November 13, 2010
When touring, I do my best to make sure I start and finish my rides with the sun up, but considering that most of my plans are made on the fly, this doesn't always work out so well. With the darkness descending quickly (especially with the daylight savings period concluded for many of us), lights are a great thing to have on hand, regardless of the conditions you intend to ride in.
If you're shopping around for tail lights, you will find all sorts of lights ranging in different sizes, light output, flash patterns, and mounting systems. For touring, the two things that are most important to me are brightness and mounting system.
Lower output lights with a couple LED bulbs are great for in town riding where traffic speeds are relatively slow. However, when riding on highways, or county roads with faster speed limits, you want to make sure vehicles can catch sight of you well in advance. The Cateye TL-LD1100 is just one example of a good high output light that will warn vehicles of your presence.
As for mounting systems, it's important to know what your bike will look like loaded for touring when deciding on where you want to position your light. If you have racks and panniers, it's not a bad idea to look into a light that will clip to the back of your rack, especially if you will load items on top of your rack. For trailers, you can get away with a seatpost mounted light (unless you will be attaching a saddle bag under your seat). Some lights will include mounts for both purposes, while others are specialized to one position. An example of a good rack-mounted light would be the Planet Bike Rack Blinky 5, while the Princeton Tec Swerve is a great seatpost tail light.
Another thing to consider is power source. Most lights will take either AA or AAA batteries, however there are some that use watch batteries or chargers. Just make sure you use a system that allows you to easily keep the light powered up.
Photo by Josh Tack.
TOURING GEAR AND TIPS is written by Joshua Tack of Adventure Cycling's member services department. It appears weekly, highlighting technical aspects of bicycle touring and advice to help better prepare you for the journey ahead.
Actually, several of my LBS were at a loss for rack-mounted tail lights. So was the [big-box coop outdoor retailer]. I found a few by mail-order, however.
Rant: It seems that the fashion in bike light designs has gone away from those (semi-) permanently mountable to a bike, in favor of those that force a tourist or commuter to completely strip their bike every time we stop somewhere. I'm annoyed.
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I completely agree about how annoying those non-permanently mounting lights are. It's like you have to run through a four or five point check list to see if you have removed everything before you walk away from the bike.
'Easily removable' doesn't always make things easier.