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Whether you are bike commuting, mountain biking, or bikepacking, bike lights is a must-have biking accessory that you should own. Sometimes, biking at night is inevitable so owning one is not only a lifesaver but an absolute need. They are also useful when biking under heavy rain or fog. It increases your vision and makes you more visible to other vehicles on the road — greatly reducing your risks of motor accidents.
Aside from safety, installing a bike light on your bike is also required by law. For example, Washington’s bike laws state:
“Every bicycle when in use during the hours of darkness shall be equipped with a lamp on the front which shall emit a white light visible from a distance of at least five hundred feet to the front and with a red reflector on the rear of a type approved by the state patrol which shall be visible from all distances up to six hundred feet to the rear when directly in front of lawful lower beams of headlamps on a motor vehicle.
A lamp emitting a red light visible from a distance of five hundred feet to the rear may be used in addition to the red reflector. A light-emitting diode flashing taillight visible from a distance of five hundred feet to the rear may also be used in addition to the red reflector.”
So if you are looking the best bike light to install on your bike or to replace an old, defective one, here’s a handy guide for you.
The Best Front Bike Lights for 2021
NiteRider Pro 1800
Costing just over $200, the NiteRider Pro 1800 is no doubt one of the lights with the best power to weight ratios. Using 3 CREE LEDs, it can produce 1800 lumens of light — making it the best choice for daredevils and bikepackers who love mountain biking at night.
Lightweigh at only 484 grams, the NiteRider Pro 1800 features a rugged design and housings made from Dupont nylon-reinforced fiberglass. This bike light is powered by 4-cell lithium ion battery which features an eight-step juice gauge to let you know when it is time to recharge.
The NiteRider Pro 1800 can be mounted up to 35-mm diameter bars. It can also be mounted on your bike helmet!
Cateye Volt 1600
When it comes to choosing the right bike light, the higher the light output, the better. Increased visibility helps riders ride safely at night. The Cateye Volt 1600 can deliver 1600 lumens of light — making it one of the most powerful on the market today.
The Cateye Volt 1600 uses a high-capacity lithium-ion battery to power two headlamps. This light comes with 5 settings — providing you greater flexibility and more juice. The Cateye Volt 1600 can be recharged using a USB cable.
The Cateye Volt 1600 stands 5 inches long and 5 inches wide. This may be a bit cumbersome for many but it’s still worth it! It comes with its own mounting system, the CatEye Flextight system, which is very easy to use and doesn’t require a permanent frame mount.
Kmashi Bike Light
Headphones are a big NO when biking. Of course, for safety purposes. So the solution? Bluetooth speakers! The Kmashi is a Bluetooth speaker and light in one — allowing you enjoy hands-free calling and your best jam when riding.
The Kmashi is powered by 4,800 mAH battery which can also function as a power bank. It provides up to 32 hours of illumination in 3 light settings. Like most modern lights today, the Kmashi can be charged via a USB cable.
A little bit big than most on the market, the Kmashi Bike Light is a big win for its multi-functionality.
Blitzu Gator 320
Blitzu is not just known for its impressive, durable tail lights. They’re also one of the top brands for bicycle headlights!
If you are looking for a budget headlight that does not sacrifice quality, the Blitzu Gator 320 is a perfect choice. This bike light emits unto 320 lumens of light for two hours, depending on the light setting you use. The low battery life can be quite a downside but hey, the device only cost around $20. So that’s still a big win!
The Blitzu Gator 320 comes with a quick snap and release mounting system. The mount swivels a full 360 degrees to allow a wider range of placement and it can also double as a headlight or a hand-held flashlight if needed.
The Blitzu Gator 320 is built to withstand occasional rain and comes with a coveted IPX-5 rating.
Blackburn Countdown 1600
Mountain biking at night can be an ordeal. It needs more lighting than road biking or bike commuting because of the obstacles and uneven terrain. Built to last, the Blackburn Countdown 1600 is favorite among bikers. It also comes with a handy feature that accurately tells you the amount of battery life left on your device.
The Blackburn Countdown 1600 comes with 6 lighting setting ranging from 300 lumens to 1600 lumens. It also features pulse and strobe options to suit your needs. The Blackburn Countdown 1600 can run for up to 8 hours, depending on the setting you choose. Charge time for this bike light is 4 hours via a micro USB.
Th Blackburn Countdown 1600 comes with an IPF-67 waterproof rating.
