The 10 Best Bike Lights
This wiki has been updated 31 times since it was first published in April of 2015. Cycling is an excellent form of exercise and an enjoyable hobby. Additionally, it's both an economical and environmentally-friendly means of transportation. However, it can be quite dangerous on busy streets or uneven surfaces, especially at night. Our selection of bike lights will help you navigate any upcoming obstacles in your path, and ensure that you're always visible to others on the road. When users buy our independently chosen editorial picks, we may earn commissions to help fund the Wiki.
December 04, 2020:
There are several factors to consider when looking for a bike light, such as level of brightness needed, preferred distance range, time of day you’ll be riding, and type of terrain you’ll be traversing. Some or all of these considerations may play into your decision making, but most of us will be interested to know the power of the bulbs in question. If you’ll be riding at night or live in an excessively foggy area, chances are you’ll want an option strong enough to light your way and alert others to your presence. The NiteRider Lumina 1100 is well-made, weather resistant, and packed with enough lumens to keep you visible on poorly lit streets. It features a lock mode to help extend battery life, as well as an indicator to alert you when power is dwindling. Another powerful choice is the Knog PWR, offering 1000 lumens. It’s capable of charging other usb devices, though you’ll probably only want to do this in an emergency so you don't risk draining the battery. If this still isn’t bright enough for your needs, check out the strongest light on our list, the Cateye Volt 6000, which is capable of emitting a whopping 1700 lumens. If you travel off the beaten path or through super dark areas, this is a great choice. Even on high, the battery life will last for two hours.
Along those lines, if you ride long distance or are terrible at remembering to charge devices, lasting battery power may be a priority. If this is the case, the Garmin Varia RTL515 is a good option due to its long battery life. It works for 16 hours on flashing mode, and six hours on its regular setting. Additionally, it comes with a high-quality radar detector, which can keep you safe by alerting you to cars approaching from behind. This companion device is very useful for commuters, or anyone who spends a lot of time biking on busy roads.
Almost all the options on our list are charged by USB, which is often preferred for its modern technology and convenience. However, a device that operates on external batteries has its advantages. When you have plenty of batteries lying around, swapping out a few may actually take less time than waiting while your device charges via cable. If this sounds like you, check out the Vont Scope Set, which runs on three AAA batteries and offers about 6 hours of continuous usage. However, keep in mind that this is only a good fit if you don’t need a ton of light, as it maxes out at 120 lumens.
If you like to ride fast, or simply want to be as streamlined as possible, we included a few lightweight options. The Ascher AS-3L weighs only 5.5 ounces and, as a bonus, is a very economical choice. Additionally, the Blitzu Gator 390 is another decent light that is highly affordable. However, it should be noted that these bike lights are not bright enough for nighttime use.
November 25, 2019:
Replaced the Cygolite Metro 700 USB with the Cygolite Metro Pro 1100, which offers more brightness as well as useful features like a low-battery indicator. Replaced the Malker Silicone Set with the Schwinn Quick Wrap, a higher quality option that's still quite affordable and easy to take on & off. Also added the Light and Motion Urban 500, which features side lights and a durable design and the Cygolite Streak 450 for those who want a reliable light, but don't need an extremely high level of brightness. Removed the Magnus Innovation Vision II and Victagen Super Bright due to availability concerns. Added the NiteRider Lumina 1100, which has a lock mode that makes sure it doesn't accidentally turn on during transport or storage.
Some options, like the Cygolite Metro Pro 1100, come with just a headlight while others, like the Cycle Torch Shark 500, include a tail light as well. While a handlebar-mounted light should be white in order to illuminate the path in front, tail lights are generally red, like a car's brake light, so that they can make the bike visible without impairing the vision of those riding, walking, or driving behind it.
The battery life for these lights is different depending on what mode they're set to, so if you're out for a long nighttime ride, be aware of which setting you're using so that you don't lose power unexpectedly before you've reached your destination.
Sharper Image Ultimate Made for cyclists who enjoy multiple gadgets in one, this dual bike light from Sharper Image is also a Bluetooth speaker, phone mount, and USB charger. It can operate for up to 30 hours when fully charged, and features a built-in microphone for hands-free calls. sharperimage.com
Ideas For Safe Cycling After Dark
Also make sure to wear clothing that is bright and highly visible.
