Best bike lights 2020 | Front and rear lights for road cycling and commuting

Our pick of the best front and rear lights to keep you visible out on the roads

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The best lights for road cycling 2020

Essential during the winter and a smart addition to your bike during the summer, good quality light for your bike ought to be one of the first accessories on your shopping list.

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It’s a legal requirement in the United Kingdom to have lights on your bike if you’re cycling after dusk, but some riders like to use them during the day as well, especially during the winter, in order to increase visibility to other road users.

Like everything, though, there are tons of different brands offering an endless array of options, so it can be a near-impossible task to figure out which lights are most suitable for your needs.

Fortunately, here at BikeRadar, our expert testers have used and abused dozens of light sets to bring you the definitive list of what we believe are the best road and commuting light sets on the market in 2020.

Road lights are split into another two categories: those that provide enough illumination to enable you to see what’s on the road and those that are designed to simply ensure that you’re seen by other road users – lights to see and lights to be seen, as it were.

We’ve focussed on front lights that are more powerful and will enable you to see where you are going on unlit cycle paths or rural roads.

Once you’ve browsed the reviews, don’t forget to check out our buyer’s guide to road and commuting lights at the bottom of the page. We’ve covered all of the key factors you should consider, including light output, battery life and more.

If you’re after lights for riding off-road on trails, you’ll need something with greater power and battery life. Check out our separate round-up of the best mountain bike lights.


Best front lights for bikes in 2020 as rated by our expert testers

  • Bontrager Ion Pro RT: £100
  • Gemini Titan 4000: £300
  • Guee SOL 700 Plus: £60
  • Blackburn Dayblazer 800: £59.99
  • Exposure Sirius MK9: £100
  • Exposure Strada 1200: £290
  • Hope R2i LED Vision: £175
  • Knog PWR road 600: £85
  • Lezyne Macro Drive 1300XXL: £85
  • Magicshine Allty 1000 DRL: £70

Bontrager Ion Pro RT

4.5 out of 5 star rating
Bontrager Ion PRO RT road bike headlight
Bontrager Ion PRO RT.
Russel Burton / Immediate Media
  • Pleasingly warm-coloured and well-shaped beam
  • Bluetooth compatibility is a fun novelty
  • Good band-on mount

Bontrager’s Ion Pro RT strikes a perfect balance between a high lumen output with a consistent, pleasingly-coloured and well-focused beam pattern.

The clamp is super easy to use and – while its real-world usefulness is questionable – the Bluetooth integration, which allows you to control the light via a Garmin or Di2 shifter, is fun. It’s also super easy to use.

Gemini Titan 4000

4.5 out of 5 star rating
front light road bike
The Gemini provides genuine daylight-style vision.
BikeRadar
  • Unparalleled strip LED illumination power
  • Custom modes and a wireless switch
  • Excellent reliability and the best way to light up your bike rides

If you want rally car-like levels of illumination on your ride, nothing beats Gemini’s radical Titan. By using six LEDs in a horizontal strip you get a detailed 3D rendering of the road/trail rather than harsh single/double point shadows for genuine daylight-style vision.

While it maxes out at a darkness-detonating 4,000 lumens, half that is enough for 90 per cent of situations, so the bag battery capacity is ample for epic rides.

Each mode is programmable in 10 per cent steps and you get a wireless remote as standard. We’ve been using Titans for years without a glitch.

Guee SOL 700 Plus

4.5 out of 5 star rating
The Smart Ambient Sensor mode automatically switches power levels to match the surrounding darkness.
The Smart Ambient Sensor mode automatically switches power levels to match the surrounding darkness.
  • Automatic power adjustment
  • Nice CNC machined body

If you’re the sort of person who always forgets to dip their full beam (stop being that person), the automatically power adjusting Guee SOL 700 might be just the light for you.

While this could sound a little gimmicky, in practice we’ve found the automatic adjustments to be quite useful, particularly while riding at dawn or dusk when street lighting can be a little patchy.

The light also fixes onto GoPro mounts, opening up a whole host of potential mounting positions.

