first night ride & lighting questions

With the Nottingham night rides & Phil’s canalside ride, this evening I thought I’d have a go for the first time. particularly good timing as it had just finished raining heavily & I had gone home from work early feeling ill.

did I forget anything? yes - I forgot that the Muni was in the car and that the car was 15 minutes walk away… anyway it was a nice walk.

I had a Petzl zoom headtorch and a £10 single-LED Cateye light (mounted as low as possible above the forks) to show the way and some spoke LED lights for the Blackpool illuminations touch. It wasn’t particularly dark as the low cloud was reflecting the London light pollution well.

it was a pretty flat, well trodden path with a little mud, leaves and branches, but what a challenge! it’s kind of… umm… zen-like? I may as well have been riding blindfold. The lights weren’t bad, but subtle changes in gradient were invisible. a few UPDs later I tried mounting the cateye on my shoe, under the laces (taking the attitude of you’re not going to find out if you don’t try!). a bit better, but off-putting. 2 may have worked… but I reverted to the mounting.

it was my shortest ride for a long time ( a mile maybe?) but I returned covered in mud & itching to do it again, but with more lighting!

the questions:

what’s the best lighting setup? I got the cateye as I knew it wouldn’t get in the way and I could get the right mounting. I’d like to know what joemarshall’s is but I imagine it’s very expensive for a casual rider.

where do you mount the lights? the lower the better I assume, so you see shadows & therefore terrain changes can be more easily tackled. I’m probably over-paranoid about knee-room - is side mounting lights common?

thanks in advance

PS - the under-the-laces idea could be good as additional secondary lighting…!

Uhh I dont know about the lighting setup but you should probably mount the lights below your seatpost (I cant imagine anywhere else)


my freind and I sometimes go down this 2 mile downhiil trail that leads right to our school. and we go at 5:30 in the morning (still pitchblack for us) and ride to school. we use very crap headlamps, but its more fun when you have tunnel vision, it makes it way more challenging. but i wish i had more light. night riding is fun, except one time we came across two bears, but it ended all ok.

I just started night rides two weeks ago. My usual solo route is mostly off-road, with a little street ( , if you’re curious what Arizona terrain is like). I did a little research before I purchased, both here on the forums and elsewhere on the web. I was hoping to get by with a similiar light to the one you’re using, simply because the bike lights on the market are extremely pricey. There are a lot of hiking/camping head lights out there that aren’t very expensive at all.

After reading up and talking to some people, though, I decided it was worth the money. It just isn’t feasible to go with anything less than a mid-range bike light setup. This is what I use:

The high-end of bike lights are HID setups. They’re insanely bright–very blue/white light. In my opinion, they’re overkill for the slower speeds of unicycling (as compared to downhill/freeride on a bike). HID lights are $400-500 USD; something like:

The cheapest quality head-mountable lights seem to be around $100 USD. The charge time is longer, though, and the low-end systems aren’t aware of battery life while in use. You can easily damage them by depleting the battery. The light I purchased is Niterider’s cheapest “digital” setup, with a smart charger and low-light reserve when the battery runs out.

The other big bike light company, at least in the US, is Light & Motion: . They seem comparable to Niterider in all respects; I’m not sure if one company produces better quality lights than the other or not.

I haven’t actually tried night muni yet but I’ve gone out at night a bit on that other cycle I have with the extra wheel. I’ve found the head mounted light to be the best for me. It always points where you look so you always have light where you need it.

The decent lights that are made for off road riding have much brigher and cleaner light than the really cheap lights. As someone else mentioned, they can get outrageously expensive ($500) but I think those are way overkill…at least for me.

I spent 100 bucks on the nightrider single headlight.

This was a dramatic improvement over my AA powered crappy light. I still keep the crappy light with me as a backup. It would suck to be caught out in the middle of the woods at night with no light at all if the one on your head breaks.

Joe’s lights are a set of lumicycles from which are very nice and about £170.

Mine are a based mainly on this using 5W and 10W MR11 bulbs and 32mm pipe bits, and they do the job nicely, but are a bit of a faff /exciting and interesting experiment. (delete as applicable). If you want I’ll post some more details.

If you want to buy lights I suggest looking at smart lights, which start at about £40 depending on what you want, or there are some good one’s by electron which are supposed to be good even if no-one has heard of the brand. You can find those on

On our nightrides we’ve all had helmet/head mounted lights, although I have thought about using frame mounted to add some shadows. The problem there is that off road a frame mounted light won’t always be pointing where you’re going on complicated bits where you really need it.

Hope that helps.


All good advice above.

Personally, if you’re going for Halogens I’d get at least 20W of lighting- but 35W is even better. I find that 10-20W is adequate but a little scary and tiring if the trail is not smooth- you miss a lot of bumps, and when you hit them unexpectedly it takes some effort not to UPD. It’s just so much more fun if you can see where you’re going.

