Category: How To

A couple weeks ago, we discussed foglights for bikes. It was decided that low-mounted lights would be perfect for cutting through thick fog.

Well, our man in Reno (Quinn) decided to do some real-world testing of this setup. Based on his experiences setting up the original system, he did some tinkering and added another light to his bicycle. Here’s the setup:

The foglight setup

The fork-mounted lights are Cateye HL-EL 410 LED lights with rotational bases. The handlebar-mounted light is a Cateye HL-EL 220 with 5 LEDs. The mounts that come with the 410s tended to slip a little on the fork blades, so Quinn wrapped the clamping areas with cloth-based electrical tape (“friction tape”). Alternatively, one could use a dedicated fork mount such as those sold by Terracycles.

Quinn provided us with a series of test photos that showed the light pattern and intensity against a freshly-painted white garage door. These test photos were shot at a variety of distances. I could discern no difference between the test photo of all three lights on and the photo with just the fork-mounted lights on. Those little fork-mounted lights are BRIGHT!

After riding in some crappy weather, Quinn reports that fork-mounted lights are the way to go. The light is further away from a rider’s eyes, reducing distraction and helping preserve night vision. I’d still run a small “be seen” light up on the handlebars, though, to help motorists determine what that weird oncoming shape is. Two low-mounted lights might confuse a motorist, especially since that’s an unusual place to see lights (hovering mere inches from the ground)!

Here’s another shot of the two mounted lights:

Fork mounts

Quinn is running regular disposable batteries and he reports that with five 1/2 hour nighttime commutes and 2-3 weekend rides, the batteries in those 410 lights last about a month. That’s pretty good!

This (or similar) setup might be a good thing to try if your nighttime commute often includes rain or fog. Heck, this might be a great setup for ANY nighttime riding, and really maximizes the potential of those inexpensive LED lights on the market. If you can’t afford something high-end like NiteRiders or DiNottes, this might be just the ticket to being able to see the road at night and in bad weather.

Thanks for the pictures, tests and setup information, Quinn — you’re advancing the science of nighttime bicycle commuting!

That’s ride ladies and gents! Check out our weekly tech tip at This week’s tip is how to remove the crown race on your fork without any special tools!

Check it out HERE.

Quinn sent in the following question:

“What is a good fog headlight? I have a 5-LED Cat Eye on my bars, and the fog hit tonight and I had about a 20ft visibility. Not Fun!”

That’s a good question, Quinn! As I researched this, Quinn and I suspected that a low-mounted, tight-beamed light would be the ideal “fog cutter”, but despite my proximity to the Gulf of Mexico and the high humidity here in Florida, it’s never foggy here, so I was really just guessing at this point.

So, I recruited someone I KNEW would have some excellent insight to this problem: champion of bicycle advocacy, low-budget bike tinkerer extraordinaire and fellow blogger Kent Peterson. Apparently, things tend to be a bit foggy in the Pacific Northwest where Kent does a lot of his riding. Here’s what he had to say:

“It was a foggy ride in this morning so I got a chance to double check my thoughts on this. So here are a couple of things.

Yep, a tight beam is what you want for fog. My choice would be a Planet Bike Blaze headlight and a Planet Bike Super Flash for the rear. In fog, backscatter from helmet lights can be a problem so I often don’t use my helmet light when it’s foggy. It’s best to have a light mounted as low as you can. Something like a Terracycles mount will let you put a light down on the fork.”

In the meantime, Quinn tried a setup on his bike. Here’s a picture of the low-mounted light (sorry for the grainy photos — unlike his namesake “Q” from the James Bond movies, OUR Q only has a PDA-based camera instead of a bag full of high tech goodies!):

The low-mounted light

Kent mentioned some problems with a helmet-mounted light creating “backscatter” — much like a car’s headlights in the fog, lights mounted at eye level tend to make vision worse rather than better in the fog. I suppose this is why a car’s foglights are mounted low…often well below the bumper. It appears the trick is to get light under the fog to improve distance vision. In the picture below, Quinn shows both a fork-mounted light and a handlebar-mounted light. Perhaps the handlebar-mounted light should be shut off during heavy fog rides?

High and low lights

The only drawback to riding with only the low-mounted light on is the “be seen” aspect of bicycle lights. Running with only the low-mounted light on may not allow oncoming cars to see you as well, or they may not be able to perceive what or where exactly you are in dense fog (“What on earth is that low light creeping along the ground?”).

It seems to me that being well-lit from the rear (for overtaking cars) is more important in fog than for oncoming motorists to see you and your lights. In this case, I wholeheartedly second Kent’s recommendation of the Planet Bike “Super Flash”…I run one on my dedicated commuter bike, and that little light packs a BIG whallop — an intense, far-reaching blast of light!

Don’t forget, also, wearing as much reflective gear as you can — and throw some DOT reflective tape on parts of your bike, too. There is no such thing as being “too conspicous” out there!

Thanks, Quinn, for the question, and special thanks to Kent Peterson for his insight!

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