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Top 60 lights for commuting 2013

7 May, 2013

Too bright or not bright enough – how do you choose the best bike lights for riding in the dark? Simon Vincett takes you through the issues, the testing and the best buys discovered.

Photo by Anthony Rodriguez

Photo by Anthony Rodriguez

Riders who have racked up a year or two of traversing the bike routes will have witnessed a couple of trends in bike lights. One is a proliferation of riders with no lights, one light or poor lights. At the other end of the spectrum, there’s an arms race going on, with lights becoming more and more blinding. The result is that a winter ride home involves peering to make out a shadowy shape one minute and squinting into an onslaught of hundreds of on-coming lumens the next.

It doesn’t have to be this way. There are affordable lights that do a great job of making sure you’re seen and lights to see by that are focussed.Take a look at our results.

You can now read the results of the 2014 Lights test, including a table evaluating the top 100 current bike lights we have tested.

Ask more of your lights

Bike lights just keep getting smaller and smaller, without losing any of their visibility. In fact, they’re brighter every year.

Their convenience has increased in a number of ways. Just about all lights are USB rechargeable, doing away with the need to charge or replace removable batteries. Most lights are mounted quickly and without tools using an O-ring or loop in their silicone housing. This is great for swapping lights onto a different bike quickly or taking them with you when you park somewhere.

Battery life is generally shorter, presumably because it’s easy to pop them off and charge them regularly. A benefit of this is that the lights can be smaller due to a smaller battery. The better lights will have an indicator of when the charge is low.

Most lights are more water resistant now because they don’t have to have an opening to remove batteries.

However, bike lights aren’t getting less expensive as part of their evolution, in fact the expansion of brands seems to indicate that they are consumable items with a useful margin for the producer.

Ride On recommends


See the table at the end of this article for more detail of the performance of these lights and details of the other lights, which are all also good options.

Humans, not lumens

The Ride On Lights test, now in its eighth year, is a ‘blind’ test relying on a panel of judges to rate the effective visibility of a variety of bike lights in a real-life scenario. Last year we also measured the output of each light using a light meter to compare with the ratings given by the judges in the on-street visibility test. The results were strangely divergent, for instance, the brightest front compact light in lux (17 lux) was rated eighth out of 11 lights. The most visible front compact light according to the judges was 5.8 lux. (We measured in lux because it’s a measure of light on a surface, effectively what light reaches a viewer. Lumens are a measure of the total output of a light across the total angle of illumination – it’s useful for knowing how strongly a light illuminates your way.)

The lights positioned on an inner-city street 200 metres away from the judges.

The lights positioned on an inner-city street 200 metres away from the judges.

The difference may be explained by a few factors: that the judges are positioned at 200 metres from the lights for the front-on test (the legal minimum distance of visibility of bike lights in Australia) and at 50 metres from the lights for the angled visibility test, and that the lights are judged in flashing mode, which imparts another aspect of effective visibility. The result is, however, that we are convinced that it’s humans, not lumens, that determine how good a light is for making you visible. We haven’t continued the light meter aspect of the test.

The most visible flashing mode for each light is determined by Ride On staff. Where a light does not have a flash mode, it is displayed in constant beam mode and the judges are instructed to give the light a phase rating of five out of ten. ‘High-powered’ lights are also tested in flash mode rather than constant beam mode. (There’s more about ‘High-powered’ lights later.) A general finding is that a fast flash seems to be more visible and gets a higher score.

Which lights make the list?

The test is primarily concerned with determining the most visible, best quality and best value lights for a variety of bike riders. The visibility test is conducted on-street by a judging panel. The lights are then assessed for durability, weather resistance and usability by a team at RMIT Industrial Design. From these results and investigation of the quality of the lights, Ride On recommends the best lights for bike riders.

Product testing

The results are cumulative. Each year we test the new models on the market using the same methodology as previous years (see for methodology details). Lights from previous years that are no longer available are dropped from the list but lights still current are included in the longlist with lights tested this year. The top 60 lights are published here. All these lights are good options and your favourite bike shop is sure to carry one or two of the top-ranking brands.