The other thing is to go for a wide angle bulb- something like 30 degrees, simply because you are not interested in seeing 100m in front of you- you want to see 5-10m ahead. If the beam is too focussed you’ll end up following this intensely bright spot in front of you, and that actually makes your vision worse as your pupils contract.

I use Nightlightnings . I’m thinking of upgrading to a Luxeon LED system- heaps cheaper than HID’s, and almost as efficient.


Mine are lumicycles with 20w flood bulb and 12w spot bulb. Most of the time I ride with just the 12w spot. For muni riding, the spot is enough. Sometimes if I’m going very fast, I want the 20w flood. I previously had a 10w flood+12w spot, which is also a nice combination. If you’re riding a 29er or bigger wheel, 20w of light is nice to have, especially if you’re quite a fast rider. I’m not sure I quite ride fast enough to justify 35w, but I’m sure Ken does.

Gary (unicus) has a cheap head torch, which came with a battery holder, a 6V 5W halogen bulb and an LED backup. They’re pretty common. He upgraded the bulb to a 10w bulb (£2.50 from maplin) and uses a 4ah lead acid battery which he replaced the battery holder with (about £5 or so). Add a cheap charger and some wires and you’ve got a 10w light for not very much at all. If you’ve already got a charger that’ll charge lead acid batteries, this costs about £20. A cheap charger isn’t much more.

John’s is a bit more expensive, but more posh. The brightness of that setup is pretty much the same as lumicycles, the only difference is that he’s running lead acid batteries.

What you pay lots for in the lumicycles is the nice relatively lightweight batteries and the nice smart charger and also for the convenience of having it all wired together for you. If you’re not completely cack handed with a soldering iron, I’d suggest doing something along the lines of Gary or John’s setups, as you get a good light for not much and you can always upgrade the batteries if you get hooked.

Nightlightnings are very nice, but even more expensive than lumicycles once you’ve imported them over here.

I don’t like frame mounted lights. Especially if you’re going fast, you seem way too likely to break bulbs. Also the way the light wiggles while you’re riding is just too annoying. I’m for head mounted lights all the way.


Oops forgot:

This might be useful if you are handy with making stuff:

The homemade versions are way cheaper and kinda cool (You can use things like baked beans/beer cans/baby-food cans as your lighting cyclinders).

And the end result is a lot more lighting for you $$$. You might not get the fancy dimming circuitry, but at I find that I hardly use that anyway. The money saved can easily buy you enough batteries so you can run the lights at full power all night.

I worked at a bike shop for about 5 years and we did a lot of mountain biking at night. We tried many different setups ( boy is it nice to get stuff at dealer cost!). What we found was the best was a light on the handlebars (or uni frame) to see where you are steering and a light on the head to see where you are looking. Here is a link for a cheap headlamp that works well.

I regularly ride at night as I get of work at midnight and ride home; I have red LEDs on the wheel, frame, backpack, and helmet with a NiteRider Storm on my helmet

Or, if the picture doesn’t show, look here. Note that I’ve modified the mount so I could put it on top of the helmet - any light that mounts on the front of your helmet will seem heavier than it really is.

It cost me $250USD on eBay when the list price was 400. I wanted it because I was going to be using it on a recumbent tricycle that can easily attain speeds over 25 MPH on flat roads. I’ve used other lights but this one works for 4 hours with a reasonable sized battery and gives clean (no shadows from a lens/reflector) light that can reach out and touch. I used this one at FURECUS and some of the people there can attest to its brightness as we used it as the sole lighting in a cave for more than ten people.

I’ve not done any night MUni - yet - so I cannot remark on it under those circumstances but it’s BRIGHT. It may be over-kill, but I like it.

As always thanks folks. I don’t think any lighting could be called overkill, but it may reduce that frisson gained with a lack of visibility!

I’ll probably take it bit by bit.
I’ve remembered that the Petzl I’ve got is about 15 years old, so it could do with replacing. but I’m going to pop in to Maplins tomorrow to see if I can upgrade the bulb. maybe the battery isnt too fresh either!

The Nightlightnings look good & seem cheap when converted, so I may get someone to get them for me. the Agent Luminare seems very good - up to 35 watts for GB£81 plus shipping! oops - forgot VAT & import duty. 15% & 17.5% at the moment I think. Also spares could be a problem. they show GB£49.95 all-in to the UK for a replacement 35w bulb!

My only concern with the DIY versions is waterproofing and (of course) making a total hash of it. the Petzl could possibly be a good donor…


I bought it from Maplins, it’s this one for £7.99, it’s comfortable and not heavy. Add some batteries and it’s a good 5 watt halogen headlight (which can change from spot to flood) with an LED backup. If you’re not sure if night riding is for you (like I did) then it’s a cheap option. Of course I couldn’t leave it at that and as Joe said I swapped the supplied battery box (it takes 4 D type cells BTW) for a 6v 4.5 Ah sealed lead acid battery then put a 10 watt halogen lamp in. I had no heat problems and the headlight would probably take a more powerful lamp.

