Saddle up safely with these road-ready bike lights

Saddle up safely with these road-ready bike lights
Rear and front lighting for your bike is a non-negotiable – stay safe while night riding with our best bike lights from Garmin, Wiggle, Lezyne and more

If you’re riding your bike on the roads at night, you’ve got to have lights – it’s the law and plain common sense.

Even if you don’t plan on venturing out after dark, we’d still recommend using lights on every ride to make sure you’re seen. Riders are, according to bike brand Trek, about a third less likely to be involved in an accident when using daytime running lights (DRLs).

Most modern LED lights are USB rechargeable and have impressively long running times. That said, if you hate the idea of taking your lights off to charge, some standard AA or AAA powered lights will last for weeks of regular riding before you need to change them. We always recommend running a couple of lights if you’re out in the dark, then if one runs empty while you’re riding, you’ll still be able to get home safely. Look out for lights that have power indicators as they will let you know when it’s time to charge.

Make sure you check out the brightness of a light before you buy: it’s given in lumens. If you’re after DRLs, look for up to 1,000 lumens, so you really stand out. If you’re going to be riding unlit roads we’d also recommend going for the brightest you can find to make sure you can see properly.

Different lights mount in different ways. Some simply band on with rubber straps while others clip-on with fittings that stay on your bike. These can take a little longer to set up initially, but make it easier to remove your lights afterwards – and they’re easier to use on cold days while wearing gloves.

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How we tested

We tested our lights at night, dusk and early morning – in pouring rain and blazing sun – to see how they performed. We also tested their mounts, riding on rough roads and gravel tracks to make sure they didn’t shake loose.

The best bike lights for 2021 are:

  • Best overall – See.Sense beam: £119.99,
  • Best budget front light – Cateye AMPP 500: £44.99,
  • Best value – Cateye volt 200 XC and rapid mini set: £35,
  • Best battery life – Cateye tight kinetic: £22,
  • Best rear light – Beryl burner brake: £39.99,
  • Best for commuters – Beryl laserlight core: £69.99,
  • Best lightweight set – Specialized flash pack headlight/taillight combo: £55,
  • Best for safety – Garmin varia RTL515: £169.99,
  • Best daytime running lights – Exposure trace Mk2 and trace R pack: £85,
  • Best for durability – NiteRider swift 500/sabre 110: £60,
  • Best for unlit roads – Blackburn dayblazer 1100 front and 65 rear: £79.99,
  • Best budget set – Lezyne hecto drive 500XL and KTV light set: £40.49,

See.Sense beam

Best: Overall

  • Rating: 9/10
  • Lumens: 1,000
  • Type: USB rechargeable
  • Weight: 132g
  • Battery life: Up to 30 hours

This front light is expensive but heavy on features. It will run for up to two hours at a blinding 1,000 lumens, or up to 30 hours in flashing mode. When the battery gets down to 20 per cent of its charge it will warn you and give you an hour’s reduced output to get you home. Cleverly, the beam adapts its output according to the street lighting along your route and will even pulse more strongly when it senses you are in potentially hazardous situations such as roundabouts. It uses a Garmin-style mount that bolts to your handlebars, and there’s a companion app that allows you to unlock even more features such as crash alerts and warnings if anyone tampers with your bike.

Cateye AMPP 500

Best: Budget front light

  • Rating: 9/10
  • Lumens: 500
  • Type: USB rechargeable
  • Weight: 117g
  • Battery life: Up to 50 hours

We really liked this 500-lumen front light with its detachable mount that you can leave on the bike. Cateye has kept things simple with just four modes – a couple of constant settings, a daytime option and a flashing 250-lumen mode offering a staggering 50 hours of running time. You’ll know when it’s time to charge as a red indicator light comes on when you switch it off. While it’s made of plastic, it feels very robust and comes with a two-year warranty. We have been using one for around three years and it’s still going strong.

