In the modern world, there are a variety of ways to power or charge something. While this is a great benefit for consumers in most products, it can make things a bit confusing about which option is the most optimal to go with when it comes to charging up bike lights. In this article, we’ll dive a bit deeper into rechargeable versus battery-powered bike lights, what they are, and which one you should invest in.
Why you need bike lights
Unfortunately, night vision goggles just haven’t reached a point yet where they can be commercially used by everyday citizens. However, it is extremely important to see oncoming traffic at night as well as be spotted by rear approaching traffic. That is why safety is such a major concern in terms of road visibility. And it isn’t just traffic that bicycle riders need to worry about. Stationary objects in the city like parked cars as well as animals like deer in more rural locations make visibility extremely important. Not having proper visibility at night can result in serious injury or even death.
In addition to safety, having rear and front lights on your bike is a legal issue in almost every national and local jurisdiction the world over. While some locales profess that having a blinking backlight is legal and others do not, one thing is unanimous: all of them require a light to be used, otherwise, the rider will risk financial repercussions if they do not properly outfit their bicycles with rear red light and front white lights.
The difference between rechargeable and battery-powered lights
As we have noted that bike lights are extremely important from both a safety perspective as well as a legal point of view, we need to understand the difference between rechargeable lights and battery-powered lights.
If we just look at the tip of the iceberg, rechargeable lights utilize USB cables to connect to power sources and can take time to charge, while battery-powered lights make use of individual battery units to maintain the charge.
Rechargeable bike light systems can be used hundreds of times over the lifetime of the bike light. This makes them relatively inexpensive and more environmentally friendly than typical alkaline battery units. Many rechargeable lights will have some kind of gauge that lets the user know that the lighting source is running low and that another charge will be necessary if they want to continue using the light.
Since these systems can run off of hundreds of recharging cycles, they are ideal for those individuals that want to save a bit of money by not having to buy individual batteries every time the lighting system begins to run low. The key here, however, is to make sure the battery is fully charged to completion. If it is not, then the user runs the risk of using a sub-optimally charged battery that can make the light even less efficient since it is working harder to maintain full brightness. It is a fine balance, however, as you do not want to overcharge the battery. Many rechargeable systems now have “smart charging” capabilities that stop the charging process when the battery is fully charged.
Battery-powered lights or alkaline battery-powered lights are another option for bicyclists that need some kind of lighting power for nighttime visibility. While they might be more expensive in the long term, sometimes these batteries can have a higher lighting quality on a new set of batteries. Additionally, taking multiple packs with you on long rides might be a much better option than needing to carry some kind of large energy source that could eventually run out of power if you decide to camp out for multiple days or end up getting lost.
A charge of fully brand-new alkaline batteries in a bike light can last anywhere from eight to twelve hours. While this is not as ideal as having a power source that can last hundreds of charges, it is ideal for people that need mobility as their number one priority and is a strong temporary solution for those individuals that might not have access to larger power generation systems.
Individual non-rechargeable lights are also a great option for individuals that are visiting foreign lands and are moving from one place to another without enough time to charge or don’t have access to universal charging ports. Rural locations can also be great places to use battery-powered bike lights as they won’t require a significant power source upfront and will work regardless of whether you have the main power source or not.
Which should you use
As we have already noted, depending on what you have access to as well as what is important to you will be a major factor in which type of bicycle light you decide to purchase. If you are camping and need to be light on your feet, then you will want to stick with battery-powered lights that you can take with you in a backpack and can give you many hours of power. On the other hand, if mobility is not an issue and you need a good light to commute to and from work or school, then getting a rechargeable bicycle light will be ideal. The rechargeable option will cost much less in the long run and will also help the environment by not tossing old batteries that have negative environmental consequences during the recycling process.
No matter which type of bicycle light you choose, you will need to choose one that is bright enough for the location in which you are riding. This is both a safety and legal concern, as the last thing you want is a fine for not having a light when you are in the hospital for the accident that occurred because you did not have the proper light. Prevent this by choosing a rechargeable or battery-powered light for your bicycle.