Blackburn Dayblazer 800

4.0 out of 5 star rating
front light for road cycling
With submersible waterproofing, it’ll survive even the wettest of rides.
BikeRadar
  • Multi-mounting options
  • Bright and long-running enough to be really versatile
  • A tough and powerful light

Blackburn’s slimline Dayblazer uses a combination of GoPro-style tabs and a rubber band strap to mount it almost anywhere, so no matter your handlebar configuration, you’re bound to find space for the light.

You’ll be grateful for the 800-lumen ‘Blitz’ mode that can pick out trouble in the darkest alleys and gutters on any ride too.

The TIR lens, with diffusing side cutouts, gives a good ‘see me’ spread, with flash and pulse modes for daylight running. There’s basic battery info and the 1.5-hour run time at max power can be USB recharged in four hours.

It’s submersible waterproof too, so if you live somewhere with plenty of rainfall it’s sure to live up to Blackburn’s light reputation of being super tough.

Exposure Sirius MK9

4.0 out of 5 star rating
Angled view of the Exposure Sirius MK9 front road cycling light
The Exposure Sirius MK9.
Russell Burton / Immediate Media
  • Super high-quality build
  • Road-user-friendly beam shape
  • Light weight

Exposure’s road-specific Sirius is now onto its ninth generation and is still one of our all-time favourite lights.

Combining a high-quality alloy housing with well thought out optics, the light makes full use of its modest 850 lumen output.

It does require a proprietary cable to charge, but we’re willing to forgive this given how well it performs in other areas.

Exposure Strada 1200

4.0 out of 5 star rating
Exposure Strada 1200 front headlight
Exposure Strada 1200.
BikeRadar / Immediate Media
  • Remote high/low beam switching
  • Tunable output and plug-in extras
  • It’s a well-designed, high-tech, high-performance UK illuminator

Exposure has been making high-performance, high-tech lights in the UK for over a decade. The latest Strada road light is 300 lumens brighter than the previous model for uncompromised back road riding and a wired remote for flicking between high and low beams is included as standard.

Run times for multiple programmable modes are communicated through a strip OLED. Plug-in batteries, rear lights and USB chargers are all available as extras and the latest version recharges 40 per cent quicker than before.

The CNC-machined light, bar and stem mounts are beautiful and UK factory backup is excellent.

Hope R2i LED Vision

4.0 out of 5 star rating
front light fro road cycling
Hope R2i LED Vision.
BikeRadar
  • Super robust construction
  • ‘Double barrel’ LED setup improves visibility

The R2i LED Vision carries over Hope’s signature machined aesthetic, housing two eye-friendly, warm coloured LEDs in a very sturdy all-alloy body.

The ‘double barrel’ setup of the LEDs causes a binocular-like effect that helps decipher what’s ahead, with the smooth transition at the edge of the beam avoiding stark reflections and sharp edges.

The light is relatively heavy, but our experience shows that the weight penalty is worth it, with legendary reliability and factory-direct support to boot.

Knog PWR Road

4.0 out of 5 star rating
Knog PWR Road front light for road cycling
Knog PWR Road.
Russell Burton / Immediate Media
  • Genuinely innovative modular lighting solution
  • Nicely constructed
  • Solid mount

Knog’s modular PWR system was released to much fanfare. The whole system is based around a central power pack that is available in a number of different capacities, and Knog has plans to include camp lights, Bluetooth speakers and more as part of the PWR family.

In testing, we have found the PWR system to be totally fuss-free. The battery life is also pretty decent for a mid-powered light.

Lezyne Macro Drive 1300XXL

4.0 out of 5 star rating
Lezyne Macro Drive 1300 XXL road bike headlight
The Lezyne Macro Drive 1300 XXL.
Russel Burton / Immediate Media
  • Overdrive mode is useful for gravel and off-road riding
  • Auto cooldown feature is handy
  • Super secure mount

Lezyne’s Macro Drive 1300XXL delivers a monstrous 1,300 lumen output in its ‘Overdrive’ mode that is more than enough to navigate on unlit roads or gravel paths.

The intermediate settings are well thought out and, though we’d prefer a slightly smoother transition between these, it is possible to programme the light to suit your needs.

The mount is super secure though fitting it the first time around proved a challenge.