Cateye volt 200 XC and rapid mini set

Best: Value

  • Rating: 8/10
  • Lumens: 200 front, 25 rear
  • Type: USB rechargeable
  • Weight: 67g front, 22g rear
  • Battery life: Up to 30 hours

This no-nonsense set from Cateye will serve you well on dark commutes and murky rides at the weekend. The 200-lumen front light is bright enough to use in daytime and has flashing and high/low constant modes. The 25-lumen rear light is nice and light and will flash away for a huge 30 hours. Both mount via stretchy rubber bands, and the rear light will fit on your helmet too. Charging for both is via micro USB and they come with a two-year warranty.

Cateye tight kinetic

Best: Battery life

  • Rating: 8/10
  • Lumens: 1,000
  • Type: 2 x AAA battery
  • Weight: 49g
  • Battery life: Up to 160 hours

If you prefer disposable batteries over USB charging, this rear light is powered by two AAAs and has a mammoth run time of up to 160 hours. A built-in accelerometer makes it go brighter when you slow down or stop, and it will easily fit on your seat post or seat stays with the plastic band or bracket provided. Cateye has also kept things simple with just three modes, and there’s a two-year warranty for peace of mind too.

Beryl burner brake

Best: Rear light

  • Rating: 9/10
  • Lumens: 1,000
  • Type: USB rechargeable
  • Weight: 55g
  • Battery life: Up to 17 hours

This 200-lumen rear has an accelerometer that allows it to function like a car brake light, brightening to warn traffic behind you when you slow down. It has three flashing settings plus a couple of steady modes, and the run time is up to 17 hours. We like that you can mount it sideways or upright, so a saddlebag shouldn’t get in the way. Plus, a quick press on the power button illuminates a series of LEDs that indicate how much battery life is left. At almost £40 it’s not cheap, but it is covered by a two-year warranty.

Beryl laserlight core

Best: For commuters

  • Rating: 9/10
  • Lumens: 400
  • Type: USB rechargeable
  • Weight: 100g
  • Battery life: Up to 41 hours

If you often ride in town in the dark, you will love this front light. It uses a laser to project an image of a bike on the road in front of you to let drivers know you’re there, which is great if you are filtering past stationary traffic. You can also use the laser in conjunction with the main light, or just use the light on its own. There are four different settings, one of which offers 41 hours of use. It’s also very easy to mount to your bars via the silicone band and bracket provided.

Specialized flash pack headlight/taillight combo

Best: Lightweight set

  • Rating: 8/10
  • Lumens: 300 front, 20 rear
  • Type: USB rechargeable
  • Weight: 56g front, 16g rear
  • Battery life: Up to 20 hours

If you like keeping things neat on your bike, this Specialized pair is small and won’t take up much space on the bars. Despite their size, they pack a punch, with a maximum output of 300 lumens up front and 14 at the rear – enough to tackle anything except unlit roads. There are four flashing/steady modes, and we loved that the rear light is small enough to fit on your helmet for additional visibility while commuting. Charging is via micro USB and there are a couple of rubber-band-style mounts for each light to suit different width bars and seat posts.

Garmin varia RTL515

Best: For safety

  • Rating: 8/10
  • Lumens: 1,000
  • Type: USB rechargeable
  • Weight: 71g
  • Battery life: Up to 16 hours

We thought this was a gadget too far – a combined rear light and car-detecting radar – but we love it. You can pair it with many bike computers – not just those from Garmin. It works just as well with rival Wahoo too (£349.99, It will also work with your phone if you’re happy to have it on a handlebar mount.

Bleeps, flashes and screen icons warn of approaching traffic depending on the device you pair it with. It works amazingly well, giving you a few seconds of notice so a passing car doesn’t catch you out, and comes into its own on fast country roads when the wind makes it harder to hear. The whole thing mounts to your seatpost using thick rubber bands. We weren’t too keen on having an expensive bit of kit held in place by a single loop, so we slipped a zip-tie through the mount for extra security.

Exposure trace Mk2 and trace R pack

Best: Daytime running lights

  • Rating: 9/10
  • Lumens: 1,000
  • Type: USB rechargeable
  • Weight: 32g each
  • Battery life: Up to 24 hours

If you want daytime running lights while out training on your racing bike, have a look at this set from the British brand with their “daybright” mode. They are quite expensive but are made from anodised aluminium, are extremely bright and come with a two-year warranty. We love how sleek they look on the bike thanks to the use of simple plastic brackets and O-rings. The 24 hour run-time on the lowest output setting is impressive, and a “fuel gauge” will let you know when it’s time to charge via micro USB.

