What type of bike light should I buy?

What type of bike light should I buy?

A savior. A cost. A helper. A hassle. In a bike-able city like Portland, it is important that we are able to see the road in front of us with enough lighting while responsibly allowing cars to identify us in the dark of night. Where some opt to take the risk as a creature of the night, this lightless lack of illumination loses in the long-run. Between the dangers of the dimly lit roads and the risk of receiving a fine up to $75.00 as a class D driving infraction, it is decidedly better to purchase yourself a bicycle headlight. But… What type of bike light should I buy? We’re here to help you decide the best bike lights for you!

Analyzing the Options

Well, first let’s understand the difference between battery powered versus USB rechargeable powered lights. In terms of cost, battery powered lights will almost always come at a lower price. Battery powered lights tend to emit fewer lumens (lumens will be the main factor when it comes to light options throughout this post). Lumen is the unit used to measure the total quantity of visible light emitted by a source as related to the human eye’s sensitivity to wavelengths. When traveling at night in well lit areas the lower lumens with a battery powered light may suffice. Using batteries also allows the ability to carry spare when you run out of juice should the situation arise.

When opting for USB rechargeable lights, you won’t be able to throw in these spare batteries, but the benefits are quite overwhelming. With USB charge, lights are capable of emitting a much higher amount of lumens. With more lumens, there will be more options of places to safely travel by bicycle. The batteries are also rechargeable. When the time comes, as opposed to needing a new set of batteries, the USB plug will be able to give you the kick you need without the extra charge, paying off the extra cost of selecting USB.

In order to provide insight toward bike light preferences I asked some of my co-workers what their preferences are:

Quoc – Mechanic

“As a commuter traveling to and from Hillsboro, I use a USB rechargeable light with 300 lumens but I plan to upgrade to a 450 lumen soon. 450 is probably best for price point and also gives you more comfort in terms of safety when traveling in different parts of the city. Without cost consideration I’d even say push up toward 750-1000 range. At the end of the day whatever makes you feel safest as an unprotected cyclist on the road. When I’m biking home listening to David Bowie, more lumens means more safety. No need to be a “Rebel, Rebel.”

Shop Choice- Cygolite Streak 450 Headlight

Cygolite Streak 450 on bike

Frederick – Tour Guide

“1000? That’s a lot. Lights on cars only hit 700 on their low beams. You’d certainly be making yourself known out there in the roads. I had a 300 but when it ran out of batteries I just stopped buying new ones. Now I use a small blinker that works just fine for me as I only really bike within the city at night time. I think 250 lumens is about all I’d need as a commuter here, but definitely with a USB rechargeable. It’s nice to have a battery powered set for back up, especially during the winter. During my time in Tanzania, I didn’t have easy access to power outlets. With this luxury in the United States, I find it better to recharge rather than purchasing new batteries on a bi-weekly basis.

Shop Choice- Cygolite Dart 210 Headlight

Cygolite Dart 210 on bike

Jesse (me) – Tour Guide

“Yeah. Definitely USB is the way to go personally. I think if I wasn’t a regular commuter batteries would be perfect for the occasional night time ride. As it is, I like to have options with my lighting as I never know where I’ll end up on my bike. So pushing up toward 800 lumens is totally feasible to me. Additionally, I’ve had 2 headlights stolen off my bike since I’ve moved to Portland. This is due to both my ignorance and my frustration in taking bike lights off and putting them on. For me, it’s important that my light can easily slide on and off so it becomes a simple habit for me to practice.”

For more info on how to avoid bike accessory theft, check out this article.

Shop Choice- Urban 800 Headlight

Urban 800 on bike

In summary, as regular commuters with daily access to USB chargers, USB rechargeable lights have more benefits. Your lumen choice, however, comes down to preference. I hope this article can help you answer the question what type of bike light should I buy? Remember, with greater lumens comes greater cost. With greater lumens comes greater possibility.

What Should I Oil On My Bike? (And What I Shouldn’t)

Bicycling takes a lot of blood, sweat and tears. It also requires a bit of oil and grease to keep your bike moving smoothly with all the blood, sweat and tears you’re getting on it. You might ask “What should I oil on my bike?” Every so often and just once in a while? What should I never oil? Although we’ve had a similar post in the past, we wanted to dive into this question in more detail. Here are our mechanic recommendations on what to oil, grease and what to keep nice and dry. If you’ve got any questions we don’t cover here, give us a call or email. Or stop by our repair shop in Portland

What Should I Oil on My Bike?