We tested 44 new models this year, making a longlist of 85 lights. This has been cut down to 60 by dropping the lowest scoring lights and in a few instances removing a lesser scoring light by the same brand.

This year we have revised our rating system, so the test results of newly tested lights and those included from previous testing were put through the new system. This explains why lights from last year’s article have a different score this year.

We recognise dynamo lights are also good for bike commuting, providing instantaneous light every time you get the wheels in motion. They will be tested separately on a new jig we’re developing.

How much light is about right?

High-powered lights used by commuting riders are for section of their journey that is on unlit paths. Otherwise they are can be a menace: dazzling and disorienting on-coming riders and drivers. They need to be pointed down at the ground a few metres in front of the front wheel in order not to be dazzling to riders coming the other way.  Better still is to have a compact front flashing light for the street-lit part of the ride. It stands to reason that helmet-mounted lights shouldn’t be used when sharing the paths or roads – they are for mountain biking in the dark.

As you can see from the pictures on this page, there’s a great deal of difference between the two focussed beams of the Ilumenox Vega 3w and the Owleye Solar Highbred 40 and the spread of light from the high-powered lights.  The focussed beams are from lights designed for the European market, where regulations such as the thorough German standard for bicycle lighting require the output to be capped, like a car’s headlights, to prevent dazzling other road users. Both these lights provide a constant beam and a flashing mode and would be a welcome alternative to high-powered lights on the bike paths. It should be noted that dynamo lights are also usually capped and focussed in the same way.

Which lights are ‘high-powered’ anyway?

‘High-powered’ is a category named years ago when there was a clear distinction between basic bike lights and lights that had a separate rechargeable battery (connected by a cable) and provided a strong beam. Today this distinction is not so easy to make as most lights have an incorporated rechargeable battery and the cheapest lights might still have impressively strong LEDs.

The distinction we have made is that lights with a stated output of 300 lumens we call high-powered. (Lumen is the unit used to express the power of a bike light to illuminate the way ahead.) Anything less than 300 lumens we included in the ‘compact front’ category.

We test high-powered lights for how effectively visible they are, so we the most visible mode, their flash mode, rather than their constant beam modes. Sometimes the flash mode is a lesser output than their brightest constant mode, but most often the flash is in their brightest output.

Things to look out for

USB rechargeable batteries have some issues to be aware of. While the better lights have a low battery indicator, if you run out of charge mid ride you have no light. Ideally, you will carry a back-up set of lights with your puncture kit – lights are certainly small enough now not to be a burden. Drop hints that they are a good gift option for you.

You can expect five years of optimal operation from a lithium-ion battery. After approximately 400 charge–discharge cycles the battery capacity will reduce to 80 per cent. Near freezing temperature causes 5–10% decrease in capacity and in heat over 40 degrees Celcius batteries permanently lose capacity at a rate of 5% per day.

All the lights are operated by one button yet some have a complex menu of modes. Also, some of the buttons take a very hard push to engage, which could be challenging with a gloved hand. If possible, test the button and menu of modes before buying.

From this test we found that the stated weight of the light was frequently less than its actual weight. Perhaps the weight given did not include the bracket, which generally adds 12–20 grams.

Ride On thanks the following people for judging at the visibility testing this year:

Jacqui Lovett, Victoria Police, Melbourne West Bicycle Patrol

Alex Hender, Ride2School

Iain Treloar, Road Riders, Bicycle Network Victoria

Joel Mayes, Bikes on Brunswick

Michael Hansford, Darebin BUG

Greg Weston, Bicycle Network Victoria member

Sean Wilkinson and Tania Sanchez, Catalyst Design.

Thanks also to Dr Scott Mayson and the RMIT Industrial Design team for conducting the design testing again this year.


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.

