Van Bikeradar: Best bike lights 2022 | Front and rear lights for road cycling & commuting

Good-quality bike lights should be one of the first cycling accessories on your shopping list. Needless to say, they are essential when cycling at night or if visibility is poor, making lights a must-have during the winter and a smart addition to your bike even in the summer.

It’s a legal requirement in the United Kingdom to have lights on your bike if you’re cycling after sunset (we’ve got a full guide on bike light laws), but some riders like to use them during the day as well, especially during the winter, in order to increase visibility to other road users.

Like everything, though, there are many different brands, offering an endless array of options, so it can be a near-impossible task to figure out the best bike lights for your needs.

Fortunately, here at BikeRadar, our expert testers have used and abused dozens of light sets to bring you the definitive list of what we believe are the best road and commuting lights on the market.

Best bike lights at a glance

Here’s BikeRadar’s pick of the best front lights, best rear lights and the best light sets we’ve tested. For more options, plus our reviews and buyer’s guide, read on.

Best front light for under £100: Bontrager Ion Pro RT

Best front light for under £60: Blackburn Dayblazer 800

Best front light for under £40: Lezyne Hecto Drive 500XL

Best rear light: Topeak Redlite Aero 1W

Best rear light for urban riding: Bontrager Flare R City

Best front & rear light set: Lezyne Lite Drive 1000XL and Lezyne KTV Pro Drive 75

How many lumens do you need for bike lights?

Bike lights are split into two categories: those that provide enough illumination to enable you to clearly see what’s ahead of you, and those that are designed to simply ensure that you’re seen by other road users – lights to see and lights to be seen, as it were.

We’ve mainly focused on front lights that will enable you to see where you are going on unlit cycle paths or rural roads.

Generally speaking, we’d recommend a minimum of 200 lumens for urban commuting and 400 lumens for riding on unlit roads.

If you’re after lights for riding off-road on trails, you’ll need something brighter, with greater power and battery life. Check out our separate round-up of the best mountain bike lights.

Once you’ve browsed our reviews, don’t forget to check out our buyer’s guide to road and commuting lights at the bottom of the page. We’ve covered all of the key factors you should consider, including light output, battery life, beam pattern and more.

Best front lights for bikes in 2022 as rated by our expert testers

  • Bontrager Ion Pro RT: £100 / $125 / €119.99 / AU$189.99
  • Gemini Titan 4000: £300 / $350 / €370 / AU$450
  • Lezyne Hecto Drive 500XL: £55 / $79.99 / €60 / AU$109.99
  • Blackburn Dayblazer 800: £55 / $65 /€64.95 / AU$90
  • Exposure Sirius MK9: £100 / $137 / €120
  • Exposure Strada 1200: £290 / $398 / €TBC / AU$525
  • Halfords Advanced 1600 Lumen: £50
  • Hope R2i LED Vision: £175 / $221 / €215 / AU$320
  • Knog PWR Road 600: £85 / $90 / €TBC / AU$120
  • Lezyne Macro Drive 1300XXL: £85 / $90 / €89.95 / Aus$149.99 
  • Lezyne Micro Drive 600XL: £55 / $55 / €55 / AU$99
  • Magicshine Allty 1000 DRL: £70 / $85 / €85 / AU$119.95
  • Oxford UltraTorch CL1000: £55
  • Ravemen CR1000: £75
  • Ravemen PR1200: £100  
  • Specialized Flux 850: £95 / $80 / €130 / AU$190 

Bontrager Ion Pro RT

  • Claimed max output: 1,300 lumens
  • Run time (max power): 90 minutes
  • Warm-coloured and well-shaped beam
  • Bluetooth compatibility
  • Good band-on mount

Bontrager’s Ion Pro RT strikes an excellent balance between a high lumen output and a consistent, pleasingly-coloured and well-focused beam pattern.

The clamp is super easy to use and – while its real-world usefulness is questionable – the Bluetooth integration, which allows you to control the light via a Garmin or Di2 shifter, is fun. It’s also simple to operate.

