Bike lights definitive guide

Lights are a legal requirement on your bike, and vitally important to help keep you safe on the roads at night. However, with so many out there, how are you supposed to go about choosing a new set or your first set? Have no fear, London Cyclist is here!

Bike lights

There are a few criteria you can use to help narrow down your choices. These are:

Brightness

If you are cycling only on-road in London then you don’t really need to light the ground in front of you and your primary concern will be others seeing you. However, if you use unlit roads on your journeys in the dark, then you will need something a little stronger to light the road.

Power source

If you are commuting through the winter regularly, then USB chargeable bike lights are good for your wallet and the environment. The models we’ve chosen below use battery technology that holds the charge for longer and can be recharged regularly without worry about decreasing the lifespan. Alternatively, if you don’t cycle as regularly then regular battery powered lights means they’ll work between longer breaks and can be replaced from most corner shops in a pinch.

Battery life

It is also useful to consider how long you need your selected power source to last. Do you have a fairly short commute or do you need the light to last all night. If you have a commute of an hour or less then you can pretty much pick any light currently available. However, for extended use such as an event, or in situations where you have no recharging options during the day, then ensure the light lasts long enough in the mode you are most likely to use.

Size

Size matters in many things, and bike lights can be one of them. You may not have much space on your handlebars and need a compact light. Or you may be intending to keep them in your bag most of the time, just incase you get caught out in the dark. Of course, larger lights have bigger batteries, so if you need to use the lights for long stretches then bigger may be better.

Cost

Last but not least there is the cost of the light. Occasional use lights don’t need to break the bank. If you are regularly riding in the dark though, it is worth spending a little money on your lights. Cost determines features and construction quality, and lights can take a battering on a bike and in a bag through through the winter.

Here are our top picks.

 

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

Raleigh Night Wave

At this low price point the Raleigh LED at £13.94 for both front and back bike light provides excellent value for money and just look at all of these positive reviews.

Available from Amazon.co.uk – £13.94

Lezyne Femto DriveLezyne Femto

The battery powered Lezyne Femto lights are great emergency lights. They are bright enough that you can be seen on the roads of London, although they won’t light up the road in front of you. They turn on with a simple push of the lease and have multiple settings.  At £14.99 they are great value for money.

Available from Wiggle.co.uk – £14.99

 

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 Blinder MOB Mr. ChipsKnog Blinder

The Knog Blinder MOB (£32 each) is a great little light. It is USB rechargeable and has plenty of power. The battery holds its charge for a good length of time while you are not using it. Available in a front a rear version, they are small enough to keep in a pocket and easily loop around your bars or post.

Available from Amazon.co.uk – £32

Lezyne KTV Drive Pro pairKTV pair

Another Lezyne winner, the KTV pro set has a high powered front light and a very visible rear light. At £27 they are great value for USB rechargeable lights and work well in the city. Each light has several settings so you can flash away or have a bright beam. I have been using these for a year and get on well with them.

Available from Evanscycles.co.uk – from £26.24

 

Higher end bike lights (£55+)

These bike lights provide a much stronger beam and are suitable in areas when there is no street lighting.

Portland Design Works Lars Rover 650PDW Lars Rover

Portland Design Works make really high quality products, and the Lars Rover 650 is no exception. This is a seriously bright front light, with its high beam setting clocking in at 650 lumens. It is USB rechargeable and will hold its charge for at least a few months when not in use.

Available from Amazon.co.uk – £57.56

Blaze

The Blaze laserlight is a beautifully made, incredibly robust front light with a special trick: blaze bike lightthe LED is accompanied by a green laser image of a bike which projects a bike on the ground several meters in front of you. The aim of this laser is to increase your footprint on the road and alert others to your presence before they are directly next to you – perfect for London. The 300 lumen LED part of the light works independently from the laser and has two brightness settings and a flash mode. It is certainly bright enough to light your way across darkened paths.

Available from Amazon.co.uk – £125

 

Helmet Bike Light

Generally very useful for mountain biking as helps with avoiding obstacles such as overhanging branches.

Helmet bike light

A popular model is the Exposure Joystick which you can also buy with a helmet mount. It provides a ton of light and is incredibly useful for night time mountain biking or cycling along the canals.

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.

Fiber flareInnovative 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.

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98 Responses to Bike lights definitive guide

  1. Shades 04/01/2012 at 11:55 am #

    LED Light and Wireless Computer Interference
    A few months ago my bike computer (Cat Eye Micro Wireless) randomly stopped working. I tried resetting, changing batteries etc but the problem persisted. Deciding that there was something wrong internally and it was a few years old, I bought a new one. I tried just changing the sensor, but the problem still persisted so changed the whole lot. Problem solved, but last night it started happening again. Doing a bit of web searching on computer defects I stumbled across some discussions about interference between LED lights and wireless computers. Last night I noticed my LED light (Smart Lunar 35) was pretty dim and changed the battery (coincidental). It’s the first time I’ve changed the battery since new as it’s primarily just for town riding, so I’m too worried about it being really bright. I’m just wondering that when the light is at full strength it affects the computer. I’ll have work out whether the first set of computer problems coincided with the new light. Anyone heard of this problem? I’ll have to see about moving them further apart.

