The Riding Gravel Light Round-Up: Introduction- by Grannygear with comments from Guitar Ted
Gravel bike lights for night riding: Assessing our gravel riding needs after the sun sets.
Press Release: “Go Gravel Or Go Home, an exciting and cutting edge company new to the rapidly expanding world of gravel, is proud to introduce the Gravel Sock! Made in gravel specific lengths and thicknesses, the Gravel Sock fills a need in the way no other cycling sock does. Your shoes and feet deserve the best sock designed to meet the very unique needs of a gravel rider…..blah blah, blah…etc.”
Just kidding of course, but the bike industry loves finding another way to slice up the cycling pie, so if they can create or exploit a niche, then they will pounce on that like a cat on a June Bug. And then follows the niche specific products that will fill in the newly identified and heretofore unknown empty spaces wherein we need something desperately and nothing we were using before will do, etc.
But sometimes there is a legitimate question to be asked about what is best for a certain type of cycling. For instance, road shoes are okay for a gravel bike ride until you need to get off and walk and then, not so much. You are not likely to use a full face DH helmet for Dirty Kanza either.
So what about lights to see with (as compared to lights to be seen by…i.e. safety lights)? A light that is great for MTB use…is that just fine for gravel riding too? I know from experience that the best light for night time road riding is not the best light for off road riding. It’s a different world with different needs. In this series of articles we want to take a look at lighting needs for night time gravel riding: How much light in lumens do we really need? What kind of beam pattern? What about run times? In fact, what kind of gravel riding? Is this a basically smooth dirt road we are riding over or a rutted backcountry doubletrack? Are we gravel racing Trans Iowa or are we bikepacking remote trails?
Lights for cycling are something I find amazing in many ways. Not least of which is how in the world did we ever ride with those old lights?! I don’t know now. Perhaps in my younger days I had cat-like night vision……or something. Anyway.
Technology marches on and what was barely usable for a quick single track fix in the 90’s has become refined, re-imagined, and now looks and performs nothing like what we were used to seeing back 20 years ago. Gone are the halogen bulbs, the water bottle sized batteries, and run times measured in minutes. Lights are changing as far as technology faster than Iowa weather, and that’s pretty darn fast! It’s hard to keep up with the latest light gizmo-tech, but we are going to give it a shot.
From my perspective, gravel riding demands a bit different set of needs than a full-on mtb set up does. It wasn’t until recently that light manufacturers started to give us more options for riders in run times and light intensities. It wasn’t long ago that a run time that would give a rider, say, 4 to 8 hours of light, was too low an intensity to really use in many gravel road riding situations. Riders would often “out run” their lights, speeding down hills at night at rates of 25mph to 35mph with lights set for urban commuting speeds in order to extend run times. It wasn’t ideal. But now we have lights that last hours and hours at intensities that are more than powerful enough to use at ridiculous descending speeds on gravel. But what happens if you use more power? Is “more better”, or can there be too much? What about light color, or beam patterns for gravel travel? What about dynamo lights? Isn’t that the fool-proof way to go? Questions abound.
Hopefully we can sort through much of this as we get along in the Round-Up. We have a selection of lights here that don’t require anything proprietary, are reasonably priced, and feature much of the latest in lighting technology. Some of the questions asked won’t get answered, but we will try to do our best, and we will reach out to others in the gravel world for perspectives other than our own to get a wider view of what works and what, if any, are the pitfalls for some of these systems.
Back to Grannygear……
I will add anything I think is different for where and how I ride in So Cal, and then, to look at this in the real world we have assembled a few lights of various types and sizes. We will be mounting them up and evaluating how they play out when strapped to the bars of a gravel bike and used across different conditions. Brands represented so far are Light & Motion, Niterider, Lezyne, and Ethos and we will look at helmet mounting vs. bar mounting or both.
Stay tuned as we sort through this in the dark so to speak.
Note: Riding Gravel has received the following company’s lights for test and review: Light & Motion, Niterider, Lezyne, and Ethos. None of those companies paid us or bribed us for these reviews and we will strive to give our honest thoughts and opinions throughout.