90 Comments leave one →
  1. Graeme Broderick permalink
    8 May, 2013 8:50 am

    Great advice. Two things I would like to suggest. I have seen and heard from others that flashing lights are an annoyance particularly when high powered and or dual lights. Scientific data as to the effectiveness and appropriateness of lights in this mode would be of benefit. The other is would it be possible to post on this web site pictures of the beams. My biggest concern is the broadness of the beam of my current light and I am looking to change it. The one way we can change vehicle and bike behaviour is to show by example so lets all be seen but not a nuisance on the road

  2. David permalink
    8 May, 2013 2:38 pm

    I think lights can be divided into two distinct categories:
    1. see
    2. be seen
    where your high powered lights fall into the “see” category. My conclusion is that your testing is aimed primarily at the second category, “be seen”. I therefore think it is a bit inappropriate to be judging high powered lights using these criteria. I believe that 100 Lumens is quite adequate to “be seen”.
    I commute on unlit cycle paths and have been very happy with a Canadian brand, Di Notte, which it seems did not make its way into your test, despite being, in my opinion, one of the best available brands – in terms of beam patterns, brightness, quality and durability. A few years ago, I engaged in an email exchange with them and urged them to be a leader in the pack in creating a capped beam (also discussed in your article). Their response was that they did not consider the issue worthy of addressing since there were negative aspects associated with dipping as well. Hopefully they will change their minds one day.
    Your advice about pointing the light downwards, does not work for me at speeds above 30 km/h (downhill).

  3. Malcolm in Melbourne permalink
    8 May, 2013 4:37 pm

    One thing should be considered when selecting lights –
    Hi powered lights on flashing are a problem to other oncoming cyclists who can be blinded on bike paths and also annoy drivers.
    Sort of like High beam for the country and low beam in the city.

    Best to use the “Be Seen” lights are the ones for commuting in Melbourne city.

    • Jules in Melbourne permalink
      28 June, 2013 6:38 pm

      Definitely agree with this comment. For road based commutes my main concern is being visible to motorists. For bike paths and similar routes a “beam” style like can be good for avoiding potholes, sticks, rocks bumps etc.

  4. 8 May, 2013 4:39 pm

    Thanks for highlighting the need to point lights at the road! I live in the CBD but work 20km outside of the city, so my commute goes in the opposite direction to most people. Every second bike coming towards me has high-powered lights pointed straight in my face, leaving me completely blind for a couple of seconds. It’s hard to describe what a disorienting and dangerous experience that is, especially on dark bike paths!

    • liam permalink
      9 May, 2013 9:44 am

      Like piusott, I commute 20kms+ on bike paths against the flow of traffic. Since daylight savings ended, I’ve gone back to riding on Dandenong Rd, as it feels safer then the gardeners creek trail/yarra river where I have been almost run offs the path by packs of cyclists with MTV lights on strobe

    • 10 April, 2014 10:00 pm

      ^piusott’s comments. Many riders don’t seem to realise how blinding to oncoming traffic having these Hugh powered beams pointing straight out into the distance. They know car lights need yo be dipped when facing traffic, why don’t they realise bike lights are the same.

  5. Russell permalink
    8 May, 2013 4:41 pm

    Nothing on Ay Ups?

    • John Rhook permalink
      8 May, 2013 9:52 pm

      Yes AY-UPs are about the best night riding light there is and aussie made, i have had them for 3 years. They’re simply brilliant. But at $500 i guess they should be.

    • Sieger permalink
      8 May, 2013 10:47 pm

      There is one ay-up in the list of high powered lights but it does not score well.
      This surprised me a little. I have been using ay-ups both for front and rear for 2 years and love them. They give good performance and are very flexible in use. I’d be interested in the reasons for the lower score.

      • Steve Gough permalink
        6 May, 2014 9:55 pm

        Nothing on Ay-Ups again in 2014??? I love my Ay-ups and would love to know why they don’t rate a mention in these reviews

      • J-Lo permalink
        8 May, 2014 1:00 pm

        I’m pretty sure the organisers’ of the test don’t read the comments. I too have Ay-Ups and saddened to see an Aussie magazine ignoring the only (I think) Aussie light manufacturer.