Gemini Titan 4000

Best road bike lights

The Gemini provides daylight-like vision.
BikeRadar / Immediate Media

  • Claimed max output: 4,000 lumens
  • Run time (max power): 1 hour 50 minutes
  • Unparalleled power via six LEDs
  • Custom modes and a wireless switch
  • Excellent reliability and the best way to light up your bike rides

If you want rally car-like levels of illumination on your ride, nothing beats Gemini’s radical Titan. By using six LEDs in a horizontal strip, you get a detailed 3D rendering of the road/trail rather than harsh single/double point shadows for genuine daylight-style vision.

While it maxes out at a darkness-detonating 4,000 lumens, half that is enough for 90 per cent of situations, so the bag battery capacity is ample for epic rides.

Each mode is programmable in 10 per cent steps and you get a wireless remote as standard. We’ve been using Titans for years without a glitch.

Lezyne Hecto Drive 500XL

Lezyne Hecto Drive 500XL front light

Lezyne’s Hecto Drive 500XL is a good value option for commuting and urban riding.

  • Claimed max output: 500 lumens
  • Run time (max power): one hour
  • Eight modes
  • Compact with a simple mount

The Lezyne Hecto Drive XL’s  500 lumens is enough for a decent pace on unlit bike paths, though with only one hour of run time at max output, the Hecto is best for use as an urban light.

It charges quickly, stays in the mode you last used it in (surprisingly handy) and offers a total of eight flashing and constant modes, with claimed run times of between one hour and 20 hours.

The Hecto is also a compact unit with a simple rubber band to strap it to your handlebar.

Blackburn Dayblazer 800

Best road bike lights

With submersible waterproofing, it’ll survive even the wettest of rides.
BikeRadar / Immediate Media

  • Claimed max output: 800 lumens
  • Run time (max power): 1 hour 26 minutes
  • Multiple mounting options
  • Bright and long-running enough to be really versatile
  • A tough and powerful light

Blackburn’s slimline Dayblazer uses a combination of GoPro-style tabs and a rubber band strap to mount it almost anywhere, so no matter your handlebar configuration, you’re bound to find space for the light.

You’ll be grateful for the 800-lumen ‘Blitz’ mode that can pick out trouble in the darkest alleys and gutters on any ride too.

The TIR lens, with diffusing side cutouts, gives a good ‘see me’ spread, with flash and pulse modes for daylight running. There’s basic battery info and the 1.5-hour run time at max power can be USB recharged in four hours.

It’s submersible waterproof too, so if you live somewhere with plenty of rainfall it’s sure to live up to Blackburn’s light reputation of being super tough.

Exposure Sirius MK9

  • Claimed max output: 850 lumens
  • Run time (max power): 90 minutes
  • Super high-quality build
  • Road-friendly beam shape
  • Lightweight

Exposure’s road-specific Sirius is now onto its ninth generation and is still one of our all-time favourite lights.

Combining a high-quality alloy housing with well thought-out optics, the light makes full use of its modest 850-lumen output.

It does require a proprietary cable to charge, but we’re willing to forgive this given how well it performs in other areas.

Exposure Strada 1200

Best road bike lights

The Exposure Strada 1200 is a well-designed and well-made light.
BikeRadar / Immediate Media

  • Claimed max output: 1,200 lumens
  • Run time (max power): 2 hours
  • Remote high/low beam switching
  • Tunable output and plug-in extras
  • It’s a well-designed, high-tech, high-performance illuminator

Exposure has been making high-performance, high-tech lights in the UK for over a decade.

The latest Strada road light is 300 lumens brighter than the previous model for uncompromised back-road riding and a wired remote for flicking between high and low beams is included as standard.

Run times for multiple programmable modes are communicated through a strip OLED. Plug-in batteries, rear lights and USB chargers are all available as extras and the latest version recharges 40 per cent quicker than before.

The CNC-machined light, bar and stem mounts are beautiful and UK factory backup is excellent.

