We’ve covered the best LED front lights for cycling and we compiled an extensive list of rear LED lights for safer riding in low light, but there’s more to bicycle-based illumination than that. We hold our hands up, because we’ve potentially neglected those other forms of night riding gizmos that can be worn on a helmet or grace a bicycle’s spokes, for example.
There’s also a raft of new smart lights that go further than simply providing a light source and can additionally notify a smartphone if someone’s trying to tamper with your bike, or those that can synch up with a cycling computer to warn you of vehicles getting too close behind.
With that in mind, if you want the most inclusive guide to bike lights, you’ve come to the right place, because here you’ll find everything from wearable lamps to smart rear lights that actually get brighter as a bike slows down. That’s right, brake lights for bikes, baby! Bike lights may not be as high-tech and sexy as the best bike computer, but they are considerably more useful when it comes to keeping you alive at night.
- Best bike top rides plus how to choose the best bicycle type for you
- Best cycling helmets
- Best road bike
How to buy the best bike lights
Buying the best bike lights is really down to personal preference and the sort of cycling requirements you might have. Some folk like a front lamp that’s powerful enough to illuminate a forest, while others want something a little more discreet that clips onto the back of a helmet or jacket.
Likewise, others prefer to illuminate a valve cap and create some funky neon lighting effects while riding at night, while others might want the latest smart technology that can offer crash or theft alerts and deliver riding stats to a bespoke app.
So, first work out what you need and the amount of illumination you require, as those front lamps that kick out serious lumens can cost upwards of £400, while the smarter light kits with impressive additional features are also a tad on the pricey side.
Of course, it’s possible to get small light sets that cost around £10, but these tend to have relatively poor lumen outputs and can be susceptible to braking and chewing though disposal batteries like they are going out of fashion.
Other things worth noting are whether the light has a flashing and a constant mode, the former obviously draws more attention to you and your bike and therefore can be a little safer. Also consider whether it is rechargeable (typically via a USB cable) and how easy said light is to both install and remove from your bars, seat post or backpack.
Bike light theft it irritating but unfortunately not uncommon, so those lights that easily clip away from a mount and can be stashed in a pocket or bag when the bike is locked up tend to be the simplest solution.
The best bike lights, in order…
If simplicity is top of the agenda, things don’t get much easier than these small-but-mighty rechargeable units from Lezyne. Don’t be fooled by their diminutive stature, because the simple clip-on front unit produces a punchy 250-lumen of bright white light, which can be specified in one of seven different lighting patterns. This includes a neat daytime running light feature, which adjusts the brightness to retain visibility but save the batteries.
Bought as a set, the kit also includes an 80 lumen rear light, which easily clips around a seat stem or, better still, attaches to the loop of a backpack to improve visibility for those road users driving giant SUVs or trucks.
Operation is as simple as hitting a single power button, which also cycles through various lighting modes, while a neat charge indicator on the side of the lights gives accurate read-outs on the battery status. When it comes time to recharge, it’s just a case of slotting in the micro USB and plugging that into a socket or outlet on a laptop or computer.
A best seller for a number of years, this front LED light from market leader CatEye is bright, easy to fit and has a long run time – 320 hours when flashing, 80 when in constant mode. It's not rechargeable, but arguably the 2x AA batteries it requires are more practical than a USB charging one.
This basically has three modes: flashing, constant and off. The switch is easy to manipulate with gloved hands should you want to switch modes on the fly, and there's really not much more to say than that.
Overall, this is an ideal urban commute light as it's cheap, easy to fit, and fairly bright. We would not use it on dark, rural rides at night on its own, but it's a handy additional light source under those circumstances. In town, it's all you need.
One of the biggest issues faced by cyclists is visibility at night, but another problem is the difficulty fellow road users (namely cars and trucks) have in spotting when a cyclist is slowing down to turn or pull up at lights.
Being rear-ended is not what anyone wants on their cycle home, so Beryl has come up with an innovative solution that sees a bespoke algorithm (coupled with a built-in accelerometer) work out precisely when a bike is slowing and increase the luminance of the lamp to act as an effective brake light.
With 200 lumens available from the powerful LEDs, it’s more than enough to warn other road users of your presence and intentions. Plus, a 17-hour battery life means you won’t have to be constantly hunting for a USB outlet to top up batteries.