      • J-Lo permalink
        8 May, 2014 1:06 pm

        Oh wait… Ay Ups V-twin scored 66 in the “High powered front” category.

      • wayne permalink
        8 May, 2014 1:13 pm

        There is a new player from ozz just about to release a new light. It is called the FLY6. What make this different is it also has a camera built in to monitor your rear. I’m very interest and will be getting one. Looks well made & offers a water proof camera that is remarkable small. Check out another great ozzie invention!

  6. Tony permalink
    8 May, 2013 4:47 pm

    As a cyclist and a motorist, I do not understand the need for a cyclist’s front lights to blink or flash. As long as a cyclist can be seen approaching from a reasonable distance is all that matters. An onslaught of flashing, white lights in the dozens on the Beach Road when driving in darkness becomes very irritating and a danger for motorists and potentially the cyclists as the constant flashing of white lights destroys a motorists depth of field vision and also, blacks out other objects or hazards in the foreground e.g. a cyclist with NO rear light travelling in the same direction as the motorist! Also, that the light beam be angled slightly downwards would also assist in reducing the glare factor. Cyclists only need enough lighting to be seen and to ride safely. To been seen a kilometre away and have the motorist wondering whether it maybe a motorcyclist approaching, or, if two cyclists are riding adjacent to each other with powerful lights – a car even, is NOT necessary!

    • John Rhook permalink
      8 May, 2013 9:48 pm

      You say you are a cyclist and a motorist, the points you make in this post shows me that you are a motorist who cycles and has very limited road going experience.
      Apologies if my assumptions are wrong, but that’s the way i read it.

      • Ewhout permalink
        9 May, 2013 10:03 am

        The point made by Tony is valid and shouldn’t be dismissed by nonsense along the lines of ‘he’s not really a cyclist, but a motorist.’

        Powerful lights without cut-off lens technology are plain dumb in commuter environments, whether you’re a motorist or another cyclist.

        After spending two decades foolishly dazzling riders and motorists with powerful halogens, HIDs, Xenons and most recently LEDs, I went on a hunt for a light with ‘intelligent’ lens technology that would work both off-road and on, and found the Philips ActiveRide.

        As the price of LEDs goes down and the lumen output goes up, the problems we’re causing each other – yes, John, from one cyclist to another – will only get much worse.

      • Tony permalink
        10 May, 2013 8:34 am

        Correct. Your assumptions are wrong. As a cyclist, I ride on roads when I feel it is safe to do so and bike trails when I feel it’s wrong to be hogging lane space, especially when riding alone, in peak hour on the Beach Road and in darkness. I’m fed up with the numbers of cyclists that are either underlight or overlight. There doesn’t seem to be any thought by cyclists for motorists and how they might percieve being confronted with the bedazzling, star wars effects of night riding pelotons. Maybe the problem lies in topic; TOP 60 LIGHTS FOR COMMUTING! In a range that large, there’s bound to be many lights that are inappropriate for night riding being either too dim or far too bright and also the flashing option. Imagine the chaos if motorists were able to choose from a similar range designed for motor vehicles!!! I’m strongly of the opinion that flashing lights on bikes be made illegal.

      • Grame Broderick permalink
        10 May, 2013 8:55 am

        Tony, could not agree more. We constantly hear of the irrate and uncaring vehicle drivers by cyclists. Ceating an unnessary nuisance by having flashing head lights exacibates the irrate behaviour of vehicle drivers. Lets put ourselves in each others position and really think of what they see and dont want to see. It is amazing that any troubles I have had on the road a motorites will offer assistance. So lets work with them and foster better realationships.

