LAST UPDATED: October 23, 2019
Best Bicycle Lights: Enhance Your After-Dark Visibility
A quality bicycle light illuminates your path while ensuring others can see you
The Review Team
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PUBLISHED ON October 23, 2019
Riding your bike in the dark or in the sun-starved winter can be dangerous without proper lighting. That's why a good light is essential. It ensures you can see and be seen clearly by motorists, especially when you are riding in the street. We have put together a list of the best bike lights on the market to help you make an informed buying decision.
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Benefits of Bicycle Lights
- Safety. Unlit paths and roads can pose a risk to any cyclist, especially when they are unfamiliar with the road. Headlights can help to illuminate the path ahead so that you can be more aware of the hazards on the road.
- Make yourself more visible. Bicycle lights hanging at the front and rear help to bring attention to the figure that’s riding the bike. This helps to make you more visible to other road users, including pedestrians.
- Ride faster. With a great set of lights, you will be in a better position to pick out potholes, notice uneven terrain, or steer clear of pedestrians. Having a better understanding of your terrain will help you ride faster.
- Enjoy off-road riding. If you are a fan of the trail, then installing powerful front lights can provide an adrenaline-packed adventure that rivals the performance of your usual commuter lights. You can ride without fear of getting hurt since you will be in a better position to spot overhanging branches, rabbit holes, boulders on the path, and anything else that may throw you off your bicycle.
Types of Bicycle Lights
Headlights are typically installed on the handlebar or the stem that links the suspension fork to the handlebar. Generally, most headlights have several lighting modes to allow the user to adjust the brightness for safer riding. They are mostly activated at night and help to illuminate the path ahead. This is why they feature a high lumen count.
Also known as rear lights, tail lights are typically smaller than headlights and are mounted on the seat post. Most have a low lumen count, and for that reason you can double up on them without worrying about blinding the driver behind you. They can also be used at daytime to make it easier for the driver behind you to pick you out.
Any extra lights mounted on the bicycle frame, on your backpack, or on your helmet are considered backup lights. They may seem to be a bit much but can come in handy for emergencies when the headlights or rear lights aren’t working. They also provide the added benefit of directing the light to areas that your front lights won’t reach.
Since 1991, Cygolite has been promoting cycling safety by coming up with innovative bicycle lighting technologies. It’s a California-based company that designs rechargeable LED tail lights and headlights. Check out the Cygolite Metro 700 Lumen Headlight if you are looking for a reliable and high-quality headlight.
Cycle Torch is a family-owned business headquartered in Montreal, Canada. It specializes in designing some of the best lighting solutions for cyclists. It has been around since 2014, and its product line includes rechargeable headlights, tail lights, headlamps, and mounting accessories. Most of its bike lights, including the Cycle Torch Shark Bike Light, are backed with a one-year hassle-free warranty.
From its headquarters in San Diego, California, Nite Rider designs some of the best off-road bicycle lights using the latest technology. The company has more than 30 years of experience in the lighting industry. On top of designing bike lights, it also designs batteries and mounting kits. One of its best combo sets featuring a headlight and tail light is the NiteRider 6776 Lumina 1100.
Bicycle Lights Pricing
- Under $20: Under this price range, expect to find lights with a low lumen count that are purely designed to make the cyclist more visible. Also, most don’t have a broad beam angle and you’d have to complement them with a headlamp. However, the benefit of these lights is that they have a fairly good runtime and can last longer in a lower setting.
- $20-$50: The higher you are in this price range, the more the lumen count. Since the lights are brighter, they can be used for mountain biking on an unlit trail. They also feature more advanced features such as USB rechargeable batteries, battery level indicators, and multiple light settings.
- $50 and up: The bicycle lights within this price range share a few similar features with the units in the mid-price range. The main difference is that they are made from more durable material, and some have a higher lumen count of up to 2,000 lumens. Also, most have larger batteries to enhance the runtime and the battery packs can be mounted externally.
Lumens is a measure of how bright the light output is to the human eye. Rear lights can range from five to 100 lumens, so that they don’t distract the driver behind you, while front lights should be brighter and you can have a unit with up to 1,000 lumens. Also, cyclists in urban environments won’t need lights with a high lumen count since they only need to be visible. A front light with about 200 lumens would suffice in such a scenario.
Any exposed accessories on your bike, including the lights, can be damaged by inclement weather including rain, snow, or intense UV rays. Therefore, prioritize lights built from military-grade material so that they can last longer. The material should also be dustproof and have an IPX5 water resistance rating or higher.
Currently, filament bulbs have been outfaced with more energy-efficient LEDs. The latter are brighter, smaller, and produce less heat in comparison. Also, LED bulbs come in many types. When choosing lights, select high-end options that use Cree LEDs for the front lights since they are more durable. In addition, select COB (chip on board) LEDs for rear lights since they are bright and are available in a variety of colors.
