Lights test 2011 full results
Light up your ride with the best and brightest lights tested for winter. Simon Vincett reports the findings of the 6th annual Ride On Lights test, now updated with results of all 50 lights.
Technology and options in bike lights just keep improving. This season’s buzzwords are “bracket-less”, “cable-free” and “USB”. Bracket-less lights are easier to fit and remove, and fit more shapes and sizes of handlebars and seat posts. Cable-free designs emerging in high-powered lights are enabled by the lithium rechargable battery being contained within the light unit. And more and more lights are USB rechargeable, which means no more batteries to replace and the convenience of recharging the lights during your computer time.
We developed our waterproofness testing to a new level this year and found out some good and some poor performers. A new-comer in the high-powered category took out the top rating and in dynamo lights it was interesting to find that the model built in to a bike took was the best for its overall visibility, convenience and value.
From 20 different brands we collected more than 100 lights available in Australia in the categories of:
- Compact front
- Compact rear
- Dynamo front
- Dynamo rear
- High-powered front
- High-powered rear.
After a selection process, we tested 50 lights.
The test is conducted in an inner-city laneway after sunset to create a realistic scenario. Ten judges stand at a distance of 200 metres and rate each light in turn for effective visibility. They consider phase of flash and angled visibility (assessed from 50 metres) in addition to front-on visibility.
A key aspect of the test is that it is observational and realistic. For the front-on test, judges are 200 metres from the lights because that’s the minimum distance at which a bike light must be visible, as required by the road rules. For the angled test, the lights are displayed at an angle of 45 degrees to the judges, who stand 50m away. This simulates visibility at an adequate distance for a car travelling at 50km/h to react and brake before hitting a bike rider.
The lights are identified to the judges by their number in the order they are shown. A control light – the best light in the category from last years test – is shown before each light. The judges are told the control is worth an 8 out of ten for the purpose of the test and they then give their subjective ratings to each light.
Because waterproofness, durability and usability of lights are also important factors affecting a purchase decision, all lights in the test are investigated by a team of RMIT industrial design students coordinated by their lecturer. See our post What makes a good bike light? for more on this.
The visibility ratings and the industrial design ratings are combined to determine the overall rating of each light. Finally, we weight visibility as 60 per cent of the overall rating because visibility is the most important aspect of lights. We have another post, Lights test methodology, with more detail on how we run the test. We’d love to hear what you think.
For the overall ranking of all 50 lights and visibility and water resistance scores see the tables below (clicking on the image brings up a larger version and Ctrl+ or Ctrl- enlarges or reduces it).
Want to know more about dynamo light set-ups? See Dynamo lights