      • quimbylips permalink
        10 May, 2013 3:10 pm

        At first I thought John’s response was a little abrupt, almost rude, but the more I read Tony’s comments the more I think John was right. Tony, you even contradict yourself. You don’t want bright lights because you can’t distinguish between a bike or a motorcycle, or two bikes together and a car, and yet want to make flashing lights illegal? When this would immediately identify them for you. Perhaps you meant high-powered lights should not flash, which I think most here would agree with. Statements like “I ride on roads when I feel it is safe to do so” and “when I feel it’s wrong to be hogging lane space” imply to me that you are more sympathetic to the plight of the motorist than the cyclist, rather than seeing both groups as equal road users. This does not immediately discount your ideas, but it does context around your emotive responses.

      • 1 July, 2014 5:35 pm

        Agreed, I’ve even had a collision when a mountain bike rider with high-powered handlebar and helmet lights riding at 30km+ on the Mullim Creek trail of all places at twilight simply blinded me. Many bikes are more dangerous than cars in this regard.

    • Bill form Sydney permalink
      7 August, 2013 12:05 pm

      Tony your points are just not valid. You seem to me just another ranting motorist – and a whingey one at that. In both your posts you demonstrate clearly that you are only a ‘cyclist’ insofar as you can jump on this page and post your gripes about (actual) cyclists. As a cyclist who’s been hit three times (drivers were ALL 100% in the wrong) I couldn’t care less if my lights faces (I have a 4000 lumen light) directly into the eyes of oncoming drivers. Your point about drivers not knowing if it’s a car of bike from a kilometre away is just silly. . If anything I notice drivers SLOW DOWN when they see my lights (‘I’ve not also placed the same 4000 lumen on the facing backward on my bike as well). It is simply safer in my experience (limited though it is). By the way … no cyclist ever ‘hoggs lane space’ … we are perfectly entitled to be there … with our super bright lights.

      • Tony permalink
        9 August, 2013 10:31 am

        I just don’t agree with your attitude Bill. I am a also regular cyclist that has not yet had an accident with another moving vehicle over 50 years of cycling, FYI, and I am lit up sufficiently so I can be seen without annoying other motorists unnecessarily. I’m just anti the inappropriate, in some cases, extreme brightness of some cyclist’s lights and the annoying pulsing of their flashing. There will always be those who agree and those who don’t. I don’t agree with the attitude that the more well lit up you are, the safer you are on the roads or trails.

      • 1 July, 2014 5:37 pm

        Bill, you seem to be projecting your anger at the people who ran into you onto this person Tony, who is making valid points. People do not have to graduate to ‘serious cyclists’ to make a point about being dazzled anyway.

    • Glen permalink
      9 April, 2014 5:04 pm

      Not sure if I’m a super intelligent human being but, isn’t it easy to point the big flashing lights at the road, so it’s not in other road users eyes?
      Maybe it’s more of a Í don’t give a rats’ than most cyclists actually thinking maybe other people use the roads as well. I bike and drive, when in flashing mode, I just point the light two meters down the road in front of me. My Inton headlight is a beast, it’s awesome in the bush but on the road in flashing mode it’s just too bright. Once I need it on solid, then I turn it up ward to see where I’m going. It’s really not hard…..

      • wayne permalink
        9 April, 2014 7:38 pm

        I have to disagree. Bright lights are a necessity for all year riding. The “only” see me lights are just dangerous. They get lost in the background of car lights and side street lighting. I pass many cyclists here in west oz on PSPs with their bright lights flashing or steady. I haven’t a problem with them. Just look straight ahead where your going & they don’t blind you. I have around 1000 lumens of light on my bike & on un lite streets or poor weather conditions I’m wanting for more. Cars have bright lights so why can’t bicycles.

  7. Michael James permalink
    8 May, 2013 5:00 pm

    Having a bright front light flashing is anti-social to other road users especially bikes. I’d only consider flashing when my main (adequately bright to be seen in steady mode) front light had failed and I was making a fearful run home with a flea-power backup light. When riding among cars I do run gently pulsing tail lights, in a group of bicycles tail lights should be run steady too.

    So your emphasis on flashing visibility is misguided, especially judging lights in David’s “See” category (Good distinction David).

