Bicycle Light Buying Guide

There are many options, from small emergency lights to high-output 1,000 lumen lights used to illuminate dark roads.. What you need depends on what you want to do.
There are many options, from small emergency lights to high-output 1,000 lumen lights used to illuminate dark roads.. What you need depends on what you want to do.

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There are many options, from small emergency lights to high-output 1,000 lumen lights used to illuminate dark roads.. What you need depends on what you want to do..

Bicycle Light Buying Guide:

To See/To Be Seen

In general, all bicycle lights can be divided into two types.. If you are moving in the city, you must be “visible” to other road users while street lights will light your way.. However, if you’re going off-road or on unlit roads in suburban or rural areas, you really need a much higher wattage lighting system to “see” the joints.. upcoming dangers and turns.. So “see” or “be seen” – but how do we know which lights correspond to these categories?? This is where the power comes in.. Most manufacturers express this in “lumens,” but there are a number of other terms..
This is a measure of the amount of light emitted from a unit, but it does not take into account the size of the area being illuminated.. In general, the more lumens, the more energy emitted and the brighter the light..
This is the brightness of the lamp over a given area and is equivalent to 1 lux = 1 lumen per square meter.. So let’s say you point a 100 lumen bike light at a wall creating a 1 meter wide lighting area.. This light will have 100 lux.. Next to you, at the same distance from the wall, your friend has a 100 lumen bike light that creates a lighting area 1/10th smaller.. This smaller area is 10 times brighter, even with the same amount of light output and the light would be 1,000 lux.. So we can say that lux is the level of illumination of an object at a certain distance from the light source.. When bicycle lights are described as x lux, it means they are 10 meters from the source..
One candela is essentially the light intensity of one ordinary candle and this is a measure of light intensity measured at the light source..
Watts is a more common measurement when we’re talking about lighting in other settings, i.e.. at home.. This is a measurement of how much electrical power the unit consumes so you can see why it is less relevant when it comes to bike lights as it doesn’t measure visible light.. However, watts may be relevant when you move onto dynamo lights – but more on that later..

How Many Lumens?

So now you know what the word “lumen” means, but how many lumens do you need?

100 lumens:
Most bike tail lights will have an output of up to 100 lumens, so the closer you get to 100, the better it will match your main tail light.. When it comes to your front lighting, anything up to 100 lumens is suitable as emergency lighting in case your main lighting system fails.. You will be seen on a well-lit street, but illuminating the road ahead will do you no good.. These lights are usually small and fit on your body, helmet or bag and are often called “safety lights”.. Having a few smaller lights in various flashing or steady modes is a good choice for urban environments..

100 – 500 lumens:
Anything above 200 lumens will shine a beam of light onto the road, but at the lower end of this spectrum you may still have difficulty seeing hazards like potholes.. There are not many public lighting systems.. These lights are a great, affordable option for your main front lighting in urban environments, which can be supplemented by smaller lights for body lights..

500 – 800 lumens:
Once you get over the 500 lumen limit, these lights will work well on dimly lit suburban streets where you need to be able to see the road but still have the occasional street light.. This power level will show you all the dangers of potholes and debris that you will have to avoid and move at a moderate speed..

Over 1000 lumens:
If you drive on rural roads at night, you will need lights over 1000 lumens to be able to drive with confidence.. Road bike lights will have a strong beam of light that shows you a long distance ahead.. If you’re driving off-road at night, you’ll want to get above 1,000 lumens as far as possible..
It should be noted that when a lamp advertises itself as having a high light output, you will have a shorter usage time because it will drain the battery very quickly.. However, they will also have the option to reduce light output and a flashing/steady mode to extend battery life or adapt to your travel environment..

Beam Shapes

Beam shape becomes important at the upper end of the light spectrum.. Round beams tend to be the choice of bike light manufacturers and are ideal for off-road riding so you can see everything from low branches to tree roots and loose gravel.. However, if you plan to drive on the road at night, you should prioritize square horizontal lights because they are less dazzling to oncoming traffic and you don’t waste light in unnecessary places.. .. These beam shapes are also important if you are traveling to Germany as this is the only legal type of lighting there.. These bundle shapes are less common in the UK, however, but if you find them (or buy them abroad) they are well worth it..

Day Lights and Side Visibility

Being visible to other road users is a step towards safety on the road or on shared roads.. It’s easy to think that during the day lights aren’t necessary, but if you already have one, there’s no harm in turning it on.. A flashing light will always attract someone’s attention, so even at the lower end of the light it can really improve your visibility, especially when you consider what the UK weather can be like.. How gray and flat..
Some brands are developing “daytime running lights” or specific daytime modes that increase the intensity or strobe mode for more effective lighting.. But if you don’t have the money to invest in multiple lights for different uses, it’s best to consider the side visibility they provide because 75% of accidents happen at intersections when you participating in traffic..

Rear Bike Light Technology

The rear lights don’t increase in brightness like the front lights, but the technology has expanded to incorporate other features.. Some lights now have motion sensors to adjust brightness when you brake, which can be useful in urban areas where drivers are used to rear brake lights.. You can also buy lights with built-in cameras or even display your speed in LED form.. Whatever lighting you choose, be seen in what matters most..


There are three ways to power your bike headlights, each with its own advantages and disadvantages..

Removable battery:
Lights using removable batteries will be cheap and can be used for a long time, but the output will not be bright.. These lights should be in your bag as a backup if your main light fails so you can still get home and be seen by other road users.. If you rely on these as your main light source, the cost of replacement batteries will quickly exceed the cost of a USB rechargeable light, so they may be a false economy unless you invest in rechargeable batteries.. and removable battery, but in this case, why not just buy a USB rechargeable light?

USB Rechargeable:
Although these lights are a bit more expensive initially, they emit a brighter beam and last long enough that you can recharge them long enough to get back home.. These lights will turn off once the battery is depleted, so some units will have a fuel gauge to let you know their charge level so you’re not suddenly left in the dark..

Dynamo Lights:
Modern LED dynamo lights are more reliable than their predecessors and can give a steady beam without pulling much on your wheels.. Of course, you need a central generator in the first place and the light will turn off when you stop moving (or soon after), but if you’re looking for a long-lasting light, forget it.. will stay on when you’re on the go, so they’re worth considering the cost..

What Does the Law Say?

Since 1989, it has been illegal to drive on UK roads after dark without lights or reflectors.. The lights must be white at the front and red at the rear, mounted on the bike and not on the helmet, and must be no more than 150cm from the ground..

Now you are unlikely to be arrested for missing a reflector if you have a good set of bike lights, but if you lack these items and are involved in an accident at night it could be considered a mistake..

The minimum light output of a strobe light is four candela, which is equivalent to approximately 12 lumens.. As for maximum power… well, none.. However, glare from oncoming traffic is not ideal, so consider your lighting angle or beam shape and dim it appropriately on the road..

To achieve a flashing rate, lights only need to be between 60 and 240 times per minute, but there are varying studies on whether steady or flashing lights should be run in urban areas.. So if you have the money, you can’t go wrong with two lights in the front and two in the back, each operating in steady or flashing mode.


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There are many options, from small emergency lights to high-output 1,000 lumen lights used to illuminate dark roads.. What you need depends on what you want to do.
There are many options, from small emergency lights to high-output 1,000 lumen lights used to illuminate dark roads..