Bicycle Tailights: Vistalites versus NiteRider

I wouldn’t go so far as to say Vistalites are “very visible” in the daytime. I have one that I hang on my Camelbak and I don’t even bother to turn it on until dusk. If you want it to have any chance of being visible in the daylight, you’ll have to change batteries more frequently to make sure they are fresh.

It was my primary taillight until I got the NiteRider taillight, so I’m not knocking it.

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The best by far is the one from NiteRider. The only catch is that it costs $50 and has to plug into their battery pack, so

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you are going to spend $150 even if you go with the lowend Trailrat.

I balked at buying one until I followed one. It’s the only light I’ve seen that is actually effective in the daylight.

If you are looking at the low end

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, plan to spend about $15. I used a Vistalight before I bought the NiteRider.

If you want to go even lower than that, go to Home Depot or a hardware store and pick up a small button strobe for $2.95. They last about a month of fairly regular use and have replaceable batteries (although I usually keep the ones which are getting weak and give them out to riders I run into after dark. Weak is better than none.)

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Night Cycling, Blinking Lights, Harold and Maude

I have a Niterider taillight mounted to the rack that I run in flashing mode any time I’m on the road. As soon as it starts getting darker, I have a Vistalight on my Camelbak that I usually run in solid mode. I also have a clip-on blinking button-type light on the back of my helmet (They are available for $2.95 at Home Depot. I buy them by the handful and pass them out to bike riders I meet on the road at night.)

My riding shoes have a reflective strip on the heels; I wear a bright yellow jersey; I’ve added some reflective tape to the front and rear of my helmet. I also attach a small piece of reflector tape to the strap on my gloves. That way the car behind me has a better chance to see my signal at night.

The front of the bike has a NiteRider Digital Pro-12. At night I use whatever brightness is appropriate for the ambient light. During the day, I put it in into strobe mode whenever I’m in a high-traffic area with lots of cars making turns in front of me.

Despite all of the recent controversy, I like wheel reflectors. Unless you hold an absolutely straight line, at some point the car behind you is going to see the reflection. And there’s no mistaking that you’re looking at a bicycle when you see them.

Since most of my riding is at night, I like to count on the “Harold Factor” to help keep me alive. That’s when Maude pokes Harold in the ribs and says, “Harold, what’s that crazy thing in the road up ahead?”

When that happens, mission accomplished.

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Night Cycling Lighting Options

Since the weather has gotten hotter, I’ve switched my riding schedule to the evenings. About four months ago I bought a Niterider Trail Rat for about a hundred bucks.

It serves me well on my nightly 12-15 mile rides, but runs out of juice when I want to go longer. My kid has offered to buy it from me for about what I bought it for, so I’m trying to convince myself that I want to spend $300 to upgrade to the Pro-12E.

All of my riding is done on the road in urban areas that range from very bright to coalmine dark. I want to be seen as much as I want to see.

Longer burn times, variable output, plug-and-forget charger all are appealing.

The only thing holding me back is price.

Anyone have any compelling reasons to push me either to it or away from it? Or has anyone found anything they like better?

(Recent lottery winners who have extra money are welcome to contribute excess cash to the project.)

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