    The best (and to get home with your skin intact you want the best) setup is pulsing red rear light 1/2 watt or better. Steady white handlebar light 250 lumens or better, steady white helmet light about 500 lumens. Now you can examine the road ahead for potholes and obstacles even round corners. You can also signal (flash high beam at) any other road users that annoy you, whether it’s cyclists with over bright handlebar lights or cars that want to kill you. For oncoming fellow road users, cars or bikes, watch the left kerb, ie keep your headlight dipped.

    • John Rhook permalink
      8 May, 2013 9:57 pm

      As a rural rider. I run 2 pairs of lights. When car or cyclist approaches, i place my hand over the handler mounted one and look at the road directly in front of the wheel for my helmet mount. Seems to work.

      • Tony permalink
        10 May, 2013 1:35 pm

        So, John Rhook, you state: “I run 2 pairs of lights”. Are you talking FOUR lights in total? That’s what I interpret by 2 pairs of lights. Isn’t that a bit excessive?

  8. Leigh from Melbourne permalink
    8 May, 2013 5:03 pm

    Ay-Ups are bottom left.
    No FYXO ‘King Bright.

  9. Chris NH permalink
    8 May, 2013 5:04 pm

    Firstly is the proliferation of rear lights with a “blip-blip-NUCLEAR BLINDING RED FLASH-blip-blip” pattern. I think these are a much bigger issue than high-powered front lights because the majority of bicycle commuting is either:
    (a) on 2-4 lane roads travelling the same direction as drivers, meaning you won’t dazzle anyone as long as your strong light is angled appropriately and not flashing; or
    (b) on two way unlit paths on which a decent amount of light is needed (as pointed out in the article).

    On the other hand, every cyclist is going to end up behind someone on a bike lane at some point, and it’s kind of difficult to ride when you are being dazzled by a LED point source focused through a plastic lens every 3-4 seconds.

    Secondly, I’m interested in people’s views/opinions about rear lights which use lasers to provide a “virtual lane” to indicate the space a bike needs (e.g. Are these legal in Victoria, and more to the point, are they effective?

  10. Garyh permalink
    8 May, 2013 8:24 pm

    I have two lights on my MTB for city riding, the combination arrived at over a period of 4 months during which I asked family and friends to stand ahead of me in country towns as guinea pigs for experimenting. Finally, I settled on a Light & Motion Urban 400 (lumen) multimode light and a Moon 200 multimode flasher. The Light & Motion is aimed down at the road to illuminate the way ahead and like so many other lights on the market, it does this remarkably well (30 years ago a Sanyo Dynapower was the must-have for touring cycling, and looks how far we’ve come!!), and that light is always used on either low or high setting, depending on the riding environment. Opposite, the Moon flasher is chiefly a “presence marker”, set to ‘slow strobe’ around city and suburban streets, and steady strobe in heavy city traffic, **to alert drivers of my presence before they open their door** or pull out — a circumstance which historically has given me a lot of trouble, with the driver saying, “sorry mate didn’t see you!”. The strobe is extremely bright and unmistakeable, and it would be either a very careless or visually impaired driver who does not see such a bright strobe light coming up as he prepares to exit or pull out.

    As a car driver, I share the concerns often spoken of where drivers can be blinded or dazzled by improperly or carelessly aimed high intensity CREE lights (which of course come with warnings that they should never be looked at directly). The ideal situation is a bike has two front lights: one a flasher/strobe slightly aimed down to offset the potentially hazardous light but still effect full recognition of a warning strobe, the other solely to illuminate the way, pointed down as a wide “puddle” of light beyond the front wheel. The use of just one light of any type is not going to cut the mustard on busy city streets, or for that matter, dark trails, though it will illuminate signs and the distance ahead.

    Finally, cyclists do need a bit of educating as to the best working combination rather than be satisfied with blinding drivers, pedestrians and oncoming cyclists with inappropriately set up front illumination.

