OK, so the title is a bit cliché, but as the days get shorter and darkness seems to arrive by 4 in the afternoon, it's important to have a good lighting system on your bike. And if you spend any time whatsoever cycling after dark, especially on poorly-lit roads, you'll know what I mean and how important a good set of lights is.
I am fortunate to recently come across a fantastic set of lights – and the best part is, they are from a UK-based company. They have a great reputation amongst those in the know, but aren't particularly well-publicized or known to the general public. Which is a shame, because they make high quality lights that are, well, brilliant. (Last of the puns, I promise.)
Lumicycle (www.lumicycle.com) have quietly been making bike lights in the UK since 1997. Everything is assembled in-house in their UK base in Bournemouth on the south coast of England. They pride themselves on their great customer service and their direct-to-consumer sales approach helps keep costs down. They do lights for both road and mountain bikes in a variety of configurations and price points.
OK – the sales stuff over – let me talk a little about my REAL WORLD experience with the lights. I opted for their 4Si bottle-battery system. It's a small, 4 LED light that mounts to the handlebar and is powered by a battery cleverly disguised a water bottle (and fits nicely in a standard bottle cage). I chose one of their best systems, so the price wasn't as low as some of their other products, but don't let that in any way put you off. Shop around their site for cheaper alternatives.
First and foremost, the beam of light that comes out of this little unit is MASSIVE. It has to be one of the strongest and brightest I've seen from any lighting system before. Not just a strong beam that hits the road far in front of you, but a nice spread of light also, illuminating the road around you as well. This pic illustrates the difference in beam strength and spread between the 4Si and a couple of other lower-priced popular lights. The difference is quite remarkable!
The light has several settings, from Flashing to Boost (the highest and brightest setting). Battery power ranges from 144 hours on Flashing to 4.5 hours on Boost. If you are riding in a semi-lit area with street lights, you can get away with some of the other settings such as High (7 hours) or Low (63 hours). The bottle battery easily plugs into the included charger to replenish itself also.
Operating the light is also quite easy compared to other systems I have tried. The back of the light has a little toggle switch that can be operated even with heavy gloves. It's just a matter of holding it up or down to switch between settings. Easy to change, even on the fly.
The light will step down in power by itself as the battery starts to run down so it gives you some warning that it's running low (it'll go from Boost, to High, to Medium, etc. as the power starts to dwindle). But 4+ hours of night riding is probably more than enough for anyone, especially as temperatures drop!
The light clamps to both 26mm and 31.8mm handlebars with no problems (there's a little extension for the oversize bars). The battery doesn't actually weigh that much, despite it's size. My only gripe was that the power cable that runs from the bottle to the light was a little short on my bike, limiting my choice of location for the light on my bars. Or rather, I had to mount in under the bar instead of over the bar in order to make it possible to have a complete range of motion (side to side) for the bars. But this might be due to the long stem I run on my winter bike!
My dealings with the folks at Lumicycle have been really positive with great customer service. Friendly and professional – and my lights were shipped quickly after placing my order. It's rare to find a 'local' company that has what I want, provides good service and makes a quality product. These guys ticked all those boxes.
I can, with all good conscience, recommend you check out Lumicycle's products if you are looking for a high-quality set of lights for your bike. Keep your path well-lit this winter and stay safe!