Gear Guy

What headlights are best for night biking?

Over the winter I've been commuting to work on my bike and using a set of CatEye headlights. The light they throw out, though, is pretty weak. What headlight system would you recommend for biking at dusk and in the dark? Rob San Francisco, California

A: Yes, a good light is a pretty important item. It's true that even a fairly dim light will at least make you visible to traffic. But if you want to see where you're going and avoid road hazards such as potholes and curbs, then bright illumination is mandatory.

Light & Motion ARC

You have lots of choices, so the question is how much do you want to spend? On the inexpensive end, it's very hard to beat Performance's Viewpoint EVO, a ten-watt system that gives you adequate light for road riding and about two hours of battery life. It's a real bargain—normally $130, Performance is currently selling it for half that (

The next step up is something like NiteRider's Digital Evolution ($229; I used a light like this for years for fast nighttime club rides, and it's great. It features a bright 15-watt bulb as well as six- and ten-watt settings to reduce light output and extend battery life (up to four hours on the six-watt setting). Moreover, a "fuel gauge" lets you know how much battery juice you have left. This is a great light—very reliable and rugged.

Lastly, you can spend some serious scratch and get a true light cannon. Light & Motion and NiteRider both make what are called HID (high-intensity discharge) lights that use sophisticated circuitry, bulbs, and reflectors to cast a beam that's almost the equal of car headlights in terms of brightness. For two winters, I've been nighttime single-tracking with a helmet-mounted Light & Motion ARC light. It puts out an astonishing amount of light—brighter than four of the 15-watt bulbs. Yet battery life is three hours. Of course, you pay for this sort of performance: $409 ( But to turn night into day, this one's the ticket.

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