  11. quimbylips permalink
    8 May, 2013 9:01 pm

    As a cyclist and a motorist, I’m going against what other commenter’s have said here – I think flashing front and back is an absolute necessity. It is a highly recognisable pseudo-standard that says “I am a bike, I am not like a car, I will not behave or move like a car, I will act like a bike”. As a motorist, a flashing light in my rear-view mirror I immediately recognise, even from the corner of my eye. A steady light, sometimes I have to watch it for a little while to figure it out.

    I *do* definitely agree, however, that flashing lights are for the purpose of ‘being seen’, and as such should not be blinding or super powerful. The value of a high-powered light flashing is questionable, not only for other road users but for yourself as well (big pothole visible only in strobe lighting). I mostly commute around Melbourne CBD, and I only need my high power (steady) when I get to the street I live on. The rest of the way I have compact flashing rear and front only.

    • Bogan Brouhaha permalink
      9 May, 2013 11:33 am

      Agree. Anything that makes a distinction between a car and bike is a good idea. Not so sure about the high powered flashing lights also. I ride on Beach Rd with flashing front and rear and feel much safer for doing so. As a driver I have much more awareness of cyclists that have flashing lights – it really does help distinguish the two road users.

      • quimbylips permalink
        10 May, 2013 3:17 pm

        Actually, I realised I have 2 flashing lights on the rear. I’m completely paranoid one will stop working while I’m cycling home. While the legal debate about who was at fault if I did get hit from behind could rage for years (was there/wasn’t there enough street lighting so see the cyclist, etc), that’s scant comfort when you are lying in a hospital. Both rear lights are low-powered, and low down, and parallel to the ground.

  12. 8 May, 2013 11:30 pm

    thank god, I’m not the only person annoyed by high powered front lights (very, very rarely am I annoyed by rear lights Chris NH. Hopefully the offenders are reading the comments here and taking note, please point your lights to the ground, not in our faces!

  13. R Fox permalink
    9 May, 2013 12:29 am

    The main problem for a pedestrian and/or car driver like me is cyclists with no lights at all.. As ped in Lygon Street, Carlton last night from 1900 – 1915, 20/35 cyclists displayed no front lights at all and 15/35 no rear lights. You don’t want to know how many ran the red light intersection at Lygon/Faraday.

    • Chris permalink
      9 May, 2013 9:18 am

      I wonder if there is a correlation between the lack of lights (and other safety gear) and a lack of gears, especially around Fitzroy, Carlton, etc?

      One day people will realise that a bike is not a fashion accessory..

  14. Jen permalink
    9 May, 2013 9:25 am

    I would love to see more info in these reviews for Dynamo lighting systems. I have been using a Dynamo system for a few years now and love it. There are some really great affordable options out there that are very easy to install yourself and the resistance is almost a thing of the past with a good quality Hub.

    If you don’t feel comfortable building the front wheel up with a Dynamo Hub there are places online that will send you a prebuilt wheel at very affordable prices and well made. There is also your local bike shop who I am sure can also help.

    Dynamos are more environmentally sustainable (pedal power) and a constant light source which is great for visibility. I have caught many a Ninja out on my rides sporting no lights. Without my Dynamo I would not have seen them heading towards me. They are also great on country roads for spotting the occasional Bat, Kangaroo or Rabbit crossing your path.

    I ride Audax so having a good light source is very important when you’re away from city lights. Commuting is also great as I don’t need to remember to recharge my lights. I still carry a back up set of lights with me (you never know). But so far I have never needed them.

  15. Peter Mackenzie permalink
    9 May, 2013 1:03 pm

    Good and interesting item and comments by readers. I can only comment on rural riding.
    As a car driver, I find the blinking lights are excellent on rural roads in highlighting that there is a bike ahead.
    There’s no doubts that blinking lights are more obviously seen, just as curvy fluro strips are more easily seen than straight ones.

    I have only to date seen one bike that had overbright lights, one stacked on top of the other. They were quite amazing, certainly stood out from a long way off, but were dazzling close up, and distracting.

