The Riding Gravel Light Round-Up: Introduction

The Riding Gravel Light Round-Up: Introduction- by Grannygear with comments from Guitar Ted
Gravel bike lights for night riding: Assessing our gravel riding needs after the sun sets.
The Riding Gravel Round-Up looks at lights next.


Press Release: “Go Gravel Or Go Home, an exciting and cutting edge company new to the rapidly expanding world of gravel, is proud to introduce the Gravel Sock! Made in gravel specific lengths and thicknesses, the Gravel Sock fills a need in the way no other cycling sock does. Your shoes and feet deserve the best sock designed to meet the very unique needs of a gravel rider…..blah blah, blah…etc.”
Just kidding of course, but the bike industry loves finding another way to slice up the cycling pie, so if they can create or exploit a niche, then they will pounce on that like a cat on a June Bug. And then follows the niche specific products that will fill in the newly identified and heretofore unknown empty spaces wherein we need something desperately and nothing we were using before will do, etc.
But sometimes there is a legitimate question to be asked about what is best for a certain type of cycling. For instance, road shoes are okay for a gravel bike ride until you need to get off and walk and then, not so much. You are not likely to use a full face DH helmet for Dirty Kanza either.
So what about lights to see with (as compared to lights to be seen by…i.e. safety lights)? A light that is great for MTB use…is that just fine for gravel riding too? I know from experience that the best light for night time road riding is not the best light for off road riding. It’s a different world with different needs. In this series of articles we want to take a look at lighting needs for night time gravel riding: How much light in lumens do we really need? What kind of beam pattern? What about run times? In fact, what kind of gravel riding? Is this a basically smooth dirt road we are riding over or a rutted backcountry doubletrack? Are we gravel racing Trans Iowa or are we bikepacking remote  trails?

A selection from Guitar Ted’s light graveyard

To discuss this further, Guitar Ted will weigh in with his thoughts:

Lights for cycling are something I find amazing in many ways. Not least of which is how in the world did we ever ride with those old lights?! I don’t know now. Perhaps in my younger days I had cat-like night vision……or something. Anyway.
Technology marches on and what was barely usable for a quick single track fix in the 90’s has become refined, re-imagined, and now looks and performs nothing like what we were used to seeing back 20 years ago. Gone are the halogen bulbs, the water bottle sized batteries, and run times measured in minutes. Lights are changing as far as technology faster than Iowa weather, and that’s pretty darn fast! It’s hard to keep up with the latest light gizmo-tech, but we are going to give it a shot.
From my perspective, gravel riding demands a bit different set of needs than a full-on mtb set up does. It wasn’t until recently that light manufacturers started to give us more options for riders in run times and light intensities. It wasn’t long ago that a run time that would give a rider, say, 4 to 8 hours of light, was too low an intensity to really use in many gravel road riding situations. Riders would often “out run” their lights, speeding down hills at night at rates of 25mph to 35mph with lights set for urban commuting speeds in order to extend run times. It wasn’t ideal. But now we have lights that last hours and hours at intensities that are more than powerful enough to use at ridiculous descending speeds on gravel. But what happens if you use more power? Is “more better”, or can there be too much? What about light color, or beam patterns for gravel travel? What about dynamo lights? Isn’t that the fool-proof way to go? Questions abound.
Hopefully we can sort through much of this as we get along in the Round-Up. We have a selection of lights here that don’t require anything proprietary, are reasonably priced, and feature much of the latest in lighting technology. Some of the questions asked won’t get answered, but we will try to do our best, and we will reach out to others in the gravel world for perspectives other than our own to get a wider view of what works and what, if any, are the pitfalls for some of these systems.

Back to Grannygear……
 I will add anything I think is different for where and how I ride in So Cal, and then, to look at this in the real world we have assembled a few lights of various types and sizes. We will be mounting them up and evaluating how they play out when strapped to the bars of a gravel bike and used across different conditions. Brands represented so far are Light & Motion, Niterider, Lezyne, and Ethos and we will look at helmet mounting vs. bar mounting or both.
Stay tuned as we sort through this in the dark so to speak.
Note: Riding Gravel has received the following company’s lights for test and review: Light & Motion, Niterider, Lezyne, and Ethos. None of those companies paid us or bribed us for these reviews and we will strive to give our honest thoughts and opinions throughout.

ResoluteAbout The Author: Grannygear hails from SoCal and spent most of his cycling days as a mountain biker from the formative years of mountain biking all the way up to the present day. His day job is in the tech sector, but he has spent time writing about off road 4X4’s, 29″ mountain bikes, and cycling in general. Grannygear and Guitar Ted have worked off and on together since 2009 after a chance meeting at Interbike. With gravel cycling on the rise, Grannygear has been exploring how this genre’ works in SoCal and now does guest pieces for in his spare time.


Author: Guitar Ted

Guitar Ted hails from Iowa. Home of over 70,000 miles of gravel and back roads. An inaugural member of the Gravel Cycling Hall of Fame and Co-creator of Trans Iowa in late 2004- Guitar Ted has been at the forefront of the growth of gravel events and riding since then. Creator of Gravel Grinder News in 2008, he produced the premier calendar of gravel and back road events. GT joined forces with Riding Gravel in late 2014.

Related Articles

7 thoughts on “The Riding Gravel Light Round-Up: Introduction

  1. I sometime feel like a bit of an evangelist for these guys, but the DiNotte lights are fantastic. Made in the US, bombproof, super powerful, great run times. They also have terrific customer service and often will accept trade ins of their older lights towards new, more powerful models. They mount easily on your bar or on your helmet, and use separate batteries, which I prefer as it allows you to easily carry more than one for longer times in the dark. I don’t really think lights for gravel riding can be “too bright”- the advantage of brighter lights is often that you can run them on the middle setting, for plenty of light for long periods of time, only using the high setting for downhills etc.

  2. Will keep my eye on this Round-up.
    On thing I have always pondered is how in the world do you recharge your light when on a bikepacking trip when you are no where near an outlet??
    I currently use an axiom 650 headlight with removable battery. I have a spare battery that I can switch out when needed but the issue is still there as to how to recharge when out and about without any power near by.

    1. I have a few external batteries. My new/favorite one is a 26800mAh Anker, which has 4 USB ports and 2 charging ports. I hook up my two folding solar panels to it. One panel is 16W and one is 20W.

      It takes almost two days to charge up, but that’s just because it has sooo much energy storage in it. It has enough juice to charge my cell phone from 0 to 100 seven and a half times. In the summer I can easily charge my cell phone, kindle, and bike lights all off of portable off-grid solar.

      It’s about $60 on Amazon for the battery. The panels were around 60 each too.

      1. I was looking at something like that myself. Besides the light I will also need to keep my Garmin charged.
        Thanks for the info.

  3. @Dennis…good question. Of course there is the option of a dynamo hub powered system. Those can also, if I understand this correctly, be used to charge things. I suppose there are solar charging panels that roll up or fold but I am not sure how practical that is for a bkepacker.


    1. So when is the dark skinny coming in on these lights. We have to get a new set up rider tested now. ha Thanks for any all info.

  4. I have been through about every combo of lights since the late 80’s. I bought my first HID light in 2005 for $900AUD, now you can buy brighter lights with more run time off ebay for $26AUD.

    Two years ago I switched to dyno powered lights, my gravel bike is running an Exposure Revo and my bikepacking/commuter runs an AXA Luxx70plus with built in USB charging.

    It’s so good not having to worry about charging lights or working out run times.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.