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Bike light buying guide

A good quality front and back bike light should be at the top of your list of essential bike gear, as they'll help keep you safe when cycling, no matter the conditions. Here's what you need to look for...

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 for rides where there’s low visibility or you’re on busy roads.

Lights are useful not only for making you more visible, but also for helping 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 a bike light?

Choosing the right 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 or multi-day bikepacking adventures, then it’ll be all about battery life. In these cases, consider options such as using a dynamo hub or solar panels for recharging on the go.
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 (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.

What is a good bike light?

Lezyne bike lights are generally a good bet in terms of durability, quality and choice. They tend to have a precision-machined aluminium body, which we’ve found to be tough and watertight in our past experience.

Bike lights to consider

Lezyne Mega Drive 1800i

Image credit: Lezyne
  • $169.99

The Mega Drive offers a mind-numbing 1800 lumens for night riding. It also has a day/night sensor and smart connect system that allows you to use remote controls. The Mega Drive is also micro-USB chargeable and, are you ready for this, claims to be able to run for 148hrs after a full charge.

Lezyne Mini Drive 400xl

Image credit: Lezyne
  • $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 20h, 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.

Lezyne Strip Drive Pro Rear

Image credit: Lezyne
  • £50

Lezyne also offers some rear bike light options, including this 300 lumen Strip Drive Pro 300 light, which claims to have up to 53hrs of runtime and a wide angle allowing 270 degrees of visibility. Lezyne claim a max run time of 53h, but this is when the light it sent to a tiny five lumens; at 300 lumens, the run time is said to be five hours.

Garmin Varia RTL515

Image credit: Lezyne
  • £169.99

If you’re in the market for a smart rear bike light, or want to optimise your safety on the road, Garmin’s new radar light, the Varia RTL515, is worth considering. The strip rear light has an in-built radar that pulses when it senses traffic approaching and connects to your smart computer, which beeps to alter the rider. The sensor can get a bit busy in lively towns, but if you cycle mainly on country roads, it’ll inform you of an incoming vehicle often before you sense one yourself. Garmin claim a max run time of 16h in flash day mode, and up to six in full light mode.

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