How to see and be seen
By: Ashley Hopkins
With daylight savings right around the corner, there’s no time better than now to light up your bike to get increase your nighttime visibility. When you bike as much as we do, visibility is the name of the game.
Doing all you can to ensure that you are seen makes night riding safer and can really give you the confidence you need to hit the streets after dark, especially if you’re taking the lane with kiddos in tow or riding by your side. Here is some of the gear that helps us light up the night.
Side note: this post is not sponsored in any way, some of our team mates just use and personally recommend this gear 🙂
Get a solid front and rear light
When it comes to nighttime visibility, a quality front and rear light are the bare bones minimum and not a place where you want to cut corners. Back in my college bike commuting days, I went through many a lower cost battery powered light from a big box store and I’ve learned my lesson. Lower cost lights tend to have a weaker beam (= they aren’t as safe in either you being able to see or you being seen), they are easily effected by rain and moisture (= money spent on getting replacement lights), and they eat through batteries (= more money spent on batteries and / or frustration of having a dead light and no replacement batteries). Investing from the start in high quality, bright, reliable front and rear lights is the way to go, both for your pocket book and your own physical well being.
In my personal experience, I have found that USB rechargeable lights give me the most consistently bright beam. USB lights are packed with powerful punch which leads to their super luminous beam that helps both the rider see and be seen. This typically means I need to charge my lights after every ride but it’s a fair trade off for the security of knowing I’m riding and can see everything I need to, even on the darkest of streets. They are also easy to recharge on the go. I like to keep a battery back-up charged and in the drawer with my bike lights in case I need to bring the pack along and charge my lights in prep from a night time ride or I want to have the option to charge part way through a ride and not have to scramble to find an outlet.
Modern Bike has a great article here comparing bike beams. For example, here is a comparison between a 139 lumen battery powered light and a 550 lumen USB rechargeable light.
For me and my family, we all use Light and Motion Urban front lights (ranging from 500 lumens to 1000 lumens) because they are bright, waterproof and their metal housing makes them super resilient to drops and being thrown into bike bags. (Their customer service is also really stellar!) For the rear light, we all use a different brand but they are all bright and USB rechargeable. For my personal rides, I rely on a Bontrager R Flare. With your rear light, you want to get a light, preferably with a flashing option, that will make sure motorists see you well before they need to pass you if you are riding on a dark road with no street lights. The Bontrager for me is so bright that if my family members are riding behind me, I often have to turn the pulsing option off as not to blast their eyes. I find with our rear lights, I need to charge it not nearly as often as my front light since I use the pulsing beam as opposed to the constant beam I use on my front light.
When it comes to buying front and rear lights, I like to stop in by my local bike shop since I can hold and test the lights for myself. Bike shops also tend to carry a wider range of higher quality lights and the prices are similar if not the same as online retailers. Read on for more details on front and tail lights available for specific EdgeRunner options.
WheelBrightz (yes, Brightz with a ‘z’)
These lights are low cost and a super fun way to stay visible on the streets. Wrap them inside your front wheel rim to make your ride look like a Tron Lightcycle of the future or around the Hooptie to increase visibility of the back deck and passengers. Since the rear wheel is covered by bags, one on the back wheel isn’t totally necessary. The one thing I love most about these lights is how positively other people respond to them.
When riding around the city at night, kids are oohing and ahhing while adults will shout out “Awesome bike!” I feel like they do a great job at getting people excited about biking because they see how much fun we are having, and they want a piece of the pie!
In my household, we have these lights on the wheels of any bike we use for commuting but skip having them on race bikes or mountain bikes since we aren’t typically nighttime commuting on those rides. These can be found in many local bike shops or online.
Vests, helmet covers, leg bands and other clothing with hi-viz reflective tape or fabric does wonders for making sure you’re seen, both during the day but especially as night. Many folks can spot a rider's vest well before they can make them out on their bikes! These are easy to find in any bike shop, are relatively low cost and super quick to throw on or in your bike bag. Plan to take Fido on our ride? Wrap them up in a vest on them too!
Hi-viz gear during the day is also great for folks riding in areas where hunting is allowed, like in local parks and national forests.
In our family, we wear these vest both day and night. IKEA makes a perfect child sized one. The Hi-Viz lids (compatible with X3 CargoBays) are another great way to add visibility to the back end of your Xtracycle while also giving any gear an added layer of protection from the elements when in the CargoBays.
Red bar tail lights on the Hooptie rails
Installing some red bar tail lights like the Cygo Lite Hot Rod pointed down from the Hooptie to light up the back half of your bike does a stellar job of letting motorists see your whole bike. Small, cheap and if you get USB rechargeable ones, they can be plenty bright.
Light options specific to Xtracycle EdgeRunners
For Xtracycle RFA, eSwoop, eClassic and eStoker riders
Hermanns MR8 (180 lumens)
All electric Xtracycles come with am integrated Herrmans MR8 front light and H-Trace rear light that is wired into your e-bikes motor and battery. So as long as your bike battery is charged, you’re good to go with your front and rear light!
For Xtracycle non-electric bike riders
Hermanns H-IKE (40 lumens)
The non-electric EdgeRunner Swoop, Classic and Stoker come with a built in handlebar mount custom made for the Herrmans H-IKE battery powered front light. This light is 40 lumens, powered by AAA batteries and has a 20 hour run time.
For EdgeRunner 10/9/8e riders – SuperNova light set (165 lumens)
The SuperNova headlight and rear light set is an integrated light set that was an optional accessory for the EdgeRunner 10/9/8e models.
With all these options out there available to shine bright, your rides this winter are sure to be fun, safe and illuminating so ride on!