Iron Maiden might have sung about ‘Fear of the Dark’ but they obviously weren’t cyclists because, with the correct kit, there is absolutely nothing to worry about when nighttime approaches. In fact, if you are well lit and have the right lights, nighttime riding can be both more fun and potentially even safer than riding during daylight. Here’s all you need to know to enjoy cycling life when the sun goes down.
Secondary lighting, where the rider’s clothes reflect other environmental sources of light is hugely important and we have an excellent explanation of the technology and products available on the Coffeestop here. In this guide, though, we’re going to deal with primary lighting, where the rider and their bike are the original sources of light. Just to simplify matters further, we’ll break primary lighting down into two areas: primary lighting for road riding or commuting, and primary lighting for off-road riding. That said, there are some universal things to consider with both on and off-road lights.
The first is light power or brightness. Light is measured in lumens: the more lumens a lighting product has, the brighter it is. That said, particularly with front bike lights, outright brightness isn’t necessarily the most important consideration and sometimes the beam pattern or spread of light is more crucial. To see just what we mean, visit our handy light comparison page, where you can judge the brightness and beam shape of two different lights in real world conditions, side-by-side.
The second thing to consider is the light’s power source. Very, very bright front lights may require an external battery to be carried on your bike. Although the absolute brightness is incredible, these might really only be necessary for high-speed off-road riding and can be heavy and cumbersome. The majority of modern day-to-day lights now use integrated rechargeable batteries, which can be recharged via a USB cable. These rechargeable bike lights can fit in with most people’s lifestyles as one charge lasts for hours and they can be replenished at work between commutes. Particularly in the case of rear lights, it’s also a sensible idea to carry a couple of lights that take disposable batteries as well as a fallback option in case everything else fails.
The last thing to consider is lighting modes. Almost all lights provide a variety of different beam angles, strengths, flash modes and corresponding run times. Really consider what you want from your light and then pick a product that provides the function and performance you need.
What is often overlooked is the importance that lights can play during the daytime. In most weather and lighting conditions you are far more visible when using a light, especially if the light is running a sporadic flash rather than simply on-off, on-off. Having a light that can run both a daytime mode and a brighter mode for night riding can be a real life saver.
Road riding and commuting
The reason why it’s important to differentiate between the lights needed for on-road and off-road riding is because they have slightly different roles to play. For the most part, the lights on a road or commuting bike are there to signal to other people your presence, with urban street lighting and environmental sources of light helping allow riders see the way ahead. Of course, you could find yourself cycling on a dark road without streetlights, in which case your front light will have to show you the way. But even then, roads are easy to navigate and don’t twist and turn as much as off-road trails. So road-based lights split their duties between giving the rider decent vision ahead while also allowing the rider to be seen by other road users from the most possible angles.
Road riding front lights
(Click on the product names to view each of them on the Evans Cycles website.)
The Lezyne Micro Drive 700XL Y11 Front Light is a high-performance multi-purpose LED cycling light. It boasts a compact, durable, heat-dissipating extruded and machined aluminium body, so when it comes to toughness this light has you covered. Producing an Ultrahigh-output, with its LEDs producing up to 500 lumens, which is perfect for those gloomy starts and ends of your working day, ideal for your daily commute.
When it comes to lighting bang-for-buck, few options can rival this diminutive front light that puts out a whopping 450 lumens — easily enough to light the way on a dark road. It attaches simply to the handlebar with a rubber O-ring, has a built-in Micro USB rechargeable battery, and features four different lighting modes.
The Bontrager Ion 350 R Front Light is a compact front light that is bright enough to pick out those horrible pot holes and to also keep you seen to other road users and pedestrians. Boasting a bright and focused 350 Lumens, the Ion features a strong CREE LED and a rechargeable battery that gives you up to 23 hours battery life in a flash setting and 1.5 hours in full beam.
The main requirement for rear lights is to be seen from a broad range of angles and effectively mark the rider’s presence. Run times and attention-grabbing flash modes are also important factors to consider.
The Blaze rear light from Exposure is their most powerful rear light. This powerful little light packs a punch in a small package giving out 80 lumens across a range of outputs from constant to pulsing. There is a battery gauge built in and the all important day-bright feature comes as standard, allowing the light to be useful all day long as well as the night.