Essentially, you want to make sure all moving parts are oiled/greased appropriately. Be sure to use bicycle lubricant, not WD40 or another solvent. Putting anything other than bike lube on your components can cause them to corrode faster. I’ve had customers tell me they’ve used motor oil, baby oil, coconut oil, vegetable oil, etc. Sounds like a good idea right? Actually it’s not, it ends being more work to clean up since it picks up more dirt onto the drivetrain. Besides the nice scent of the non bike oil of your choice, the only thing you are left with is a bunch of parts needing replacing often. We use Finish Line at our shop and it’s a fantastic lube to use for almost anything that needs it, plus it smells pretty great! As for grease, we use Phil Wood Waterproof Grease, great for all the threads and keeping your non drivetrain parts and bearings working smooth.

A bottle of Tri-Flow and a bottle of Phil Waterproof Grease

Things to Oil

  • Chain
  • Cables
  • Cable housing
  • U-lock
  • Brake levers and assemblies
  • Derailleur levers and assemblies
  • Spoke nipples
  • Kickstand
  • Springs
  • Drivetrain
Look at all the buildup!

Things to Grease

  • Rack bolts
  • Fender bolts
  • Pedal threads
  • Seat post
  • Threads
  • Bearings
  • Quill stems



What Should I Not Oil?

At best, excess oil can collect dirt. At worst, it can make your bike less stable or safe. Even after you oil something like a chain, its a good idea to wipe off the oil from non-moving parts (like the faceplates of the chain).

  • Handlebars
  • Bottom Brackets (grease, but don’t oil)
  • Threadless Stems
  • Anywhere near your braking surface
  • Cassettes
  • Disc Rotors
  • Brake Pads

So the next time you’re looking at your rusty steed and a bottle of lubricant, refer to this list and ask yourself “what should I oil?”

Bike Light Review: Cygolite Hotshot 100 lumen Rear Light

As summer’s luxuriously long days grew shorter and shorter, I spent a while in denial. I thought of myself as someone who “doesn’t really ride at night all that much.” So I didn’t invest in a very good light. The light I used ran on batteries that only seemed to last a few days. Now that the sun sets around 4pm, I ride in the dark every day. I saw other commuters with brighter lights – great furnaces I noticed from blocks away. I grew envious. At last, I decided to accept that I am actually someone who rides at night all the time. Therefore a proper light was not decadent, but entirely appropriate. It was time to turn the green lights on getting that red light. So for a new rear light user, I decided to write up my own bike light review to share with other nightly commuters.

Cygolite Hotshot
Cygolite Hotshot 100 lumens (Bright!)

Cygolite Hotshot Bike Light Review

I decided on the Cygolite hotshot with 100 lumens. The packaging warns “do not look directly into the light” and boy howdy were they right! My previous tail light couldn’t blind a mole. This Cygolite turns everyone behind me red! I now no longer roll up to stoplights, embarrassed by my weak glow. Now that I’ve had the chance to ride with it a few times, I’ll admit that 100 lumens is probably more than you’d need for riding in well lit areas with lots of other cyclists. This isn’t a problem because you can adjust the brightness of the Cygolite with a button. However, if you’re deciding between the 100 or 50 lumen model, you may be fine with the latter.

I try to have as few things that run on batteries as possible. Batteries can be expensive and are a pretty toxic form of garbage after they’re used up. If you do use batteries, make sure you’re recycling them the right way. Cygolites charge with a USB cable and can go up to 200 hours of use on a charge, so I figure I’ll end up saving money in the long run. Overall, this is the light I’d reccomend to anyone looking to be seen.

Keep Hope Alive in Winter: Actually Prepare

Step 2: Actually Prepare for Winter. Suddenly Commuting isn’t so Hard!