Knog PWR Road
The Knog PWR Road is built around a high-capacity power pack that comes in various capacities. The power bank can be used to charge your phone, GoPro, and other gadgets. The Knog PWR Road features a Mode Maker App that allows you to design your own personalized lighting mode for any PWR bike light.
The Knog PWR Road is a side-mounted bike light. Simply slide the mount on the side of the battery, tighten the side wheel, and you are good to go!
The Best Rear Bike Lights for 2021
From here onwards, we will take a look at the best rear/tail lights on the market today. Tail lights are useful when biking at night or under heavy fog or rain as it makes your bike more visible to other vehicles riding behind you.
CatEye Rapid X3
The CatEye Rapid X3 features a slim curved build and a wide selection of rubber straps that you can use to mount onto your bike frame or seat post. Two COB LED strips to provide 150 lumens of red light.
The CatEye Rapid X3 has a run time of about 1 hour and 20 minutes on maximum power. Choosing low power settings will greatly improve battery life. The CatEye Rapid X3 only weighs 51 grams.
Meilan X5 Bike Tail Light
The Meilan X5 Bike Tail Light is a cool bike light that lights up when you hit the brakes. And you know what’s even better? It comes with turn signal light function too! Isn’t that savvy!
The Meilan X5 Bike Tail Light charges from your computer, wall charger, or power bank via a USB port. This Meilant is powered by a 2200 mAh lithium-ion battery that makes charing in between rides a thing of the past.
Fast charging technology allows the Meilan X5 Bike Tail Light to be fully charged in just 2 hours! Operational hours of the Meilan X5 Bike Tail Light can reach unto 8+ hours on flashing mode. This light comes with 5 modes.
Ampulla Bike Tail Light
The Ampulla Bike Tail Light is super bright! Thanks to 29 LED lights each emitting 85 lumens of red light. Like the Meilan X5 Bike Tail Light, this bike light comes with a wireless remote control that sends signals to the device itself. It also features a right/left turning light mode which is very helpful in alerting drivers several blocks away from you.
The Ampulla Bike Tail Light also boasts a ground virtual lane feature — an ultra-bright alert that warns any incoming vehicle. This tail light comes with an IPX4 rating, making it useful in moderate downpours.
The Ampulla Bike Tail Light comes with a rubber belt for easy mounting. The device can be charged using a USB port.
Blitzu Cyborg 12OT
The Blitzu Cyborg 12OT is a tail light. Tail lights help you become more visible to vehicles in your blind spot. The Blitzu Cyborg emits 120 lumens of red light — thanks to its 30 micro-LEDs. It also boasts 6 lighting modes which include a strobe and flash to keep your visible at all times.
The Blitzu Cyborg 12OT conveniently clips onto your seat post, helmet, or bike frame. It’s made from water-resistant materials too so you don’t have to worry about any splash damaging your device.
3 Reasons Why You Should Buy a Bike Light
People used to think that bike lights are just for night rides or extending your rides during shorter days in the winter. But to be honest, installing lights in your bike has more benefits than just being a headlight when it is dark. Read more below.
1. Lights give you better visibility
Riding with your bike lights makes you more visible to other motorists on the road. Do you know what’s even better? It’s riding with your lights on during the day! Studies show that using your lights during day time lowers your risks of experiencing an injury by 19 percent!
No surprise here. Even modern cars have switched to permanently on lights as it’s already a proven strategy to improve road safety.
2. Lights allow you to see reflections
When it’s night or if the visibility is low, your bicycle lights allow you to see reflective items on the road. These include cars, motorcycles, bikes, street signs, traffic signs, road lines, and even animal eyes. Seeing a reflection from afar can help you prepare and react in time.
3. You are compliant with state laws
Most states in the US make bike lights a requirement. For example, in Colorado, the law requires that all bikes must be equipped with a white-colored front light and a red-colored rear light or reflector that’s visible from at least 500 feet at night.
How to Bike Safely at Night
Whether you are on the highway or off-road, biking at night is fun! But risky. That’s why before you go out for a night time ride, you need to make sure that you are as prepared as you can to avoid any accidents or injuries. Read our tips below:
1. Invest in the right type of bike lights
The type of light you’ll need on a night time ride will depend on your riding conditions. For example, if you are biking on a well-lit street, you will only need a bike light that makes you more visible to other road users. However, if you are riding off-road and on pitch-black trails, you will need something that can illuminate the trail ahead of you for a good distance so you have time to react in case an unexpected turn or animal crosses your way.
For off-road riding, it’s best to use helmet-mounted lights because it points to where you want to go and not where the bike is going. Just make sure it’s lightweight and comfortable to use.
