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Best bike lights: Front and rear lights to help you see and be seen this winter

Colin Levitch
·21-min read
 Best bike lights
Best bike lights

There are a plethora of powerful bike lights available these days to help you stay visible on the road while also lighting your way. Whether you buy them separately, or as a set, it’s important to have a good pair of lights - white at the front and red at the rear - whenever you’re cycling in the dark.

The best bike lights will not only enable you to see where you're cycling when daylight disappears, but they will also ensure you remain visible to the traffic around you at any time of day. In fact, many brands recommend using lights during the day as well as the night, particularly in fog, low light and rain, to promote safer cycling as well as to improve awareness among motorists.

If you consider that most cycling collisions occur during the day, it’s probably worth investing in a daytime running light (DRL) with multiple modes that can also serve as a night light. Most contemporary bike lights offer varying degrees of brightness, battery life and flash patterns, and have a built-in DRL function — the output of which is measured in lumens.

Best bike lights

Jump to the lights you need:

1. Best front bike lights
2. Best rear bike lights

When winter rolls around, you don't need to resort to indoor cycling with your turbo trainer. With the best bike lights, you can keep pedalling for hours after the sun has set, and ride just as many miles as you did during the lighter months.

Like everything else in the bike industry, the best bike lights are improving at a rate of knots with options available for all types of riders and terrain types.

Don't let the lack of daylight prevent you from taking your gravel bike to your favourite local loop or fitting some road bike mudguards, throwing on your best waterproof cycling jacket and commuting through the darkness.

Scroll down for Cyclingnews' advice on what makes the best bike lights, and a roundup of our favourites. We've also included a handy guide about how to choose the best bike lights for you. Of course, if you're looking to head off the beaten path, Bike Perfect's guide to the best mountain bike lights might be of interest.

Best front bike lights

best front bike lights: Cycliq Fly12
best front bike lights: Cycliq Fly12

Cycliq Fly12

The best front bike light with an inbuilt camera

Lumens: 600 | Battery: Internal | Mounts: Go-Pro style | Price: £255 / $279 / AU$399

Inbuilt camera can record badly-behaving drivers

Price

Not overly bright

What started as a Kickstarter project spurred on by a time Kingsley Fiegert, Co-Founder of Cycliq, was hit with an object flung from a slingshot out of a passing car, has turned into full-coverage front- and rear-light camera combos. The Fly12 is the front-facing piece of the puzzle and pairs 600 lumens to a full 1080p camera with built-in stabilisation, 60fps capability and a 135-degree field of view - something that no other light on the market can offer (except for Cycliq's own Fly6 rear).

The light itself throws out a well-shaped beam for night time riding and features a home-safe mode where if the battery drops below five per cent the camera cuts out to extend run time.

The light also features Bluetooth and ANT+ connectivity, an accompanying app, and a bike alarm, too.

best front bike lights: Garmin Varia UT 800
best front bike lights: Garmin Varia UT 800

Garmin Varia UT 800

Light at any speed

Lumens: 800 | Battery: Internal | Mounts: GoPro-style and Garmin quarter turn | Price: £149 / $100 / AU$249

Beam auto-adjusts based on speed

Price

Only works within the Garmin eco-system

There is nothing worse than outrunning the beam on your light on a ride after dark, and it can lead to some pretty scary moments on the bike. Garmin’s Varia UT 800 light aims to prevent just that by working with your Edge head unit to tailor the light to your speed.

The Varia light sends just the right amount of light down the road to match the speed you are riding. Unfortunately for the time being the ‘smart’ functions of the Varia are restricted to the Garmin cycling computers.

Using a single CREE LED, Garmin says it offers 270-degrees of nighttime visibility and can be seen up to a mile (1.6km) away during the day. At full blast, this front bike light will last a little over an hour and the light utilises a GoPro-style mount or can be paired with Garmin’s universal out-front mounts using the quarter-turn adaptor.

best front bike lights: Knog PWR Road
best front bike lights: Knog PWR Road

Knog PWR Road

Modular light that doubles as a powerbank

Lumens: 600 | Battery: Modular | Mounts: Quick release | Price: £85 / $90 / AU$120

Swappable battery and heads, battery doubles up as power bank

Light modes customisable through app

Lots of pieces to lose

Can't charge your phone and use the light at the same time

Brightness

Knog’s PWR lights are an innovative idea that pairs a light head to a battery pack, allowing you to customise the pieces depending on your riding situation. With a quick-release bar mount, the battery doubles as a power bank should you need you top up your phone or head unit — although you can't use the light at the same time.