On Wednesday’s night ride I was not the brightest (light wise) rider and was outshined by both Joe and John (light and fitness wise) but I found my light perfectly adequate for me. One definite advantage twin halogens have is if one blows you don’t have to replace the lamp before continuing riding. The backup LED on the headlight I have would not be adequate for riding without street lights but should pass for legal requirements if required.

Something to consider is your normal eyesight. I’m fortunate in having good eyesight and my headlight works for me but if you have some vision impairment (wear glasses, contacts etc.) the type of light and position that’s good for some may not be suitable for others.


Re: first night ride & lighting questions

ParadoX wrote:
> Uhh I dont know about the lighting setup but you should probably mount
> the lights below your seatpost (I cant imagine anywhere else)

With powerful lights mounted anywhere on the unicycle, you’ll tend to
get distracting moving shadows as your knees move up and down on either
side of the beam of light (IME). It also becomes really difficult to
mount when your light is shining up in your eyes instead of down at the

My setup is similar to Joe’s, 2 Lumicycles (a 10W spot and a 20W mid,
which I’m thinking of replacing with a 20W spot), mounted on a helmet.
It’s the only reason I’ll wear a helmet on a yike.

Head mounting works well as long as it’s not foggy, raining or (worst of
all) snowing Then the light just bounces back in your eyes. In those
situations, if I’m on a unicycle I’ll take the lights off the helmet and
hold them in my hand. I’ve tried attaching them to my waist, but the
side-to-side movement of the patch of light in front of me was far too

If I’m on my bike and it gets foggy then I just have to slow down and
make do with the dynamo light at the front of the bike (although I’ve
requested a quotation for a recumbent loom, which will allow me to mount
the Lumis at the front of the bike and control them with handlebar
mounted switches).

Danny Colyer (the UK company has been laughed out of my reply address)
“He who dares not offend cannot be honest.” - Thomas Paine

I’m just getting into night muni riding and use a fairly powerfull hand held diving torch and a less powerfull head torch as back up or for when my torch holding hand is occupied on keeping balance, I find it’s quite effective and easy to point it where I want, although I haven’t tried anything too technical yet which would require too much arm waving and seat grabbing.

For night riding, you usually want as much light as possible. For night Muni, 24 hour races etc, I use a NiteRider Cyclone on my helmet. This is an HID light and very powerful. It lasts 4 hours on the full intensity setting and 7 hours on the lower setting. I used the lower setting in New Zealand doing the Moonride and only needed my backup light for an hour or two after it died. But I was kicking myself for not buying an extra battery since I would’ve really preferred riding at the high setting. The battery alone costs $135

For bike commuting all winter, I use this light on my helmet plus a NiteRider Digital 6V system on the handlebars. For the back, I use a Real Lite 18-led rear flasher which is great.

Either in traffic or on technical terrain, lots of light is really an advantage.

On the other hand, I started fullmoon mountain biking in 1984. For the next 10 years, we REMOVED our lights for all fullmoon rides - on purpose. The idea was to get closer to nature and not try and go fast. Those were some magical rides, pitch black under the trees. It was Bruce Bundy in about 1995 or so who introduced me to the concept that with a high-powered bike light you could go fast. The tunnel vision affect on twisty narrow singletrack is incredible. Since then I’ve gone on maybe 100 offroad night rides, always with one or more lights.


Yeah, I was pretty envious of your HID Nathan :slight_smile: , but at the end of the day (or night), I was glad to be running at full power 35W all night- even if it took 6 very cheap and heavy 7a/hr SLA batteries to do it :D.

Interesting you should mention riding by moonlight- sounds like fun. I reckon if you’ve got weak lights, you’re actually better off riding without them and let your eyes focus with the moonlight.

I did a 9 hour road ride in the dark once, from London to the coast. I’d got two 4 hour batteries with me and I got there without running out the first one. It’s amazing how easy it is to ride on roads in the dark as long as there’s enough light for you to see the hedges/fences at the edge of the road.

I can totally recommend riding through to dawn by the way, especially if you can organise yourself to arrive at a hill overlooking the sea or something nice like that just before dawn.


I’ve taken most advice & ignored some too.

I tried out a new battery & upgrading the bulb from a measley 3.6 watts to a massive 4.8w :astonished: , which had next to no effect.

I’ve just got a Cateye dual 10w + 10w set with lead battery for £50.00. I’m going to try them initially on the frame, and when everybody is proved right, use the Petzl headtorch as a mount for a head-mounted setup.

I’ve seen something similar in the argos catalogue 10w dual with charger and battery so I’ll be interested to how you get on.