Magicshine Allty 1000 DRL

4.0 out of 5 star rating
Magicshine Allty 1000 DRL
Magicshine Allty 1000 DRL.
Russel Burton / Immediate Media
  • Super easy to use
  • Great value for money

The Red Dot Design Award-winning Magicshine Allty 1000 DRL presents excellent value for money in a nicely-made and easy-to-operate package.

With a 1,000 lumen output and neat Garmin mount integration, the light can be easily integrated into your existing cockpit setup.

Ravemen PR1200

4.0 out of 5 star rating
Ravemen PR1200 road bike headlight
Ravemen PR1200.
Russel Burton / Immediate Media
  • High/low beam setting is genuinely useful
  • Available battery life indicator
  • Wired remote button

The Ravemen PR1200 has a nifty high/low beam setting, similar to that seen in a car, which can be used to avoid dazzling oncoming road users.

A wired remote button could be useful for those riding with flat bars and an excellent IP8 rating means the light should survive even the heaviest downpours.


Best rear bike lights in 2020 as rated by our expert testers

  • Alpkit Tau: £14.99
  • Topeak Redlite Aero 1W: £32.99
  • Bontrager Flare R City: £30
  • Cateye Rapid X2: £40
  • Exposure TraceR MK1 DayBright: £45
  • Knog Cobber Mid: £60
  • Lezyne Zecto Drive Max: £48
  • Moon Comet X-Pro: £31.99

Alpkit Tau

4.0 out of 5 star rating
rear light for road cycling
Reasonably priced and top-performing.
BikeRadar
  • Mega-light 20g weight
  • Long run time

Renowned for its reasonably priced and top-performing kit, Alpkit’s Tau featherweight 20g light boasts a 20-lumen LED light strip with five modes, including high and low flash and constant and a pulse function.

The light will run for 3 hours 30 minutes on full-whack and the light’s switch indicates the charge level.

Topeak Redlite Aero 1W

4.5 out of 5 star rating
rear light for road cycling
It’s always ready to go and has never failed us out on a ride
BikeRadar
  • 55-lumen max power setting
  • Lots of mounting options

On paper, Topeak’s Redlite Aero 1W is nothing remarkable, but it’s always the one that’s ready to go and has never failed us out on a ride.

Four modes max-out at 55 lumens (two-hour run time) with a low battery indicator. Different back pieces and bands fit various shaped tubes/posts, the single LED strip is angled and it charges in two hours.

Bontrager Flare R City

4.0 out of 5 star rating
rear light for road cycling
In max setting, it’ll keep on going for just over five hours.
BikeRadar
  • Quick charge time
  • Lightweight and long-lasting

The light’s single LED emits 35 lumens using a wide-angle reflector, and in its max setting, which is daylight-flash mode, it’ll keep on going for just over five hours.

With a 2 hour charge time and a 26g weight, it’s a solid companion for both daytime and night time rides.

Cateye Rapid X2

4.0 out of 5 star rating
rear light for road cycling
Twin LED strips scroll through six modes with a 50-lumen max
BikeRadar
  • 180-degree visibility
  • Two hour re-charge time

Cateye started the LED rear light revolution and still rules in terms of reliability. Twin LED strips scroll through six modes with a 50-lumen max and 180-degree visibility.

It’s aero seatpost-friendly, but a lack of angle correction is irritating.

Its light 30g weight limits max run-time to one hour, but the two-hour recharge is useful for busy riders.

Exposure TraceR MK1 DayBright

4.0 out of 5 star rating
rear light for road cycling
The light boasts a two-year warranty and the metal body means it only weighs 49g
BikeRadar
  • High 75-lumen output
  • Six modes

With the option to change between three constant modes and three pulsing modes to get the most from the battery’s output, you can expect the light to last around 3 hours 10 minutes on the maximum 75-lumen output.

The light boasts a two-year warranty and the metal body means it only weighs 49g. It’s also built in the UK.

Knog Cobber Mid

4.0 out of 5 star rating
Knog Cobber Mid
The Cobber has good side-to-side illumination.
Alex Evans
  • Great side-on visibility
  • Plenty of modes

As its looks suggest, the main selling point of the Knog Cobber Mid rear light is side-on visibility, and it certainly doesn’t disappoint on this front.

