|Lights are a big deal for Trans Iowa. (Image by Jason Boucher)|
"I have a handle bar light I am happy with but have not been able to find a helmet light. Any helmet light suggestions to make seeing your cockpit easy?"
Answer: One of the more recent innovations useful to night time cyclists is the explosion of LED lighting technologies. In fact, things change on a year by year, and almost month by month, basis anymore. I find it amazing, and if you dig in to the LED light market, you might come away with a glazed over look in about half an hour. There is so much out there I cannot possibly cover it all in one post, or a week's worth.
Certainly it is entirely possible for anyone to build their own lights from scratch, but prices for Asian sourced lights make it almost not worth your time to even pick up a soldering iron. Cheap lights are one thing, but getting something that works without annoying issues is another. So, thinking along the lines of what actually works in a no fuss manner, here are some features I would require in a helmet light.
- Light weight, fully self contained system. No external bateries.
- Fully capable of illuminating the road/cues for 9 hours with no battery changes.
- At least 150 Lumens of power.
So, let's break this down- First off, 150 Lumens is what I consider the lower threshold of where a rider can use the light emitted for navigation. Any less and you'll have a difficult time seeing anything and you will certainly "outrun" the light on downhills. So, what I usually look for is a higher powered light that has a medium or low setting that is at least 150 Lumens or as high as 250 Lumens. (NOTE- I might use a higher powered light on my handle bars, but 250 Lumens is plenty there as well.) By the way, a helmet light is more than something you'll use for just seeing cues with. You'll need it to read signs on corners and to "shoot your light up the road" or side to side as you negotiate down hills and as you try to find good riding lines at night. Usually you can find a light that will run for several hours at the power levels I'm suggesting that aren't too heavy and cumbersome.
|Jeremy Fry heading out into the night during T.I.v7 (Image by Wally Kilburg)|
There are generator lights that are amazing, but..... That requires a special wheel, wiring, and special high end lights need to be considered here. Rain and mud could be a factor, so inexpensive generator lights may not be a good choice. A great system would also have a USB port for charging techno-gadgets, so there is that advantage to consider here. A generator system is a viable choice, but they are expensive and they aren't necessary to see well in Trans Iowa. Choose what you think is best here.
Finally, I know I haven't addressed seeing your cues, but it shouldn't be an issue with a helmet light. Generally speaking, most lights have enough "spill" that you may not have to look downward anymore than usual to get the bars illuminated to see your cues on the cue sheet holder. (More on cue card holders later)
|This Lezyne light can be purchased with an external battery pack which doubles its run times, easily encompassing a Trans Iowa.|
If you insist on using a high drain computer, (GPS), then you probably should look into an external battery charging device. (Or the generator hub idea discussed above.) There are tons of choices out there. Dirt Bag Tip: Turn OFF your cell phone until you need it. Most smart phone batteries will hold a charge for days when turned off and do you really want to get all those social media updates while you are trying to ride 300 plus miles? Yeah.....I don't think so.
|The GPS computer on the left might last you all of TI- The one on the right will definitely do it!|
Again to recap- Lights are amazing these days and finding great lights for the helmet or bars that would run for the dark hours of Trans Iowa without recharging or plugging in new batteries is a definite, reasonably priced reality. It wasn't always this way, even five years ago. Battery charging devices exist that will keep a Garmin running for 30 plus hours easily. (But again- you don't have to choose that head ache. A wireless Cat Eye for 50 bucks will run forever and you won't have to turn it on and off. ) Side Note- Getting exact mileage is a game that you won't win. You'll be off on mileages considering that you'll be wavering, taking side trips for resupply, and possibly making wrong turns. You should think of mileage as a "suggestion"- to be a relative cue for your eyes to look for signs that will match up with cue sheet prompts. Or......hook yourself to a veteran Trans Iowa rider and don't let go! Sooner or later you'll get the hang of it if you pay attention.
Next: Cue Sheet Holders