Bike lights definitive guide

Cycling at night with bike lights

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.

Raleigh bike lights front and rear

At this low price point the Raleigh LED at £17.95 for both front and back bike light provides excellent value for money and just look at all of these positive reviews.

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.

Knog Boomer bike light product shot

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.

Blackburn Flea rear bike light

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.

B&M larger bike light

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.

cateye-el610-med

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.

Helmet bike light

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?

I ended up with a BlackBurn Flea as my rear light of choice. For the front light I’m currently using a Knog Boomer which I’m more than happy with and would highly recommend.

  1. How to choose a bike helmet
  2. How to choose a waterproof cycling jacket
  3. More bike accessory guides

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84 Responses to Bike lights definitive guide

  1. Martin Hayes 22/05/2012 at 5:28 pm #

    I have had 2 of these (1 got nicked after I stupidly left it on the bike parked in Regent Street)

    http://www.dealextreme.com/p/ha-iii-ssc-p7-c-sxo-3-mode-900-lumen-led-bike-light-set-25149

    Absolutely faultless – I cycled 15 miles each way 3 days a week for a year including the depths of Winter from North Wales to the Wirral on a mixture of completely unlit marshland, country lanes and Bridleways and it was like driving with car headlights. I’ve since been using it for the last 18 months in London – ideal for Thames Path and cycleways in Parks etc. Can be used on the road but I usually have it on half power and dipped to aim a couple of feet in front of me on the road. Attachment has never failed (a quick and easy to release ‘O’ ring and battery pack is secured using velcor straps. As the reviews say – better than equivalent lights that are 4 times the price. I actually took this light to the Grand Canyon a few years ago and used it when walking the Rim Trails at night and and it lit the canyon walls hundreds of feet below.

    • Jules 22/05/2012 at 5:58 pm #

      That is exactly the same as the cheaper ones my friend bought on eBay and it is still going strong. (See my post above) How have they been in all this rain? Like my friends the battery is not in a waterproof housing like the one from Sportcam.

      • Martin Hayes 22/05/2012 at 6:08 pm #

        It’s been absolutely fine – rain, sleet, snow including a week of cycling to work in -10 Degrees C we had a couple of winters ago – battery pack is sealed so no water ingress – realy solid build quality too. It has also survived being dropped on paving slabs a few times and is still going strong.

  2. David Holmes 23/05/2012 at 9:01 am #

    Martin you can now get a very powerful front light from ebay for £30 & free post from a UK supplier. It is a 1800 Lum penetrating light which is awesome. It is a Cree XML-LT6 1800 LM LED. It is well made and all you will ever need.

  3. Paul Owens 09/11/2012 at 12:36 am #

    I am now using this bike light i bought last week after my magicshine MJ-880 kicked the bucket.
    http://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/3000-Lumen-Fluxient-3x-XM-L-U2-with-solid-swivel-mount-brightest-on-the-market-/150943825069?pt=UK_SportsLeisure_Cycling_Bike_Lights&hash=item2324f3fcad

    This is the best light I have ever used, it blows all the big brand names out of the water and does not cost half as much for the better quality and extreme brightness

  4. Barton 19/11/2012 at 3:07 pm #

    So! My Blackburn Flea rear light has stopped taking a charge (I think the connectors aren’t actually touching the thingy it sits on to recharge). Anyone else experience this and/or have some ideas about what to do? It is a great commuter light (I use it as my secondary rear light), but the fact that it has stopped taking a charge is really, really annoying…. and leading me to consider a new rear light. God, it’s like finding the perfect red lipstick: an illusive search, where one is never satisfied with the results.

  5. Dimitris 16/04/2013 at 12:06 pm #

    The best front light for Bromptons in London (i.e. light mostly to be seen by): knog blinder! can be mounted on the vertical part of the M-type handlebar so it is not obstructed by a front and you do not need to remove is when folding!

  6. Hein Bloed 08/07/2013 at 12:04 pm #

    I have ridden for nearly 20 years with battery lights (usually cateye). I was a beta tester (although that term was not coined then) for the G-S 2000 (now FER 2002), which was a dynamo for the spokes but it wasn’t ready for day to day use at that time. I rode a mountain bike and as the english rider seems to tend to mountain bikes, too, it seems coherent, that battery lights seem to be the common solution for lights on bikes in England.

    With my new bike I switched to dynamo powered bike lights (B&M + Edelux) and never looked back. No more charging (batteries are always empty if you need them), no more temperature problems (winter is bad for batteries) and no more forgetting the lights.

    If you are looking for new battery powered lights on your bike, I suggest having a look at the Philips LED lights (http://www.philips.co.uk/c/bicycle%20bulbs/283657/cat/).

    They seem to give you (if not the best) at least a very good bang for the buck.

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