Run time on full power was slightly lower than claimed by Knog, but at 1 hour 40 minutes was nevertheless good for a 75-lumen rear light.

There are a total of eight standard modes, but you can also use Knog’s Modemaker app to programme your own settings if you want something specific.

Lezyne Zecto Drive Max

4.0 out of 5 star rating
rear light for road cycling
Eight modes max-out at a 250-lumen daylight flash
  • A max 250-lumen flash mode for daylight running
  • Very reliable

With a versatile clip mount for straps or tubes, plus a robust construction, the ZDM is a bikepacking winner.

Eight modes max-out at a 250-lumen daylight flash (9-hour run time). It’s heavy (69g) and sideways visibility is limited. There’s no waterproof rating, but we’ve dropped and hosed it without issue.

Moon Comet X-Pro

4.0 out of 5 star rating
rear light for mountain bike
The Moon’s output impressed us.
Alex Evans
  • Excellent visibility
  • Lots of mounting options

Easy to fit, with lots of mounting options (including a seat rail mount, which is very good at this price), the Comet X-Pro also impresses with its intense output at full power.

Run time at full power was bang on the 1 hour 30 minutes claimed by Moon too, which is very good considering the amount of power on tap.

Unfortunately, there’s no pulse mode and it’s a little fiddly to use on the move, but the X-Pro is otherwise a very useful rear light.


Best light sets for bikes 2020 as rated by our expert testers

  • Cateye AMPP 800 front and Cateye Rapid X3 rear lights: £135
  • Lezyne Lite Drive 1000XL front and Lezyne KTV Pro Drive 75 rear lights: £95
  • Ravemen PR900 front and Ravemen TR20 rear lights: £105
  • Blackburn Dayblazer 800 front and 65 rear light set: £80
  • Guee Sol 800 and Guee Cob X light set: £86
  • Knog PWR Rider 450 and Blinder Mob V Four Eyes: £98
  • Kryptonite Alley F-650 and Kryptonite R-50 Cob: £90
  • Light & Motion Urban 900 Commuter Combo: £110
  • Magicshine Allty 1000 front and Seemee 60 rear light: £125

If you know exactly what you want, then you might wish to buy a front and rear light separately. However, for many people. the lure of a good quality light set that solves all your lighting problems in one fell swoop is hard to ignore.

The risk with buying a set of lights, however, is that it’s easy to end up with one of the two (usually the rear) not quite cutting the mustard in comparison to the other, as manufacturers look to keep costs down in order to hit a certain price point.

With that in mind, our expert testers have tested both lights that are sold as sets and also separate lights from the same manufacturers that can be purchased together at a similar overall price, with a budget of around £100.

Cateye AMPP 800 front and Cateye Rapid X3 rear lights

4.5 out of 5 star rating
Cateye AMPP 800 front and Cateye Rapid X3 rear lights for road cycling
Cateye AMPP 800 front and Cateye Rapid X3 rear lights.
Immediate Media
  • Great performance and build quality
  • Secure and versatile mounting systems
  • 800 lumens front, 150 lumens rear at max power

Cateye has a well earned reputation for making high performing, good quality lights in this category and the the AMPP 800 and Rapid X3 only serve to back this up.

The AMPP 800 has a bright, wide beam and the rear light has a clever system that uses two separate LEDs that enable you to run the light flashing and constant at the same time.

Run time at full power could be slightly better on both, but having larger batteries would naturally increase the size of the units, so it’s a bit of a trade off.

The only slight negative is the relatively high price for the set, but they’re robust enough to provide good value in the long term.

Lezyne Lite Drive 1000XL front and Lezyne KTV Pro Drive 75 rear lights

4.5 out of 5 star rating
Lezyne Lite Drive 1000XL front and Lezyne KTV Pro Drive 75 rear light
Lezyne Lite Drive 1000XL front and Lezyne KTV Pro Drive 75 rear light.
Immediate Media
  • Versatile light set with excellent build quality
  • Bright with excellent peripheral lighting
  • 1,000 lumens front, 75 lumens rear at max power

With 1,000 lumens at full power, Lezyne’s Lite Drive 1000XL provides more than enough brightness and beam spread for riding on unlit roads. You’ll only get around 80 minutes at this power, but dropping it down to the second highest output (which sits at 500 lumens) provides just under three hours of run time, which ought to be enough for even the longest of commutes.