Halfords Advanced 1600 Lumen

Halfords Advanced 1600 Lumen front light for mountain biking

For the price, the Halfords Advanced light is a solid bit of kit.
Ian Linton / Immediate Media

  • Claimed max output: 1,600 lumens
  • Run time (max power): 2hrs 10mins
  • Intelligent power bar tells you remaining run time
  • Impressive for its modest price

This relatively basic all-in-one light offers a decent output at a reasonable weight and all for a really attractive price. The 6,400mAh capacity battery powers three LEDs that emit a fairly strong beam.

A great feature is the ‘intelligent power bar’, which displays how much battery life you can expect for the run mode you’re in. At low power levels, the light will automatically switch to a power-saving flash mode in order to get you home safely.

The Halfords Advanced light can also act as a power bank to charge your electronic device on the move, thanks to a USB port on the back of the light.

The rubber strap mount did the job fine, but the supplied out-front mount didn’t hold the light steady enough for our liking.

Hope R2i LED Vision

Best road bike lights

The Hope R2i LED Vision is heavy but a solid bit of kit.
BikeRadar / Immediate Media

  • Claimed max output: 1,300 lumens
  • Run time (max power): 1 hour 30 minutes
  • Super robust construction
  • ‘Double barrel’ LED setup improves visibility

The R2i LED Vision carries over Hope’s signature machined aesthetic, housing two eye-friendly, warm coloured LEDs in a very sturdy all-alloy body.

The ‘double barrel’ setup of the LEDs causes a binocular-like effect that helps decipher what’s ahead, with the smooth transition at the edge of the beam avoiding stark reflections and sharp edges.

The light is relatively heavy, but our experience shows that the weight penalty is worth it, with legendary reliability and factory-direct support to boot.

Knog PWR Road

  • Claimed max output: 1,300 lumens
  • Run time (max power): 1 hour 30 minutes
  • Genuinely innovative modular lighting solution
  • Nicely constructed
  • Solid mount

Knog’s modular PWR system was released to much fanfare. The whole system is based around a central power pack that is available in a number of different capacities.

Knog also has compatible camp lights, Bluetooth speakers and more as part of the PWR family.

In testing, we’ve found the PWR system to be totally fuss-free. The battery life is also pretty good for a mid-powered light.

Lezyne Macro Drive 1300XXL

  • Claimed max output: 1,300 lumens
  • Run time (max power): 2 hours 30 minutes
  • Overdrive mode is useful for gravel and off-road riding
  • Auto cool-down feature is handy
  • Super-secure mount

Lezyne’s Macro Drive 1300XXL delivers a monstrous 1,300-lumen output in its ‘Overdrive’ mode that is more than enough to navigate on unlit roads or gravel paths.

The intermediate settings are well thought-out and, although we’d prefer a slightly smoother transition between these, it is possible to programme the light to suit your needs.

The mount is super-secure, but fitting it the first time proved a challenge.

Lezyne Micro Drive 600XL

  • Claimed max output: 600 lumens
  • Run time (max power): 60 minutes
  • Bright edge-to-edge beam
  • Sleek design
  • Limited run time

Don’t be put off by the 600-lumen power output: the dual LEDs of the Lezyne Micro Drive 600XL make a powerful front light that’s best suited for use on rural, unlit roads.

The rubber band handlebar mount is more sturdy than you might think and easily transferable between bikes.

Although it’s easy to tap the on/off button to show the battery life indicator, you have to cycle through all nine modes to change from low to high beam.

As the light is lightweight and compact, it has a limited full-power run time.

Magicshine Allty 1000 DRL

  • Claimed max output: 1,000 lumens
  • Run time (max power): 1 hour 48 minutes
  • Super-easy to use
  • Great value for money

The Red Dot Design Award-winning Magicshine Allty 1000 DRL presents excellent value for money in a nicely-made and easy-to-operate package.

With a 1,000-lumen output and neat Garmin mount integration, the light can be easily incorporated into your existing cockpit setup.

Oxford UltraTorch CL1000

  • Claimed max output: 1,000 lumens
  • Run time (max power): 90 minutes
  • High beam quality for urban and rural use
  • Handy battery indicator in hours
  • Competitively priced

The range of features, combined with a generous 1,000-lumen power output, makes the Oxford UltraTorch CL 1000 an impressive option, especially considering it retails at a reasonable £55.

