I had a very scary experience recently. I was visiting my family and was cycling from Birmingham Airport. The problem was it was very late at night and the route involved tiny, pitch black country lanes. Cars tend to decide to speed around these lanes and to make matters worse visibility was even poorer as the heavy rain had just started.
With my bike light I could barely see much more than a few metres ahead of me. Whenever a car passed by my lights were completely drowned out. At some point during the journey, out of nowhere, I found myself pedal deep in water. Continuing to pedal, I soon realised I was pedalling through a ford. This is basically when a river flows over a part of the road.
Upon reaching home soaked, amazed I managed to avoid the open manhole cover and glad to have not been hit by passing cars I decided to re-evaluate my completely inadequate bike light.
So I had to think about how to choose a suitable bike light, how much to spend and which one is actually worth spending my money on.
Cheap bike lights (less than £20)
This is the most common type of bike light and is what I was riding with that night. If you are cycling somewhere such as central London then these bike lights are generally good enough to be seen but tend to do little to light up the road ahead.
Mid range bike lights (~£30)
The bike lights in this category up the ante. They are good for those rides along routes with less light. Especially cycle paths and country lanes. They also provide better visibility for drivers to see you.
Currently I ride around London with a bike light from this category and I’ve been hugely impressed by it. It’s called the Knog Boomer and it is chargeable by USB. That means less money wasted on replacing batteries. I love this bike light because it provides plenty of light and it’s very easy to install and remove. The best price I’ve found for the Knog Boomer Rechargeable bike light is here for £23.39.
There is also a rear bike light version of the Knog Boomer. Although, personally for the rear I prefer the Blackburn Flea. Looking at the size of the Flea you’d never believe it could output so much light. At only £20 (available from here) and with the ability to recharge via USB it truly is an excellent package.
Higher end bike lights (~£55)
These bike lights provide a much stronger beam and are suitable in areas when there is no street lighting. One bike light that I tested recently was the B&M Ixon IQ. I was highly impressed with the light that combines a lot of brightness with low battery usage.
Stepping things up to this price point you also get better waterproofing, durability and a more sturdy stand for the bike. Checkout my full review of the Ixon IQ.
Alternatively, at this price point the CatEye HL-EL610 is a very popular bike light that comes highly recommended.
It provides plenty of light, has a solid mounting and uses NiMH batteries. Cycling Plus gave it 9/10 and commended its high visibility angle and solid mounting unit.
Best bike lights (~£250)
At the highest end of the scale you get the brightest bike lights. These are good for blinding people and night time mountain biking. The price tag is extreme but then so is the light output. At this price point the Exposure MaXx-D Mk3 is very highly regarded and all the positive reviews you can see here are a testament to its long standing respect in the cycling community.
Helmet Bike Light
Generally very useful for mountain biking as helps with avoiding obstacles such as overhanging branches.
A popular model that I’ve also tested out is the Exposure Joystick which you can also buy with a helmet mount. It provides a ton of light and is incredible useful for night time mountain biking.
Dynamo bike lights
These are lights that are powered through the pedalling motion. Unfortunately I have little experience in this area as I don’t have a Hub generator so I can’t recommend a good light. If you have suggestions then please leave them in the comments.
Innovative bike lights
Fibre Flare – An alternative way to be seen is to grab one of these Fibre Flare lights. They are very bright and are designed so you can be seen from all directions. Also they are flexible so can be placed anywhere.
Reflective Spokes – These reflective spokes that we’ve reviewed previously on London Cyclist provide an additional layer of side visibility and fit easily to your bike.
Conclusion – what did I go for?
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As seen on The Guardian, BBC and The Independent.