Whether you are riding for fun, taking part in a race, or commuting to and from work, school, or around town, one thing is a constant: safety comes first.
Proper bicycle safety involves always wearing a helmet; this is a rule without exceptions. It doesn't matter if you are taking a leisurely ride down an open country lane or if you're a bike messenger zipping back and forth among busy city traffic, you should wear a helmet when on your bike. It's also a good idea to wear protective gloves, and to consider clothing purpose-built to reduce "road rash", cuts, and scrapes in the unfortunate event of a fall. A good pair of sunglasses can help prevent the sun's glare from impeding your vision, and also keep your eyes safe from debris. (Clear lenses should be worn when glare is not an issue.)
If you will be riding your bike after dark, there are extra safety considerations to be weighed and additional measures you must take to ensure you have a save ride. It's imperative you make yourself highly visible when riding your bike at night. The first step is to make sure your bike's reflectors are securely attached, in good working order (not cracked, e.g.), and are clean and unobstructed. Also make sure to wear clothing that is bright and highly visible. Ideally, you should wear a high-visibility vest that has bright colors such as yellow, orange, or pink, or you could consider an LED vest. (These illuminated vests or belts are a smart choice, as they can help you be seen without a headlight or streetlight as a reflector.)
Once you have made sure you and your bike are visible thanks to reflectors and bright or illuminated clothing, it's time to consider that critical piece of nighttime-cycling hardware, the bike light.
Choosing A Bike Light For Enhanced Visibility
When considering a bike light, first think about the type of bicycle to which your light will be affixed. Some of the largest, brightest options out there might in fact be too large and bulky for a streamlined carbon fiber road bike, and some of the smaller, sleeker models might be too dainty for a rugged mountain bike regularly subjected to jostling, jumps, and even falls.
An improperly installed bike light won't be of benefit and might even fall off, presenting a safety hazard to you and others.
Next, consider a bike light's battery life. If you routinely ride for hours at night, or if you won't regularly be able to charge or replace a light's batteries, then battery life is of critical importance: a light without power is worse than useless, it's just added weight, after all.
Make sure you are comfortable with the installation of any bike light you consider, or else plan to take your bicycle to a shop for professional assistance. An improperly installed bike light won't be of benefit and might even fall off, presenting a safety hazard to you and others.
Ultimately, the right bike light is one that creates the ideal beam for your night riding circumstances. If you bike on paths after dark, you want a bike light with a long throw that can reveal the route far ahead. If you ride on city sidewalks and streets, you need a wider range illuminated so you can spot potential hazards, like potholes and debris.
Last, you must consider how easily a bike light can be attached to and removed from your bike. If you regularly lock your bike outside in public places, your light might be at risk for theft if you leave it attached to the bike. A device that can quickly detach is one you won't have to worry about getting stolen.
Choosing A Bike Light For Improved Safety
While making sure you can see well when riding at night is important, it's of equal importance that you can be seen by others. That means two things: first, you need to choose a rear light that is highly visible, and second, you need to choose lights that won't negatively affect the vision of motorists, pedestrians, or other cyclists.
When considering your bike's headlamp, make sure to choose an option that can be dimmed and/or angled as to not shine directly into the eyes of motorists in opposing traffic.
A bike's tail light should be red, the same as a car or truck's rear lights, because red light causes the least disruption to a person's night vision. Choose a bike tail light that can flash for added visibility, but know that this function is usually only necessary if you are on a busy roadway or city street and need to stand out.
When considering your bike's headlamp, make sure to choose an option that can be dimmed and/or angled as to not shine directly into the eyes of motorists in opposing traffic. A bright light shined right at a driver can cause disorientation and make it harder to determine exactly where you are. Make sure it is easy to change the brightness of your light if you choose a unit with multiple output settings; you should be able to adjust the light in a matter of seconds, without looking down at it. Some bike lights cast a broad, flat beam that illuminates plenty of ground but has little impact on those facing it; these are a good choice for the cyclist who frequently rides in traffic and needs to be considerate others.