Since bike helmets became mandatory cycling equipment, on the market emerged a wide range of accessories that mount to the helmets and that are designed to make a cyclist’s life easier. In this category, we can mention the bike helmet mirrors, the visors ,and also the bike helmet lights.
A bike helmet light, as its name suggests, is a type of bicycle light that mounts on the helmet. This accessory is confusing many novices who are wondering whether it is safe to use as a bike light or not. This guide aims to answer a few of the most frequent questions about this accessory.
What Type Of Lights Do You Need On A Bike?
According to the law, a bike needs a white front light and a red rear light. Full stop. Besides the lights, you’ll also need to have reflectors installed on the back of the saddle and on the wheels, but as far as lighting is concerned, the law doesn’t require you to use anything else than that.
There may be different regional or local regulations requiring the use of specific types of lights. The laws regarding the intensity of the lights may also vary from one state or country to another.
Regarding the bike helmet lights, they are not required, and in some cases, they are not even necessary. So, does it worth wearing one?
Why Use A Bike Helmet Light?
A bike helmet light is particularly useful if you’re practicing off-road disciplines. When the night falls, a bike helmet light can illuminate the trail better and, most importantly, it can illuminate the road if you’re looking in a different direction than straight ahead.
In fact, your regular bike light will also illuminate the trail or the road in front of your bike. As an experienced off-road rider, I can tell you that many times you’ll need to see what’s happening on your sides too. And a bike helmet light can help you with that.
You can also use a bike helmet light to announce your presence, although this type of bike light is not really effective for this purpose.
Lastly, there are also rear bike helmet lights designed to make you more visible in traffic. These lights are excellent, as long as you use them in addition to the regular rear lights mounted on the bike.
Advantages And Disadvantages Of Bike Helmet Lights
The main advantage of a bike helmet light is that it can illuminate any specific area. The light will simply follow the direction you’re looking at, which is a great advantage if you’re cycling on a mountain trail. Combined with the lights mounted on the bike, a bike helmet light can help you see more details than you normally would.
Rear bike helmet lights, on the other hand, are really useful because they make you more visible. This is important especially when the visibility is reduced due to bad weather or fog.
Rear bike helmet lights are either static or flashing. In my experience, flashing lights are better as they use the battery more efficiently. Moreover, combined with an under-the-saddle reflector and a powerful static rear light mounted further down the bike, a flashing rear bike helmet light will draw more attention.
Regarding the main disadvantages of the bike helmet lights, a front light can simply confuse a driver or another cyclist if used as a sole light source.
Most traffic participants expect to see the light of a vehicle located at a certain height. A front bike helmet light is located too high compared to the standard, this is why drivers or cyclists can easily mistake it for a landscape light and only spot you when it’s too late.
A front bike helmet light used on a trafficked road can also blind the drivers or cyclists. This can pose a safety hazard not only for you but for the traffic in general. For this reason, it is recommended to limit the use of the front bike helmet lights for off-road cycling only.
As for the rear bike helmet lights, although recommended they have the disadvantage of being too small.
In fact, most rear helmet lights are LED lights which are bright and visible from a long distance, but too small. This might confuse drivers who might think that you’re actually further away than you actually are. To avoid confusions, use a large and bright light on your bike. The brightness of both lights should be similar.
What To Look For In A Bike Helmet Light?
Traditional bike lights, including the helmet-mounted type, are halogen lights. This technology is stable and reliable but in the last years, the LED technology improved. The modern bike helmet LED lights boast a great light beam, they consume less energy compared to the halogen lights and have a longer lifespan.
There are available both front and rear bike helmet lights. Their performances are often superior to the halogen lights and they last a lot longer.
The breakaway mounts are helmet mounts designed to break in the event you crash. This is very important, as it reduces the risk of neck injury and brain damage if falling on a hard surface. Everything you mount on the helmet, including the bike helmet light, should have a breakaway mount.
In regard to this, you should know that there is no standard on how easily the mount should break and most manufacturers don’t test their products for safety. For this reason, you should ask the manufacturer evidence on how safe the bike helmet light is before purchasing.
There is no use in wearing a helmet light if it dies on you when you’re in the middle of nowhere. LED lights require less energy than halogen lights. Regarding the batteries, make sure they are powerful and preferably rechargeable.
The batteries should also be easy to change and you should also carry replacement batteries with you. Pay attention to their weight too, as some models are quite heavy and annoying to wear on the helmet.