We asked our expert colleagues on sister site Cycling Weekly to give us their round-up of the best bike lights on the market. Here’s what they suggest:
It is a legal requirement to use bike lights when cycling after dark. So if you plan to ride in dusk, dawn, or after the sun’s beam has well and truly been switched off, you must have a white light fitted to the front of your bike, and a red light fitted to the rear. We’ve picked the best bike lights on the market, so you can stay safe when cycling.
Related: Best cycling helmets
Front bike lights can be split into two distinct categories: seeing lights, and being-seen lights. The former acts much like a car headlight, allowing a cyclist to ride down unlit country lanes at any time of day, whilst ‘be-seen’ lights simply aid visibility for other road users and are suitable only for use on street lit roads.
Rear lights are always red, and usually come with a selection of light patterns – some designed to maintain battery life for as long as possible whilst others offer maximum brightness.
In recent years, daytime running bike lights have also become popular. These use attention grabbing light patterns specifically designed to mark a cyclist out on the road even when there is ample natural light.
What to look for when buying front and rear bike lights
According to the Road Vehicles Lighting Regulations, your lights must by mounted centrally or to the offside, positioned up to 1.5m from the ground, and they must conform to British Safety or EC standards.
Technically, reflectors – on the bike and pedals – are a legal requirement, but this is rarely enforced.
Related: Best bike saddles
The industry standard for measuring brightness is Lumens – a lumen being a unit of visible light. Watts (revered elsewhere in cycling) aren’t really a usable standard since LEDs, which have replaced bulbs in modern day designs, require much less power – a 100W incandescent bulb emits around 1600 lumens.
More lumens means more brightness. A ‘seeing’ light, used to ride on unlit roads, needs at least 700 lumens, whilst upwards of 1000 lumens will allow you to cycle at the same speed as you might in daylight. Going off-road, mountain biker lights tend to be 1500 lumens plus, with beams that are very focused and direct.
All high lumen lights will come with assorted modes – it’s important to swap into a lower level beam when riding on lit roads, to avoid dazzling other road users.
To ‘be seen’ when riding under streetlights, we’d recommend 100 lumens as a good benchmark – but 300+ and you’ll see more of what’s going on ahead of you, making pot holes and other road imperfections easier to pick out. At the rear, you’re fine from 20 lumens though models do go in excess of 100.
It’s not just about brightness. LED positioning and beam shape are important too. Bike lights designed to be used on the road will aim to spread the beam wide, with side visibility offered as well – helping to reduce the chance of “sorry mate, I didn’t see you” (SMIDSY) moments at junctions.
Battery life and charging
No one wants to be plunged into darkness half way though the evening commute – so of course battery life is an important consideration.
The vast majority of bike lights are now USB rechargeable, usually with a rubber bung covering the port to ensure weatherproofing.
The occasional exception will be found in low lumen blinkers often bought off-the-shelf in a high street bike shop in a hurry – these often utilise a coin cell battery though even these are beginning to make the move to micro-cable juicing.
Higher end bike lights will provide you with an indication of the battery life you have left. Most will have several modes – and opting for a lower beam or flashing over the highest steady beam will act as a battery saving mode if you get caught short. It’s usually a good idea to carry a cheap set of spare bike lights if you commute often in the dark, just in case.
Some high power bike lights require an external battery pack, that must be attached to the frame – but this is becoming less common outside of mountain biking territory where the need for high lumen lighting is more extreme.
Related: Best hybrid bike
Bike light mounting
The most excellently designed bike light can be rendered useless by a poor mount. You want something that allows you to attach and remove the light quickly (they’re very stealable items) – yet that holds it in place so that your ray of brightness isn’t dancing about all over the road. If you want to swap the light between bikes, look for a mount that uses a sturdy rubber band attachment. If you’re keeping it on one bike, an aluminium construction that attaches via an allen key will hold it steady. You can get lights that mount to your helmet – and these are a great added extra if you want to be able to direct the beam in your direction of travel. However, legally you must have one on your bike too – since a solo floating light can be confusing for drivers. If you do opt for a head torch, a high lumen one paired with a ‘be seen’ bike mounted light works well.