Obvious in retrospect, but when I was in college I rode my carbon race bike (my only bike for a while) everywhere. There was no room for fenders in this SUPERFAST frame, so I would show up everywhere very wet. Now that I am older and (a bit) wiser, I realize that there is no gear more stylish than the crinkly clothes that go “swshswshswsh” because you can shed them like a wet snake skin when you arrive at your destination. The trick is you have to cover actually every part of yourself. I don’t know why it took me so long to realize, but this means jacket, pants, boots, gloves, and a hood or hat. If you want to commute like a professional, here are some recommendations from our staff with over 5 years of Portland commuting experience…



The #1 essential you should always shoot for is a spectacular pair of lights. Lights are good to have through all seasons, but especially so when the days are darker and shorter. I usually carry one high quality, USB rechargeable set, and one cheaper, disposable battery set as a back-up. The higher quality lights will be on my bike, with the back-up set in my bag. Be sure to remove lights from your bike when you lock it up, as these tend to be thief-bait. My favorite lights in general, and that we carry in the shop, are by Light & Motion.

Light & Motion Urban 650 Headlamp
Light & Motion Urban 650 Headlamp

Pictured above is the Urban 650 at $80. I’ve had this light since I started commuting 5 years ago and it still works fantastically. Cheaper lights I’ve bought have had a much shorter lifespan. We carry a variety of Light & Motion lights up to 800. The Urban 350 is fantastic for city riding, especially if your commute is already lit. If you’re like me, and have very dark commutes with no lamps, the 650 is a good go-to.



The first thing you want to do before you ride is check the weather report. What’s today’s high/low? What are the chances of precipitation by the hour? I like to think of “percent chance” of rain as actually being “percent volume”. But most telling: How many centimeters or inches is it supposed to rain today?

That last question helps me really decide how much gear I need each day. For example, if it’s going to rain 0.3in or more in one day I will definitely grab my pair of rain pants and rain boots. Here’s how I personally categorize rainfall/day:


Other Gear

Fenders are essential, unless you are a fan of mud stripes down your back. Depending on your commuting situation, you may also consider upgrading to all-weather brake pads, upgrading to wider tires with more grip, or covering your bike up if you park it outside to prevent excess wear. Come by the shop and we’ll be more than happy to help you get set up for year-round riding and turn that frowny commute upside-down. Plus, if you come in before December 31st, all our accessories are 25% off, so you’ll save on your lights, fenders and other gear!



New Portland Guide Book – Featuring Cycle PDX!

Cycle Portland featured again! – in Portland Family Adventures! Looking for a handy guide book to find your way around Portland? Jen Stevenson’s Portland Family Adventures is the perfect companion for traveling families looking for museums, hikes, tours, and more. With all the guides and recommendations available for visiting Portland, it’s hard to figure out which ones have done the research and exploration necessary to really know our multi-layered city. Stevenson has clearly done that hard work. You can trust her recommendations to steer you to the very best family friendly attractions and activities!


Our city tours are another great way to get your bearings and see some of the businesses, monuments, and neighborhoods that make Portland so special. Our guides are always happy to answer questions and give you their advice on their favorite spots around town. You can set up a reservation anytime on our website, or give us a call at 844-PDX-BIKE (844-739-2453) if you have any questions!

“What to do in Portland,” put Cycle Portland Bike Tours and Rental on your list!

Here at Cycle Portland, we love to share a local’s perspective with Portland’s visitors. But even more than that, we love to get people on bikes and out riding! Laura Chubb’s article, “What to do in Portland, From Microbreweries to Third Wave Coffee,” covers all of your Portland essentials. From taking a bike tour around downtown, to window shopping, to the food cart scene, Laura’s list featured on the Independent is an excellent place to start when planning your trip to the Pacific Northwest!

Cycle Portland Bike Tours & Rentals specializes in putting together fun, creative rides that are great for people looking to explore Portland, OR by bike!

Sign up for Laura’s Essential Portland Tour here! Happy riding!

Awesome New Bike Route Mapping Tool!

Whether you’re wondering how much water to take out on a long adventure or just curious about the mileage of your daily commute, bikeroll.net is our favorite new tool for mapping out our routes. It gives elevation, mileage, along with a weather forecast for your trip!

Best of all, it is a global service, with routing capabilities in both Metric and Imperial measurements. We plan to use it in mapping out our next trips! Here’s a screen shot of their interface. It’s pretty intuitive!


Thanks to Botond Bocsi for telling us about this great site.