    • Shades 05/01/2012 at 11:06 am #

      LED Light and Wireless Computer Interference
      Solved the problem. The Smart light has a normal, dimmed and flashing mode. When the batteries are new in the dimmed mode, the wireless computer stopped working. No inteference in the other 2 modes. I now have a set of wireless computer spares!

  2. Nimdy 29/01/2012 at 10:00 am #

    I commute daily by bike and have had to resort to a high powered led helmet mounted light for two reasons. In the city I cycle through car drivers do not give you a second thought using the cycle lane as an extra piece of road to pull into when pulling out from a junction. I was nearly knocked off one night by a car driver reversing out of a parking space, I was the only other person about and obviously I have to give way to them.
    The second thing is part of my commute is on unlit roads. Normal lights do not light the way at all. Plus a small minority of car drivers refuse to dip their main beam which can result in total blindness for a short while after they have passed, especially newer Mercedes.
    Now I just look at them giving them 1200 Lumens and generally most of them will dip their lights.
    Whilst in the vicinity of pedestrians or other cyclist I try to look at the floor, very unsocial but I don’t want to blind them.

  3. 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.

  4. 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.

  5. 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

  6. 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.

    • Pippa 29/03/2016 at 2:01 pm #

      Yeah I have been through a few of these and had the same problem – it is such a shame as they are amazingly bright little lights for their tiny size, and so handy to charge off my work pc or whatever USB power source I have handy. I gave up on them in the end 🙁 Would love to find something similar that has a decent lifespan, or at least an alternative way of charging them.

  7. 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!

  8. 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.

  9. carcharias 17/05/2015 at 1:10 pm #

    Always pleased with Smart Lunar 25 or 35 Lux. They are cheap, good run times, easy on/off your bike, run on AA’s (avoid watch batteries) Plentiful in NiMh also…

  10. Phil 04/02/2016 at 9:36 am #

    Shimano Nexus generator hub+B&M lights= more than adequate lighting/visibility on or off road ( no lights on the towpath ) and no worries about batteries, weather, theft or crappy mountings.

  11. Mitsky 04/02/2016 at 1:23 pm #

    I’m not sure the Fibre Flares count as flexible. The packaging/advice also says do not bend, or something like that.

    I also use a http://www.balls.bike
    Not the brightest, but certainly eye catching.

  12. Dave 04/02/2016 at 10:09 pm #

    For the past 2 and a bit years I’ve used a 1600 lumin Fluxient front light with no problems. When riding along well lit roads it’s on low, but once out on the unlit sections of my commute then it’s cranked up to full and lights up the road out to around 10 to 15 metres infront of me. The spread of the beam is narrow enough not to dazzle on coming traffic as long as you get the angle right. Along with a Leznye 400XL set to flash mode (helps drivers spot me in amongst all the other lights in a busy urban environment) a Comet Moon rear light and finally the bright led strobe built into the back of my Endura helmet I am confident that not only can I see but I am seen well in advance by other road users.

    • Amoeba 05/02/2016 at 8:59 am #

      Looking at the beam pattern, the Fluxient headlight is unsuitable for on-road use, to be used so that it doesn’t dazzle it has to be pointed steeply downwards. How can you be sure such a bright lightdoesn’t dazzle? You cannot, because the beam pattern has no sharp cut-off. That’s the difference between a properly-designed road-light and an off-road one. This light should never be used on the road.
      If you are involved in a collision at night and witnesses say your light was dazzling, you are highly likely to be held responsible – legally and financially.

      That might mean, you receive no compensation for injuries received, or that you are sued for compensation.

      • Dave 07/02/2016 at 10:15 am #

        How can I be sure it’s not dazzling people?. Because when I fiited the fixed mount for the light onto my bike I set it up with the assistance of my brother-in-law (who just happens to be a Police Officer) to ensure that the angle was such that it would not dazzle. Used every weekday for my commute over the last 3 winters, I have not had one single complaint from another road user, so we must have got it right. All it takes is a little care and consideration.

        • Amoeba 08/02/2016 at 9:21 am #

          If it’s true that you have taken such care, well-done. Except, in my experience, people using such lights on-road are rarely so considerate, many of these lights are adjusted for the riders personal convenience, which means lighting the road ahead for them, while inevitably dazzling other road users.
          http://swhs.home.xs4all.nl/fiets/tests/verlichting/koplampen/lichtbundel/theoretisch/symmetrische_lichtbundel.gif

          For that matter, the same is also true on on towpaths and cycle tracks where the same rules probably apply – (if only out of common courtesy).

