , which can easily spot the hazards such as rabbit holes and other obstacles.
If you are riding off road , then best bike night light should be at max 1000 Lumens or greater.
On a general one should make sure the battery Life of the light. Do note , the higher the lumen more fast the battery will rinse.
Its always good to use rechargeable batteries for these lights.

Bottomline , we would always recommend you to buy a light which is more powerful in light emmitance (probably higher Lumen , again depending on situations) and a must look for battery life. With higher battery life, the light will be running for longer period for your bike ride length.

In addition to above , it is always a wise to carry spare lights which will come handy once the main lights are stopped working . If you are riding for longer period , do keep power banks with you to charge the batteries on go.

Blazewear Heated Gloves Review

Over the last few years I’ve struggled to keep my hands warm when cycling on the colder winter mornings. In my early days of cycle commuting I only had a 3 mile ride which wasn’t too bad as I wasn’t out for long enough to get chilly. Since my trip is now 7 miles each way, when the temperature gets any lower than about 5° C my fingers really start to suffer. For a few winters I went through all manner of cycling gloves to try to solve the problem but nothing really helped  for the freezing cold days. Last winter someone suggested I try a pair of Blazewear Heated Gloves. I’ve now had them for a little over a year.

On the outside the gloves look pretty similar to any other, perhaps just a little more bulky than normal. When you look more closely you see there are zipped compartments in the wrist area. Undo the zips and the battery compartment is revealed. Each of these holds 3 AA batteries and has a small on/off switch and a red LED on the top. The battery box is connected to the gloves via a jack socket on the side. It can be a little fiddly inserting the battery box and plugging in the lead and while you do get the hang of it, I feel the zip could do with being longer. A rechargeable lithium Ion battery pack is available which is smaller, lighter and provides for longer battery life than AA batteries. I suspect the Li-Ion pack is slightly easier to insert into the gloves too.

The heating elements cover the backs of the hands and the fingers – just where the heat is needed most. The elements do bend but are quite stiff which, when the gloves were new I found caused a little discomfort to the knuckles. After a while though they seem to mould themselves to the shape of the hands and I’ve found I now don’t notice them at all.

Using a decent set of AA  rechargeable batteries, the battery life is about 3 hours though the heating effect drops off significantly in the 3rd hour. If you splash out and buy the Li-Ion battery packs, they will run for up to 5 hours between charges.

The gloves are both waterproof and windproof and the palms have a velvety feel which provides good grip. They are quite warm even without power. Turn them on and you soon feel the luxurious warmth coming through. I wouldn’t advise wearing them cycling when the temperature is higher than 5 degrees – they are just too warm and things can get a little sweaty. For me, between 0 and 5 degrees Celsius is the sweet spot where I find they keep my hands are kept at just the right temperature. On colder (sub-zero) days I do still get chilly hands, but not uncomfortably so. One evening back in December 2010, my cycle computer measured -8°C and my hands were fine even then!

These gloves have completely solved my problem with frozen fingers. If you cycle all year round and struggle to keep your hands warm in winter I can highly recommend them. They can be purchased from here.

Toasty!

Ortlieb Panniers Review

Over the last couple of weeks I’ve been caught out on my bike in a few torrential downpours where I’ve turned up at work looking like an immersed rodent. I thought now would be a good time to write a few words about my panniers, the Ortlieb Back Roller classics. These ensure that while I might arrive soaked, I’ll be sure to always have a clean and dry change of clothes.

Ortlieb Panniers
Ortlieb Panniers Review

The Ortlieb panniers are made of a tough, thick, utterly waterproof polyester fabric. Unlike most other bags, you don’t need to worry about storing your stuff in a plastic bag inside to keep things dry.

Each pannier can store up to 20 litres which is large enough for a change of clothes, a laptop, a toolkit, a lunchbox and plenty more. The panniers come in packs of two but I find one more than adequate for the daily commute. A couple of people I know have bought packs of two and sold their spare on Ebay for more than half the price.

Ortlieb Panniers
Ortlieb Panniers Review

When open, the pannier takes the form of a small sack. To close it, the top of the sack is rolled up as many times as required depending on how full it is. Once rolled a strap over the top holds it closed via a quick release buckle. A further strap is attached to the corners of the sack that either forms a shoulder strap or clips into a hook at the front.