See.Sense has long been major innovators in the cycling lights game and its latest Beam model is arguably its smartest unit to date. syncing with a bespoke smartphone app, Beam is the first light to cleverly react and interact with its surroundings. That means it automatically changes its flash settings at road junctions, roundabouts or when filtering through traffic.
Built-in sensors also see it react to your current speed and automatically dip slightly when it detects oncoming headlights, so not to dazzle drivers with tis stupidly powerful 700 lumen LEDs. The box comes with numerous different mounts to suit every handlebars style, from an easy Garmin-style twist-lock, to action camera mounts and a standard rubberised loop.
Boasting a 30-hour run time on ‘Reactive Flash’ and a 2-5 hour runtime on ‘Reactive Solid’, it should be enough for lengthy nighttime bike rides, but a clever ‘Get Me Home’ function senses when power levels are low and the lamp will automatically adjust its brightness to ensure you get home safely.
For those who perhaps don’t want to attach bulky lights to a seat stem or rear of a bike, or who want additional visibility on top of that, the Cateye Wearable X has your back… literally. Easily clipping on to a backpack, helmet or loop on the rear of a jacket, this little 35 lumen beauty is bright enough to be seen at night and packs an impressive 30-hour runtime when in flashing mode.
There are also modes for group rides (so you don’t blind the guy behind you) and a Daytime HyperFlash mode for improved visibility when the sun is shining. Charging is simple (via a standard USB) and there’s a low battery level, so you know when to plug in. Although not as bright as some of the rivals on this list, we rate the Wearable X for its diminutive footprint and the ease at which it attaches to most stuff, meaning you can sling it in (or on) a bag and not worry about it.
Radars aren’t just reserved for jet fighters and submarines, because Garmin has come up with a clever solution to the age-old problem of constantly having to look over your shoulder during a bike ride.
The Varia RTL515 plays nicely with most Garmin bicycle computers and its own smartphone app, so it can flash up an alert on-screen hen a vehicle is approaching from the rear. Better still, it offers daylight visibility of up to a mile, while a special Peloton Mode provides a low-intensity flash that is kind to other cyclists’ eyes when riding in a group.
But best of all is its traffic alert system, which sounds a tone and vibrates to indicate the position and speed of approaching cars, increasing a rider’s awareness of surroundings without the need to constantly take eyes off the road ahead.
Weighing in at just 18 grams, this tool-less little light is perfect for quickly attaching to handlebars or looping over a trap on a backpack or coat. Designed as a front light, its nine LEDs produce 20 lumen that mean it can be seen from 800m away.
With five different lighting and flash modes, it’s nice and versatile and particularly well suited for town or inner city riding. A USB charging input means no fiddly battery changing and the quick release rubber mount (and its tiny footprint) make it easy to throw into a pocket when not in use.
Did someone say funky, colourful wheel lights? Although these are a little more novelty than proper safety items, they are a bit of fun and provide some serious visibility at night - particularly when others approach your bike from the side.
Attaching to most valve caps (they won’t work with racing bike style Presta valves), these little multi-colour LEDs light up and create unique rainbow patterns as the wheel rotates. An absolute doddle to install, they glow brightly and offer a pretty eye-catching light pattern.
That said, don’t expect the little AG10 batteries to last every long and they can be a bit fiddly to replace when depleted. But like we said, as a bit of fun (and some additional safety) they are great.
Although not bright enough to completely replace a proper set of front and rear bike lights, this helmet-mounted solution adds an additional safety element to an existing set up. Looping through ventilation gaps in most modern bike helmets, this front and rear lamp features four bright LEDs with a wrap around lens, meaning you have a clear 360 degree visibility.
The front facing light shines a bright white hue, with either a constant or fishing mode available, while the rear offers a red light that can also be set up to blink or remain on constantly. If you really haven’t got the space (or time) to mount proper bike lights, this is a simple solution.
This is part of T3's Fit for 2021 programme, which will be running throughout January, and is brought to you in association with our friends at Wiggle. We aim to bring you tips on diet, lifestyle and exercise that will help you shape up for what is certain to be a difficult year. One thing we can guarantee: it WILL be better than last year. And hopefully we'll help you get the most out of it.