10 of the best bike lights you can buy in 2020
© Patrik Lundin / Red Bull Content Pool
Looking for some lumens but not sure where to start? Here are some of the best lights to keep you safe and seen when out on your bike...
Quality bike lights are up there with a helmet and a spare inner tube when it comes to things you shouldn’t go on a ride without. Whether it’s for illuminating unlit streets on winter evening commutes or as means of providing some daytime visibility on busy roads, these glowing gadgets can help make your ride safer and more enjoyable.
On the surface of it, choosing a light shouldn’t be that complicated. As long as it casts a reliable beam and can be mounted somewhere on your bike then it’ll do the trick, right?
Well, not quite. With brands battling it out every year to make their bike lights bigger (read: smaller), better and brighter than the competition, there have been some pretty interesting developments in bike-light tech of late.
Picking the right bike lights can be a confusing business too. What’s a dynamo? What’s a lumen? Why does this one cost the equivalent of a budget bike? Here’s what you need to know before you dive in.
What’s a lumen?
In simple terms, a lumen is a unit of measurement used to quantify brightness. The higher the number of lumens, the more light is visible to the naked eye.
To see vs. be seen
You’ll see these terms thrown around a lot when shopping for bike lights. They describe the difference between lights that will allow other road users to spot you and lights that are capable of illuminating the road (or trails) ahead.
If you want to add some visibility to your day-time rides, then 50 lumens is the minimum required, while roughly 400-plus will help you to see where you’re going clearly in the darkest rural areas at night.
Battery or dynamo?
Choosing between a rechargeable battery or a dynamo-powered light will depend heavily on the type of riding you do. Rechargeable lights tend to be lighter and less cumbersome but, naturally, will only work until the charge runs out. Dynamo lighting, on the other hand, is powered by kinetic energy from your front wheel so it’ll keep working as long as your bike is rolling. The downsides are weight, bulkiness and sub-optimal aerodynamics.
Special features to look out for
Many bike lights on the market today are more than simply lights. Some top-tier options feature smart functions like traffic sensors, cameras and integrated smartphone apps. Even basic lights will often have several different settings, which can be handy for riding in different conditions or for just conserving battery power.
Before you go gaffer-taping an LED torch to your handlebars and calling it a day, check out the handpicked selection of state-of-the-art bike lights below.
1. Cateye Volt 500XC
If you’re looking for a powerful, fuss-free headlight for commuting and riding at night then the Cateye Volt 500XC has everything you need. It features four light modes and can run for up to 120 hours but the five-hour charge time might be a drawback for some. Still, this is a strong, well-built bike light at a reasonable price and does exactly what it says on the tin.
2. Exposure Tracer ReAKT+ Peloton rear light
This nifty little unit from Exposure packs a big punch for such a small package. Casting out 75 lumens at max power, it’s bright enough to be seen in any conditions and the protruding design means it really doesn’t take up much room when attached to your seatpost. And that’s not even the best part.
The built-in ReAKT+ technology dims and brightens the light automatically depending on visibility and will even flare up if it senses you applying the brakes. In addition, the 'Peloton' feature automatically dims the light when it senses a rider close behind you. That’s sure to earn you a few brownie points on your next club ride.
3. Knog Blinder X set
Knog Blinder X lights are only 40mm x 40mm, but don't let their dinky design deceive you – they're packing some serious power. This smart little light set is capable of delivering 200 lumens up front and 100 at the rear, keeping you safe and seen, day and night.
The units both feature integrated USB charging and a robust, fully waterproof rubber casing. Plus, pop them on 'Eco' mode and they’ll keep flashing for 60 hours. Granted, you’re probably not going to be riding continuously for that long, but hey, it’s nice to have the option.
4. Blackburn Dayblazer 800 front and 65 rear set
Blackburn’s Dayblazer bike light set might not offer the most impressive run times out of all the options here, but it’s tough as nails and perfect for cyclists who like to run their lights in the daytime.
The battery will last for 90 minutes on the solid beam setting at 800 lumens, but times increase dramatically as you cycle down through the modes. Charge time is very quick though at around the two-hour mark, making this robust set perfect for busy commuters.
5. Knog PWR Road 600
With a powerful 600-lumen beam and an integrated power bank, Knog’s PWR Road 600 kills two of long-distance cycling’s biggest birds with one aesthetically pleasing stone. Simply unclip the lighthead from the body to reveal a USB port, giving you a means of juicing up your smartphone on the go without having to carry a separate charger.
There are also plenty of light modes to choose from. At maximum power on full beam, you’ll get two and a half hours out of the battery, while at the opposite end of the spectrum, switch it to ‘eco flash’ and you’ll get an impressive 195 hours at 65 lumens.
6. Lezyne Connect Smart set
Having an app for your bike lights may seem like overkill, but even the most ardent of cycling technophobes would be hard pushed to deny the benefits of Lezyne’s Connect Smart system. Users can have up to four preset lighting modes that can be quickly selected using the built-in app and both lights are wirelessly connected, meaning that the rear light is automatically activated by turning on the front.
Speaking of which, the front light is pretty impressive on its own, pumping out up to 1,000 lumens for up to 7 hours 30 minutes and much, much longer on lower settings.
7. Supernova E3 Pure 3 Dynamo
Dynamo lights may be practical but let’s face it, they’re not exactly fashionable. Still, as far as pedal-powered bike lights go, it’s difficult to deny this one from Supernova is a bit of a looker.
It’s what’s on the inside that really counts though, and the E3 Pure 3 has plenty going on under the hood too. Delivering over 200 lumens non-stop, the E3 is perfect for both day and night. And if you’re wondering about lifespan, the LED should last about 100 years, meaning it’ll most likely outlast you if you look after it properly.
8. Garmin Varia RTL515
It’s not really fair to simply call Garmin’s new Varia RTL515 a light. First and foremost, it’s a radar. The device can be paired with either a Garmin Edge bike computer or a smartphone using the Varia app and it will let you know in varying colours of the traffic light (such as red for fast or close) when a vehicle (or multiple vehicles) is approaching you from behind.
For rural riders, this lets you know how deep that row of cars behind you extends on narrow country lanes, while for those frequently cycling on congested and noisy city roads, it can provide valuable peace of mind.
Light-wise, it’s visible in daylight up to one mile away, making it plenty bright enough for almost any situation.
9. Gemini Titan 4000
For those venturing out onto the trails under cover of darkness, Gemini’s blisteringly bright Titan 4000 is the best option. The price is high, but so’s the power output, with a staggering 4,000 lumens provided by the six in-line LEDs.
There’s also a wireless remote that can be easily mounted to the handlebars and an integrated OLED display showing battery life (2 hours at full power) so that you don’t have to worry about being plunged into darkness without warning.
10. Exposure Strada Mk10
The first thing you’re likely to notice about Exposure’s Strada Mk10 front light is the price. Make no mistake, this is not a budget bike light. Still, when you take a look at what you get for your money, the lofty price tag begins to make sense.
First off, this thing is seriously bright – 1,200 lumens bright to be precise. Its range is designed specifically for road cycling at night, featuring a flat beam for periphery and a powerful spotlight to illuminate the way ahead. It also boasts a handy remote, OLED display and even a nifty little function that stops the device from overheating during heavy use.