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.
To put it simply, lumens are a measure of the total amount of visible light. The higher the number of lumens, the brighter the light will be. For example, modern rear lights can range from around 5-100 lumens, whilst front lights can start at 10, up to thousands of lumens that will create an extremely bright beam of light.
To be seen on the road we suggest a rear light between 50-100 lumens.
To see the road in front, it’s best to have a brighter light ranging from 200 – 500 lumens.
To see the trail in front we recommend higher output lights, to avoid any potential hazard on the trail. A front light with 500 – 1500 lumens will be ideal for riding off-road paths and trails.
As soon as you decide to ride when the sun has gone down, you will need bike lights, not only to see where you’re going but just as importantly, so others can see you. Whether you frequent the mountains or you ride-to-work, you will need a good set of decent lights, particularly during the winter months when the sun sets earlier in the day. This buying guide is here to help you find the best set of lighting options for you.
With the exception of dynamo powered lights, it’s a sad fact of life that your bicycle light will run out of battery power at some point. The time it takes depends on many factors, such as which mode you’re running the light on, the size of the battery and even the outdoor temperature.
Charging batteries is the most cost effective way to keep bike lights running, and fortunately, USB charging is a great way to do it. USB charging is ideal for commuters who can simply plug their lights in, to charge throughout the day while they 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.
When looking at rechargeable USB lights, the Knog Blinder lights is a good example of an ideal product, as they plug straight into your computer or USB plug and charge in just a few hours.
Back-up lights are small enough to keep on your bike all year round, whether you ride in the dark or not, as in low light or poor weather conditions they can help you to be seen by other road users. 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.
Exposure, Lezyne & Moon Lights have added the Day Flash functionality to their key commuting and road lights. Day Flash or Day Bright as Exposure have called it, has been designed to be used either at night or during the day plus offers great side visibility.
Day Flash is designed to cut through all the distractions you find on busy roads, the lights, the noise, that can prevent other road users from picking you out. By using a specific pulse pattern and lumen intensity the light is visible from over a kilometre and can still be picked out in the brightest of sunlight. They will get you noticed.
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