A few years ago you’d rarely see another soul along the A40 cycle path, and having a good light to see by was just a case of buying the brightest one you could afford. On dark country roads this even seemed an advantage in that it made approaching drivers think twice about exactly what it was coming towards them.
Now though, it’s just a pain in the retina for fellow bicycle users – as cycling becomes more popular, so being blinded by the latest photon light bomb coming towards you becomes more common.
The germans and the dutch design bike light optics to have a light cut off – like a dipped beam – which not only prevent fellow bike users from being blinded, but focus the beam where it’s required so making the best use of the energy. In fact bike lighting has come on leaps and bounds with the advent of the high power LED and modern reflector design, meaning the power available from a 3 Watt dynamo can produce the kind of beam you might previously have found on a moped.
I use a hub dynamo because of the simplicity and reliability – it’s always ready to go and never slips in the wet. Sturmey Archer have always had one, connoisseurs have been using the german Schmidt for years, but now Shimano manufacture one which is efficient and more affordable.
For the lights themselves I use Busch&Mueller, either the IQ Fly or the Cyo, and more recently the Phillips SafeRide. They do battery powered lights too, same beam technology just slightly less convenient power source. As ever your choice will come down to how much you want to spend, but if you value convenience and you use your bike regularly my advice is consider a hub dynamo.