The nights are drawing in, and winter is well and truly on the way. So whether you’re commuting in the dark or hitting the road for long training rides, a good set of bike lights is essential. Even if you can see where you’re going, you need to make sure that others can see you from a decent distance.
Here’s our rundown of the best individual front and rear lights, plus the best light sets – along with our buyer’s guide to help you decide exactly which lights are right for you and your bike.
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How to buy the best bike lights for you
Do I really need bike lights?
Yes, you do. If you’re cycling on the road after dark, you’re legally required to have a white light at the front of your bike and a red light at the rear. These must be clean and working properly, and they must be bright enough – which we’ll discuss below. Your front light should be positioned no more than 150cm from the ground, and your rear light should be between 35cm and 150cm from the ground.
Technically, you’re also required to have reflectors at the front and rear of your bike, but as long as you have working lights it’s extremely unlikely that you’ll be challenged on that point.
How bright should my lights be?
Light intensity is measured in lumens, and front bike lights can range from around 10 lumens up into the thousands. Rear lights don’t need to be so powerful, partly because of the different way our eyes receive red light: typically they’ll run from 5-150 lumens.
Whatever lights you choose, remember the importance of being seen by other road users. Even if you’re cycling through a well-lit area, brighter lights are almost always better. For unlit roads, we suggest you look for a light rated at 500 lumens or more. If you cycle lots of different routes, consider investing in a set of lights with different modes, or even multiple sets to suit different conditions.
What will I get for my money?
Generally, the more you shell out, the brighter your lights will be. You’ll also likely see more choice in terms of light modes – including steady lighting at various intensity levels and numerous flashing modes.
Premium lights may have extra features such as alerts when your battery is running low (such as an intermittent beep from your rear lights, or a flashing red light on the front). Most lights these days have built-in batteries that can be recharged via USB, but at the bottom end of the market, some still get their power from disposable batteries, so bear that in mind when you make your choice.
Battery life will vary from model to model, and depending on what lighting mode you’re using, but all of the lights on our list will get you through at least a three-hour ride. And don’t worry about the extra weight: bike lights usually come in under 100g, and even the bulkiest light on our list isn’t heavy enough to have a noticeable impact on your ride.
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The best bike lights you can buy
1. Ravemen PR1600 Front Light with Remote: Best for combination of features and illumination
Price: £117 | Buy now from Amazon
A super-bright light with a clever dippable beam to ensure you don’t dazzle oncoming traffic. With two lenses sitting side by side, a tap of the large button on top of the light switches it between full beam and dipped modes. There’s even a remote switch available that lets you achieve this without taking your hands off the bar, which is useful when you want to signal traffic. It has a run time of around 1.4 hours (84 minutes) on full gas, but the 400-lumen mode will do for most situations and sees run time increase to around four hours. Cleverly, a push-and-hold of the button on the unit or remote will also pop the light back to full strength when needed.
Key specs – Weight: 220g; Strength: 1,600 lumens; Runtime: 84 minutes – 24 hours; Modes: 9; Power source: Integrated rechargeable battery; Charge time: 3.5 hours
£117.32 Buy now
2. Cateye EL-135 and Omni 5: Best bike light set on a budget
Price: £24 | Buy now from Wiggle
Compared to some of the more expensive options on our list, these bike lights don’t offer a great deal in the brightness department. But, if you’re after an affordable yet decent set of lights, then you can once again rely on Cateye.
While we wouldn’t recommend racing down unlit roads in pitch darkness with these lights, they’re a good choice for the commuting cyclist when it comes to the short winter days. With a three-LED beam on the front EL-135 light, and a rear light of up to 25 lumens, you can feel safe on the roads without breaking the bank.
Key specs – Weight: 94g (front), 41.8g (rear); Strength: 150 candlepower (front); 25 lumens (rear); Runtime: 80 – 320 (front), 60 – 120 hours (rear); Modes: 2 (front); 3 (rear); Power source: 2 x AA batteries (front), 2 x AAA batteries (rear)
Buy now from Wiggle
3. Lezyne Zecto Drive Pair: Best for city-style illumination
Price: £52 | Buy now from Tredz