Battery level is indicated by the number of hours remaining, and the light doubles up as a power bank with a USB output — handy for emergency charging of items such as a GPS or phone.

The waterproof IPX 4 rating will withstand rain splashes, although this is the minimum we’d recommend for wet weather riding.

The light fits securely to the bar with a plastic bracket fixed by a pivot hinge and Allen bolt.

Ravemen CR1000

  • Claimed max output: 1,000 lumens
  • Run time (max power): 120 minutes
  • Orange glow side lights enhance junction visibility
  • Easy to use quick-release mount
  • Non-dazzle beam

With a maximum power of 1,000 lumens, the Ravemen CR1000 provides plentiful light for rural riding, teamed with an anti-glare T-shaped beam.

The glowing orange side lights enhance visibility at junctions, without being distracting as you ride.

For a budget light, it has the feel of a more premium option, with a durable rubber strap, quick-release mount and a good IP6 waterproof rating.

For easily dimming the light while riding, a handy wired remote button allows you to change modes without having to move from your riding position on the handlebar.

Ravemen PR1200

  • Claimed max output: 1,200 lumens
  • Run time (max power): 2 hours
  • High/low beam setting is genuinely useful
  • Digital display battery life indicator
  • Wired remote button

The Ravemen PR1200 has a nifty high/low beam setting, similar to that seen in a car, which can be used to avoid dazzling oncoming road users.

A wired remote button could be useful for those riding with flat bars and an excellent IP8 rating means the light should survive even the heaviest downpour.

Specialized Flux 850 Headlight

  • Claimed max output: 850 lumens
  • Run time (max power): 90 minutes
  • Solid construction
  • Quality beam pattern with a broad spread of light
  • No lateral adjustment

Featuring a double beam to help you both see and be seen, the Specialized Flux 850 Headlight gives you 180-degree visibility thanks to the bright sidelights.

Combining a spotlight and wider optic, the light provides a broad beam as well as a more focused reach.

The high IPX 7 waterproof rating means that it should be able to withstand the worst of winter weather.

With 850 lumens, the light is bright enough both for urban riding and rural unlit roads.

The Flux is easily fitted and removed using a solid metal bracket with a quick-release mechanism.

Best rear bike lights in 2022 as rated by our expert testers

  • Exposure TraceR DayBright: £45 / $60 / AU$85
  • Topeak Redlite Aero 1W: £32.99
  • Alpkit Tau: £14.99 / $20 / €16.95 / AU$28
  • Bontrager Flare R City: £30 / $60 / €39.99 / AU$75
  • Cateye Rapid X2: £40, international pricing TBC
  • Knog Cobber Mid: £60 / $70 / €69.99 / AU$100
  • Lezyne Zecto Drive Max: £52 / $50 / €51.95 / AU$59.95
  • Moon Comet X-Pro: £31.99 / $41 / €TBC / AU$58

Exposure TraceR DayBright rear light

Exposure TraceR DayBright rear light

The Exposure TraceR DayBright’s build quality stands out from the competition.
Our Media

  • Superb construction and durability
  • Great visibility

Made from aluminium casing, a single lens and LED, the Exposure TraceR DayBright is uncomplicated and highly effective. The sturdy plastic bracket it slots into holds the light securely.

The TraceR’s bulb capitalises on all its 75-lumen max output by casting the beam 180 degrees to ensure road users see you.

It’ll last three hours in high-power mode and all day in lower settings, which are more than adequate after dark. Switching through the modes is intuitive.

Topeak Redlite Aero 1W

Best road bike lights

It’s always ready to go and has never failed us out on a ride.
BikeRadar / Immediate Media

  • 55-lumen max power setting
  • Lots of mounting options

On paper, Topeak’s Redlite Aero 1W is nothing remarkable, but it’s always the one that’s ready to go and has never failed us out on a ride.

Four modes max out at 55 lumens (two-hour run time) with a low-battery indicator. Different back pieces and bands fit various shaped tubes/posts, the single LED strip is angled and it charges in two hours.

