Helmet lights for safety


by Andrew Martin on Jan 26, 2007 at 10:18 AM

Last night I finally realized the true value of the bright headlamp: getting a left-turning driver’s attention. I was using the Princeton Tec Dual 3W LED while riding down a gradual hill in the bike lane. Despite all the lumens I was throwing out and my reflective clothing - a driver turning left from the center turn lane apparently didn’t see me. As he started his turn I grabbed the brakes and looked at him. He hit the brakes and froze like a deer in headlights. He waved apologetically for not seeing me and we both continued on our way. Without the helmet light - I think it would have been a different ending to the story.

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Holy crap! On the roads here in Boulder, I frequently see under-illuminated cyclists and I wonder if they think they’re more visible than they are, or if they just aren’t thinking about it. The fact is, when you’re driving a car a tiny bobbing light can be hard to distinguish—so max out the lumens.

Ride safe.

I also have found it helpful in traffic to go with a front blinking LED as well (on the bars).  With all the rain we get - anything to grab attention in the poor visibility is a help.

I’ve been using a Knog Frog white LED as a tiny helmet light. My primary light is a DiNotte Ultralight 5W, so the Knog is mostly to see my computer and increase my visibility. What do you do with your helmet light in the rain? I wear a Bell Metro and when I put its cover on, the Knog has to come off.

I agree that a helmet-mounted light is helpful for precisely the situation you describe.

But PLEASE keep the big lumens pointed straight ahead and put a smaller blinkie on your helmet. While driving, I’ve been blinded by cyclists with their helmet-mounted headlights who apparently think they need to look at me to ensure I see them. I’ve seen you already—there’s no need to blind me!

Mike - My “commute helmet” is my rain helmet.  I’ve used gaffing tape to seal all the vents.  Most of the pads are out as well because I always wear a hat underneadth.  I feel your pain though…not sure what to do in that case.

Fritz - I hear you.  One of my pet-peeves is when riders throw light around like it doesn’t impact others.  Mainly on the trail, but on the roads too.  It’s powerful stuff some of these lights (especially the HIDs which I think are overkill for most any application.

Andrew—-if you think HIDs are overkill, what do you think of the upcoming B&M Big Bang?

Aside from the price, I’m in love. If motorists think I’m a motorycle that’s a good thing. Of course, I live where there are NO other bike commuters, so I don’t have to worry about blinding them.


I have seen quite a few unlit cyclists. They are usually either kids on BMX bikes or stereotypical DUI-type cyclists(WalMart double boinger, milk crate on the back, cigarette). Both groups like to ride facing traffic, so it’s quite exciting when I approach them, as they can’t really get over. For a while I carried cheap LED lights I bought from a seller in Hong Kong, and mounted them for these guys. They all thanked me but looked at me like I was crazy. I quit doing it, as the lights cost me 10 bucks each. Cops should carry them and do what I did, though.

Mike - that Big Bang thing looks incredible.  I think the biggest issue with bright LEDs and HIDs is that when the focus is on you - it’s blinding.  I’d be interested to see how it performs in that case.  Of course at $953 a piece….

Regarding the so-called “DUI-type"s - this is a HUGE problem in Phoenix.  I was working there and had a bike with me to ride.  Of course some report came out saying that the greater Phoenix area had by far the highest death rate for cyclists.  My wife called that same day telling me I couldn’t ride.

I looked into it - apparently the huge homeless/low income populatation get around on bikes and don’t really follow the rules of the road.  Combine that with most roads in the area being 40-50mph…and you get a lot of “bicycle fatilities”.  Sad really.


1) I would definitely be more interested in the Big Bang—-if it didn’t cost more than a lot of nice bikes! The technology will trickle down, maybe. But how much demand is there for a light that costs close to a thousand dollars?

2) The “DUI-type” cyclists are a big problem down here. I don’t know if there was a memo posted in the local bars informing people to ride on the wrong side of the road, but they all do it. I don’t know how they can stand to do it. Our local sheriff’s department holds bike safety rodeos at the elementary schools. Maybe they should do the same at DUI school? :-)