A Minimalist Lighting System

Planet Bike Blaze 2W
Planet Bike Blaze 2W

A common question is, “What is a simple, minimalist lighting set-up for commuting and utility riding that provides enough light to both see and be seen by, yet doesn’t cost an arm and a leg?”

In the past, the answer was not so clear cut because lights that were powerful enough to see and be seen by were neither simple nor inexpensive. Now, with the advent of highly efficient LED light emitters (aka “bulbs”), sufficiently powerful lights have become both simple and relatively inexpensive. Unless someone is participating in 24-hour mountain bike races or on-road ultra-endurance events, both of which require ultra-high-powered lighting and extremely long run times, a perfectly functional lighting system can be had for under $100.

There are a number of alternatives on the market, but my favorite minimalist system consists of a Planet Bike Blaze 2W headlight and a Planet Bike Superflash tail light.

The Blaze 2W Headlight

The Blaze 2W is a two-watt headlight powered by 2/AA batteries*. It has high and low beams plus a blinding “Superflash” strobe. Run times are excellent at 5 hours on high, 12 hours on low, and 18 hours on strobe. It has a tight, but surprisingly bright, round beam (I prefer a slightly wider beam, but that would also diminish the intensity of the beam, so it’s a fair trade-off). The casing is made of plastic with an alloy heat-sink and a rubber seal where it comes apart for changing batteries. It comes supplied with an adjustable, quick-release handlebar mount. The Blaze is a great little headlight that gets the job done with minimal fuss.

The Superflash Tail Light

The Superflash tail light is available in three models: the 1-watt Turbo, the 1/2-watt Stealth, and the 1/2-watt original. They’re all sufficiently bright and eye-catching. The Superflash strobe pattern is so bright and distinctive that it’s recognizable from a quarter of a mile away. And recognize it I do; it has become so ubiquitous among battery-powered tail lights that I see one nearly every day throughout the winter commuting season. The Superflash is popular for good reason: it’s tiny, incredibly bright, lightweight, reasonably priced, with great run times and that distinctive, eye-catching strobe pattern.

Planet Bike Superflash Stealth
Planet Bike Superflash Stealth

The Superflash comes supplied with a seat-post style clamp and a built-in clip. A bracket for mounting down low on a rear rack is also available (sold separately). Though it’s not necessary, we sometimes run two on our commuters; one on the seatpost and one on the rear rack. As you can imagine, motorists give us a wide berth.

The Blaze 2W / Superflash combo is a great value in a minimalist lighting set-up for commuting and utility riding. The Blaze provides enough light to both see and be seen by, and the Superflash is the class-leading tail light. Sure, it’s possible to spend more and put together a high-powered battery or dynamo system, but if you’re looking for a simple and effective lighting system that’s easy to install and easy on your pocketbook, it’s hard to beat these little LEDs from Planet Bike.

Planet Bike

Disclosure: Planet Bike is a sponsor of this website. They’re also one of the most active supporters of bicycle advocacy groups in the industry. Read more about their programs here.

*Note: I highly recommend the use of rechargeable batteries. You can read my article on rechargeables here.

© 2011 EcoVelo™