          Without doubt, the simplest and safest route is to adopt bright, road-legal, on-road lights with a sharp cut-off, so when lights are found misaligned from time to time for some reason, it’s a simple, easy and quick process to adjust the lights and this can be easily done without any assistance, it’s even possible to do this while riding.

    • Amoeba 05/02/2016 at 9:17 am #

      Time for a re-post
      Many of these very bright lights that cyclists are using are illegal. Just because you haven’t been stopped by the Police doesn’t mean your lights are legal. Should you be involved in a collision (involved may mean blamed as the cause), you may well find yourself being sued for compensation for damages and injury caused by your use of a dangerous light, and if you are injured, your illegal light may be used to reduce any compensation that might otherwise be due to you.

      Effectively we have the problem of overlapping legislation and it’s produced a confusing mess. Naturally, many cyclists think a light’s a light. They couldn’t be more wrong.

      Just because a ‘bicycle light’ is offered for sale doesn’t mean it’s well designed, reliable, robust or suitable for use to alert other road users to your presence.

      Lights that dazzle would include most purpose-designed mountain bike headlights intended for off-road use that have a generally circular beam geometry – these have no beam cut-off and were never designed for use on-road. They’re very bright and are likely to dazzle drivers. If they weren’t so bright, the beam geometry would be unimportant.

      That’s why most (if not all) such lights aren’t German StVZO approved, they’re almost certainly not legal for road use in the UK.
      Let me make it perfectly clear: lights that dazzle are as illegal as no lights at all.

      I refer you to the CTC’s guide to the Road Vehicle Lighting Regulations.
      http://www.ctc.org.uk/cyclists-library/regulations/lighting-regulations

      “Optional lamps and reflectors
      1.Additional lighting to the above mentioned obligatory lights is permitted under certain conditions:
      2.- IT MUST NOT DAZZLE other road users
      – It must be the correct colour (white to front, red to rear)
      – If it flashes it must conform to the required flash rate (1-4 equal flashes per second)
      3.Optional lights are not required to conform to BS 6102-3 and there is no minimum level of intensity. So for example, on the rear of the cycle a cyclist may wish to have both a steady red lamp which conforms to BS 6102-3 and an additional flashing lamp which is not meeting the minimum level of 4 candela.”
      Furthermore:
      Important performance criteria of properly designed bicycle lights are: brightness; off-axis visibility and a substantial arc of visibility, above, below and either side of the light’s central axis. Well designed optics and beam geometry. Presumably waterproofness; ruggedness; reliability and battery life would also be assessed.
      Purpose-designed road lights would be BS approved; German StVZO compliant “K~number”, or Eu member state equivalent approved lights. These lights must bear the approval marks. No marks=no approval.

      So just because a light’s blindingly bright, doesn’t automatically mean it’s safe to use, in-fact the opposite may be true.

      • Ree3647 19/11/2016 at 11:26 am #

        Most major brands dont conform to these standards. Thanks goodness law enforcement also don’t particularly show much interest, as long as there is a light and it is the right brightness.

        • Amoeba 21/11/2016 at 3:21 pm #

          Ree3647
          “Most major brands dont conform to these standards. Thanks goodness law enforcement also don’t particularly show much interest, as long as there is a light and it is the right brightness.” – But be involved in a collision, anf the user of such a light could find themselves entangled in a very expensive court-case.

          Whatever happened to reasonable behaviour? Dazzling other road users is not only illegal, it’s deeply antisocial too.
          These antisocial bastards need to be punished.

  13. robert wilkinson 05/02/2016 at 12:49 pm #

    A cheap option for attaching to the helmet are decathlon’s LED lights, used to be £2.79 but now £1-something. They seem to last forever. The whole light is cheaper than buying replacement batteries, so not the greenest option. http://www.decathlon.co.uk/vioo-100-front-led-bike-light-green-id_8322806.html

  14. Fern 05/02/2016 at 6:48 pm #

    i bought a knog blinder 4 led a few years back and it is still really good in urban situations. My commute is a bit over an hour office and back and i only have charge it a couple of times in winter the Lyzene 3 led however i have to charge every couple of weeks. The Lyzene is a little brighter but they are about the same for attracting attention.
    The knog is my pick for a good London bike light

  15. Dave 06/02/2016 at 7:37 am #

    After years of carrying spare batteries, forgetting to recharge lamps, having to remove lamps to avoid theft I finally invested in hub generators. My road bike has Shimano and my Brompton has SON, both with B&M stand lighting.

    SPD pedals I have fitted reflectors adapted to clip in, also giving me a flat pedal one one side for normal shoes

  16. Hugh Ard 12/02/2016 at 2:21 am #

    Since fitting two 5 LED Flashers on a 40cm wide plate screwed to my rear rack plus having two long fibre flares defining the outside edges of my rear panniers I have felt less threatened by vehicles overtaking me on my city commute.

  17. John 01/06/2016 at 11:45 am #

    What kind of batteries does Raleigh Night Wave take? Theres only information how many ot them on their website, but not what kind.

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