The light gives you 600 lumens of brightness and throws a nice oval-shaped beam that you’re unlikely to outrun. Swapping between light modes is done by twisting the head, easily performed even with thick gloves, and the light modes themselves can be customised through the brand's ModeMaker app.

Even though the lights pull apart, they are fully sealed from dust and moisture.

best front bike lights: Specialized Flux 900
best front bike lights: Specialized Flux 900

Specialized Flux 900

4WD lights for your bike

Lumens: 900 | Battery: Internal | Mounts: Quick release | Price: £100 / $120 / AU$180

Dual LED system

Fast charge

Limited battery life

The Specialized Flux 900 headlight uses two separate LEDs with optics tuned similar to side-by-side 4WD driving lights - one shoots a narrowly focused beam well down the road while the other creates a wide flood, Specialized says this makes for 180-degree visibility.

Using a quick-release mount that is compatible with 22.2mm, 25.4mm, and 31.8mm handlebars, and can be flipped for use on either the left or the right of the stem, the Flux can be centred either above or below the stem with a long reach that won’t interfere with most computers or cables.

With four modes, the claimed runtime is three hours for a full charge. The light is self-preserving, and will continually decrease its brightness as battery life drops.

best front bike lights: Exposure Strada MK10
best front bike lights: Exposure Strada MK10

Exposure Strada MK10 SL

A dedicated road beam in a durable, well made unit

Lumens: 900 | Battery: Internal | Mounts: Bar and helmet | Price: £210 / $287 / AU$410

Bright and compact spotlight

Remote switch

Price

Six-hour charge time

With a 900-lumen output, the Strada MK10 SL has Cree LEDs, is cable-free and features a road-specific beam which is optimised to light up the tarmac without blinding oncoming traffic.

The 3400mAH lithium-ion battery will give you two hours at full brightness and up to 36 hours on lower modes. The six-hour charge time isn't as fast as some of its contemporaries, but weighing in at 386g and at 100mm x 44mm in size, it's a compact front light that is built to last.

While we think the 900-Lumen MK10 SL is the best option, the Strada MK10 is available in three variations, topping out with the 1500-lumen MK10 SB (Super Bright).

Compatible with bars from 31.8mm to 35mm, it can be used on both your road and mountain bikes, but it's certainly designed for pounding the pavement.

The light features Exposure's OMS (Optimised Mode Selector) with a choice of 10 programs, so you shouldn't have any trouble finding the right brightness for your ride. Like all Exposure products, it's anything but cheap; however, in our experience, it's an investment that is well worth the cash.

best front bike lights: Bongrater Ion R 200
best front bike lights: Bongrater Ion R 200

Bongrater Ion 200 RT

Small but mighty, it's great for being seen

Lumens: 200 | Battery: Internal | Mounts: Silicone and Blendr | Price: £45 / $60 / AU$80

Daytime visible from 2k away

ANT+ connectivity

Garmin only ANT+ control

Bontrager claims the Ion 200 RT is visible from up to 2km away in daylight. With only 200 lumens of power, the lens focuses the light into a retina-burning flash that makes it one of the best bike lights for drawing attention.

Tipping the scales at a mere 40g the Ion uses a silicone mount or Trek’s Blendr mounting system, the light also has a built-in ambient light sensor to auto-adjust brightness for maximum 'be-seen' visibility. The beam pattern isn’t ideal for lighting up the road, so if you’re riding without streetlights after dark, we suggest looking at something with a higher lumen count and a more focussed beam pattern.

The Ion 200 RT is ANT+ and Bluetooth compatible and can be paired with your Garmin head unit to show battery status, change the light setting or toggle on/off.

best front bike lights: NiteRider Lumina
best front bike lights: NiteRider Lumina

NiteRider Lumina 1200

Long battery life and good beam pattern

Lumens: 1200 | Battery: Internal | Mounts: Bar and helmet | Price: £100 / $110 / AU$150

Simple one-button operation

Beam shape

Included mount is bulky

The NiteRider Lumina front bike light has been around for a while in different guises, but the latest sees vast improvement for on-road users. There are numerous variations of the current Lumina, with lumen ratings going from 650 right up to 1800. The 1200-lumen model is our pick featuring a runtime of between one and 18 hours.

There are actually two versions of this 1200-lumen light; the more expensive of which comes with OLED screen to display which mode you're in and the remaining run time. In our experience, the OLED interface is clunky, and the version with a single button is cheaper and more user-friendly.

