Best bike lights for road cycling

15th Oct 2013 | 09:00

Best bike lights for road cycling
Best bike lights for road cycling
Best bike lights for road cycling
Best bike lights for road cycling
Best bike lights for road cycling
Best bike lights for road cycling
Best bike lights for road cycling
Best bike lights for road cycling
Best bike lights for road cycling
Best bike lights for road cycling
Best bike lights for road cycling
Best bike lights for road cycling
Best bike lights for road cycling
Best bike lights for road cycling
Best bike lights for road cycling
Best bike lights for road cycling
Best bike lights for road cycling
Best bike lights for road cycling
Best bike lights for road cycling
Best bike lights for road cycling
Best bike lights for road cycling
Best bike lights for road cycling
Best bike lights for road cycling
Best bike lights for road cycling
Best bike lights for road cycling
Best bike lights for road cycling
Best bike lights for road cycling
Best bike lights for road cycling
Best bike lights for road cycling
Best bike lights for road cycling

Top options for urban/commuting use

Modern bike lights can be split into two main categories – lights for road/commuting use and lights for mountain bike use. It's important to be clear what type you're after, as they differ vastly in terms of light output, run time, weight and expense.

Mountain bike lights are largely about power – they need to light up unlit trails in dark woods littered with rocks, roots and other obstacles, generally only for short periods at a time. You can find out more about them in our Buyer's Guide to Mountain Bike Lights and Best Mountain Bike Lights round-up.

Road/commuter lights, on the other hand, are designed primarily to make the cyclist visible to other road users. Factors such as battery life, weight and side visibility are more important than pure power. Prices are a lot lower, too. These are the lights we'll be looking at in this article, which includes the best ones we've tested this winter, plus the best lights from previous tests.

Best light sets (these contain front & rear lights)

Niterider Mako 200/Solas USB

£89.99 / US$94.99

star:

 Buy now from:

Evans Cycles

Niterider mako 200/solas usb :

Bettering the excellent Lezyne Macro/Micro (see 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. www.niterider.com / www.2pure.co.uk

Lezyne Macro Front Drive/Micro Rear LED

£84.99 / US$119.98

star:

 Buy now from:

Wiggle

Lezyne macro front drive/micro rear:

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

Topeak HighLite Combo II

£24.99 / US$29.95

star:

 Buy now from:

Cyclestore

Topeak highlite combo ii:

A year or so ago these would have been criticised for the choice of battery, but the price of CR2032 cells has fallen dramatically (you can now buy a card of 10-12 cells for £3-£4). 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. www.topeak.com / www.extrauk.co.uk

CatEye Econom (front) and Rapid 3 (rear)

£59.99 / US$97

star:

 Buy now from:

Leisure Lakes Bikes

CatEye econom and rapid 3:

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. www.cateye.com / www.zyro.co.uk

Knog Boomer USB Twin Pack

£62.99 / US$79.90

star:

 Buy now from:

Evans Cycles

Knog boomer usb:

These lights may be pricey but they offer enough to make them worth the extra money. The front light has a lens that focuses the LED to give enough light to ride by. The rear is very bright and has one constant and three flashing modes. They both ran for about 4hr 30min in constant mode. They also have a translucent body that magnifies the light, making these excellent for all-round visibility. www.knog.com.au / www.todayscyclist.co.uk

Revolution Flash Silicone

£9.99 / US$16.10

star:

 Buy now from:

Edinburgh Bicycle Cooperative

Revolution flash silicone:

With front and rear lights offered separately, these lights pack quite a punch for the money. The front lens focuses the single LED into a direct and powerful light and is just enough forurban commuting. The light has two constant modes, and one flashing. In the constant setting it ran for two hours 30 minutes, and nearly 12 hours in flashing mode. The rear light also has two modes, constant and flashing. They're guaranteed for 500 recharges. www.edinburghbicycle.com

Skully

£10.99 / US$20

star:

 Buy now from:

Amazon

Skully:

These lights may have a novelty skull-shaped silicone casing but the powerful LEDs inside are impressively bright. The lights offer excellent visibility but, as the LEDs are exposed and not behind a lens, you can’t use the front light to see with. Claimed runtime is 100 hours – we ran them for 24 hours on constant without any drop in brightness. The long hook-eyed loops mean these will fit to almost anything. www.skully.com.tw / www.ison-distribution.com

