A Guide to
There is a wide range of lights available for cyclists, everything from small emergency back-up lights to units that are capable of turning night into day. What you need depends on what you want to do.
Mountain bikers especially need lights that pack a punch to help light up the trails in front. Mountain bike lights can easily push out over 1000 lumens, so bright you really don’t want to look directly into them.
For road bikers and commuters, the best bike lights are powerful front lights, perhaps also including flashing modes to make you more obvious to drivers.
At the back, a minimum of one rear light should be used, again, brighter is often better (unless it dazzles drivers), while flashing modes help attract attention.
Charging batteries is the most cost effective way to keep lights running, and fortunately with most people having access to computers, USB charging is a great way to do it. For example, the Knog Blinder lights plug straight into your computer and charges in a few hours. USB charging is ideal for commuters who can simply plug their lights in to charge throughout the day while they’re work. It’s worth noting that USB charging can take a while for big batteries, but for back-up lights it’s ideal.
The best bike lights, and usually the most powerful mountain bike lights, sometimes have dedicated charger units that are able to quickly recharge batteries. With some batteries needing care while charging, to avoid damage, they’re often ‘smart’ chargers, which will trickle charge when the battery is nearly full, avoiding damage. It’s always worth reading charging advice when you purchase a new light, as damaged batteries can be expensive to replace.
If your light isn’t rechargeable, it’ll be a case of replacing batteries. Smaller lights might use watch style round batteries, while slightly bigger ones may use AAA or AA batteries – you can, of course, buy rechargeable versions of these.
Backup lights won’t have quite as much power as your main light, but they tend to be smaller and lighter, perhaps with better battery life. At night or in the darker winter months, backup lights are always useful to carry on a ride in case your main set of bike lights runs out of battery power.
Some will come with a traditional bar or frame clip, while others, such as the Cateye SL110 or Knog Frog Strobe will come with either elasticated or rubbery coverings to keep them small and resilient to the weather.
The best bike lights will be your main set, but backup lights will take up a minimal amount of space on your bars or seatpost. More importantly, they will definitely help you get home safely if your main lights fail, so we’d recommend having a set on your bike in the winter months, or when riding regularly at night.