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How to Light Up the Trail
Lights can be bike or head mounted. Head mounted lights can be pointed down side trails or drop offs. This means they don't need to be as bright as bar mounted lights to get off road. However a helmet light shines from above your eye-line hiding the shadows it casts behind the object (except to a second observer). This sounds OK but the appearance of rocks is 'flattened', that gray patch on the trail could turn out to be a challengingly large, square edged rock... Bar mounted units cast a strong visible shadow that picks out the lumps and bumps.

The tiny but awesomely bright Stadium lamp unit.

At speed a bar mounted light is a plus, it can be aimed well down the trail, Unfortunately they need to be a lot brighter to flood wherever you may be looking. Because of all these pros and cons well equipped riders often have both. But in the end any set-up, bar or helmet, with a high output Wattage will beat lower powered systems. One good budget item is a Petzl zoom head torch with the bulb swapped out for the Halogen one supplied for the Petzl Mega. Although it's not really bright enough for serious off-road riding, it can be a good introduction to easier trails and remains useful as a second light to go with a budget bar mounted system and also for night time trail fixes.

Very bright lights aren't essential, they just mean you can go faster.

Whilst we're on the subject of budget systems, take great care with lead based rechargeable batteries. With almost all of these, running them right down is a major mistake. As soon as the light starts to dim appreciably, turn it off. Failure to do this will kill the battery and a replacement could be difficult to find. For this reason, and as a backup for all systems, mount a road light to your bars if you have room.


The Energizer Halogen is a highly recommended road/back up light.

A great road light we have used for the last couple of years is the Energizer Halogen. For a road light this is pretty bright and it's a great backup even in the middle of a pitch dark forest. It also has flashing LED's which will continue to work after the main beam dies and a low battery indicator, although this comes on with a good half an hour of burn time left. Partner this with NiMH rechargeable batteries (about 15 for four with a charger) and you're on to a winner. NiMH batteries seem to have none of the vices of other rechargeables, they can be run right down (like we said, this kills lead) and they can be charged up from half way (don't do this with NiCads or you'll find they'll only charge part way next time, they should be run right down) An additional tip with NiCad's is seal them in a polythene bag (with no charge) and place in the deep freeze overnight, charge as normal and they'll have a new lease of life.

A large 5 LED rear light like this one is a major safety enhancement.

For the rear of the bike you can't beat flashing LED's for safety. Only a few of these are legal for use in the UK on their own at the moment though. Check when you buy, experience has shown that the police attitude is almost always - "if it's bright we're not upset" Flashing LED's are not legal in the UK for mounting on the bike. However they are much more visible in flashing mode, guess which we use? Get the biggest, brightest one you can find. Not only are they light, they run for hundreds of hours in flashing mode, this is a major safety advantage, as battery burning incandescent bulbs at the rear, fade away unnoticed during a ride, not good.

Night Riding - Inspiration.

Print Text! the whole article in text only form.


With your light above your eye-line, the shadows are hidden.
This can 'flatten' perspective, creating an optical illusion that hides bumps.

With the light below your eye-line, the bumps are enhanced by shadows.

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