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little mad riding hood
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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
... and a rant about the current trend for "lumen envy" or pure overkill or whatever-you-may-call-it.

I've been on many a night ride, off-road and on through the years, since the days when dual 15W incandescent Vistalights were state-of-the-art (used a set of those in the 12 hours of Paint Creek MTB race in fact). Right now I'm making do on winter rides on local trails with a pair of Light In Motion Stellas, a 150L helmet mount with a 120L on the bars. They rock! The spread, colour temp and form factor is perfect for me, they last a long time, and the price was right.

So, I'm running 270 lumens TOTAL, on trails, at night, and I haven't died yet, or even come close to hitting anything. Granted, these are not technical trails, but, honestly, it isn't the 24 Hours of Moab (trust me I've been there). Were I riding something faster, steeper, more technical, or more way-out-in-the-outback, sure I'd want more reach. But my boyfriend (a more aggressive rider) runs a similar setup on these same trails while riding a lot faster, and isn't bothered by it either.

Recently I've been noticing a trend on the local trails and bike paths, for helmet mount/barmount combos that rival the outputs of 4x4 lightbars. Don't get me wrong, I'm definitely in the camp of "use what works for you", and I don't disagree that when you're riding fast on rocky, steep singletrack you really need the extra power.

However, I'm starting to really weary of helmet mounts on 2-way trails that blind oncoming users and force you to have to stop and look away until your vision clears. This is annoying at worst on the bike path, but on narrow singletrack (Doudy or Springbrook, which I ride fairly regularly with, yes, my wimpy little Stella setup) it's positively unsafe. I know most of these uber-power systems have varying settings but it seems that (even on a 10' wide concrete bike path in the middle of town that you could ride with ambient lighting alone) a lot of riders just run them on FULL HIGH all the time.

So is this whole lumen-overkill deal just the current MTB version of dick-measuring, or what??? (I'm a girl, for the record, so maybe I just don't get it...)
 

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I think you pretty much nailed it. That's what sucks about the "lumen race", it hurts the people who share the trail with folks that subscribe to the view that you can't have too much light. But, the fact that almost all LED lights can be run a lower levels is the only saving grace. In my opinion running these variable brightness lights way brighter than required by the conditions is simply rude.
 

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congrats on your lights, they are a good set up:thumbsup:

I could say a couple of things just for the sake of playing the devil's advocate...

I used to ride full speed and technical terrain with a 12w halogen Jetlight. I loved that light, had a great pattern and plenty of light (my friends droped their jaws all the time). When I started to see more HIDs and LEDs, I started to get the perception as if I was running out of battery (yellowish and even more so in contrast) and my old Jetlite weighted about 2 pounds with battery (niMh?)
Now, I have more lights and running time, they cost more and weight less
I have ridden fast technical terrains with 225 lumens just fine (Surefire Z2 with a Q5 upgrade) but I'm plain OCD with lights so I want more (up to a point):D :D

Does this make sense to a chick? how many shoes or purses does a gal need????? we like certain toys and you like certain toys ;-)
 

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little mad riding hood
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407 Posts
Discussion Starter · #4 ·
BBW said:
Does this make sense to a chick? how many shoes or purses does a gal need????? we like certain toys and you like certain toys ;-)
oh totally!

Believe me, I'm not dismissing these systems out of hand. When or if I decide to get involved in something like 24 Hours of Moab again... or even if one of our local more technical trails (Heil/Hall/Picture Rock) was legal to ride at night (it isn't), I'd definitely be looking at getting a more powerful system for the "outback" or fast technical bits. If nothing else, because it's more likely that running something like this would hopefully make mountain lions think twice before dropping on us.

I ride a lot, and in addition to commuting I have been doing a lot more night trail riding this fall/winter with the new set of Stellas. I think one of the biggest considerations in this particular situation is that I'm riding popular night trails that, like I said, aren't all that technical. So it's kind of a perfect storm of frequent night users + a singletrack loop / system that you've got 2-way traffic on, such that on any given night you'll probably encounter ten to a dozen other riders. If even half of them are running super-powerful systems, then it can be kind of obnoxious. Not all of the guys who run helmet mounts know, or care, to turn away a little bit from approaching riders so they don't blind us. I just think that for the technical level of this trail system, and for the way I ride, the system I run is appropriate, and I probably wouldn't run very much more power just out of consideration for the rest of the trail users (hikers, runners, it's a busy network, even at night).

Part of this is also, I'm sure, is due to the fact that I have large pupils and fairly sensitive night vision, so I'm easily blinded. It's worse for my boyfriend, who also has large pupils and has had lasik, meaning he gets starbursts from bright point light sources that make it really hard to see. He is pretty sure he's just going to ride right off the side of a ledge one night when one of the guys with the uber-systems spotlights him, but, eh. One of the reasons I'm still not wild about getting lasik just yet.

I don't even know what to think about riders who run 1000+ lumen systems on the bike path, in the complete absence of cars, in ambient light situations where the cheapest Cateye would suffice. I've encountered someone (I think it's the same guy) 2 out of 3 nights this past week who's got some insanely bright helmet mount system - it's worse than trying to ride on the road with some driver that won't turn his brights down. To me, this is nearly as rude as the college kids I've nearly T-boned up by campus because they're too cheap to buy any lights at all. Or maybe I'm just bitter... *shrug*

I guess I wish riders would maybe think a little bit more about using lighting that's appropriate for their circumstances. Sometimes more isn't better, it's just obnoxious. I don't know about the rest of the U.S. but we have enough trouble trying to keep trails open over various and endless user conflict hassles - I can only imagine that this "more-is-better" overkill lumen-envy mentality isn't really helping our case much with the local night hikers/runners, dog walkers, and all those humourless Sierra Club types who want any and every excuse to insist that MTBers are a bunch of irresponsible, wildlife-terrorising nutjobs who should be summarily banned from every square inch of open space for all time.
 

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aka übermensch
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Now that my useless post for the day is out of the way...

Perhaps these individuals don't know the proper etiquette for night riding (I know I blinded a few people on my first night ride a few weeks ago)

or

They're new to night riding and didn't want to get an underpowered light and got the brightest light they could

or

They're total douche bags and don't really care.
 

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little mad riding hood
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407 Posts
Discussion Starter · #9 ·
Shark said:
Sounds like you need to find a less traveled trail if it bothers you that much.
that would be really nice. unfortunately, such a beast does not exist around here. there's only one set of trails that's legal to ride at night that we can reach from the house after work. Everyone else does the same.

looking away only does so much, especially when someone pops around a corner at you suddenly.

another consideration (c.f. my entire last paragraph) is being a responsible trail user and sharing well with others. Boulder already has a light pollution ordinance and people are sensitive about wilderness issues around here.

some of the discussions about lighting I've seen on commuter boards and these forums begin to sound like the whole "straight-pipes-save-lives" conversation with Harley users. That's all.
 
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