by Stan Purdum
In “Living to Ride Another Day” in the Road Bike Rider newsletter about daytime running lights used by cyclist Dave Cardarella on his tandem bicycle, I said that one of his taillights is a “1200 lumen import.” I added that Dave had mounted it “on the left side of the left end of the stoker’s handlebar, on the bottom of the drop so as not to interfere with riding.”
Seeking to follow the advice of my own article, I went online looking for such a light for my bike. Dave hadn’t specified a brand, but had mentioned that his light, which he purchased two years ago, is good in strobe mode for only about three hours on the rechargeable battery that came with it. Thus, he purchased a second battery, and on rides lasting longer than three hours, he changes the battery in midride to have the light functioning for the whole time. Deciding that was inconvenient, I hoped to find something with longer battery life.
It’s not common to find bicycle taillights putting out a whopping 1200 lumens, but Dave told me that what he used was sold as a headlight. He’d replaced the clear lens with a red one, which he’d purchased separately.
The Bright Eyes light
With that information, I found on Amazon a waterproof 1200-lumen rechargeable bicycle headlight made by Bright Eyes with a 6400 mAh battery. That mAh stands for “milliampere hour”; a 1000 mAh battery is supposed to last about an hour, so the 6400 mAh battery should run for somewhere around six hours. The Bright Eyes product description on Amazon says it runs “5+ hours on bright beam.” That sounded good to me, especially since in strobe mode, as I planned to use it in daylight, it should last longer than that.
When I searched for “1200-lumen bicycle headlights,” several choices and brands came up, but searching for the red lens pointed me to the Bright Eyes light, since the only lens pack I found with a red lens was made to fit the Bright Eyes. The product description said the lenses could be used with “other similar bike lights,” but after reading the Bright Eyes info, I settled on that light. On Amazon, the headlight had a 4.5-star rating (out of five stars), with more than 2,900 reviews.
I bought the light and the lens pack together for slightly less than $50. They arrived within two days. The light came with a clear lens installed and a clear diffuser lens that could be swapped in if preferred. A plug-in charger was included, as well as a small LED taillight with a rubber mounting strap (it’s bright, but there’s no indication of how many lumens it puts out). The headlight kit also included an expansion strap that allows wearing the headlight on your forehead or mounted on the front of your helmet.
Adapting the bicycle light
Changing the lenses required removing four small screws with a provided allen wrench, but nothing in the printed directions explained that. I finally found the screws by peering down at the headlight from the back and seeing the screws — one in each corner, recessed in what appear to be baffles. Once found, the swap was easy.
As I expected, the bracket on the base of the light was positioned at a right angle to the light beam for mounting it on the handlebars, but since I wanted to mount mine on the outside end of my left handlebar drop — the leftmost and therefore most visible spot on my bike — I needed the bracket rotated 90 degrees to be parallel to the light beam. When I peeled back the gripping tape in the bracket, I found a single screw, which when loosened, allowed me to rotate the bracket. After that, mounting the light where I wanted it, with the light pointing directly to the rear, was a simple matter, using the provided rubber fasteners.
For now, I have used a cable tie to route the cable up my handlebar, past the left brake/shift lever. Next time I rewrap my bars, I’ll put it underneath the tape. I mounted the battery by its Velcro straps on my top tube where it meets the head tube. The battery cable reaches easily from there to join the lamp cable in a waterproof socket. The kit also includes an extension cable if you wish to place the battery elsewhere on your bike.
After each ride, I recharge the battery by running an extension cord to my bike and plugging in the charger. I’ve not had time for a five-hour ride yet, but at the end of the three-hour rides I’ve done, the light was still going strong.
How Visible is a Bicycle Taillight?
The taillight is visible from a long way off, perhaps as much as a mile. I’ve only had time for two rides since mounting the light, but my anecdotal experience so far is that when riding on roads where lack of a shoulder forces me to ride in the traffic lane, vehicles are slowing down sooner as they approach me from behind, and when passing me, they are are giving me wider berth. Even one guy in a sports car who passed me doing at least 60 in a 35-mph zone, moved over into the other lane.