Best front lights

Run time and LED data for selected front lights tested in 2013

Cateye Volt 300Lezyne Macro DriveKnog Blinder Road 2BBB Strike BLS-72Moon X-Power 700
Price£49.99 / $60£54.99 / $69.99£59.99 / $79.95£99.99 / 164.99£104.99 / $173.93
Run time (tested)2 hours 49 minutes2 hours 47 minutes1 hour 3 minutes1 hour 40 minutes1 hour 36 minutes
LEDsOne high intensity X1 LEDOne LEDTwo CREE XB-DOne CREE XM-LOne CREE XML U2
BatteryInternal lithium ionInternal lithium ionInternal lithium polymerInternal lithium ion polymerInternal lithium ion

Cateye Nano Shot+ EL-625RC

£99.99/ US$109.99

star:

 Buy now from:

Probikekit

Cateye nano shot+ el-625rc:

The Nano Shot+ is held rigidly in place by the FlexTight bracket holds, and the button on the rear is easy to operate. Full power is incredible, and even on low power, output and light coverage are fantastic. The central part of the beam is the most intense but it covers a wide area and has huge reach. You can concentrate light closer to you for virtual daylight as far as 15m. The pulsing HyperConstant mode is great for being seen too. www.cateye.com / www.zyro.co.uk

Cateye Volt 300 

£49.99/US$60

star:

 Buy now from:

Tredz

Cateye volt 300:

The 300-lumen Cateye Volt is well-focused and provides even light coverage with a graduation from bright centre to reasonable edge illumination – and though the area directly ahead of the front wheel is noticeably dimmer than the centre, the beam has great reach for faster riders. www.cateye.com / www.zyro.co.uk

Click here to read our full review of the Cateye Volt 300

Moon X-Power 700

£104.99 / US$173.93 

star:

 Buy now from:

Probikekit

Moon x power 700:

The Moon is made of aluminium and its tough, hinged mount has a quick-release lever on the left, so don’t mount it against the right of your stem. It has a secure fit and the button on the top is well made, with a positive click that unleashes incredible power. Overdrive mode emits the full 700 lumens, meaning even peripheral light easily illuminates a country lane and verges, with a central beam that can comfortably light 15m ahead. Simple operation and interchangeable batteries make it a versatile choice. www.raleigh.co.uk

Knog Blinder Road 2

£59.99 / US$79.95

star:

 Buy now from:

Rutland Cycling

Knog blinder road 2:

The Blinder Road 2 is simple to fit, and is unobtrusive and totally stable.It is controlled by two small integrated rubber buttons on the top. One switches between the four modes (including narrow or wide beams), while the other toggles high and low power.The Knog has a very even beam pattern, stretching far across the verge with a brighter centre and great reach – easily enough for most riders on dark country lanes. The wide beam does scatter light, and although it’s not the highest powered, the light pool is very usable. www.todayscyclist.co.uk / www.knog.com.au

BBB Strike BLS-72

£99.99 / US$164.99

star:

 Buy now from:

Chain Reaction Cycles

BBB strike bls-72: bbb strike bls-72

The Strike BLS-72 boasts a 500-lumen output and five power modes, as well as a removable/replaceable battery and a solid TightFix mount.‘Super beam’ mode provides a central beam as wide as a car, with even edge coverage. It has enormous reach, and peripheral lighting is very good too. ‘High beam’ mode uses half the power, but is still bright enough for riding around lanes, as is the ‘standard beam’ illumination. There's also 'low beam' and 'flash beam' modes. www.windwave.co.uk / www.bbbcycling.com

Also consider:

The following lights all scored four stars in tests by Cycling Plus and Triathlon Plus

Best rear lights

Run time, lux and LED data for selected front lights tested in 2013

Moon Crescent RKnog Blinder Road RLight and Motion VIS180USE Exposure Blaze
Price£21.99 / $35$42.99 / $59.95£74.99 / $99£99.95 / $163
Run time (tested)1 hour 35 minutes3 hours 23 minutes3 hours 50 minutes5 hours 49 minutes
Lux6 (1m), 1 (2m), 0 (3m), 0 (4m), 0 (5m)49 (1m), 12 (2m), 5 (3m), 2 (4m), 1 (5m)64 (1m), 16 (2m), 7 (3m), 3 (4m), 2 (5m)228 (1m), 58 (2m), 26 (3m), 14 (4m), 8 (5m)
BatteryInternal lithium polymerInternal lithium polymerInternal lithium ionInternal lithium ion
Charge typeUSBUSBUSBUSB

Each of these rear lights were measured with a Lux meter at 1m intervals between 1 and 5m. A Lux reading will be be higher if the light produces a beam. Because rear lights are generally designed to scatter light for maximum visibility, the readings are varied. For example, the Moon Crescent contains a strip of tiny, very bright LEDs – they produce a glow, rather than a beam. The Exposure Blaze has a single, powerful LED shining through a collimated lens that focuses the light far more, producing an extremely high reading.