The included quick-release mount is secure but takes up a heap of bar real estate, however, K-edge makes a metal GoPro-style mount adaptor that solves the problem. Weighing 172g, the NiteRider Lumina has a crisp oval spotlight beam pattern and will burn for about two hours at full blast.

best front bike lights: Lezyne Mini Drive 400 XL
best front bike lights: Lezyne Mini Drive 400 XL

Lezyne Mini Drive 400 XL

Best brightness bang for buck

Lumens: 400 | Battery: Internal | Mounts: Silicone | Price: £30 / $29.99 / AU$N/A

Lightweight

Value for money

Battery life could be better

Packing 400 lumens into an extremely compact unit, the Lezyne Mini Drive 400 features what it calls a MOR (Maximum Optical Reflection) lens to focus every lumen into the best possible beam pattern. Side reflectors help other road users see you when the light isn’t painting in their direction, and the CNC-machined casing does well to dissipate heat and resist the elements.

With seven modes (three solid, four flash modes, including a daytime flash) the light has built-in mode memory so the light returns to the mode it was in before being turned off. A simple silicone mount makes for a stable and faff-free install.

There is no need to rummage around for a charging cable as the Mini Drive 400 XL has a built-in USB stick that plugs directly into your computer or wall plug and a charge indicator lets you know how much battery the light has.

Best rear bike lights

Best rear bike lights for cycling: Moon Nebula rear light
Best rear bike lights for cycling: Moon Nebula rear light

Moon Nebula

One of the brightest and most affordable bike lights in the segment

Weight: 44g | Lumens: 180 | Battery: Li-Poly USB, 16 hours | Flash modes: 8 (4 flashing and 4 constant)

Price, visibility

Multiple modes

Compact design

Highest setting can be too bright

The Moon Nebula is one of the lightest, brightest and most affordable rear bike lights on the market. Rated at 180 lumens in its highest mode, the Nebula is incredibly bright which makes it an ideal option for those who spend a lot of time in the saddle during the day.

That said it does possess eight modes which differ in terms of brightness and flash patterns. The 20-lumen flash mode is the most economic setting providing a good balance between visibility and battery life, nearly 20 hours.

In terms of mounting, the Nebula can be fixed to the seat post, saddle and helmet in both a horizontal and vertical format. Everything from universal brackets, clips and rubberised o-rings are included in the package. This is an excellent overall rear light.

Best rear bike lights for cycling: Lezyne Zecto Drive Max
Best rear bike lights for cycling: Lezyne Zecto Drive Max

Lezyne Zecto Drive Max

Ultra-compact in design, the Lezyne Zecto Drive Max is one for the minimalists

Weight: 69g | Lumens: 250 | Battery: Li-ion USB, 24 hours | Flash modes: 8 (five flashing and three constant)

Compact

Powerful

Multiple modes

Mounting system not the greatest

The Lezyne Zecto Drive Max might be one of smallest rear lights on the market but it’s also one of the hardiest units, too. Built to last, it benefits from a two-piece, plastic outer shell which mounts securely to the seat post via a rubberised band.

Each of the eight modes is controlled through the power button on the top of the unit — press and hold to switch it on or off and then a single click to scroll through each mode. The most powerful setting is the 250-lumen day flash, which is claimed to last an impressive nine hours, followed by the 125-lumen flash and 35-lumen steady blast.

The Zecto Drive Max also benefits from a nifty ‘mode memory’ feature which returns to the last selected mode each time the light is turned back on.

Best rear bike lights for cycling: Garmin Varia RTL510 radar rear light
Best rear bike lights for cycling: Garmin Varia RTL510 radar rear light

Garmin Varia RTL510 radar rear light

A pricey add-on but the early warning system makes it worth every penny

Weight: 71g | Lumens: 65 | Battery: Li-ion USB, 16 hours | Flash modes: 3 (two flashing and one constant)

Warning-detection system

Smart connectivity

Visibility

Price

Weight

Ideal for nervous riders or those who commute on dangerous and congested roads, the Varia RTL510 is a great piece of kit. It provides visual and audible alerts to warn of vehicles approaching from behind up to 140 metres and can be synced to a dedicated radar display unit or paired with a Garmin Edge computer.

Doubling up as a 65-lumen tail light, it offers day-time visibility of up to 1.6km (1 mile) within a 220-degree range.