Its CNC-machined aluminium build quality is excellent too, and its IXP7 waterproof rating is very welcome. The tough, rubber band style mounting system makes adding/removing the lights a cinch, though they’re arguably a little less secure than ratcheted or bolt mounted options.

The rear light puts out a slightly middling 75 lumens at full power, but does offer an impressive 270 degrees of visibility.

Ravemen PR900 front and Ravemen TR20 rear lights

4.5 out of 5 star rating
Ravemen PR900 front and Ravemen TR20 rear lights
Ravemen PR900 front and Ravemen TR20 rear lights.
Immediate Media
  • Great front light with novel design
  • Remote control included in the price
  • 900 lumens front, 20 lumens rear at max power

The PR900 front light is the real star of this set, offering a novel, twin lens design and enough power to make it suitable for riding on unlit roads or even off-road.

The 900-lumen setting is more of an emergency turbo boost mode, but battery life on the 800-lumen setting is excellent, providing just over two hours of run time. It even has a USB port to allow you to use it as a battery pack to charge other gadgets (such as your phone, for example).

The rear light is sadly less impressive, packing only 20 lumens of light and a modest battery life. It’s simple and versatile, thanks to its decent mounting system, but there are brighter lights available at this price.

Blackburn Dayblazer 800 front and 65 rear light set

4.0 out of 5 star rating
Road bike light set 800l front and 65l rear
A strong pairing if you like to run lights during the day.
David Caudery / Immediate Media
  • Tough and practical
  • Well balanced set
  • 800 lumens front, 65 lumens rear at max power

Though the headline figures in terms of output and battery life might not win any competitions, in practice the Dayblazer 800 and 65 lights make for a very handy set of commuting lights.

Run time at max power isn’t best in class, but there’s more than enough power on tap on both lights to handle road based commuting.

Both have a hardy construction and come with a limited lifetime warranty, so they represent pretty good value too.

Guee Sol 800+ and Guee Cob X light set

4.0 out of 5 star rating
Road bike light set from Guee
The Guee setup formed a very attractive pairing for commuting.
David Caudery / Immediate Media
  • Good value set
  • Ambient light sensor helps maximise running time
  • 800 lumens front, 25 lumens rear at max power

The Sol 800+ front light might look a little inelegant, but it’s CNC-machined exterior hides some smart internals.

Our tester found the battery met the claimed run times of two hours at max power and four at half power. There’s also a clever ambient light sensor, which modulates the light’s brightness, built in to the front light that can help to maximise the battery life when riding at dawn or dusk.

The rear light only puts out 25 lumens, but does last for a full five hours even on steady output.

Knog PWR Rider 450 and Blinder Mob V Four Eyes

4.0 out of 5 star rating
Knog PWR Rider 450 front light and Blinder Mob V Four Eyes rear light for road bike
The body of the light is a tough aluminium affair.
Immediate Media
  • Good beam
  • Power bank facility and customisation options
  • 450 lumens front, 44 lumens rear at max power

Always one to do things slightly differently that other brands, two of the key selling points with Knog’s PWR Rider 450 are that you can use the front light as a power bank for other electronics and you can customise the output modes via its ModeMaker app.

This is great if, for example, you’re desperate to find that ideal balance between output and run time, but ultimately it’s unlikely to be a real game changer for most people.

The design of both lights is also very neat, but coming in a smaller, more streamlined package does mean sacrificing a bit of battery life. The front light lasts around two hours at full power, but since it’s putting out 450 lumens that’s simply good rather than brilliant.

The rear light feels brighter than its 44 lumens would suggest when blinking, making it a good option for urban riding.