As you know, there are no safety guarantees when pedaling on the road, but there’s now no excuse for a driver coming from behind not seeing me.
Ready to Use Ultra Bright Bicycle Taillight Solutions
In the meantime, several manufacturers have come out with ultra bright rear tail lights that do not require any DIY work. Here are some brands you can consider. The lumens are lower, but they are very visible.
Will Haltiwanger says
This may be bright, but using a white LED to make red is very inefficient. Using a red LED emitter would probably produce the same red output for less than half the power. White LEDs are made either by combining red, green and blue emitters or by using a blue led with a phosphor to convert some of the blue to yellow to produce white.
Don Moe says
I’d recommend checking out Dinotte lights. I’ve ridden with Dinotte daytime running lights for years after seeing them on a friend’s bike. They’re pricy but the brightest stock light I’ve seen out there. Drivers have stopped to let me know how visible they are and how much they appreciate it. The front light is amber, more visible during the day, and probably more important than the rear as I’ve heard 80% of bike-car accidents are from the front. The battery is amazing, easily lasting 6 hours on bright flash mode and still going strong on 10 hour rides at a lower intensity. I believe the lumens for the Dinotte daytime running lights are 300 front and 200 rear and that’s quite bright. Most rear bike lights are less than 100 lumens. Frankly, I’d wonder if 1200 lumens in the eyes of a driver might be too much, i.e. blinding. And then there’s the riders behind you. Some have mentioned to me that 200 lumens is almost too bright to follow, especially in low light conditions.
Don Moe says
Correction, the Dinotte quad amber daytime running light is 150 lumens.
John Tonetti says
FYI… According to The League of American Bicyclists 2014 Report “Every Bicyclist Counts”, 40% of cyclist/motorist collisions occur from the rear. (Available here: https://www.bikeleague.org/reports).
Having said that, there are a plethora of other collisions for which a front flasher might be useful in preventing. I rarely do a ride without both a front and rear flasher. I am an advocate in all my cycling groups for front and rear daylight running lights. Cars have them, and they are big, very visible objects. Why not bikes?
I’m planning on checking out the Dinottes. Thanks for the info.
Stan Purdum says
I’ve looked at the Dinotte lights and noticed that regarding its most recent taillight (2018 Quad RED Taillight with built in battery), they emphasize how small it is. That refers to the whole unit, but they don’t give the diameter of the lens. On the Bright Eyes, it’s 1-3/8″ and think that’s part of what makes it visible from so far away.
Bought a cheap Chinese “3000 lumen” (haha) headlight that had a single xml T6 CREE LED. Then I bought a piece of flat translucent red Lexan & cut it to replace the clear lens in the headlight. I also purchased a battery holder for 2 18650 batteries & the batteries. Using old leather from a recovered saddle I sewed up a pouch for the batteries. Some aluminum from an old license plate served a the material from which I fabbed a bracket for the pouch & mounted it to a water bottle mount. The batteries power the “taillight” and a Solar Storm headlight. https://www.ebay.com/itm/3000-Lumen-3-Mode-Cree-XML-T6-USB-LED-Headlamp-Bike-Bicycle-Light-Headlight/182268897269?hash=item2a7012a7f5:m:mnvjf1XlpQaB63QaFwpLySQ
Charles R Moeller says
I never do a ride without both a front and rear flasher. I am an advocate in all my cycling groups for front and rear daylight running lights. Cars have them, and they are big, very visible objects. Why not bikes?
ray allen says
I use a rechargeable red LED road flare attached to a velcro water bottle bracket for a tail light when commuting to school at night. It’s not daylight visible, but it is 100mm in diameter, and visible from both the back and the side. I also have a rechargeable yellow LED road flare attached to a velcro water bottle bracket hanging from the top tube where it intersects the head tube as a side visibility light because of the number of drivers who make right turns on red without stopping. Attaching the LED road flares to velcro water bottle brackets also lets me take the lights with me when I lock up the bike to avoid “feeding the thieves”.