Best bike lights for road cycling

Top options for urban and commuting use

Modern bike lights can be split into two main categories – lights for road/commuting use and lights for mountain bike use. They differ vastly in terms of light output, run time, weight and expense.

This article was last updated on 19 January 2015.

Road lights are split into two categories too. Those that enable you to see, and those that allow you to be seen by other users. 

We've covered some of each here. The front lights tested this year, are more powerful and will enable you to see where you are going on unlit cycle paths or rural roads. The rear lights and lightsets are designed primarily to make you visible to other road users. Factors such as battery life, weight and side visibility are more important than power here, and the prices are lower too.

Related reading: Buyer's guide to bike lights for commuting and road cycling

If you're looking for lights for off-road riding, you need something more powerful that can light up unlit trails in dark woods littered with rocks, roots and other obstacles. You can find out more about lights for this purpose in our Buyer's guide to mountain bike lights and Best mountain bike lights round-up.

Best front lights of 2014

The following lights were the highest scoring in tests by Cycling Plus in 2014 year.

Run time and LED data for the top front lights tested in 2014

Cateye Volt 700 Niterider Lumina 750 Exposure Toro Bontrager Ion 700 Moon X-Power 780
Price £99.99 / US$120 / AU$179 £99.99 / US149.99 / AU$179 £274.95 / US$440.71 £89.99 / US$99.99 / AU$134.95 £99.99 / US$N/A
Run time (tested) 1 hours 55 minutes 1 hour 40 minutes 1 hour 57 minutes 1 hour 44 minutes 1 hour 37 minutes
LEDs One high-intensity white LED One LED Three LED XM-L One CREE One CREE XM-L

Cateye Volt 700 – overall winner

£99.99 / US$120 / AU$179

www.cateye.com

Cateye's versatile Volt 700 is small in size but big on practical performance. The beam has a very tight focus for reasonable reach and good middle distance fill that works great in most riding situations – it was praised as one of the most balanced light outputs by our test team.

Read our full review of the Cateye Volt 700.

Bontrager Ion 700 – best value light

£89.99 / US$99.99 / AU$134.95

www.bontrager.com

The 700 lumen output gives good middle distance coverage and reach so you don’t need to compromise your back road riding speed after dark. The backlight changes colour as battery life fades too, making this an impressively practical, usefully powerful full feature light for the money.

Read our full review of the Bontrager Ion 700.

Niterider Lumina 750

£99.99 / US149.99 / AU$179

www.niterider.com

Niterider's Lumina 750 delivers a very impressive rounded beam with lot of light around lower edge to spot road debris and potholes, then a long reaching centre strip for confident high speed riding.

Read our full review of the Niterider Lumina 750.

Exposure Toro – best money-no-object light

£274.95 / US$440.71 / €347.86

www.use1.com/exposure-lights

Exposure's latest Toro sets a new benchmark in practical lighting performance – this level of smart technology inevitably means a high price though.

Read our full review of the Exposure Toro.

Moon X-Power 780

£99.99 / US$N/A / AU$N/A

www.moon-sport.com

Beam output is powerful too, with a broad fuzzy 'smile' and separate mid fill strip that stretches a decent length down the road for confident speed even on unknown roads. It's also fits very securely, and the battery is replaceable.

Read our full review of the Moon X-Power 780.

Also tested this year

Also look at

These are the highest scoring lights from previous years' tests.

Best rear lights

The following lights were the highest scoring in tests by Cycling Plus this year.

Lezyne Zecto Auto

£40 / US$50

www.lezyne.com / www.upgradebikes.co.uk

The well-made and solid-feeling Lezyne Zecto Auto comes with an interesting function that many lights don’t – it’s equipped with an accelerometer which means it’s able to turn itself on and off when you are/aren’t moving. It will shut itself off after three minutes of inactivity, restarting when you start moving again. How useful this is depends on your point of view, but it does at least mean that you won’t drain the battery power from accidentally leaving it on. We never found it a problem at traffic lights either, and the accelerometer is sensitive enough that if you were caught at a set of lights for an absurd amount of time, you’d have to be statuesque in your stillness for the light to go out.

The three rear LEDs are clear and bright, at full power it produces 20 lumens and the coloured LEDs in the side window usefully indicate the charge level. The six lighting modes works and the ability to mount it to a bike or luggage make it very versatile too.

Knog Blinder Road R

£43 / US$80

 www.todayscyclist.co.uk / www.knog.com.au

The Knog Blinder Road R is a seriously powerful little light. The slim casing houses four LEDs and the Blinder Road R can chuck out 70 lumens of vivid red light across five modes.

Knog’s bungee and clip make the Blinder Road R easy to fit and swap between bikes. No tools are required and it sits securely on most seatposts. The power button is in a bit of an inconvenient location though – right at the top of the light, on the edge angled closest to the seatpost. Charging is easy if you have the USB extension cord, as you can just plug it into your laptop, and there are no wires to keep track of.

Cateye Rapid X

£35 / US$40

www.cateye.com / www.zyro.co.uk

The slender-looking Rapid X offers great side and rear visibility. On full power, constant mode, it is incredibly bright bright, but the rechargeable USB battery will only give you one hour’s run time. That's not a problem though because the range of six modes can provide up to 30 hours battery life and thanks to the battery saving feature, it’ll switch to a more power efficient mode as the battery depletes.