The Lezyne Strip Drive Pro Y11 Rear Light is an extremely powerful and versatile LED taillight. With the five market leading, ultrahigh-output LEDs delivering up to 300 Lumens, you will stand out on the streets. Featuring Mode Memory function which returns to selected mode after turning off and nine combined Lumen and flash modes, including the extremely visible 300-Lumen Daytime Flash mode.
The ideal rear light for commuters and regular city riders, the Blaze Burner gives out upto 100 lumens in a 180 degree arc for maximum visibility. There is a light sensor built in meaning that as dusk approaches the light will automatically turn on – perfect for those autumn rides home as the nights draw in.
Front and rear sets
Ready-packaged front and rear light sets are particularly useful for road riders.
The popular FWE 450 lumen is now available in a value-for-money light set offering two good powered lights – ideal for commutes and winter rides. Powerful, convenient and cheap to run, the lights can be charged anywhere with a USB port. The light set comes with silicone strap mounts for easy installation and removal.
The Lezyne Micro Drive 700XL Y11 Front Light is a high-performance multi-purpose LED cycling light. It boasts a compact, durable, heat-dissipating extruded and machined aluminium body, so when it comes to toughness this light has you covered. Producing an Ultrahigh-output, with its LEDs producing up to 700 lumens, which is perfect for those gloomy starts and ends of your working day, ideal for your daily commute.
At the rear, the Strip Drive Y11 Light gives off a brilliant 300 Lumens with its five ultrahigh-output LED’s, making it a powerful taillight. Light and durable co-molded lens/body construction, unique aero and round post compatible design and enhanced lens with built-in side visibility are some of the great features that this rear light shares. Also with Mode Memory function returns to selected mode after turning off and eleven unique modes including two high-visibility Daytime Flash modes, its packed with all the essentials you need. From racing to your daily commute, these lights are perfect for making you visible whilst on the road.
Off-road riding at night is one of the most exciting experiences you can have on a bike. You’ll hear all sorts of unusual sounds and see even familiar sights in an entirely new way. But the requirements for lighting are slightly different than on the road. Front lights in particular need to be higher powered with a better spread of light to let you fully understand the potentially technically-demanding route ahead. Unlike road riding, with no vehicles around you don’t need to state your presence in quite the same way, although a rear light is still important in case anybody else has had the same idea as you and is out for a nighttime burn-up.
Off-road front lights
The Cateye Volt 6000 is Cateye’s most powerful light and it really is bright! Firing out an extreme 6000 lumens the Volt brings the sun to you and the trails you’re riding. Cateye have introduced the latest in COB LED technology giving a great beam pattern and its brightest Lumen count yet. The head unit itself (without battery) weighs under 100 grams and delivers amazing power and cooling with the Cateye proprietary fan and circuit technology. The Light regulates its power so that it stays bright at all times and never dims due to over heating or other performance barriers.
The Exposure Strada 1200 with Remote Switch is a powerful front light with specific optics that make it great for road and mountain biking. Tailored for tarmac the Strada sets the pace for any road ride, sprint section or king of the mountain. Its bespoke lenses precisely shine 1200 lumens in an optimised wide and flat beam pattern to light the verges and give exceptional side visibility while avoiding dazzling oncoming road users. CNC Aluminium bodywork is packed with innovative patented technologies, intelligently managing power and optimising brightness. OSD keeps the rider informed of burntime and status with the remote switch giving fingertip control for simplicity and safety keeping the hands on the bars. The forged Aluminium bracket securely mounts the light to the bike keeping it pointing in the right direction.
Occasional you might see a cycle commuter using a helmet-mounted torch and it can act as a helpful extra source of lighting on the road. However, when riding off road, helmet-mounted lights are even more useful and uniquely allow you to inspect things in the dark, simply by turning your head. Pick correctly, and a helmet-mounted torch can be impressively powerful, too.
For riders wanting to try out a helmet-mounted light without investing too heavily, this Cateye is a great introduction; perfect when paired with bike mounted lights this great value for money option gives 30 lumens from the front and 10 lumens from the rear for additional safety.
This light set includes a helmet mount designed to join the front and rear lights together, converting them into a fully functional front and back helmet light. The helmet bracket uses a Velcro strap to attach to any vented helmet and the light attaches with a GoPro fitting so can be used other K-Edge/Garmin/GoPro accessories.
Alternatively, the lights can be used as front handlebar and rear seat post mounts using the silicone strap fitment that makes installing and removing the light easy