In terms of battery life, the Varia RTL510 is on par with the Bontrager Flare RT with a maximum running time of 15 hours in flashing mode or 6 hours in steady- or night-flashing mode.

Best rear bike lights for cycling: See.Sense Icon2 Smart rear light
Best rear bike lights for cycling: See.Sense Icon2 Smart rear light

See.Sense Icon2 Smart

Interactive and smart, the See.Sense Icon2 rear bike light has every base covered, including price

Weight: 50g | Lumens: 300 | Battery: Li-Ion USB, 16 hours | Flash modes: 2 (flash and constant)

Visit Site

Smart connectivity

Visibility

Safety

May be over-budget for some

With a 300-lumen output, the See.Sense Icon2 uses both a high-powered CREE LED (visible from up to 3km away) and a CoB LED panel which gives a wide dispersion of light and 270-degree range of side visibility.

Like its forebear, the Icon+, the Icon2 connects to a smartphone through an app where you can customise the flash patterns and brightness as well as monitor the battery level. It can also be set up as distress beacon if you crash and an alarm in the event that your bike gets stolen.

GPS is used to alter attributes such as flash rate and brightness when approaching intersections and roundabouts or when cars are approaching by sensing the headlights. There’s also a new brake mode which provides a constant beam as you reduce your speed reverting to the previous setting as you start pedalling again.

Best rear bike lights for cycling: Bontrager Flare RT Rear light
Best rear bike lights for cycling: Bontrager Flare RT Rear light

Bontrager Flare RT

A compact yet powerful light that punches well above its weight

Weight: 40g | Lumens: 90 | Battery: 420Li-Poly USB, 15 hours | Flash modes: 5 (three flashing and two constant)

Visibility

Weight

Smart connectivity

Battery life could be better

Compact in dimensions, the Bontrager Flare RT is arguably the most comprehensive rear bike light money can buy. Not only is it smaller and lighter than its predecessor, the new Flare RT is also 30 per cent more powerful with a maximum output of 90 Lumens.

As a result, the Flare RT is visible from up to 2 kilometres away during the day on the most powerful setting. Four other modes ranging from steady beam to flashing are also available.

There’s a neat battery-saver mode that provides an additional 30 minutes of power when the charge drops to five percent, as well as Ant+ and Bluetooth Smart connectivity which means you can monitor battery life and control it from your Garmin computer.

Best rear bike lights for cycling: Lezyne Strip Drive Pro
Best rear bike lights for cycling: Lezyne Strip Drive Pro

Lezyne Strip Drive Pro

The best rear bike light for daytime riding

Weight: 53g | Lumens: 300 | Battery: Li-ion USB, 53 hours | Flash modes: 11 (eight flashing and three constant)

Powerful

Multiple modes

Universal fit

USB plug can make charging awkward

As the company’s flagship rear bike light, the Lezyne Strip Drive Pro boasts some impressive features including a 300-lumen daytime flashing mode and a 53-hour battery life.

With 11 different output modes to choose from – including three constant modes, six flashing modes and two daytime flashing modes – the Strip Drive Pro caters for all types of riding conditions and disciplines.

Unlike its rivals, the Strip Drive uses an integrated cable-free USB stick for recharging purposes — a nifty feature but the chunky body housing can get in the way when mating it with certain laptops and charging devices.

Best rear bike lights for cycling: Blackburn Dayblazer 65 rear light
Best rear bike lights for cycling: Blackburn Dayblazer 65 rear light

Blackburn Dayblazer 65

One of the best value bike lights

Weight: 48g | Lumens: 65 | Battery: Li-Poly USB, 6 hours | Flash modes: 3 (two flashing and one constant)

Visibility

Weight

Price

Fitment

Battery life

Diminutive in design the Blackburn Dayblazer 65 is one of the most underrated rear bike lights in the segment. Its narrow profile makes for an easy and snug fit thanks to a recessed, rubberised backing plate.

Burn times vary from 90 minutes to 6 hours, mode dependent of course but the two LED globes ensure brightness and visibility levels of the highest order — 65-lumens in high flash, and 50 and 30 respectively in steady and low strobe modes.

That said, if it’s something a little brighter and more powerful that you’re after, the Blackburn Dayblazer 125 is well worth a look.