NiteRider swift 500/sabre 110

Best: For durability

  • Rating: 8/10
  • Lumens: 500 front, 110 rear
  • Type: USB rechargeable
  • Weight: 82g front, 28g rear
  • Battery life: Up to 32 hours

Tough is how we would describe this pair from American brand NiteRider. We love the robustness of the thick plastic mounting bands/brackets, which fit securely to your bike. They are also very bright, even when running them in the daytime, and offer a wide selection of modes. Cutouts on the side profile mean they are visible at junctions, and you can even “lock” them so you don’t accidentally turn the lights off. Charging is via micro USB, and they have built-in indicators to tell you when it’s time to charge.

Blackburn dayblazer 1100 front and 65 rear

Best: For unlit roads

  • Rating: 8/10
  • Lumens: 1,100 front, 65 rear
  • Type: USB rechargeable
  • Weight: 140g front, 48g rear
  • Battery life: Up to 12 hours

Here’s a set for the most intrepid night-time riders. With a massive 1,100 lumens on offer, you’ll be able to tackle even the darkest lanes. The rear light is great for both day and night use, with a super-bright 65 lumen flashing mode that gives about three hours of use. If you ride with your mates there’s also a group ride feature on the rear which lowers the output to stop you dazzling them. Both mount via rubber straps and charge via USB. There’s also an action-camera style adapter for the front light so you can fit it to a GoPro camera mount.

Lezyne hecto drive 500XL and KTV light set

Best: Budget set

  • Rating: 8/10
  • Lumens: 500 front, 10 rear
  • Type: USB rechargeable
  • Weight: 84g front, 54g rear
  • Battery life: Up to 20 hours

There’s a premium feel to these lights from Lezyne – the front one is made from machined aluminium. Mounting them to your bars and seat post is easy with the stretchy bands provided, and with eight modes up front and five at the rear, you’re bound to find one that suits. The economy mode boasts a massive 20-hour run time so you won’t have to charge them too often, while they also plug straight into a USB port, so you won’t need to carry a cable.

Bike light FAQs

Should my bike lights flash?

They can, but they don’t have to. Legally, bike lights may be steady or flashing, or a mixture – for example, steady at the front and flashing at the rear.

The UK government states that a steady light is recommended at the front when the cycle is used in areas without good street lighting.

If you have a flashing light, it must emit at least four candela (a unit of light intensity, comfortably exceeded by modern lights). One candela is equivalent to 12.57 lumens.

Are bike lights a legal requirement?

Yes. In the UK, any bicycle which is used between sunset and sunrise must be fitted with a:

  • White front light
  • Red rear light
  • Red rear reflector
  • Amber/yellow pedal reflectors – front and rear on each pedal

How bright should my bike light be?

While there is no fixed agreement on how many lumens you need for a bike light, Cycles UK give this guide:

  • Daytime running lights to be seen in daylight = 100+ lumens
  • Urban commuting lights to be seen in town = 50 to 200 lumens
  • Rural riding lights to see where you are going = 400 to 600 lumens
  • Trail riding lights to see everything = 600+ lumens

Typically you will want a brighter front light than rear light. It’s common for a 500-lumen front light to be paired with a 100-lumen rear light. This is because you need a lot more power to see where you are going than to be seen.

How to fit a bike light

Most battery-powered bike lights are generally made so that they can be easily attached and removed from your bike without requiring tools.

Front lights are typically designed to sit above the handlebars using a bracket, but they can also be hung underneath. Rear lights usually clip onto the seat post.

The verdict: Bike lights

If you’re after a seriously bright light that is at home on urban streets and dark lanes, we’d recommend the See.Sense beam. It’s expensive, but we found the run time to be very impressive, and the adaptive mode made us feel safer riding in traffic.

If you’re after a budget set, we can’t fault Lezyne’s hecto drive 500 XL and KTV set. And if you need a compact set for daytime use, take a look at the Exposure trace/ trace R pair – they are super light, incredibly bright and won’t take up much space.

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To keep your bike safe and secure, read our review of the best bike locks

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