At this time of year, with the light getting dark at around 4pm, headlights are (in my view) an absolutely essential purchase – though, of course, not legally required.
When I first bought my Pinnacle, I also got a pack of Cateye lights thrown in on the Ride to Work scheme. “I only need them to be seen,” I told the salesman, and duly he gave me a pack of lights that could just about light up the inside of a paper bag. The folly of this purchase became painfully obvious to me when riding on the huge cycle paths near Woking in Surrey – they’re absolutely no good whatsoever. If you can’t see the pavement in front of you in the dark, you’re riding dangerously. Even street lights often don’t give you much light to ride by, and car headlights present all their own hazards.
For the winter, I purchased a Lezyne Power XL from Evans Cycles. Retailing at around £85, it came as highly recommended by Cycling Active magazine as one of the best purchases for under £100. Prices for bike lights can go to stupid heights – I’ve even seen one set for over £400. That’s more than my bike cost. Anyway, the Lezyne is powerful – with several modes of varying brightness, all of which give different longevity to the battery, which is USB chargeable. This is a constant balancing act for cyclists. Simply put, we don’t have the huge batteries of cars, and no alternator to charge up on the go. The more light you want, the less time your battery is going to last. Lezyne claim that the Power XL will give you around 4 hours light on its maximum setting, but in reality I’ve found it’s more like 2 – 3, and can get quite a bit dimmer as it tries to conserve energy in its death throes. The Power XL does give off a decent beam, though, and is ideal for commuters. The fitting to the bike can be a bit of a pain, and has a tendency to shake loose if you go over a hard bump, but that may just be the way I’ve got it installed. It’s frequently discounted, and the bargain price of £64 I paid makes it worth every penny.
Things brings me to my final point: other cyclists. If you’re in a 2-way cycle lane, coming head-on to other cyclists, and you have no headlight, you’re an accident waiting to happen. Twice in the last month, I’ve had to brake sharply because a cyclist couldn’t see the lane properly and was about to hit me head-on. Be safe, be visible, and invest in a decent light.