- Power Options: You can either buy lights with built-in rechargeable batteries or disposable alkaline batteries. You should prioritize rechargeable lithium batteries that come with a USB charging port, and can provide reliable illumination for several hours when fully charged. Most modern designs have a battery life indicator so that you know when to charge it.
- Mounts: The most common types of bicycle light mounts are either straps or clamps. Strap mounts are often used for securing rear lights, and are tied around the seat post. They are also often used on commuting bikes since they can be easily removed and reattached elsewhere. Whatever mounting option you choose, ensure that it’s non-slip and sturdy enough to remain secure even if you ride on rough terrain.
Best Bicycle Lights Reviews & Recommendations 2020
This is a headlight and taillight set that uses Cree LEDs that provide 180-degree visibility even in foggy conditions. This is enough to ensure safe cycling and to make yourself visible to both pedestrians and drivers. The front lights produce 500 lumens and can operate in four modes: high (two-hour runtime), medium (three-hour runtime), low (15-hour runtime), and flush (30-hour runtime). The tail light produces 10 lumens and has four modes: steady high (five-hour runtime), fast flashing (10-hour runtime), slow flashing (15-hour runtime), and pulse (10-hour runtime).
Each light has a USB port and requires about two hours to fully recharge. Also, the lights are designed with a flat beam shape, and such a low profile is great for riding in urban environments since it won’t blind drivers in oncoming traffic. As for the construction, the housing is dust resistant and IPX5-rated for water resistance, so it won’t get damaged too easily in a heavy downpour.
However, we have to admit that the front lights won’t be reliable for a long ride in high mode since the battery runs out after just two hours. Also, the rubber straps provided may not firmly secure the tail lights, and it may constantly move around as you ride. Besides that, they can fit on all bicycles including mountain bikes, hybrid bikes, and commuter bikes.
This is another headlight and taillight set that comes with a cheaper price tag. The headlight is 120 lumens and produces a brilliant beam with an adjustable focus and brightness. It can illuminate up to 300 feet and has one button that controls these functions.
The lights are built with military-grade material that’s designed to withstand abuse from harsh environments and severe weather conditions such as snow and rain. The manufacturer also integrated an adjustable mounting bracket into the design so that you can easily attach and detach the lights. In addition, the headlight runs on three AAA batteries, and the rear light runs on replaceable CR2032 batteries.
However, these lights aren’t rechargeable and instead run on disposable batteries, which can only provide six hours of continuous lighting. Another problem is that the lights aren’t bright enough for cycling in dark, off-road terrains. You should reserve these for your daily commutes; they are bright enough to make you more visible on the road.
Bright Eyes offers a set of reliable lights that are suitable for any aggressive mountain biker. Just as with the other options, this one too comes with a free tail light. The lights use Cree T6 LED technology, and the headlight can produce 1,200 lumens. It operates in four modes: high (five-hour runtime), medium (10-hour runtime), and low (26-hour runtime). The power button has an indicator light that alerts you of the battery level.
If you would like to control the direction of the beam, the manufacturer provides an additional head mount and beam diffuser. You can mount the headlight on the head strap and replace the glass lens with the beam diffuser to widen the beam. In addition, the lights run on an external, waterproof, 6,400mAh battery pack that can be mounted anywhere on the bicycle.
However, you’d have to recharge the battery daily if you plan to consistently use the lights on high mode. Also, it would be prudent to buy a backup battery since at times the battery indicator may not be reliable and the headlights may power off without notice.
- When buying a bike light, select one with LEDs. They are small, lightweight, energy efficient, brighter, and last longer than non-LED lights.
- It is important to note that most state riding laws require you to have a white headlight and a red tail light when traveling in limited visibility conditions.
- Headlights can be mounted on the helmet or on the handlebars. Choosing where to install a light depends on your riding conditions. Helmet mounts are a better choice for mountain biking, while handlebar mounts are most suited for street riding.
Q: Should I use bicycle lights during the day?
A: That depends on the weather conditions. You should keep it on if it's foggy or dark. Always keep the tail light on for safety.
Q: Why do I need a bike light?
A: A bicycle light is a requirement in most states if you are riding in limited-visibility conditions. It enhances your visibility and makes you more visible to ensure a safe ride.
Q: Should I use a bicycle light in a flashing mode?
A: During the day, it is advisable to use lights in a flashing mode, since they will appear brighter and stand out. However, use a steady light in the darkness. That way, it won’t interfere with your visibility.
If you are looking for a durable, reliable, and super bright light, we recommend the Cycle Torch Shark Bike Light. However, if you need an inexpensive light that will still do the job efficiently, consider the Vont Bike Light.