The light mounts securely to a seat tube or chain/seat stays with the supplied O-rings and a rubber backing, which also protects the USB charge port. On first inspection this rubber cover looks like it might be susceptible to water ingress but even in the wettest of weather, on a bike without mudguards, it kept the USB port well sealed.

Guee COB-X

£20

www.guee-intl.com / www.dawescycles.com

The Cob-X is simple but effective rear and emits its light from a thin strip of small LEDs. Contrary to their size, they provide a good amount of luminosity across two flashing and one constant mode. The power button at the top has a positive click to it and works well with gloves.

The COB-X can be mounted to a seatpost, chain or seatstay with its rubber clasp and the piece of rubber on the back ensures it doesn’t slip. It charges in less than two hours with a mini USB cable and the port on the back is well protected from the elements, as long as you don’t pull or damage the bung that protects it. The COB-X is basic and simple and as long as you don't mind the limited modes and don’t need searing brightness, it’s good.

Also tested this year

  • Niterider Cherry Bomb 0.5W – 2.5 stars
  • RSP Spectre R – 2.5 stars

Also look at

These are the highest scoring lights from previous years' tests.

Moon Comet 

£28 / US$N/A

www.raleigh.co.uk / www.moon-sport.com

Giving off an even glow that is visible even from 90 degrees to the side, the Comet is a very good rear light. There are six settings; the most impressive is overdrive where it kicked enough light out to illuminate the entire back wheel and road below. This is ideal when angled downwards (to reduce glare), and yet it still ran for nearly two hours. One very good thing about the light is that it comes with a mount for the saddle rails – if you have an aero section seatpost, being able to mount it to the saddle rails is a godsend. The only drawback we could find is that the button is difficult enough to locate when riding without wearing gloves. Stick on some gloves and it’s hit or miss. 

Topeak RedLite Mega

 £25 / US$40

www.topeak.com / www.extrauk.co.uk

Offering excellent visibility without being distractingly bright, Topeak's RedLite Mega rear light is a well built bit of kit. It survived all of our abusive testing and offers great all-round visibility with a simple to fit but secure mounting system. There are some flashing modes which are a little on the gimmicky side, but beyond that the fact remains that this is still one of the best rear lights out there for being seen from behind and surviving life in the cold and wet winter months.

Best light sets (these contain front and rear lights)

Niterider Mako 200 and Solas USB

£89.99 / US$94.99

www.niterider.com / www.2pure.co.uk

Buy now from:

Evans Cycles

Bettering the excellent Lezyne Macro/Micro (below) on run times and visibility, and with a front beam that’s almost as good for seeing with, these are winners in terms of a good all-round setup. The ratchet-style mount is easy to fit, but could be a little more secure where the lights clip in; also it’s quite easy to turn them on accidentally when they’re in your bag. Other than that, these are great: one purchase lets you both see and be seen, and you just pop them into a USB outlet for a couple of hours and you’re ready to go again. 

Lezyne Macro Drive front and Micro LED rear

£89.99 / US$109.99

www.lezyne.com / www.upgradebikes.co.uk

Buy now from:

Wiggle

Two neat and simple lights that both offer good performance and simple band-on fittings. The front delivers very good side visibility and peripheral illumination, as well as great reach beyond 10m, with even light across the beam.. The rear could do with slightly better side visibility, but we’re picking holes in what is essentially a great set. We’d like to see better rubber covers on the switches, but again this is a tiny niggle. The rear light tended to vibrate a little after longer rides on a 27.2mm seatpost, but on larger seatposts this wasn’t a problem. 

Topeak HighLite Combo II

£24.99 / US$29.95

www.topeak.com / www.extrauk.co.uk

Buy now from:

Cyclestore

A few years ago these would have been criticised for the choice of battery, but the price of CR2032 cells has fallen dramatically. Given that, and the long run times, they’re one of the cheapest light sets to run. They’re also well made and offer very good visibility, though the front beam isn’t strong enough to see with on unlit roads – but then at this price they’re not designed for that. They’re quick and easy to fit, though the rear isn’t tool-free, and recessed buttons mean they shouldn’t get accidentally switched on. 

CatEye Econom (front) and Rapid 3 (rear)

£59.99 / US$97

www.cateye.com / www.zyro.co.uk

Buy now from:

Leisure Lakes Bikes

CatEye's Econom front light has a useful beam pattern which is friendly to other road users and offers just enough power for riding quite quickly on road. Windows on the side of the light add a little to the already-good peripheral visibility. This set mates it with CatEye's Rapid 3 rear light, which offers great visibility without being too in-your-face. All this is topped off with the top quality construction we’ve come to expect from CatEye. And the rear light switches back on in the mode in which it was turned off. 

Also look at

  • Knog Boomer USB Twin Pack (£62.99 / US$79.90)
  • Skully (£12.99 / US$20)

These reviews were originally published in Cycling Plus and Triathlon Plus magazines, available on Apple Newsstand and Zinio. For more reviews, see the Lights section of our Bikes & Gear browser.

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