Finally Seeing The Light

The implementation of new light and battery technology from multiple industries is making riding bikes better for everyone, both night and day. Andrew Ibanez from Cygolite took some time to share how.

Tell us about some of the current technology being used to make cycling lights better.

LEDs have rapidly developed in the last several years, and they continue to push brighter and more energy-efficient lighting systems.

Has battery technology advanced?

Battery technology has changed significantly since the rise of lithium-ion cells. The same compact batteries used to power our laptops, smartphones, and other consumer electronics are now found in bicycle lights. Lights are now lighter-weight and less bulky while maintaining the same run times, or even increased run times in some cases.

What are some of the biggest challenges for lighting manufacturers?

Staying up to date on the constant advancements in LED and electronics technology can be a challenge!

People often get watts and lumens confused. Can you explain the difference for us?

Watt is the measurement of electrical power being used by a source, such as an LED. Higher wattage means a higher rate of energy being used and does not necessarily correlate to making the light brighter. On the other hand, lumen is the unit of measurement for the amount of light emitted by a source, and the higher the lumen does mean the brighter the light.

What’s the best way to measure a light’s brightness? 

An integrating sphere can be used to measure quantitative brightness, but it’s also the most expensive and least practical method for the average consumer. An easier way is to try different lights side by side, and compare the throw and side spread. See if the lights fit your needs, and try ones with different amounts of power.

What do different flash patterns do?

Flash patterns are meant to be attention grabbers. However, flashing patterns should be used during daylight hours only. During daylight or dusk, ambient light already illuminates the cyclist’s path, so a steady beam (to see) isn’t as necessary.  Instead, a flash setting (to be seen) can be a better option. Faster flash settings are more noticeable and geared to be used in higher-traffic situations, while slower flash settings can be used in lower-traffic situations.

Then at night, when there is minimal ambient light, the headlight’s steady modes should be used to properly illuminate the cyclist’s path. The high, medium, and low brightness modes help make sure cyclists have plenty of light to see what’s up ahead and to be seen from behind. If the setting is overpowered by the surroundings, then switching to a brighter mode is important. 

Laws regarding lights may vary across jurisdictions, so it’s important that cyclists always check and abide by local and state regulations. 

What are some misconceptions about visibility at night for cyclists?

Probably the notion that cycling at night is much more dangerous than during the day because of the lack of surrounding light. With proper lighting and safety precautions, cyclists can safely see and be seen from far distances. Proper lighting can be subjective but should include a light or combination of lights to help the cyclist assess and navigate their surroundings safely. This may include the use of a handlebar light to illuminate the way ahead, a helmet light to see farther up or around turns, and a tail light to be visible to the traffic behind. The use of these lights in conjunction with bright reflective clothing and bicycle reflectors is recommended to maximize a cyclist’s visibility at all times.

Any predictions for the future?

The modern USB-rechargeable one-piece design, first pioneered by Cygolite, continues to prove popular among cyclists. Following consumer demand, most current lighting systems are USB-rechargeable and will continue to be refined moving forward. We anticipate these lights to get more powerful and longer lasting with newer features that add to the safety and convenience of use for the cyclists.

What suggestions do you have for light system care that will help get the longest life out of the batteries, and light units in general?

Most lithium-ion batteries and chargers have built-in smart chips that optimize the lifespan of the battery when used regularly. For long-term storage, it’s recommended to have the battery partially charged and near room temperature. 

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