What makes a good bike light?
After six years of annual tests of bike lights, we’re confident we know what makes a good bike light. Simon Vincett reports
- Highly visible output, both head-on and angled, so that people can see you
- Excellent water resistance
- Durability for regular use and the occasional tumble
- Ease of operation and not too many modes to scroll through
- Ease of mounting and removing
- Convenience in charging or changing the batteries
- Secure permanent attachment to your bike or compactness if you take it with you when you’re parked on the street
Did you know?
- Flashing lights are more visible than steady lights. Steady lights used to see by should be supplemented with flashing lights so that others see you.
- As batteries run down many lights become less visible. Clever lights tell you when the battery is low.
- Bike riders are most effectively seen by other road users when they have lights at handlebar height. That goes for front and rear lights.
- We don’t recommend helmet-mounted lights because they dazzle other riders.
- Beware of high-powered lights blinding other riders and road users; there’s a fine line between a strong light and being anti-social.
“The best dynamo lights for street use are about 200–400 lumens. Although Supernova do their E3 Triple, which is 800, they recommend “not for street use”.” Australian Cycling Forums
“Removable lights can be easily re-mounted askew.” Bill at Human Powered Cycles
“Large diametre handlebars have trouble with many lights brackets.” Flying Dutch
“All rear lights I have tried fail in the rain occasionally (if they are too close to the rear wheel – I think). I have solved this by having four of them. Also, sealing them up with electrical tape seems to work in all but the heaviest of rain.” Australian Cycling Forums
“Lights that take standard batteries are better, especially if you can use rechargables.” Human Powered Cycles
“In the city I don’t think you need a light stronger than a half watt.” Nick at Cheeky Transport
“If the light output is important to you, make sure you use the same light intensity measurement for the units you are considering.” Human Powered Cycles
For the best bike lights, check the results from our annual tests:
Ride On content is editorially independent, but is supported financially by members of Bicycle Network. If you enjoy our articles and want to support the future publication of high-quality content, please consider helping out by becoming a member.