The pannier is attached to the rack by two catches on the top that simply slot on to the side bar of the rack via a spring loaded clip mechanism. It’s removed again simply by lifting the handle which releases the clips. A number of adapter inserts are supplied that may be slotted into the clips to allow the panniers to fit racks with a wide range of thicknesses. I use a Tortec Tour Ultralite which is lightweight, inexpensive and works well with the Ortlieb panniers.

Ortlieb Panniers Review
Ortlieb Panniers Review

The first time I attached my panniers and set off to work I quickly realised I’d positioned them too far forwards on the rack which meant my heels would brush past them on every turn of the pedals. The position of the pannier can be adjusted by moving the mounting clips left or right. An allen key is required for this adjustment. The bottom of the pannier is held close to the rack by a simple paddle, which may be placed in a wide range of positions and orientations to provide compatibility with pretty much any rack.

For every day commuting, the Ortlieb back roller pannier is almostperfect. In particular I like the convenience of the ingenious quick attach/detach mechanism and the security of knowing my possesions are going to stay dry. For me, the only thing missing is a small easy access side pocket which would be useful for storing small items like keys.

I nearly forgot to mention we like shiny things at bikelightsreview so we particularly like the 3M Scotchlite side reflectors!

Folding and Removable Pedals

Following my success with  folding handlebars which has transformed our hallway, I quickly found I could go one step further and get even more space by changing my pedals. While they won’t provide a breakthrough in terms of extra space like the new handlebars, they would reduce the profile of the bike by just a few more inches. There seem to be two options. i) Folding pedals and ii) quick release removable pedals. Unlike the handlebars there is a reasonable amount of choice with space saving pedals. First I considered folding pedals. There are a lot of cheap and cheerful plastic folding pedals available on Ebay but following a bit of research I was concerned about the horror stories where I’d heard they are not very strong and can have a tendency to fall apart. Widely reported as the best folding pedals are the MKS FD7. These have good reviews and like most MKS products have great build quality, smooth folding action and high quality bearings. I decided to go for removable pedals as they have a narrower profile when removed than the folding pedals do when folded. Again I gravitated towards the MKS brand due to their terrific build quality. The MKS EZY range are all quick release removable pedals. There are two types. – Standard EZY and EZY superior.  The standard version requires a small yellow clip to be fitted to secure the pedal in place whereas the superior version has a more advanced mechanism for attaching and detaching the pedals and don’t need the clip. I decided I wanted maximum convenience so I went for the superior version.

I wasn’t disappointed by the build quality of the MKS pedals. They feel very solid and the bearings are the smoothest I’ve ever experienced on a pedal. The pedals are removed by a simple twist and push of the central cap towards the axle and pulling the pedal out. It’s a little fiddly initially but like all these things you quickly get the hang of it. A little bag is supplied for carrying around the pedals if you remove them while you’re out and about. It’s well worth using this as the central axle can get a little greasy.

Are they worthwhile? Removing the pedals does make the profile of the parked bike a fair amount narrower especially if used in conjunction with the folding handlebars. Recommended.

Is the brightest bike light best for you?

Whenever I read about the latest bike lights, I see the main criterion most people use to judge them is the brightness, whether it be the number of lumens, lux, glow-worm-power or whatever unit happens to be used by the particular manufacturer.

Of course brightness is a very important specification but I would urge a little caution before playing the numbers game and simply plumping for the most awesome luminary firepower you can get your mitts on. In particular if your primary cycling habitat is the road or cycle path which you share with other road users I would suggest you really don’t need a light with more than a few hundred lumens and anything brighter could be dangerous and actually illegal if not used sensibly.

Regarding the legal aspect, the UK government road vehicle lighting regulations makes for a turgid read but fortunately the guys over at CTC have summarised it very nicely for us. Note in particular that:

Any light fitted to a bicycle must not cause undue dazzle or discomfort to other users of the road.

That’s clear but somewhat subjective. I’ve no idea if anyone’s ever been charged with having a bike light that’s too dazzling but I suspect it’s only a matter of time before it happens. Over the last four or five years I’ve noticed on my daily commute a rising number of cyclists’ lights that are bordering on the uncomfortable, and one chap I met on my route recently was using something akin to a WWII searchlight strapped to his bars. To be fair he was very apologetic and turned it down when I mentioned it but I think he genuinely didn’t realise how dazzling it was.

Apart from the legal aspect, really bright lights need bigger batteries (or have short battery life) and therefore tend to be bulkier and heavier. Of course they are more expensive too…

Most of the brightest bike lights are designed for off road cycling. For off-road you do want a nice bright light to light up the trail and also to see up to head height in case you’re riding through a wooded area. On roads though it’s a different matter. Some lights have a beam pattern designed specifically for road use. For example a letterbox or wedge shaped beam pattern can provide maximum brightness on the road and don’t fire so much light into the sky or directly into the eyes of approaching motorists.

