Whether you’re commuting through towns or cities, taking on a night time mountain bike ride or touring on a long distance road trek, having a reliable set of lights is crucial – and a legal requirement in many countries.
There’s a great range of lights for all purposes and at all budgets, which can be broadly separated into general purpose and high performance models.
Why do I need a bike lights?
Bike lights are designed for two purposes – to help you to see the path ahead including potholes, parked cars or obstacles on a trail and to help others to see you like oncoming traffic and other cyclists. Many manufacturers will now recommend daytime running lights (DRL) which help in poor weather conditions, particular in fog, rain and low light but can also be used at night time when you need it most.
Using modern technology, bike lights now offer a varying degree of brightness, battery life and flash patterns which are all dependent on the kind of cycling you are doing. Whether that is cycling on the roads, commuting to work or going for late evening mountain bike adventure there is a bike light there to suit your needs.
- Front Light: Designed to be attached to the front of your bike and give off a white beam. Ranging from high powered lights designed for off road trails to lower beamed commuter lights .
- Rear Light: Normally sitting snugly on your seat post, rear lights – which give off a red beam – are fairly standardised from manufacturers in regards to brightness but it’s important to check battery life and mounts.
- Lumens: is a measurement of total amount of visible light from a light source, meaning the higher the lumen rating the brighter the light will appear.
- Milliamp Hours (mAh): Commonly used to measure the energy capacity of a battery, the larger this value is the longer the light will run for.
What range is available to me?
It can be difficult to choose lights with the vast range available on the market today. Lights are designed for different purposes, so depending on the kind of cycling you do, you will need to ensure you have the best light.
Road Bike Lights
As road cycling has a much higher average speed, you are going to want to have a more powerful front light that can help to illuminate obstacles in front of you.
Considering a light with 500 – 1000 lumens will help to see the road ahead of you and not risk dazzling oncoming traffic.
A rear light will help you be seen by traffic, often prioritising a good beam over brightness, they are small and relatively cheap but carry out an important job.
Mountain Bike Lights
Depending on the trails you are going to be riding may vary your decision on what MTB light you go for. If you are planning to blast down tight, twisty trails then a light with plenty of lumens, a wide beam and long battery life will suit your needs.
If you are looking to ride the likes of a fire trail that features wide paths you may want to look at something with long beam and good battery life.
Mountain Bike lights also come with a variety of mounts so you may want to look at buying a light for your handlebars and helmet to help tracks wherever you are looking.
As most commuting will take place in an urban environment, where street and car lights are common, being seen is the top priority over seeing ahead.
Commuter lights are often less powerful than that of road and MTB lights, designed to be easily attached to the bike, offer some side-on illumination and easily rechargeable.
- Output: Bike light power is measured in lumens which determines how bright the bikes light is. Lumens can range from between five to over one thousand lumen. The amount of lumens you need will vary depending on your use and purpose. If you are looking to see the path ahead you are going to need more lumens, in a well lit area it is recommended between 50-200 lumens; through a dark forest trial you could need over 1200 lumens.
- Rechargeable: Bike lights are generally powered in two ways – with rechargeable or non-chargeable batteries. Many lights still use batteries, which usually result in a bigger and bulkier light. In recent years the emergence of the USB rechargeable bike light have come on to the market.
- Mounts: The mount is important in ensuring that the light is secured to your bike firmly and pointing the beam in the correct place. Each manufacturer offers a range of mounts for different lights.
- Battery Life: It’s important to look at this before purchasing in incase you are looking for a long-lasting bike light for those big night rides. Most higher end bike lights offer excellent battery life.