Although the days are getting longer, it’s still important to keep bike lights with you – you don’t want to get caught out after dark with no lighting. It’s illegal. It’s also super dangerous. (And no – reflectors are no substitute for proper lights).
Besides – most states have a law that requires you to have a light if you’re going to be riding an hour before sunrise or sunset. So even if it’s still light out (and it often is at these times) you’re still required to have a light.
So while lights are a practical necessity (unless you’re ALWAYS going to stop riding an hour before sunset), that doesn’t mean there aren’t options.
One Colorful Option
If you’re looking for something simple (and relatively cheap) you can go with frog lights. These are rubber encased LEDs, that are easy to attach and remove. They come in a rainbow of colors and have a solid and blinky setting. They run on watch batteries, which means they don’t last forever, but they’re also pretty cheap to replace (the light or the battery). Frog lights are pretty small, but they’re enough to make you visible to other road users at night, and while every city/state has its own regulations, it’s bright enough to keep you from getting a ticket most places too.
One drawback of the frog light is that while they make you visible to others, they’re not bright enough to let you see the terrain in front of you – the beam just isn’t big enough. If you’re riding on well-lit streets, this isn’t a problem because the streetlights will take care of that for you, but if you’re riding on darker side streets or a bike-specific trail or path, you’re going to want a light
that’s bright enough to illuminate the ground in front of you.
Bright Enough to Ride By
These lights have larger bulbs and illuminated areas than the frog lights, and also have a permanent handlebar mount. The lights slide on and off, so if you’re leaving your bike locked outside during the day, you won’t have to worry about someone walking off with your lights (of course, if you have a Montague bike that you store inside, you don’t have to remember to take your lights off because they’ll be safe inside). Another advantage of these larger lights (other than the improved visibility) is that they’re often rechargeable. Rechargeable lights plug into a USB port on your computer, and you can charge them the same way you would an iPod.
No Batteries Required
Of course, if you wanted to leave battery powered lights behind altogether, there is also the pedal-powered option. There’s something appealing about having a self-powered light on a self-powered vehicle, but there are some significant drawbacks. These lights tend to be more expensive, take longer to install, and as far as I understand it, only light up when you’re actively pedaling (although maybe some models are able to store a charge?). The most common kind also requires a special hub. This makes the front wheel heavier, and also more difficult to remove. So probably not the best option for a Montague bike, if you remove your front wheel to fold the bike on a daily basis.
What kind of Lights do you Have?
If you’re a regular rider, chances are you’ve got lights on your bike already. What are you using? Do you attach your rear light to the seat post? Or to your bag? Do you have a helmet light in addition to a bike light? What about side lighting? What do you think is the most effective way to be visible at night?