Bike Lights Buying Guide
If you are wanting to ride your bicycle at anytime, no matter what the weather, or time of day, the appropriate lights on your bicycle can make a big difference. To help you choose the correct set of bike lights for your bicycle, this guide is split up into sections covering Commuters, Road and Offroad, but there are a few other things to consider first.
Unit of measurement – Lumens
Most manufacturers of lights now use the standard unit of ‘Lumens’ to help you choose which light is correct for you. Put simply, a lumen is a measure of how bright a light is. The more lumens, the brighter the light will be, and the easier it is to see things in the dark.
Rear lights typically range from around 2 to 100 lumens, whilst the front lights are much more powerful, going from 10 lumens for ‘back-up’ lights, a couple of hundred lumens for commuters, and for off-road mountain bikers a few thousand lumens.
Whilst it is still possible to buy bike lights that run on disposable batteries such as AA’s, the vast majority of lights now make use of rechargeable batteries. As rechargeable lights normally use Lithium-Ion, they can be lighter, smaller, and much more powerful than AA batteries, and so are perfect for bike lights.
Rechargeable lights are very easy to use, most charging via a USB lead, or some even having the charging port pre-built into the light unit meaning you just plug it straight into your computer or wall socket. This makes them a perfect option for commuters, ensuring you always have power in your lights to get home.
What lights are best for me?
Most commuting is going to take place in an urban environment, where street lights are common, and so being seen is a priority. All of the brands make ‘Safety Lights’ designed for this exact purpose.
These lights usually have a constant mode, as well as a variety of flashing modes to make you stand out from the urban environment. Also consider the side visibility that a light gives out, making you stand out when passing junctions.
The Cat Eye Rapid 1 Light set is an excellent choice if you are on lit roads
If you’re commute takes in some unlit paths, perhaps through a park, you will want to fit a more powerful front light, one that is capable of giving off enough light to see. I’d suggest looking around the 200 lumen mark such as the Lezyne Mini Drive.
Front - As road riding has a much higher average speed, you are going to want to have a more powerful front light, to warn you of approaching obstacles such as potholes. The last thing you want is to damage a wheel as you were unaware of these common dangers.
Consider a light with 500 Lumens or above to do this, and the BBB Strike 500 is a perfect example of this, which has a more concentrated beam pattern so not to dazzle oncoming vehicles.
Rear - The rear light should also be given priority whilst out on the road. The last thing you want is a vehicle coming up fast behind you, and not having enough notice of a cyclist. A good rear light, that can be seen from a decent distance is top priority, and the Moon Shield 60 is a fantastic choice.
The thrill of riding your mountain bike at night, flying through the singletrack at speed, is definitely something every rider should try. However, due to the trails having no artificial light at all, and the proximity of trees and rocks flying past you, you are going to want a seriously powerful front light, upwards of 1000 lumens.
Lights such as the Hope Vision R8 have a blinding 2200 Lumens guaranteed to light up the trails ahead.View All Bike Lights and Safety
Andy is the Product Specialist and Content Writer at Ribble. He takes part in all disciplines of cycling, but can mostly be found either on his road bike or on the mountain bike trails.