Do you want to ride your bike at night or when visibility is bad? Of course you do! If you’re anything like us, you want to ride your bike all the time, day or night, rain or shine and the good news is you can! All you need is the right set of lights.
We have broken this guide down into Urban/Commuting, Road and Off-road to help you choose the lights that will best suit your needs but there are a few basics you’ll want to know first.
Outputs: What are Lumens?
In simple terms lumens are the unit of how bright a light is to the human eye. Modern lights range from about 5-100 lumens for rear lights. Front lights start at about 10 lumens and go into the hundreds for commuting lights and right up into the thousands for serious road and off-road lights.
Batteries: What are my options?
You can still buy lights that run on disposable alkaline batteries but most lights now feature built in rechargeable batteries. The most common rechargeable batteries are Lithium Ion (Li-Ion) or Lithium Polymer (Li-Po). These are smaller, lighter and more powerful than disposable alkaline batteries making them perfect for bike lights.
Most rechargeable lights charge via USB and some lights even feature a built in USB connector so you don’t need a cable to charge them at all.
More powerful front lights take a long time to charge via USB so many come with the additional option of a mains charger.
More and more rechargeable lights are fitted with battery life indicators so you know exactly how much juice you have left. Some lights have a small LED that changes in colour to indicate how much power is remaining. Some high end lights even feature a digital display.
Light mounts: how do they work?
Here are 2 popular mounting systems that you will see more of as you read our lights buying guide.
- Most rear lights and safety lights use a strap mounting mechanism that you can easily wrap around your seatpost or handlebar. One of the key advantages of using a strap mount is that it's very convenient to remove quickly and easily - this is ideal for commuting!
- A popular mounting mechanism for some front lights is a bolt on bracket. While some front lights also use strap mounts, the more powerful models feature a bolt on bracket due to their heavier weight. This is ideal especially if you mountain bike or ride over rough terrain.
What are the best lights for you?
Commuter and urban
If you’re riding in a built up area and the road or path is well lit, your main priority should be to make sure you’re visible to other road users. There are plenty of lights designed for just this purpose. Most brands refer to these lights as Safety Lights.
Safety lights will usually have at least one constant lighting mode in addition to multiple flashing modes. They also offer high levels of side visibility so you can be seen at junctions by pedestrians and other road users.
We’ve all seen that guy who looks like he’s run off with the lighting rig from Dave’s mobile disco, with multiple flashing lights all over his bike, bag, clothing and helmet. You may think it’s a bit overkill but remember you did see him! Fitting more than one light with a combination of flashing modes will always make you more visible.
The Lezyne Zecto Drive Light Set Y9 is perfect if the roads you are riding on are well lit.
Safety lights usually attach via rubber mounting straps that wrap around your seatpost or handlebar making them quick and easy to fit and remove. Many will also come with options to fix them to your bag, clothing, helmet or a pannier rack.
If your commute takes in some unlit roads or paths, you’ll want a more powerful front light and one that is capable of casting a beam. Anything over 200 lumens will offer sufficient light to ride on unlit roads and paths at a sensible speed. If the terrain is likely to be rough or you are likely to come across hazards in the road, you may want something even brighter.
The LifeLine 375 Lumen Front Light is the perfect option if your commute takes you on any unlit roads or paths.
When riding on unlit roads, especially at speed, a powerful front light is vital to illuminate the way ahead. The only thing worse than traveling ten feet on your face is finding the pothole that just threw you from your bike has also written off your front wheel!
To help you spot potholes and other hazards you want a powerful, bar mounted front light, ideally with an output upwards of 600 lumens. A light with a more focused beam will allow you to see further ahead and also prevent you blinding other road users.
The right selection of lighting modes is also important allowing you to adjust your light output to your surroundings and manage your power reserves on long rides.
The Exposure Strada Mk6 Front Light with Remote Switch is designed specifically for the road.
More powerful front lights tend to be heavier and so require a sturdier bolt on bracket. The light unit can then be removed from the bracket for recharging or if you are leaving the bike locked up somewhere.
Lights with a more focused front beam can be more difficult for other road users to see so it is always worth fitting an additional safety light to the front of your bike. Using a flashing mode on your safety light will make you even more visible.
Adding the Lezyne Strip Drive Front Light to the front of your bike will help make you more visible to other road users.
On the rear a bright safety light will allow other road users to see you from a good distance. Again using the flashing mode and doubling up on lights will make you more visible.
Most safety lights attach via rubber mounting straps that wrap around your seatpost making them quick and easy to fit and remove. Most manufacturers now design their lights to work with aero seatposts but if you are in any doubt it is best to check the specification of the light before buying.
So you want to go night riding? Of course you do! What better way to up the ante than by removing daylight from the equation but you don’t want to go round bumping into trees and falling down holes so you’re going to need some lights.
What kind of lights do you need? Not the lights you use on your daily commute! They might seem really bright even on unlit paths but out in the wild, especially on unfamiliar trails, you need serious illumination! As a bare minimum you want a powerful bar mounted front light, ideally with an output upwards of 1000 lumens. Something with a wide beam pattern is best to help illuminate the whole of the trail in front of you.
In addition to a bar mounted light a helmet mounted light with a narrower beam will help you to see round corners and spot any additional hazards that might be lost in the shadow of your main light. Some helmet mounted lights also feature a rear light option.
The right selection of lighting modes is also important for both lights. On fast descents you will need all the light you can get. You can then use a less powerful setting when climbing to save battery life. Some manufacturers offer the option of a remote switch letting you change your lighting mode without taking your hands off the bar.
When riding off-road, it’s worth buying a light that will give you a bit more battery life than you need. You never know when you might need a bit extra for an unexpected detour or a trailside repair. If you are looking to do long night rides it may be worth purchasing additional batteries to carry with you.
On the rear a safety light will allow other riders to see you on the trail. Most safety lights attach via rubber mounting straps that wrap around your seatpost but you may want to clip them onto your bag, clothing or helmet.
The Lezyne Strip Drive Rear Light will provide plenty of light for your trail buddies to see you by.
Of course many of the lights we sell are designed to cater for multiple disciplines and with additional mounts available, you can easily switch your lights between bikes.
The Lezyne Super Drive 1200XL Front Light Y9 is a great all-rounder.