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Best bike lights: Options for helping you see and be seen

A good quality front and back bike light should be at the top of your list of essential bike gear. Here are some of our top picks

What is a good bike light?

It’s important to own a good set of bike lights not only for dark and gloomy winter rides, but also for rides where there’s low visibility or you’re on busy roads.

Some of the best bike lights on the market will make you more visible, but vitally, they’ll also help you see the road ahead so you can avoid any hazards like potholes or gravel. In the UK and plenty of other countries, it’s illegal to cycle in the dark without a light, as you’re putting yourself and other road users in danger.

How do I choose the best bike light?

Choosing the best bike light for you depends on a few factors. Firstly, consider what kind of riding you want the light for. If you’re after a light you can use for short commutes on roads, battery life may not be as much of a priority as light strength and visibility.
If you’re looking for a light to use on long days in the saddle, then it’ll be all about battery life. In general though, the features you should look out for are: the ability to be recharged by USB, weather resistance, easy and secure attachment, durability, a solid guarantee and a good number of lumens (which will equal more brightness).

How many lumens do I need to ride a bike at night?

There’s no set standard for how many lumens your lights should have when riding in the dark. Your front light should be brighter than your back, as this needs to light your way sufficiently on the road or path you’re following.
Lights in urban areas don’t need to be as bright. As you’ll be riding under street lights, look for a minimum of 200 lumens on the front and 50 on the back.
For rural country roads without street lighting, you’ll want stronger lights of at least 400 lumens on the front and 100 on the back. It’s worth bearing in mind that lights any stronger than 800 lumens could be dangerous, as they may be bright enough to blind any bikes or vehicles travelling in the opposite direction.

Best bike lights reviewed

Topeak Headlux 450 USB and Tail Lux

Topeak Healux 450 USB light
  • £46.99 and £17.99 

The folks at Topeak are masters at forging utilitarian products, and that no-fuss theme continues with the neat Headlux 450. The aluminium and polymer casing houses a unit that contains two white LEDS, which deliver four modes: high, 450 lumens that lasts around 90mins; middle, 270 lumens, 3hrs; low, 135 lumens, 5hrs; and blinking, 10hrs.

You switch through each via the single press of sizeable grey button on top. Now, we say ‘single’ press as many lights require a long press that, in our rudimentary way, often confuses things. A simple but effective option. The beam’s solid enough, creating an illuminated square in front of you.

It does the job, though is more for urban riding than long, dark efforts. Rubber straps provide easy and flexible bi-directional tool-free mounting and you can attach to either your bars or vented helmet.

There’s also a battery indicator atop the unit to keep you abreast of energy levels. As for the Tail Lux, that’s a worthwhile extra outlay, providing extra rear visibility Velcroed or clamped to your seatpost, helmet or saddle bag.

Verdict: Solid light for a solid price.

Score: 81%

Exposure Trace lights pack

Exposure Trace lights
  • £84.99

This cracking set of lights punches well above their incredibly light weight. Both come in at just 35g (without mounts), though what they lack in bulk they more compensate for in illumination.

At the front, the Trace delivers up to 125 lumens in both constant and flashing modes. Depending on setting used, run time’s anywhere from 3hrs to 24hrs. Though that lumen level’s more to be seen than to see, beam pattern and visibility is exceptional.

The TraceR’s lumen max comes in at 75, and each light features the same OMS (Optimised Mode Selector) programmability that allows you to switch between three output levels depending on your needs. Side visibility on both’s impressive, too, thanks to the lens extending around 7mm out from the tough aluminium shell.

USB recharging takes less than 2hrs and you’ll know when battery’s running low thanks to Exposure’s Fuel Gauge system – essentially the LED will glow red, amber or green when you turn it off. Mounting’s simple but reliable thanks to O-rings.

Verdict: A fine set of lights, albeit relatively costly for commuting only.

Score: 81% 

Lezyne Mini Drive 400XL

Lezyne bike light
  • $34.99 

The Mini Drive is a compact, 400 lumen light option. It can be charged by micro-USB and, thanks to the removable rubber backing, is waterproof too. The Mini Drive offers ample light in mid to low visibility conditions and offers different levels of brightness and modes depending on the user’s needs.

We like the durability of this model and found the price tag very reasonable for such a quality, long-lasting piece of essential bike kit. Lezyne claims the Mini has a max run time of 20hrs, but from our experience this is only on the least bright setting. Using a full-strength beam has a much shorter run time of approximately a few hours.

Verdict: Great compact light for short distances 

Score: 80%

Lezyne Lite and Strip Pro Drive

Lezyne Lite light
  • £123

This robust pair of lights offers everything you need and more to ride with confidence through the winter months. Upfront, the CNC-machined alloy body’s on the heavier side but tough as old boots and clamps to all handlebars thanks to the thick silicone strap.

Eight modes range from Femto (just 15 lumens that lasts for 87hrs) to its max lumen output of 1,000 that lasts for around an hour-and-a-half. The clarity of this latter beam’s impressive, illuminating the South Gloucestershire country roads with ease and offering a good spread.

In-between are enough modes to sort your pulsing and flashing needs. Outback, we have an incredible 11 modes, from a five-lumen flash (53hrs max) to 300 lumens, lasting up to 5hrs.

pread’s again impressive thanks to its slight wraparound design, offering 270° of illumination. The only moot point of the pairing is the rear’s clamping system, which is unnecessarily fiddly. Both are USB chargeable with ports waterproofed thanks to silicone covers.

Verdict: Impressive set of lights to see or be seen.

Score: 82%

Garmin Varia RTL515

Garmin Varia bike light
  • £169.99

Yes, you read that correctly – a penny under £170 for a rear light. But this 71g number from Garmin’s more than a light. Within the hard plastic casing’s a radar that’s designed to alert you of vehicles approaching from the rear.

Nearly, the sensor can pick up cars, mopeds, vans… from up to 140m away that sends a signal to your Garmin Edge bike computer. Or, in our case, a Wahoo Bolt that’s offered Varia compatibility since 2020.

In both cases, the outer edges of the display flows from green to dark red depending on vehicle distance. If you have neither, there’s a neat smartphone app that does similar.

Overall, the safety idea’s great, albeit for very specific situations; in other words, when you’re out of the city. Urban rides become a flashing barnstorm of red, so almost redundant.

Long, dark country rides, however, are different and much more beneficial. As for the light itself, there are four modes with peak lumens at a flashing 65. There’s also a ‘peloton’ option if you’re riding with others. Again, it’s USB charging.

Verdict: Cutting-edge technology, though expensive and for very specific scenarios.

Score: 78% 

Budget bike lights

For more budget options, check out Decathlon‘s offering, which includes the 920 ST LED rear and front set for £29.99, or the powerful Cateye AMPP 1100 lumen front light for £94.99.

Top image credit: Unsplash/Manny Becerra