So how many lumens is enough?

This is a question I’ve been asked a few times. I find my 600 lumen Exposure Strada light gives me just the right amount of light to ride with confidence at speed on my route which includes pitch dark country lanes. You can get away with considerably less light but you need to ride more slowly. Actually, the Strada does cause dazzle on the high setting but it’s very easy to dip the beam.

The 450 lumen Lezyne Super Drive also provides plenty enough light for dark country lanes and is significantly cheaper than the Strada.

If you really want to use a seriously bright light on the road, I would suggest making sure the light you buy has a number of brightness modes and that it’s easy to switch between them while riding. Spend some time carefully setting up the light. Pointing it slightly downwards can help to avoid dazzle.

Above all, use common sense. If you’re finding approaching car drivers stop, flash their lights, shout abuse or swerve off the road into a ditch when you are approaching, it probably means your light is too dazzling and should be switched to a lower setting. It’s important to see and be seen but a bit of consideration and courtesy to our fellow road users goes a long way.

Hallway Bike Storage – Folding Handlebars

Bike Hallway
Bike Hallway

My long suffering wife and family have put up with my bike in the hallway for some time. Apart from the issues of mud and oil on the carpet the main problem is of course that the bike takes up so much room and  it gets in everyone’s way as they go about their daily business. I messed around with small wheeled folding bikes for a while as a potential solution but ultimately I found them not as robust and slightly harder to ride than a regular bike for my 7 mile commute. One day as I was battling past the bike with four bags of groceries, I was thinking if only I could find a way of  folding the handlebars out the way, the problem would be greatly reduced. So began my quest for a set of folding handlebars.

Fliphandle
Fliphandle

I started googling and asking around on the bike forums to see if anyone knew of a product that would allow handlebars to be folded. Surprisingly, there wasn’t much choice for products that solve what I thought must be a very common problem. The first I came across is called the flipphandle.

This looked perfect in that it should allow the bars to be swivelled by 90 degrees for convenient storage.  Unfortunately, it seems the product never made it to production. Next, I was pointed in the direction of these folding handlebars designed by Joe Wentworth. They take a slightly different approach in that they allow handlebars to be folded in half and then locked together at the bar ends, quite literally doubling up as a security device. I emailed the designer to find where I could buy them but sadly these never made it to production either.

N'lock handlebars
N’lock handlebars

Just when I was about to give up I came across the n’lock device. This is a design by a small Swiss firm that allows the handlebars to be swivelled to any angle (“n’locked”) and requires a key to lock it again. Again, this is also for the aspect of security so that any would be thief attempting to ride away on your pride of joy would soon come a cropper as the swivelly handlebars renders the bike unrideable. I got in touch with the owner of the company and after a short email exchange, got my order in, and it turned up a few days later.

Corridor Bike
Corridor Bike

The n’lock is a replacement stem. A number of versions are available providing compatibility with headsets and handlebars of most bikes. My Trek 7.3fx has an A-head set with oversize bars. It took only 5 minutes with an Allen key to whip out the old stem and fit the n’lock in its place. With the wide handlebars conveniently swivelled away against the wall, our hallway was instantly transformed! No longer do we have to turn sideways and breathe in to get past the bike. Gone are the days of snagging ourselves and swearing every time we come back with supplies. Instead we have now regained this expansive palatial hallway space suitable for all manner of functions and events. I might be exaggerating slightly but you can see it makes a big difference.

N'lock Bike Stem
N’lock Bike Stem

As an engineer I can appreciate the quality of the design of the n’lock. It has an incredibly rugged feel. It’s quite heavy (approx 500g) but this only contributes to the feeling of quality. It has a double action (key + rotating knob) unlocking mechanism to ensure it doesn’t accidentally get unlocked while in use. The spring loaded knob also acts to eliminate all play in the mechanism, something at which it’s extremely effective.

I got the ‘classic’ version but newer versions are available which build on the security aspect of the design, for example by integrating a cable locking device. I don’t think I would trust this instead of a regular D lock but it’s all good as an extra deterrent.

Details of where to purchase can be found on the n’lock web page. Pre and post sales support from Franklin Niedrig, inventor of n’lock was excellent. He clearly takes pride in his product and does all he can to ensure his customers are satisfied.