Related: Lumma bike lights review
Our pick of the best front bike lights
Front lights are classified as ‘be seen’ or ‘seeing’. Here’s a selection designed to suit a range of needs. With each product is a ‘Buy Now’ link. If you click on this then we may receive a small amount of money from the retailer when you purchase the item. This doesn’t affect the amount you pay.
Best bike lights: Knog Light Pop Ii Front – £19.99
Buy now at Wiggle for £8.99
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Best bike lights: Lezyne Zecto Drive Y11 Front Light – £32.99
Buy now at Evans Cycles for £23.99
Best bike lights: Lezyne Lite Drive 700XL bike light – £56.99
Just bright enough for unlit roads, this 700 lumen beam offers an array of modes, down to 15 lumens for the maximum battery life of 76 hours whilst at its brightest it will last 1.5 hours. The mount allows for a 360 degree twist, so you can point in all directions and a rubber band fits it to your handlebars.
Buy now at Wiggle from £40.99
Best bike lights: Exposure Switch front light – £78.70
Designed specifically for commuting, the Switch puts out 350 lumens in a wide beam with a focus on creating all-round road visibility, with a DayBright mode so it’s useful at all hours.
Buy now at Wiggle for £53.99
Best bike lights: Cateye Volt 800 front light – £99.99
This 800 lumen light steps into the higher powered realm, and can provide a run time between 2 and 80 hours depending upon the mode used. It’s USB rechargeable and tips the scales at 135g.
Buy now at ProBikeKit for £64.99
Best bike lights: Blaze laserlight – £125
Buy now at Evans Cycles for £124.99
Best bike lights: Gemini Xera LED 950 – £99.99
Buy now at Wiggle for £70.99
Also available from Amazon
Best bike lights: Exposure Toro MK9 front bike light – £294.95
This light is really designed for cross country mountain biking, and in line with that it can put out up to 3300 lumens – so it’ll do the job if you want to ride fast round the lanes. The bream is tight and focused – whilst Exposure’s more road going offerings (like the Joystick) will spread it out more – but all this comes in a 236g package and you’d really be pretty hard to miss with this.
Buy now at Leisure Lakes Bikes for £249.99
Our pick of the best rear bike lights
Rear lights must be red – and can be anywhere from 20 lumens, usually offering several flash patterns. Here’s a few we recommend. With each product is a ‘Buy Now’ link. If you click on this then we may receive a small amount of money from the retailer when you purchase the item. This doesn’t affect the amount you pay.
Best bike lights: Lezyne Laser Drive rear light – £57.99
Not a cheap option, this light does have a USP. Not only does it push out an almighty 250 lumens, but it uses laser beams to display a bright ‘bike lane’ marker either side of the rider – designed to reduce close passes and the chance of pedestrians stepping out.
Buy now at Merlin Cycles for £52.20
Best bike lights: Knog Blinder R70 rear bike light – £48.99
A simple rear light that provides 70 lumens and an array of modes. USB rechargeable, it fits via a rubber mount and is compatible with aero seatposts.
Buy now at ProBikeKit for £42.99
Best bike lights: Bontrager Flare R rear bike light – £44.99
Designed specifically to work well in daylight, of course this 65 lumen beam works after dark too – and in night-time flashing mode it lasts for 23 hours.
Buy now at Rutland Cycling for £29.99
Also available at Amazon
Best bike lights: Exposure TraceR rear bike light – £49.95
Despite being small in size, this light will pump out 75 lumens. It charges via USB and the mount uses a rubber strap so is completely tool free.
Buy now at Evans Cycles for £34.99
Best bike lights: Cycliq Fly6 rear camera bike light – £99.99
Something a bit different. The Cycliq Fly6 360 is a 30 lumen rear light, that incorporates an action camera – so you can record exactly what’s going on behind you.
Buy now at Evans Cycles from £54.99
Best bike lights: Knog Blinder Mini Niner light set – £45.99
Buy now at Tredz for £35.18
Everyone needs a backup. This ‘be seen’ set provides 20 lumens at the front and 11 at the rear, with five lighting modes and an elasticated mounting system. Plus, they’re USB rechargeable.