Moon Comet 

£32 / US$N/A

star:

 Buy now from:

Amazon

Moon comet rear light:

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. www.raleigh.co.uk

Topeak RedLite Mega

 £24.99 / US$40

star:

 Buy now from:

Leisure Lakes Bikes

Topeak redlite mega:

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. www.topeak.com / www.extrauk.co.uk

Knog Blinder Road R

£59.99 / US$79.99

star:

 Buy now from:

Amazon

Knog blinder road r:

The Knog’s bungee and clip are easy to fit, and even though the 70-lumen rear Blinder sits flush with the seatpost, the angle doesn’t alter the effectiveness of its four LEDs. A continuous illuminated slit around the body gives great side visibility. There are five lighting modes to select, plus a fold-out USB connector.  www.todayscyclist.co.uk / www.knog.com.au

Moon Crescent R

£21.99 / US$35

star:

 Buy now from:

Merlin Cycles

Moon crescent r:

The minuscule size of the Crescent belies its power – its skinny frame produces up to 25 lumens in a narrow strip covering just over half of the shell. The switch is almost flush with the face of the light, so isn’t always easy to find, especially if you’re wearing gloves. Three steady lighting and three flashing modes cover everything from bright to blinding, and it has good side visibility too. A simple bungee attaches the bracket securely, and the light’s square mount allows it to be fitted vertically or horizontally. www.raleigh.co.uk / www.moon-sport.comx

Light & Motion VIS 180

£74.99 / US$99

star:

 Buy now from:

Probikekit

The Vis 180 is easy to fit, with an incredibly long bungee/ratchet cord that should reach anywhere for best placement at the rear of your bike. It has two LEDs: orange and red. On its own, the flashing orange LED is noticeable, but with the pulsing red LED activated it’s unmissable. The Vis 180 has a very impressive output yet, for essentially two LEDs, mounting requires a lot of space. The side-mounted button is easy to locate, but needs a firm push. www.madison.co.uk / www.lightandmotion.com

USE Exposure Blaze

£99.95 / US$163

star:

 Buy now from:

Leisure Lakes Bikes

USE exposure blaze:

The Blaze has an unconventional shape, but its aluminium body is rugged and stays in place thanks to silicone grippers on the bracket. There are three programmes with either constant or flashing modes in each, and the high capacity battery can power the 80-lumen light for up to 24 hours of constant use or 48 when flashing. The lens scatters light well, and the Blaze is capable of retina-searing power with daylight visibility. The top-mounted button is easy to use, and the excellent run time means it’ll suit endurance rides or lengthy commutes, but it’s not cheap.  www.exposurelights.com

Also consider:

The following lights all scored four stars in tests by Cycling Plus and Triathlon Plus

For more reviews, see the Lights section of our Bikes & Gear browser.

What should I look for?

What you need from a light depends a lot on the type of riding that you’ll be doing. If your commute takes you onto unlit roads or you’re up for some fast winter training times, you’ll need something that has a bright, far-reaching beam to light the road in front of you. Rechargeable batteries and battery indicator lights are useful when you’re out and about regularly.

If you’re keeping to street-lit areas with traffic, it’s all about being noticed by other road users – there are a lot of relatively inexpensive lights out there with long run times that will keep you visible from a range of angles without dazzling other road users. A light setup that attracts attention is what’s needed, but don’t just stop at lights, because this is where a reflective vest, sash, or backpack cover can come in very handy too.

Light source

Most lights use LEDs. Light emitting diodes emit light by being switched on and off quite quickly. If switched on and off for different lengths of time, it’s possible to increase or reduce light output. They’re very dependent upon the voltage for their efficiency.

Mounting

Light mounts needs to be strong enough to hold the light over eye-rattling bumps, but also offer a quick-release style system that lets the light be easily and quickly removed. Mounts that require no tools to fit are a bonus, but this is by no means a necessary feature.

Switches and modes

The switch should be easy to use when riding, but hard to turn on accidentally to prevent the dreaded flat battery experience when you get your light out of your bag. They need to be well sealed, and offer at least one flashing mode and constant.

Beam patterns

Some lights feature a beam pattern similar to that of a car or motorbike. This means the top of the beam pattern is essentially cut off, allowing a nice bright light to be used without it spilling upwards and dazzling other road users.

These reviews were originally published in Cycling Plus and Triathlon Plus magazines, available on Apple Newsstand and Zinio.

Share this Article
Google+
Edition: UK
TopView classic version