My bicycle light ideas

I recently got an idea from a motorcycle, ya I know it has an engine and it runs on gas but hear me out. One thing I’ve noticed lately with bicycle lights is that they’re getting smaller. Nothing wrong with that since it’s great for weight savings and the bright LEDs make up for it. But I was thinking it might be too small.

Check out this old motorcycle with this large head light and notice the turn signals are quite a distance from each other.
honda cm 200

Now check out the tail light. Same as the front, pretty large and definitely visible at night and even during the day.
honda cm200

So where am I going with this? Well I think bicycle lights should be just as big as motorcycle lights and if a manufacturer were to create faux turn signals that act as running lights and have them spaced at least 12″ from each other, this would make bicycles more visible at night to drivers since from far away, it would look like a motorcycle or scooter.

Any thoughts?


  1. Andy

    I searched ebay for moped/motorcycle taillights for a while once but didn’t find much I could use. The difficulty is that they were all designed for 12 volts, which would require many batteries or odd sized ones. I think using a big light case with a different light source that runs on 2x AA might be better.

    In the end I just went with a Toplight. They are wide, bright, and were designed to mount directly to racks like the one I have. No batteries to charge or buttons to press, and it’s stayed on firmly for the whole year.

  2. Gordon

    I’ve ridden a motorcycle for almost 30 years, and my biggest feat is getting hit from behind. I find m/c taillights to be abysmal – they’re too low for most cars to notice, and only now are they getting the LED technology cars have had for years. As well, on most m/cs the rear turn indicators don’t remain steady on while the bike is running, unlike the front ones – which themselves tend to blend into the headlight’s beam. I’ve added reflective tape and even my reflective bicycle pant straps to my m/c try to improve matters. I think that modern bicycle flashing rear lights – the fitted steady light on my Batavus is not particularly impressive – are still the best protection, especially in ‘annoying’ mode (i.e., alternating patterns).

  3. Ghost Rider

    Motorcycle light sizes and position are governed by law, presumably…much in the way that cars have to have a certain amount of square inches, reflective capability, distance from the road surface, etc. To my knowlege, there are no such regulations for bicycle lighting (beyond the CPSC regs for reflectives and the local/state statutes for red/white reflectors).

    On a bike, brightness trumps phyical size, anyhow. A 10″ headlight pumping out a handful of lumens is laughable compared to a smaller, more intense light. You also have to remember the aero penalty for a big light, particularly in the front…even for upright commuter-friendly bikes.

    I’ll go with you on turn signals, though. I’d love to see a smart lighted solution for that!

  4. Gordon

    Oops! ‘My biggest FEAR’ (not feat, it’s no great achievement to get ploughed from behind by a car!)

  5. jgabby

    I think it’s very important to add dimensions to the lighting systems on our bicycles. Bikes with single point source lights are impossible for my brain to easily figure out 1) what they are, 2) how far away they are 3) how fast/what direction they’re travelling.

    The system I created for my bike has LED strips along the front forks, top tube and seat stays plus reflective strips all over the wheels and extremeties of the bike to give the bike a shape in all directions, which I think assists peoples’ subconscious recognition of what it is.

    I think it’s important to be noticeable and recognizeable to all others on that subconscious level – if they have to think about what they’re seeing, they won’t react reliably or predictably.

  6. Michael

    The size issue is why I have stuck with the Light and Motion Seca line for front lighting. I’m not aware of anyone who makes a bright and large tail light so I am using a Dinotte 400R on my rear. It makes up in stupid bright what it lacks in size and it’s still substantially larger than most commonly available bike tail lights. I’ve been hoping someone would market a decent set of turn signal pods that could attach via the plate on my Tubus rear rack. I’d be inclined to part with substantial cash if it was a functional turn signal and maybe a little more if it could be tied to the brakes.

  7. MRL

    As another motorcyle and bicycle rider, I echo the above about how bad the motorcycle lighting is. There is more risk as we are often out there at 75mph in and out of traffic.

    More lighting tends to mean more visibility. A comment above notes that a lot of motorcycle stuff is 12v. I don’t think that this is the proper approach in thinking here. We motorcyclists often are putting on after-market lights and such and yes, they are wired and wired to 12v.

    But the salient point is that tons of motorcyclists install “light bars” which are just mounts on which to place the lights. I could easily see a mod to a back rack (old set of handlebars anyone?) this is a makeshift “light bar.” I think its a good idea, but you’ll note from a photo like this one (×800.jpg) that a lot of the “rear” visibility of a motorcycle at night is actually the throw of the front headlight.

    Reflective clothing is also a must. So many of my motorcycle (and bicycle) brethren and sisters are slaves to fashion and refuse to wear hi-viz yellow or reflective vests. This is a mistake.

    On the front, your points are good ones. Too many forget that the front lights should serve two functions — or multiple lights should serve these two functions (1) see; (2) be seen. You are touching mainly on the second of these.

    More lights, within reason, is a good move in that direction.

  8. izmahoby

    I think these are great ideas! The bicycle light industry is lagging behind development within LED industry, especially in the application of they newest technology, form and capability.
    I was hit from behind whole commuting in college and, just liked Gordon, that is my greatest fear, with the second being a car cutting me off squeezing me into traffic or sending me into their side.
    I have noticed while on the roads in many countries that the size and brightness of your light has a direct relationship with the space drivers give you, no matter on foot or on a bike.
    I am working in China near “LED city”. I’d like to develop some of these lights with someone stateside. Perhaps people like us are more than a tiny niche market.

  9. Max Power

    I’m not sure physically larger lights are the best way to go for nighttime visibility. They give a larger reflective area when off, but you can do the same with multiple non-lighted reflectors; SAE reflectors are better than lights, anyway.
    The problem is that most bike lights are designed with a very tight focus to look better in side-by-side comparisons in magazine reviews.
    If you look at lights designed to meet European cycling standards, you can see that they have a wider beam for the same lamp size due to the design of the reflector (also, a tight cutoff to avoid blinding others). A large beam is what makes you more visible to others at night, whatever the size of the lens.
    Until we get lights like that in the US, we should look to different lights for “to-see” and “be-seen” functions, rather than expect the same light to do both.

  10. Graham

    My big question about bicycle lights is, “Why are they still optional?” Are you seriously suggesting that incorporating LED lights and wires into the frame of bicycles is prohibitively expensive or difficult?

    Racing bicycles might be excused from this, but any bicycle sold with aspirations for practical use should come equipped with lights integrated into the frame wither either easy access to the battery pack or a built-in generator.

  11. OTTO

    A few years ago my entry for a bike design competition incorporated motorcycle style lights and turn signals. The judges pooh-poohed it.

  12. John

    We are preconditioned to look for two headlights or taillights spaced about 3 feet apart. In other words, cars / trucks.

    I’m a very careful driver and I almost drove out in front of a motorcycle. It was daylight and he had his light on.

    It’s a tough situation for cyclists and motorcyclists. About the only thing I can think of is something that is impractical. Add light bars or reflective plastic/fiberglass/carbon fiber sticks or rods that protrude out far enough to mimic the width of a car.

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