When you’re riding your bike in low-light or no-light environments, you want to see and also be seen. This is especially critical for bike commuters who take to the streets during morning and evening rush-hour traffic. As you consider what necessities you might need to outfit your trusty two-wheeler, a bicycle headlight and taillight should be somewhere near the top of the list. This goes for recreational riders, too.
The options may seem overwhelmingly endless so we put together a quick guide to help you narrow down the choices.
Are you aiming for maximum visibility? This isn’t a trick question! The answer is a resounding “yes.” To be fully visible, especially while night riding, you’ll want to equip your bike with front, side and rear lights and/or reflectors. Here’s a quick breakdown of two common types of bike lights:
You’ll really light the path in any condition with a high-output lighting system. Usually, this type of light is brighter and rechargeable. Sure, it may cost a bit more — but safety is priceless.
Safety lights will help motorists see you in dim light conditions. Keep in mind, the brightest safety lights will improve your visibility during the daytime but they won’t help you see as well at night. These lights come in a variety of mounting options, the number of light-emitting diodes (LEDs) and the type of battery (rechargeable or disposable).
It’s important to choose a bike light based on the type of rider you are and typical riding you do. You might also consider factors like where you live, the weather and seasonality. As you search for the perfect pair of front and rear bike lights, keep in mind these four considerations.
It’s true that the bike light has a big and important job to fulfill. You’ll want to keep an eye out for these terms to get a better idea of how the lights you’re interested in buying perform in certain conditions:
Battery life is a big deal, especially if you ride long distances. Rechargeable lithium ion batteries go the extra mile (and minutes) compared to disposable batteries. All you need is a USB charger and power source to keep your batteries running longer. As a Certified B-cord, we dig that they're an environmentally friendly option, too.
Run time can vary from light to light and brand to brand. Typically, a light in flashing mode will use less battery power than a steady beam. You’ll want to use flash mode on your bike headlight during the daylight hours. Every rechargeable battery pack will have a battery indicator that tells you how much juice is left before the next charge.
What’s great about bike lights is you have options and flexibility. A headlight can be attached to your handlebars or to your bike helmet like a headlamp. You might even decide to do both if you’re a cyclist riding at night or a mountain biker hitting the trails. Your side lights aka reflectors go on the spokes or frame of your bike. And last, but definitely not least, the rear light can be put on your pack, pocket or seatpost. Some bike helmets also come equipped with a taillight built into the design or as a detachable option.
Sure, bike lights are utilitarian. They 100 percent serve an important purpose. But that doesn’t mean they can’t look cool. Today’s options have come a long way since the heavy, bulky lights of years past. We’re talking magnetic, lights wrapped in protective silicone, waterproof and so much more. We’re loving the sleek and minimal designs to complement our retro bike helmet style.
One quick Amazon search and you’ll find hundreds of options. Talk about overwhelming. To help you narrow the search, we put together our top five best bike lights — in no particular order.
Affordable and powerful — two descriptors we think you’ll like. TheCygolite Metro Plus 800 headlight for bicycles is a workhorse. It offers 9 different light modes, including DayLightning mode for daytime rides, up to 110 hours of run time and 800 super-bright lumens to illuminate the street or trail as you cruise. This updated version is built with a water-resistant shell ideal for rainy climates. The headlight itself attaches easily to your bicycle handlebar and is rechargeable via USB.
There’s something about the long vertical bar that makes theSerfas Thunderbolt LED bike taillight stand out among the competition. Plus, the removable straps allow you to customize how it’s mounted on your ride. Fully charged, this bike light lasts up to 8.5 hours on the “low-flash” mode or up to 1.5 hours on the “high steady” mode.
We can’t help our slight obsession over the simple and minimalist design of theKnog Big Cobber bicycle lights. Both lights offer 330 degrees of light so you’re seen at all angles, full waterproof protection and a run time of up to 100 hours. Plus, the lights are cordless, which means you just pop them into any USB-compatible port to recharge. At $160 for both the headlight and taillight, they’re the most expensive option among our picks, but you can buy them separately if you want to give it a try without committing to the pair.
Even daytime riders can benefit from an upgraded set of bike lights. Recreational riders will pedal safely knowing they’re more visible to the cars and bikes around them. TheBontrager Ion 200 RT and Flare RT Light Set takes the guesswork out of shopping for a bike light kit. These lights are compact and portable making them especially excellent for bicycle-share riders.
One and done? We thought you might like the sound of that. The USB-rechargeableBlackburn Dayblazer 800 Front and 65 Rear Light Set is perfect for daily city commuting or weekend trailblazing on your mountain bike. The headlight offers five different modes, and the taillight offers three. If you prefer to wear your headlight on yourbike helmet, the Dayblazer comes with a mount for that.
For a little extra safety (because you can never be too safe), we include a taillight and multi-use adapter with ourChapter MIPS Bike Helmet. It’s 50 lumens bright, features a magnetic attachment, and is a completely rechargeable bike light to keep the beam pattern glowing bright while you’re night riding.
Just like your bike helmet, a set of reliable bike lights will help make you a safer and smarter rider — one that’s visible to cars, pedestrians and vehicles. And one who can actually see where they’re headed.
Remember to outfit your bike (or your helmet) with both a headlight and a taillight. Your bike should also be equipped with reflectors. We’re fans of rechargeable LED lights because they’re better for the planet. You can buy single bike lights or a front-and-rear light combo to take the guesswork out of things.