2. Make sure other drivers can see you
When riding at night, make sure that you are riding where other motorists can see you. This means you need to ride at most a meter into the road — this allows you to stay within the field of vision of drivers looking ahead. This position also allows you to avoid obstacles on the side of the road like holes, drain covers, debris, branches, etc.
3. Avoid blinding other drivers
Modern front-facing bike lights have brighter beams than cars. If you happen to have one of these, make sure that you beam your light down to the surface of the road and avoid blinding the driver in front of you. If you have an off-road light and you need to ride on the road for a while, best use it on a flashing mode.
4. Always have a backup
Aside from making sure that your light is fully charged before hitting the road, it’s also prudent to install a second set of lights on your bike as a backup. You’ll never know when your primary light will fail you so it’s always better to be prepared.
Once your eyes have adjusted to the dark, we recommend using a low setting for simple terrains and reserve the brightest settings for challenging trails to save battery.
5. Install reflectors on your bike
Aside from lights, reflectors offer an effective and inexpensive way of protecting you and making you more visible at night. Install a white reflector in front of your bike and a red one at the rear. We also recommend putting reflectors on your pedals so road users can see you pedaling from afar.
How to Choose the Best Bike Light
There are a lot of bike lights in the market. How do you choose which one to pick? Consider these factors below:
The brightness of your cycling light is measured in lumens. The higher, the better. Most bicycle lights range between 30 to over 2000 lumens. If you are just using your bike for your daily commute, go with a light that’s bright but not blinding.
Bicycle lights come in multiple mounting options. The most common ones are those installed on the handlebar and seat post of your bike. Biking lights are usually installed using a Velcro, a rubber strap, or a screw that tightens a bracket around the handlebar or seat post. When buying a bike light, make sure that the mounting options that come with it are compatible with your bike.
Modern cycling lights are rechargeable via USB. Although there are still some that operate on batteries. If you happen to pick the latter, make sure that the batteries are readily available in convenience stores, service stations, or supermarkets. Some high-powered lights may require a separate battery pack that needs to be installed on your bike — make sure that you still have enough space for this. As a general rule, the greater the brightness and run-time output of your light, the bigger and heavier its battery will be.
Most modern cycling lights nowadays are powered by LEDs which are more efficient than their predecessors. So, there should not much of a problem in this department.
The battery size will be the determining factor when it comes to weight. High-powered cycling lights require a larger battery pack hence, they tend to weigh heavier. On average, bike lights can weigh as much as 15 grams to 150 grams. Expect your front lights to weigh more than your rear lights.
Frequently Asked Questions
What are lumens?
We’ve been talking about lumens throughout this article but what is it exactly? Light brightness is measured in lumens — not wattage. The technical definition of lumens is the amount of light given out through a solid angle by a source of one-candela intensity radiating equally in all directions.
For us mere mortals, understanding that lumens are equal to brightness is more than enough. Obviously, the higher the lumen-rating of your bike light is, the brighter it shines!
What’s an IPX4 rating?
Bike lights should be able to withstand bad weather conditions (snow, rain, immersion, and high humidity) to last longer. An IPX4 rating, which you’ve read a couple of times in this buying guide, means that the light is Weather Resistant. IPX4-approved bike lights still work even when water gets inside the housing this is because all contacts are made from stainless and sensitive components are coated with a waterproof coating.
Note that an IPX4 rating does not include immersion or long exposure to water. If you want a light that works even if its submerged in water for long periods of time, look for a product that comes with an IPX7 or IPX8 rating.
Should I use my bike light during the day?
There is a lot of ambient light during broad daylight. When you want to use your bike light in daytime to grab attention, use the brightest and most attention-grabbing mode it has. A steady burn is unlikely to stand out under this condition.
Is there an ideal way to position a bike light?
Bike lights should be positioned as far apart from each other as possible. It’s also recommended to separate your lights vertically so drivers in love and tall vehicles can easily spot your position.
For headlights, the best position is on the handlebar. You can also use a secondary light on your helmet.
For tail lights, a light mounted on the rack or your seat post is ideal. You can also use a secondary rear light mounted on your helmet.
What should I keep in mind when choosing helmet lights?
Good helmet lights should produce a narrow beam. Remember, the goal here is to see the area you’re looking at. Helmet lights that are too bright may blind drivers around you and will put you in harm’s way.
Bike lights, much like a bike lock, are an absolute must no matter what type of rider you are. Get one now. You’ll never know when it comes handy.