Alpkit Tau

Alpkit Tau

The Alpkit Tau will last for three hours, 30 minutes at full power.
Dave Caudrey / Immediate Media

  • Mega-light 20g weight
  • Long run time

Renowned for its reasonably priced and top-performing kit, Alpkit’s Tau 20g featherweight light boasts a 20-lumen LED light strip with five modes, including high and low flash, and a constant and pulse function.

The light will run for three hours, 30 minutes on full-whack and its switch indicates the charge level.

Bontrager Flare R City

Bontrager Flare R City

In max setting, it’ll keep on going for just over five hours.
David Caudery / Immediate Media

  • Quick charge time
  • Lightweight and long-lasting

The light’s single LED emits 35 lumens using a wide-angle reflector, and in its max setting, which is daylight-flash mode, it’ll keep on going for just over five hours.

With a two-hour charge time and a 26g weight, it’s a solid companion for both daytime and night-time rides.

Cateye Rapid X2

Best road bike lights

Twin LED strips scroll through six modes with a 50-lumen max.
BikeRadar / Immediate Media

  • 180-degree visibility
  • Two-hour recharge time

Cateye started the LED rear light revolution and still rules in terms of reliability. Twin LED strips scroll through six modes with a 50-lumen max and 180-degree visibility.

It’s aero seatpost-friendly, but a lack of angle correction is irritating. Its light 30g weight limits max run-time to one hour, but the two-hour recharge is useful for busy riders.

Cateye has released an update called the Rapid X2 Kinetic, which detects when you brake and then brightens.

Knog Cobber Mid

Best road bike lights

The Cobber has good side-to-side illumination.
Alex Evans / Immediate Media

  • Great side-on visibility
  • Plenty of modes

As its looks suggest, the main selling point of the Knog Cobber Mid rear light is side-on visibility, and it certainly doesn’t disappoint in this regard.

Run time on full power was slightly lower than claimed by Knog, but at 1 hour 40 minutes was nevertheless good for a 75-lumen rear light.

There are a total of eight standard modes, but you can also use Knog’s Modemaker app to programme your own settings if you want something specific.

Lezyne Zecto Drive Max

Best road bike lights

Eight modes max out at a 250-lumen daylight flash.
BikeRadar / Immediate Media

  • A max 250-lumen flash mode for daylight running
  • Very reliable

With a versatile clip mount for straps or tubes, plus a robust construction, the ZDM is a bikepacking winner. Eight modes max out at a 250-lumen daylight flash (9-hour run time). It’s heavy (69g) and sideways visibility is limited, though.

There’s no waterproof rating, but we’ve hosed it without issue.

Moon Comet X-Pro

Best road bike lights

The Moon’s output impressed us.
Alex Evans / Immediate Media

  • Excellent visibility
  • Lots of mounting options

Easy to fit, with lots of mounting options (including a seat rail mount, which is very good at this price), the Comet X-Pro also impresses with its intense output at full power.

Run time at full power was bang on the 1 hour 30 minutes claimed by Moon too, which is very good considering the amount of power on tap.

Unfortunately, there’s no pulse mode and it’s a little fiddly to use on the move, but the X-Pro is otherwise a very useful rear light.

Best light sets for bikes 2021 as rated by our expert testers

  • Cateye AMPP 800 front and Cateye Rapid X3 rear lights: £135 / $120 / €TBC / AU$236
  • Lezyne Lite Drive 1000XL front and Lezyne KTV Pro Drive 75 rear lights: £95 / $95 / €91.95 
  • Ravemen PR900 front and Ravemen TR20 rear lights: £105 / $105 / €105 / AU$180
  • Blackburn Dayblazer 800 front and 65 rear light set: £80 / $98 / €TBC / AU$135
  • Knog PWR Rider 450 and Blinder Mob V Four Eyes: £98 / $110 / €113 / AU$150
  • Kryptonite Alley F-650 and Kryptonite R-50 Cob: £90, international pricing TBC
  • Light & Motion Urban 900 Commuter Combo: £110, international pricing TBC

If you know exactly what you want, then you might wish to buy a front and rear light separately. For many people, though, the lure of a good-quality light set that solves all your lighting problems in one fell swoop is hard to ignore.

