Cycling in Melbourne Australia
Just purchased a new front light of ebay for under 30 bucks (see link below). The "NiteRider MAKO 5.0 Lumens LED Bicycle Headlight" (40 lumens).
To date I've been using the K-mart jobs... which have been okay, but with driver's not bothering to wipe their side windows in the recent frosts, I've had a few people pull out in front of me, even though I've got a light mounted on my helmet and point it directly at their window when coming up to an intersection.
The NiteRider definitely penetrates a lot further than the super cheap units... this morning it was reflecting off signs that were at least 200 metres away, whereas my existing cheapo, does about half that. It's also got some side slots, but I doubt they make much difference to your overall visibility. I like the fact I can carry 2 spare AA batteries if I get caught out (or forget to turn it off after riding).
Personally, I think the best solution is to run two separate lights on your handlebars (I've run out of room with my mirror, bell and Air Zound) if you want a cheap solution. But at the end of the day, I think you've got to spend the money and get something that is going to temporarily blind drivers, to stop them pulling out in front of you.
I think one needs something more substantial than this, e.g. I have a custom built 600 Lumens light mounted on my helmet. I run a thin lightweight cable from the rear of the helmet to a 12V battery pack on the bike itself. Then I have a 1500 Lumens light mounted on the handle bar. Haven't had any issues with drivers not seeing me, in fact some cars pause well in advance and waiting for me to pass.
I think this depends on what your goal is. I would put the probable goals in the following order:
I think you can comply with the law without the guarantee that you will be seen. A light that permits you to be seen only is usually not adequate to see your way on a dark pathway, and ensure that you do not crash into rabbits, dogs or pedestrians. My need is for 3. above - which satisfies both 1. and 2. - That means I need hundreds of lumens (or maybe rather edging into the thousands) rather than tens of lumens. For someone who stays on well lit roads, two lights of a few tens of lumens each may be sufficient to stay alive.
FWIW: I am yet to be convinced that all lights that comply with the law are sufficient to ensure that you are safe.
I have to agree with you both on going a much higher rating, I was just trying to keep to a low budget because I use three separate bikes and can't be bothered swapping one light between them all. This was the cheapest light I could find that actually had a semi decent LED in it.
I'm not sure what to make of the external battery packs for the more expensive units, I'm kind of running out of room on my handlebars and frame for any more attachments.
I don't have a problem moving lights between bikes. For the most part it is just a case of rubber straps that are easy to move, and for tail lights I have mounted brackets on the seat posts so I can just unclip the tail light from one bike to the other. - With moving my Garmin between bikes, it is not much effort to move lights, which mostly have to come off for charging/battery swap every second day anyhow.
I am looking to upgrade my main headlight to one that uses a rubber band mount on the bars, making it easy to move the light between bikes.