Five NiteRider myths, busted

We visited NiteRider and learned five things about this 25 year old San Diego company

Company Spotlight Lights

NiteRider CEO Tom Carroll

Words by Kristen Gross and photos by Francis Cebedo

In honor of their 25th anniversary, a couple Mtbr reporters headed down to San Diego to take stock of the past, present, and yes, future of innovation at NiteRider.

Here are five myths we busted about the iconic pioneer of mountain bike lighting systems. Prepare to be illuminated:

1) Myth: NiteRider was started for mountain bikers

CEO Tom Carroll came up with the idea of a hands-free helmet light for surfing, not mountain biking. The Southern Californian wanted to avoid the crowds and sometimes, after dark was the only time he could get to the water. So, he devised a 150-watt waterproof lighting system that was worn on the head, and powered with a battery fitted around the waist.

NiteRider First Product Surfing Lights

The editors of Mountain Bike Action magazine, based in Ventura CA, heard about Tom Carroll’s light and invited him up so they could give it a try on a night surf. It wasn’t until they suggested he run an ad in their magazine that he introduced his invention to those kinds of night riders. Until then, the “Rider” in NiteRider was a surfer, not a mountain biker.

2) Myth: The Smaller, The Better

When it comes to measuring the power of your light, smaller isn’t better. We’re talking about a special piece of equipment called an integrating sphere. Until this tour, the biggest one we’ve seen at a light manufacturer’s facility was only about the size of a globe. If those were models of earth, NiteRider’s integrating sphere is on scale with the sun (no, not really—but it’s big).

NiteRider Integrating Sphere to Test Lumens

The light goes in and they measure things like lumens, how temperature affects performance, run time, and consistency. Why does size matter? If you have an integrating sphere that’s too small, it can easily become saturated with all that light and corrupt your data. That means when NiteRider puts “750 Lumens” on a box, you can be confident that that’s what you’re going to get.

The more lumens you’re testing, the bigger the integrating sphere you’ll need. The size of the sphere at NiteRider means that their data is solid, and also hints at even bigger light outputs to come. “We want to make sure our numbers are as accurate as possible so we can stand behind them,” said NiteRider’s Director of Engineering, Alex McKay.

And by the way, if you send your light back to NiteRider for repair or warranty (we saw some lights on the table that were over ten years old), it goes back into the integrating sphere as well, to make sure it’s still up to snuff.

3) Myth: NiteRider Is Just Another Light Company Slapping Their Logos On Made-In-China, Mass-Produced Product

At NiteRider, they pride themselves on innovation. Every light is designed and tested in-house by their team of engineers. They have 19 “firsts” to their credit, including the first HID light, and the introduction of USB charging—features that each became industry standards.

NiteRider Staff

In their San Diego headquarters, they have a team of about 30 staff—almost half of whom have an average of 16 years of service. Why does that matter? This crew has been learning from each other, trying things, and discovering what works for a very long time.

NiteRider Luminas

Every microprocessor, chip, cable, housing and bulb is sourced from the manufacturers that do it best. For example, CREE makes the best LED bulbs, so that’s where NiteRider gets theirs. The lights are then assembled by hand, tested, packed and shipped from NiteRider HQ in San Diego.

Continue to Page 2 for more NiteRider myths and full photo gallery »

About the author: Kristen Gross

Kristen Gross loves bikes, all sorts, and above all, XC mountain bikes. She races in the pro category and gets a lot of joy from teaching others the way of the trail as a mountain bike skills instructor—especially women who are just discovering cycling. She is a USAC-certified coach, and she runs her own freelance writing business based in Carlsbad, Calif. You’ll find her either writing or riding, bringing over 10 years experience to both. Why does she ride? To offset her addiction to Coca Cola and Lay’s Potato Chips.

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  • codypup says:

    Nice ad. I still have a NiteRider that quit after about 30 hours run time, never to work again.

  • Patrick says:

    “By far, the most common fatal collision involving cyclists is the hit-from-behind.”

    Source? This contrasts with everything I’ve previously heard about cyclists being hit from behind.

  • JimmyDee says:

    Not just another company that slaps their name on Chinese made product?

    15 years ago, I bought a Nite Rider light system. When the lead acid battery died, I went to the bike shop and was rather surprised at the replacement cost. I went to a battery shop and found the *exact same battery* for 13 bucks.

    Now that’s not a bad thing except that I paid $250 for the light!!! Only to find out that it’s a $4 bulb, $13 battery and a simple head unit with some rubber grommets. And that’s *RETAIL* prices.


    I was barely 20 years old and this was before Google and Youtube tutorials on… everything. Now? Yeah, probably not.

    For $250, I would expect an ambient light meter on the top and probably a meter on the front in case of oncoming traffic… and/or maybe a manual adjustment knob with strips of High Output LEDs attached to a Li-Ion battery that could be attached to the front edges of my forks (MTB or Road) or possibly in an aerodynamic tri-directional array on the front.

    And at the very least, some way of “flashing your brights” similar to what motorcycles have.

    I have built stuff like this for photography work for around $20 for a *MUCH* larger array than this.

  • MBR says:

    A couple years ago, I had a difference of opinion with one of their reps at an endurance race in NM. We had an e-mail exchange that got a bit emotional [even spilling over onto FB] and I used the opportunity when we first met eye to eye as a way to shake hands and reboot our relationship. Well, the shake hands part of the meeting went well, but then I was told that a lawyer would become involved if I ever did that again. Part of my lecture was having the US flag waved in front of me for not using lights made by a US company like Niterider. I was blown away that a product rep would have such poor people skills. And so much for free speech too. However, I am free to never buy a Niterider product and tell everyone I meet my negative experience. Nameste Niterider.

  • MBR says:

    Another Niterider expereince… This fall I did an endurance race. The host shop mentioned that Niterider was offering racers a killer deal on a light. The only problem with this deal was a second battery cost as much as the entire light head, charger and original battery. Instead of just selling extra battery cells, like Lezyne does with some of their lights, they sell batteries with the electronics as part of the cell. Nothing inherently wrong with that, but it’s about like the wallet thinning technique that printer companies use with toner and ink cartridges.

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