However, the risk with buying a set of lights is that it’s easy to end up with one of the two (usually the rear) not quite cutting the mustard in comparison to the other, as manufacturers look to keep costs down in order to hit a certain price point.

With that in mind, our expert testers have tested both lights that are sold as sets and separate lights from the same manufacturers that can be purchased together at a similar overall price, with a budget of around £100.

Some of the sets in this list are no longer available, but we have listed the lights individually as we still think they would make good combinations.

Cateye AMPP 800 front and Cateye Rapid X3 rear lights

Best road bike lights

The Cateye AMPP 800 front and Cateye Rapid X3 rear lights are top performers.
Immediate Media

  • Great performance and build quality
  • Secure and versatile mounting systems
  • 800 lumens front, 150 lumens rear at max power

Cateye has a well-earned reputation for making high-performing, good-quality lights in this category, and the AMPP 800 and Rapid X3 only serve to back this up.

The AMPP 800 has a bright, wide beam and the rear light has a clever system that uses two separate LEDs that enable you to run the light flashing and constant at the same time.

Run time at full power could be slightly better on both, but having larger batteries would naturally increase the size of the units, so it’s a bit of a trade-off.

The only slight negative is the relatively high price for the set, but they’re robust enough to provide good value in the long term.

Lezyne Lite Drive 1000XL front and Lezyne KTV Pro Drive 75 rear lights

Best road bike lights

The Lezyne Lite Drive 1000XL front and Lezyne KTV Pro Drive 75 rear lights are super well-made.
Immediate Media

  • Versatile light set with an excellent build quality
  • Bright with excellent peripheral lighting
  • 1,000 lumens front, 75 lumens rear at max power

With 1,000 lumens at full power, Lezyne’s Lite Drive 1000XL provides more than enough brightness and beam spread for riding on unlit roads. You’ll only get around 80 minutes at this power, but dropping it down to the second highest output (which sits at 500 lumens) provides just under three hours of run time, which ought to be enough for even the longest of commutes.

Its CNC-machined aluminium build quality is excellent too, and its IXP7 waterproof rating is very welcome. The tough, rubber-band style mounting system makes adding/removing the lights a cinch, though they’re arguably a little less secure than ratcheted or bolt-mounted options.

The rear light puts out a slightly middling 75 lumens at full power, but does offer an impressive 270 degrees of visibility.

Ravemen PR900 front and Ravemen TR20 rear lights

Best road bike lights

The Ravemen PR900 front and Ravemen TR20 rear light package is let down by the rear light.
Immediate Media

  • Great front light with novel design
  • Remote control included in the price
  • 900 lumens front, 20 lumens rear at max power

The PR900 front light is the real star of this set, offering a novel, twin-lens design and enough power to make it suitable for riding on unlit roads or even off-road.

The 900-lumen setting is more of an emergency turbo boost mode, but battery life on the 800-lumen setting is excellent, providing just over two hours of run time. It even has a USB port to allow you to use it as a battery pack to charge other gadgets (such as your phone, for example).

The rear light is sadly less impressive, packing only 20 lumens of light and a modest battery life. It’s simple and versatile, thanks to its decent mounting system, but there are brighter lights available at this price.

Blackburn Dayblazer 800 front and 65 rear light set

Best road bike lights

A strong pairing if you like to run lights during the day.
David Caudery / Immediate Media

  • Tough and practical
  • Well-balanced set
  • 800 lumens front, 65 lumens rear at max power

Though the headline figures in terms of output and battery life might not win any competitions, in practice the Dayblazer 800 and 65 lights make for a very handy set of commuting lights.

Run time at max power isn’t best in class, but there’s more than enough power on tap on both lights to handle road-based commuting.

Both have a hardy construction and come with a limited lifetime warranty, so they represent pretty good value too.

