As winter approaches and the clocks go back, bike lights are a crucial purchase if you’re a cyclist.
Brightness is measured in lumens. For a front light you can manage with 70 lumens if you’re in town – that’s enough to make sure you’re seen. In the country or ill-lit roads then you’ll need to see where you’re going, so look for something brighter – 100 lumens or more. For a rear light 100 lumens is very bright indeed, though.
Some lights still use AA cells which take a bit of fiddly attention to change as you unscrew covers or carefully prise lids off. Better is something you can recharge, ideally from your laptop so you’re safe cycling home at night, even if the light was on the blink on your commute in.
Lights, like all cycling accessories, are very price-sensitive: pay more and you’ll get something better.
1. Gemini Xera LED 850: £79.99, Tredz
This is shaped like a torch and you can even use it as one – handy if you’re fixing a puncture, say. But mostly it will be used on your bike and it’s a very bright front light (950 lumens), though you can turn down the brightness (all the way down to 200 lumens) to make it more appropriate to your surroundings. And you can set it to flash instead of steady beam. The fitting is simple but secure.
2. Blaze Laserlight: £124.99, Evans Cycles
As well as a very bright LED (300 lumens) that really lights up the road in front of you, the Laserlight also has a projection capability which shines the outline of a bike in green onto the tarmac so drivers and other cyclists can see you coming a bit more easily. It’s solidly made from aluminium so it won’t rust. The mount fits the vast majority of handlebars and is made from steel. Not cheap, but highly effective.
3. Cateye EL135 Omni 5 Set: £29.99, Evans Cycles
Cateye is one of the leading brands of bike lights – an established and reliable name. The front light has three LEDs and casts a wide, bright beam. The set also includes a rear light with five LEDs that can be set to static, flashing and rapid flashing. Both are easily removed from their mounting brackets.
4. Light and Motion Urban 650: £79.99, Wheelies
Along with an extremely powerful front-facing beam (a whopping 650 lumens) there are clearly visible side lights, too, so it’s easy for traffic to spot you from more directions. The main beam is wide and uniformly bright. It recharges from a microUSB connector and a battery status indicator helpfully tells you when you’re running low.
5. Specialized Stix Sport Combo Lightset: £34.99, Evans Cycles
This pair of lights from excellent Californian bike brand Specialized means you’ll be seen as you approach and from behind. The front light is bright enough (70 lumens) to be unmissable, though if you ride dark country roads you may want something brighter. The lights are recharged by USB and offer decent life if you stick to flashing rather than solid beam settings.
6. WingLights: £33, Amazon
These lights have a specific function – they’re direction indicators. Screw the universal mounter into the end of your handlebars and the lights connect magnetically. Then when you’re about to turn, tap the appropriate light and it’ll flash a bright amber light. A fixed version, where you attach the lights permanently is available for £27.
7. Cateye Rapid X3 100: £41.49, Tredz
The 100 in the title refers to this rear light’s brightness – 100 lumens is all you need and more. The extra brightness means you can use this light during the day, too. The light recharges via USB in three hours and the X3 is pleasingly slim, so it’ll sit happily along the line of pretty much any seat post. There are six light settings, some constant, some variations on flashes.
8. Lezyne Femto Drive LED Light set: £14.95, Halfords
Tiny and very affordable, these lights are easily fitted to your bike, or rucksack or clothing, by the wraparound rubber strap. They’re well-made, from aluminium and easy to use: repeated presses on the light lens switches from solid to the four different flashing modes. The power comes from watch-type batteries, they’re not rechargeable. But when they’re so convenient and so cheap, who cares?
9. Lucas KOTR City 500F: £70, Lucas
This front light is plenty bright for city or dark country roads (500 lumens) and additionally has handy side lenses which spread the light around and make you much more visible to the traffic you’re beside as well as what’s facing you. The light is powered by a rechargeable battery that features a USB output, so you can even charge other gadgets from it.
10. Exposure Sirius Mk5 and TraceR: £116.96, Evans Cycles
Solid, attractive and powerful, the metal-cased Exposure pair is very effective. The front light has 550 lumens and is visible from the sides as well. The smaller rear light is also very bright (75 lumens) and has three brightness settings together with pulsing or solid light options. A fuel gauge indicator shows how long it’ll last between charges, depending on the brightness and so on. Both are USB-rechargeable.
Generally speaking, brighter is better, so something like the Gemini Xera LED 850 is extremely effective, and has the bonus of working as a torch, too. Similarly, being able to charge your phone in an emergency from the Lucas KOTR City 500F is very neat. But the most innovative frontlight is the Blaze Laserlight with its handy green bike image projected onto the road. And the WingLights that help motorists see you’re turning are great. For rear lights, something with the Cateye brand is always worth a look.
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