Best rear bike lights for cycling: Cateye Rapid X3 rear light
Best rear bike lights for cycling: Cateye Rapid X3 rear light

Cateye Rapid X3

One of the brightest, most adaptable rear bike lights money can buy

Weight: 46g | Lumens: 150 | Battery: Li-ion USB, 30 hours | Flash modes: 6 (two flashing and four constant)

Powerful

Visibility

Fitment

Battery lasts just one hour in the most powerful setting

The Rapid X3 is the most powerful rear bike light in Cateye’s range, doubling the brightness of the company’s popular X2 with an output rated at 150 lumens (maximum power mode).

In this setting, the light will stay on for around one hour - not great by any stretch - but there are five alternative settings including a 30-lumen flashing mode that boasts a 30-hour battery life.

The X3’s narrow profile and rubber-band-style mount means it’s compatible with most bicycles and can be attached to any part of the frame including round and aero seatposts, seat-stays, handlebars and forks.

How to choose the best bike lights

As a rule, the brighter the light the better your chances are of being seen by other road users. It’s also worth looking for bike lights that are durable, waterproof and capable of emitting a strong beam regardless of the time of day. Before making a decision, it's worth considering the following factors as each one has a direct bearing on quality and price.

1. To see or to be seen

There are two distinct types of lights for cycling on the road, front lights that help you see and lights that help you be seen. The best front bike lights which are designed to help you see also aid with visibility, but not all lights designed for visibility are bright enough to light up the road in front of you.

Lights to help you see will often have larger lumen counts, have reflectors and a lens that throws a wide beam of light down the road, while lights for visibility will put out an unfocused beam in every direction.

If you’re commuting down a well-lit road or bike path, a simple flasher will probably suffice, but if you’re heading out for a night time training ride or your route is lit like the beginning of a horror movie, look for something brighter with a more road-specific beam pattern.

2. Lumens

With advancements in LEDs and batteries, it's possible to buy bike lights that are several times more powerful than car headlights. Lights are rated in lumens, however, which is an imperfect measure because the calculation is based on the LED power and battery charge in ideal conditions.

In the real world, lights deal with limitations created by circuitry, and thermal rollback (when a light automatically reduces its output to prevent from bursting into flames).

For riding on the road you don’t need a 5000-lumen light on your bars, something between 500 and 1500 lumens will do the trick.

3. Battery

Pretty much every light will use a rechargeable lithium-ion battery. Some lights will be completely self-contained, while others will use a separate battery pack.

On the road, we tend to go more for self-contained lights which eliminate the awkward cables and cumbersome battery packs, the latter of which are usually bigger and considerably more substantial.

For lights that consist of the head and separate battery joined by a cable; you'll need to find somewhere to put the powerpack. As batteries degrade over time, external packs can be replaced or upgraded, and some brands even offer options with different capacities.

4. Mounts

For riding on the road, a single light mounted to your handlebars and seat post would be more than enough - mountain bikers often use a helmet-mounted light to illuminate where they are looking, but for road riding these aren’t necessary.

Many lights will come with a plastic/silicone mount, however, some of the more heavy-duty bike lights will have a dedicated mounting bracket, often made from aluminium for extra security.

With the advent of out-in-front computer mounts, there are plenty of options which see an action camera-style or brand-specific bracket on the underside; we like these as it cleans up your cockpit but still allows you to ride with a light.

If you’re commuting and you need to secure your bike outside with a bike lock, look for lights that can be quickly removed without a multitool.

5. Battery life

Lights that won't last the entire duration of the ride are about as useful as mesh cycling shoes in the Arctic Circle. Take into account how long you're planning to ride for and budget a bit extra when looking at run time.

Also keep in mind that many batteries are affected by temperature, and the cold can have a severe effect on run time. If you live in an area where night time temperatures go below freezing, consider buying a bigger battery.

Knowing how much juice your lights have left is also vitally important. Some bike lights have rudimentary green, orange and red battery indicator lights, while others will show you time or per cent remaining.

6. Price versus quality

There are a lot of cheap, poorly constructed and unreliable options out there. The last thing you want is a light that fails mid-ride, especially a rear one that you're unlikely to notice right away. Therefore, it’s imperative that you invest in a set of bike lights from a reputable brand. While this might cost you a little more initially you can rest assured knowing they will last a good couple of years and often be covered by a warranty.

7. Lighting modes

It’s important that your bike lights have at least two lighting modes: flashing and constant. The RVLR states flashing modes should pulse between 60 and 240 times per minute (1–4Hz) but there’s no clear indication as to which mode is most effective. As a result, many cyclists run both flashing and constant lights just to be safe, and some lights feature a pulse setting which consists of a constant beam with a pulsing brightness.