Knog PWR Rider 450 and Blinder Mob V Four Eyes

Best road bike lights

The body of the light is a tough aluminium affair.
Immediate Media

  • Good beam
  • Power bank facility and customisation options
  • 450 lumens front, 44 lumens rear at max power

Always one to do things slightly differently than other brands, two of the key selling points with Knog’s PWR Rider 450 are that you can use the front light as a power bank for other electronics and you can customise the output modes via its ModeMaker app.

This is great if, for example, you’re desperate to find that ideal balance between output and run time, but ultimately it’s unlikely to be a real game changer for most people.

The design of both lights is also very neat, but coming in a smaller, more streamlined package does mean sacrificing a bit of battery life. The front light lasts around two hours at full power, but since it’s putting out 450 lumens that’s simply good rather than brilliant.

The rear light feels brighter than its 44 lumens would suggest when blinking, making it a good option for urban riding.

Kryptonite Alley F-650 and Kryptonite R-50 Cob

Best road bike lights

The single LED puts out a circular beam with a pure central bright spotlight.
Immediate Media

  • Tough construction
  • Simple to use
  • 650 lumens front, 50 rear lumens at max power

It’s not the brightest light on the market, but the Alley F-650 boasts plenty of power and battery life for road and urban riding.

Our test light lasted beyond the claimed two hours at max power and was still putting out a decent amount of light a good half an hour later, though it did dim a bit. Peripheral visibility isn’t quite as good as some other lights on test, but build quality is excellent.

The ratchet-style mounting system is also very effective, providing a secure and stable fit with all handlebars we tried it on.

Our tester was less fond of the rear light, mainly due to its shortish battery life (just over two hours at full power), but it’s otherwise a perfectly capable rear light, if that’s not a dealbreaker for you.

Light & Motion Urban 900 Commuter Combo

Best road bike lights

One major feature of Light & Motion’s lights is that they’re certified to US FL-1 standards.
David Caudery / Immediate Media

  • Sturdy and waterproof
  • Good peripheral lighting
  • 900 lumens front, 60 lumens rear at max power

Though a little on the pricey side, Light & Motion’s Urban 900 Commuter Combo does provide performance and build quality that’s good enough to just about justify this.

Our tester got just over an hour and a half out of the front light on full power, which is decent considering its 900-lumen output, and dropping the power further obviously extends battery life. There’s no flashing mode, so the longest running time is limited to 12 hours in ‘SafePulse’ mode, but this isn’t likely to cause anyone major issues.

The rear light puts out a decent 60 lumens, but is a little more plasticky than the front light (though it’s also certified to US FL-1 standards).

The mounting system for both lights is also a bit finicky, but all things considered it’s a good overall package, even if the price feels a little steep.

Buyer’s guide to bike lights | How to choose the best bike lights

How many lumens do you need?

Best road bike lights

The most powerful lights can be a true lumen bazooka, illuminating the road or trail.
Ian Linton

Lumens are the unit by which the total amount of light emitted from a source is measured.

Consequently, the amount of lumens a light offers tends to be the headline specification because a larger number essentially promises that the light will be brighter.

Cyclists riding in lit urban areas, who don’t need lights to illuminate the road ahead, may only need a unit with a few hundred lumens – but if you venture on to unlit roads or paths, that’s unlikely to be enough, so you’ll need something more powerful.

For urban commuting, 200 lumens should be sufficient. We would suggest a front light with a minimum of 400 lumens for riding on unlit roads.

Don’t be fooled into thinking that the lumen rating of a bike light is the only thing that matters, though. A super-bright light that only has enough battery power to put out that headline figure for half an hour isn’t likely to be particularly useful, especially if you’ll need to use the most powerful setting for extended periods.

Make sure you check the claimed battery life at all of the various power levels to find the most suitable light for your style of riding.

Are LEDs good for bike lights?

The filament bulb is thankfully a thing of the past. Virtually all of today’s high-end front lights have Cree LEDs, which offer better brightness, more versatility, less heat, longer life and are smaller.

Most rear lights now use COB LEDs. COB stands for ‘chip on board’ – essentially multiple LED chips forming a single module. They produce less heat, are brighter and can come in a variety of colours – but remember the law in most countries dictates a rear light must be red.

