Extend cycling into the shoulder seasons and even the dark of winter by purchasing a good set of bicycle lights. Where I live at the extreme western edge of a time zone it's common to have light until 10:00 pm or later during peak summer. Come September though, and it's a frustrating rush to get home from work and spend a few minutes with family and still have daylight enough for a ride on the bike. Lights are a game-changer by letting me ride and get exercise on my own terms without having to stress over what the sun is doing.
There's a fundamental choice to be made when buying lights. Do you live in a well-lit city and are your roads illuminated? Then a marker-light like the one of the left in Figure 1 is all you need. Otherwise, you'll want something more potent to light up the road in front of you. Your choice is between buying a light just "to be seen" and buying a light "to see" with.
Dave Weiner, CEO of Priority Bicycles, puts the choice like this:
"Anywhere that’s well lit (like any big city), the big light is a hassle. You just want cars to know you’re on the road, and the advantage is to the small light because it is fast and easy to remove, and it's pocketable for when you make a quick run into a shop or stop somewhere for a meal." In rural areas the pendulum swings, because you need to light up otherwise dark road surfaces due to a lack of street lighting."
Of course one can buy a stronger light regardless. Just be considerate toward oncoming traffic. That light on the right-side of Figure 1 puts out 1000 lumens and is plenty capable of blinding oncoming drivers, so be thoughtful of how you aim it when in traffic.
Are you serious about your cycling? Do you enjoy it? Then treat yourself to a nice light set. Do it to provide yourself options, and for your safety. No one would own a car without lights that could be driven in daylight only. Ditto a motorcycle. Why then a bicycle? Treat your bicycle like any other vehicle and equip it with lights for safe driving during the non-daylight hours.
Credits and Notes:
Header image: Chris Shelly going up Munising's Hillside Trail.
Figure 1: Bicycle light images courtesy of Priority Bicycles.