Kryptonite Alley F-650 and Kryptonite R-50 Cob

4.0 out of 5 star rating
Kryptonite Alley F-650 and Kryptonite R-50 Cob lights for road bike
The single LED puts out a circular beam with a pure central bright spotlight.
Immediate Media
  • Tough construction
  • Simple to use
  • 650 lumens front, 50 rear lumens at max power

It’s not the brightest light on the market, but the Allez F-650 boasts plenty of power and battery life for road and urban riding.

Our test light lasted beyond the claimed two hours at max power, and was still putting out a decent amount of light a good half an hour later, though it did dim a bit. Peripheral visibility isn’t quite as good as some other lights on test, but build quality is excellent. Our tester even has a version of this light that’s still going strong two winters in.

The ratchet style mounting system is also very effective, providing a secure and stable fit on all handlebars we tried it on.

Our tester was less fond of the rear light, mainly due to its shortish battery life (just over two hours at full power), but it’s otherwise a perfectly capable rear light, if that’s not a deal breaker for you.

Light & Motion Urban 900 Commuter Combo

4.0 out of 5 star rating
Road bike light set from Light & Motion
One major feature of Light & Motion’s lights is that they’re certified to US FL-1 standards.
David Caudery / Immediate Media
  • Sturdy and waterproof
  • Good peripheral lighting
  • 900 lumens front, 60 lumens rear at max power

Though a little on the pricey side, Light & Motion’s Urban 900 Commuter Combo does provide performance and build quality that’s good enough to just about justify this.

Our tester got just over an hour and a half out of the front light on full power, which is decent considering its 900-lumen output, and dropping the power further obviously extends battery life. There’s no flashing mode, so the longest running time is limited to 12 hours in ‘SafePulse’ mode, but this isn’t likely to cause anyone major issues.

The rear light puts out a decent 60 lumens, but is a little more plasticky than the front light (though it is also certified to US FL-1 standards).

The mounting system for both lights is also a bit finicky, but all things considered it’s a good overall package, even if the price feels a little steep.

Magicshine Allty 1000 front and Seemee 60 rear lights

4.0 out of 5 star rating
Front Magicshine Allty 1000 light and Magicshine Seemee 60 rear light
Magicshine Allty 1000 front and Seemee 60 rear light.
Immediate Media
  • Powerful and effective front light
  • Well considered modes and decent running time
  • 1,000 lumens front, 30 lumens rear at max power

With 1,000 lumens, Magicshine’s Allty 1000 front light is nominally the brightest on test, and in real life it certainly doesn’t disappoint on this front – it’s got enough oomph to cope with anything the road can throw at you and even some off-road riding too.

Even on full power, the Allty 1000 lasted just under two hours in testing, which was impressive, but the battery life unfortunately didn’t quite live up to the claimed four hours at the second highest setting (500 lumens).

Its Garmin mount compatibility also opens up mounting options considerably, though our tester found there was a small, annoying amount of play in the mount included with our test unit.

The Seemee 60 rear light is also a decent unit. Its main gimmick is a set of internal sensors that can discern when you’re slowing down suddenly and put out ‘a frenzy of flashes’ at an increased brightness, to warn other road users you’re slowing down.


What to look for when buying a road or commuter light set

Lumens

Magicshine Monteer 8000s mountain bike front light beam shot
The most powerful lights can be a true lumen bazooka, illuminating the road or trail.
Ian Linton

Lumens are the unit by which the total amount of light emitted from a source is measured.

Consequently, the amount of lumens a light offers tends to be the headline specification as a larger number essentially promises that a light will be brighter.

Cyclists riding in lit urban areas, who don’t need lights to illuminate the road ahead, may only need a unit with a few hundred lumens, but if you venture on to unlit roads of paths that’s unlikely to be enough so you’ll need something more powerful.

For urban commuting, 200 lumens should be sufficient. We would suggest a front light with a minimum of 400 lumens for riding on unlit roads.

Don’t be fooled into thinking that the lumen rating of a light is the only thing that matters, though. A super-bright light that only has enough battery power to put out that headline figure for half-an-hour isn’t likely to be particularly useful, especially if you’ll need to use the most powerful setting for extended periods.

Make sure you check the claimed battery life at all of the various power levels to find the most suitable light for your style of riding.

