In an ideal world, you’d hop on your bicycle, push a button, and all your lights would be on. Just like when you get in a car, flick one switch for lights and you’re ready to go. This can be done with locking bike lights!
Some new bikes are integrating this exact system, but this doesn’t help you if you already have a bike.
Here are a few options to avoid the normal lifestyle of detaching and reattaching your lights every ride.
- Fortified Locking Bike Lights ($$, Just the rear light) – These connect to your bike with proprietary screws, so no one can take them off except you! Lock your bike with a U-lock and leave the lights locked in place! They’re not going anywhere, and if they do, Fortified guarantees them against theft. (Read in the troubleshooting section below for more details) UPDATE (1/14/19): For a lower budget, I have found another pair of anti-theft lights, but they are only “be seen” lights with a low amount of lumens.
- Bell Radian 650 Anti-Theft Bike Lights ($) – For a lower budget, I have found these lights, but they are only “be seen” lights with a low amount of lumens. The anti-theft part of these lights is that you have to take the light off and then spend a really long time unscrewing them to get them off. A thief probably wouldn’t even know how to remove them.
- Helmet lights ($$ by Light & Motion) – If you put your lights on your helmet, you only have to worry about your helmet, nothing else. This has the added benefit of shining your light directly where you’re looking. If you’re low budget, normal headlamps can usually be fastened on a helmet too!
- Bag lights – If you take normal bike lights and fasten them on to backpacks, rear pannier bags, and other such things, you can usually find a solution for at least your rear light.
- UPDATE (1/14/19): I recently discovered Double O Lights that fit on your U-lock when not in use. Not as convenient as lights that you simply leave alone, but still looking pretty cool!
Now some of you may be thinking “Why do I even need lights?” “There’s plenty of light from the street lights, who needs more than that?”
Why you need lights
- Helps other road users see you. For urban commuting, this is most of a light’s purpose, since street lights probably illuminate the road well enough otherwise. While you’re in a brightly lit area, it’s best to use some kind of flashing variant on your light so your lights contrast the many other lights on the road.
- Helps you see what’s in front of you, mostly potholes and road imperfections. On darker roads, it’s best to set your lights to the solid beam so you can see the road better. It’s also better for other road users so you don’t blind them with the flashing. A great place to use the solid beam is on a bike path with only bicycles or pedestrians. A flashing light here is unnecessary. It’s not pleasant to be happily riding along onto only to be blinded into oblivion by an oncoming cyclist with their strobe light.
- Legal reasons. If you get into an accident on the road and you didn’t have the proper bike lights or reflectors required by law, you may be put at fault by default, even if it wasn’t actually your fault.
Most cheaper lights are under 100 lumens. This is generally fine for small, bright, urban roads, but even as a safety light people won’t see you from very far away. If you can, upgrade to a 100-500 lumen light. 500-1000 lumen is great for seeing the road, but for commuting it probably uses too much battery to be worthwhile.
Be aware of your battery life on your lights. As the battery dies, your lights slowly get dimmer no matter the initial lumen level. I see commuters all the time with lights that are too dim to be seen from a proper distance.
You mentioned a guarantee for stolen Fortified lights?
A friend of mine in fact did get his Fortified front light stolen. He filed a police report, sent it over to Fortified with a proof of purchase, and they sent him a new light! Our hunch is that if you don’t screw the screws very tight, a thief can sometimes get at them with pliers or something. Make sure you screw in the light as tight as you can!
How do I charge the Fortified lights?
The lights can secretly be opened up to reveal the rechargeable battery. The battery has a microUSB on it, so can be taken inside and charged. Yes, if a thief knows how to open it they can steal your battery, but it’s a proprietary battery that wouldn’t be of much use.
My handlebars are very narrow, will the front Fortified light fit there?
I admit that is a caveat of that front light. It needs a lot of space to properly fit. I’ve fit it on my narrow handlebars by moving one of my brakes over slightly to accommodate the required space.
The reviews on the Fortified lights are not very high, what do you think about that?
Most of the low reviews are from a problem they had with some lights turning off from bumps, which they’ve solved by including extra padding to make sure the battery doesn’t lose contact. Mine never had a turning off problem. A friend of mine did have that problem and the extra padding solved it.
A Word of Caution
The point of this blog is convincing people that you can ride your bike to everything and not have to worry about it. Although I believe in this, it’s worth noting that bad things can and do happen, and you should be mentally prepared for the situation where some very dedicated person manages to steal your locked up lights or bike.