Battery life

Best road bike lights

Most road lights are all-in-one units that include the battery, but more powerful lights will usually have a separate battery.
Alex Evans

Unlike mountain bike lights, which often use dedicated external battery packs, lights for road bikes and commuting usually have internal batteries, so there’s always going to be a trade-off between power, battery life and the size of the light.

For example, a more powerful light, with a longer battery life will require a physically larger battery and will therefore increase the overall size of the unit.

This isn’t necessarily a problem in itself, but many road cyclists won’t want something overly large to spoil the sleek looks of their road bike or clutter the handlebar. Likewise, some commuters will want lights that are small enough to be stuffed easily in a work bag.

For others, especially those who ride on unlit roads or enjoy particularly long rides and commutes, a larger light with more lumens and battery capacity will be essential.

What about dynamo-powered lights?

Astute readers will notice that we have only covered battery-powered lights in this guide.

Dynamo-powered lights – which, most commonly, are powered by a generator hub built into a wheel – are a very popular option on touring and town bikes, and with good reason. They offer infinite run time and the optics in the lights are often very high quality.

However, they require a significant investment in terms of both money and research, and to cover both systems would be beyond the scope of this guide. We’ve covered bike dynamos in a separate explainer, including our pick of the best dynamo lights.

Balance and beam pattern

When buying a set of lights, it’s also wise to consider the balance between the front and the rear.

The front light will almost always have much more power because its role includes lighting dark roads and cycle paths. However, while the outright lumen count of most rear lights won’t come close to the front, the spec is just as important.

A rear light’s main role is to help make you visible to other road users, so having decent brightness and battery life is essential because it needs to last the length of whatever ride you’re taking on while also being powerful enough for other road users to see it from a good distance.

Some lights are now also marketed for daytime use, with the appropriate brightness and flash patterns to help keep you seen in bright sunshine and low light.

Both front and rear lights should also balance range and peripheral lighting. A highly-focused beam can be great for lighting the road in front of you for fast riding, but for the sake of both being able to spot hazards and to enable road users approaching from different angles to see you better, it’s important that some of the light beam spreads into the periphery as well.

What about StVZO lights?

StVZO lights conform to German Road Traffic Licensing Regulations, with beam patterns shaped to avoid dazzling other road users.

You don’t need to use StVZO-approved lights anywhere other than on German roads – however, if you ride solely on the road, investing in a StVZO light could be a good idea.

The narrow beam might not suit mountain bikers or bike packers cycling at night, but there are more StVZO light options becoming available that let you change between high and low beams to get around this issue.

We’ve got a separate explainer on StVZO bike lights that runs through all the pros and cons.

Mount systems

In an ideal world, you would be able to have a mounting system that is perfectly simple, lightning-quick to install and remove, totally secure and infinitely durable… But in reality, there’s usually a bit of a compromise between those various characteristics.

The simplest mounts use heavy-duty rubber bands and dedicated grooves on the light mount. These systems have the advantage of being extremely quick and easy to install and remove, and can usually be easily adjusted to different types and sizes of handlebar, seat posts, etc.

On the other hand, it’s easy to lose these elastic bands when the lights aren’t mounted on the bike and they’re more susceptible to movement over rough ground. Given long-term use, they’re also more likely to degrade and eventually break than a solid mount.

Solid plastic or metal mounting systems, which clip on to the handlebars and are secured with bolts, tend to offer much better security on bumpy roads as well as much greater long-term durability.

Installing or removing these types of mounts can often be a much more involved process though, sometimes even requiring a specific tool (such as a small hex key).

Usually, manufacturers will look to mitigate this inconvenience by making the light separately removable from the actual mount itself (so, for example, you can quickly take the light unit with you after locking up your bike), but not every light offers this function, so it’s worth checking before you buy.

Other features

Waterproofing is important, particularly if you regularly ride in poor weather conditions. The IP Code is a measurement of protection against the ingress of water and dust. IP4 protects against splashing of water, while an IP7 product will survive immersion in water for 30 minutes.

Some front lights not only power their own LEDs but have USB ports that allow you to charge mobiles or GPS computers – particularly useful for long-distance riders.

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