LEDs

The filament bulb is thankfully a thing of the past. Virtually all of today’s high-end front lights have Cree LEDs, which offer better brightness, more versatility, less heat, have a longer life and are smaller.

Most rear lights now use COB LEDs. COB stands for ‘chip on board’ – essentially multiple LED chips forming a single module. They produce less heat, are brighter and can come in a variety of colours – though remember the law in most counties dictates a rear light must be red.

Battery life

Magicshine Monteer 8000S mountain bike light
Most road lights are all-in-one units that include the battery, though more powerful lights will usually have a separate battery.
Alex Evans

Unlike mountain bike lights, which often use dedicated external battery packs, lights for road bikes and commuting usually have internal batteries, so there’s always going to be a trade-off between power, battery life and the size of the light.

For example, a more powerful light, with a longer battery life will require a physically larger battery and will therefore increase the overall size of the unit.

This isn’t necessarily a problem in itself, but many road cyclists won’t want something overly large to spoil the sleek looks of their road bike or clutter the handlebar. Likewise, some commuters will want lights that are small enough to be stuffed easily in a work bag.

For others, especially those who ride on unlit roads or enjoy especially long rides and commutes, a larger light with more lumens and battery capacity will be essential.

What about dynamo-powered lights?

Astute readers will note that we have also only covered battery-powered lights in this guide.

Dynamo-powered lights – which, most commonly, are powered by a generator hub built into a wheel – are a very popular option on touring and town bikes, and with good reason. They offer infinite run time and the optics in the lights are also often of very high quality.

However, they require a significant investment in terms of both money and research, and to cover both systems would be beyond the scope of this guide.

Balance and beam pattern

When buying a set of lights, it’s also wise to consider the balance between the front and the rear.

The front light will almost always have much more power because its role includes lighting dark roads and cycle paths. However, while the outright lumen count of most rear lights won’t come close to the front, the spec is just as important.

A rear light’s main role is to help make you visible to other road users, so having decent brightness and battery life is essential because it needs to last the length of whatever ride you’re taking on while also being powerful enough for other road users to see it from a good distance.

Some lights are now also marketed for daytime use, with the appropriate brightness and flash patterns to help keep you seen in bright sunshine and low light.

Both front and rear lights should also balance range and peripheral lighting. A highly-focussed beam can be great for lighting the road in front of you for fast riding, but for the sake of both being able to spot hazards and to enable road users approaching from different angles to see you better, it’s important that some of it spreads into the periphery as well.

Mount systems

Lezyne Mega Drive 1800i mountain bike light
Considering how the light mounts to the bike is also worth considering.
Alex Evans

In an ideal world, you would be able to have a mounting system that is perfectly simple, lightning-quick to install and remove, totally secure and infinitely durable… But in reality, there’s usually a bit of a compromise between those various characteristics.

The simplest mounts use heavy-duty rubber bands and dedicated grooves on the light mount. These systems have the advantage of being extremely quick and easy to install and remove, and can usually be easily adjusted to different types and sizes of handlebar, seatposts, etc.

On the other hand, it’s easy to lose these elastic bands when the lights aren’t mounted on the bike and they’re more susceptible to movement over rough ground. Given long-term use, they’re also more likely to degrade and eventually break than a solid mount.

Solid plastic or metal mounting systems, which clip on to the handlebars and are secured with bolts, tend to offer much better security on bumpy roads as well as much greater long-term durability.

Installing or removing these types of mounts can often be a much more involved process though, sometimes even requiring a specific tool (such as a small hex key).

Usually, manufacturers will look to mitigate this inconvenience by making the light separately removable from the actual mount itself (so, for example, you can quickly take the light unit with you after locking up your bike), but not every light offers this function, so it’s worth checking before you buy.

Other features

Waterproofing is important, particularly if you regularly ride in poor weather conditions. The IP Code is a measurement of protection against the ingress of water and dust. IP4 protects against splashing of water, while an IP7 product will survive immersion in water for 30 minutes.

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Otherwise, some front lights not only power their own LEDs but have USB ports that allow you to charge mobiles or GPS computers – particularly useful for long-distance riders.