If you’re the tinkering type, or if you just want some good lights for an affordable price, check out the Edmonton Bike Commuters lighting workshop. You can find out about it online http://www.bikeology.ca/2010/02/05/bicycle-lights-workshop-by-edmonton-bicycle-commuters/ .
I believe they tackle all kinds of lighting and visibility solutions, including reflective garb and tapes, so it should be good. It’ll be fun and educational as well. Especially if you’re the tinkering DIY type.
Personally, I’m willing to pay for my lighting. It’s important to me. There’s something reassuring about knowing the company that made your lights specialize in high depth mission critical underwater lighting.
I might go to the clinic to see if we can figure out a way to jury rig my CatEye 1100 tail light. It’s, by far, the best and brightest tail light commercially available, but I broke a part in a small wipeout. I’ll order the part from Western Cycle for very cheap, but will likely need to wait awhile until they receive their 2010 CatEye shipment. I’d like to run it in the meantime, but the light is so bright, setting it up at the best angle is important. You want drivers to notice you, but you don’t want to blind them. This light can.
So, to wrap up the lighting tips for now, here’s what I do:
Two lights up front
Stella 200 on the handlebars aimed at the ground in front of me Stella 150 on my helmet aimed where I look
Three lights in back
One on the bike in the centre, flashing red (CatEye 1100 is my first choice – aimed downward) Two on each side of the back of my pack, on solid red
The front lights run on separate rechargeable batteries. I’ve got the helmet light battery on on the back of my helmet, and I tape the other to my Spot frame until I have time to come up with a more elegant solution. I charge them every other day in winter. (TIP: it may seem obvious, but – if you’re running a light or camera with a separate battery pack connected by a cable, don’t attach one to yourself and the other to your bike)
Probably at least half of what you pay for a good light is for the battery. Battery technology is advancing rapidly. My 200 goes about 3 hours at full, even during winter, and charges fully in less than an hour most times. The 150? It lasts a little longer (maybe 4 hours on full), but takes more like 5 hours to charge. I do it overnight, or during the day at work.
The others use AAA batteries, and I use rechargeables. These hold a charge well, but definitely less during cold weather. There are different quality levels for chargers here too, and you can buy more expensive ones that charge rapidly. I keep a slower charger at home, and a faster one at work.
Only use Li-On batteries.
Ride at night – get a light! I recommend good ones if you’re going to be riding a lot in the dark, but even if you’re not planning on ever riding at night, pick up a couple small blinkies (one red, and one white) in case you’re caught late somewhere, or it’s an overcast day. $30 is cheap for safety and peace of mind.
As with anything else bike related, if they can steal it, they will. Make sure any lights not securely fastened clip off easily instead, and take them off the bike if it’s parked outside. The new LED lights are very small, small enough to carry in your pocket, and plenty bright.