    Just as a tip, with any overly bright lights approaching you – say where you can see lights coming over a crest and they are on high beam- the trick is to blink rapidly for a few seconds when the light hits your eyes. It works for me, and I’d love to know if it works for others. It is far better than being blinded for any length of time, or trying to look away from the light – both potentially dangerous.
    Peter Mackenzie
    Transport Development and Road Safety Researcher

    • quimbylips permalink
      10 May, 2013 12:37 pm

      Nice tip. I’ll have to try it out. Especially when I’m driving and all those 4×4’s and SUV’s are blinding my mirrors.

      • Peter Mackenzie permalink
        10 May, 2013 3:13 pm

        Thanks for your reply. I don’t know if I am permitted to publish an email address on here but if I can, I am on and I’d really love to hear if the tip works for you.

        Now, how do we get all us car drivers to understand all the other tips, like head movements when driving that negate the A-pillar in cars ability to make bikes invisible? How do we make those things legally part of driver education?

      • quimbylips permalink
        10 May, 2013 3:30 pm

        What are the head movements to avoid the pillars? When I’m driving I’m always very conscious of cyclists (since I am one usually), but I must admit that visibility inside a car is very limited, and cyclists are small objects. Pillars in particular are troublesome (both front and back). Even when looking out for them I still miss them sometimes, and that’s a worry. Head-checks seem to make cars visible, but a cyclist in just the wrong spot, not so much.

      • Peter Mackenzie permalink
        10 May, 2013 4:38 pm

        Hi Again

        I nearly missed seeing a motorbike from my bus at a roundabout years ago – a combination of angles of approach, big side mirror and an overgrown shrub. Recently the A-pillar on my car hid another small motorbike, but a quick left-to right and back head movement made the difference.
        Similarly a back and forward movement took away the blind spots in the side -mirrors, long before those convex mirrors came into vogue.
        When pulling out from a curb drivers need to look for cars or bikes coming out from a lane or driveway on the right- ‘cos you won’t see them in side or rear-view mirror.
        And I owe thanks to the driver on the Sydney Harbour Bridge, Feb 1973 when I tried to lane change into his car on my motorbike , ‘cos no-one told me about blind spots!
        To not tell and hsow these things to al road users is negligent, perhaps criminally in my view.
        Hope that rave makes sense

  16. 9 May, 2013 2:09 pm

    Selfishly aimed ultra-bright bike lights are becoming a huge problem on the bike paths at night, especially when helmet-mounted. There are some excellent capped beam lights out there and they are not generally more expensive than equivalently powerful flood beam lights. Now that poorly aimed bike lights are becoming bright enough to blind oncoming motorists as well as cyclists we should (thankfully) expect legislation to control them in the not too distant future. Search on “StVZO” for details of the German standard.

  17. 9 May, 2013 2:37 pm

    Just bought a couple of Moons. Thanks for the advice

  18. Chris R. permalink
    11 May, 2013 8:13 am

    Thanks for the article. And yes, the “arms race” on the street is becoming quite annoying. the other day, I was riding behind a tandem bike that had rear lights brighter than a fog light on a car. I was in a red halo, nothing else to be seen but the red glow. When I stopped next to the riders at a red light and addressed them, they were quite ignorant of that fact and said that it was better to be seen, not accepting the fact that they were putting other cyclists in danger.
    Unfortunately, the marketing is about the “be seen” and a lot of riders just think about that, not the consequences of those strong lights to the rest of the traffic. So, when you see someone with overly bright lights out there, at least make the aware of the problem and suggest to them to test it themselves (essentially standing behind or in front of their bike and looking into those lights). That makes it safer for all of us.

  19. Georgio permalink
    13 May, 2013 2:46 pm

    I can’t believe there is no mention of CREE LED lighting technology in this review. You can pick up a CREE XML-T6 based LED handlebar lights and torches that are up to 1800 lumens from one LED, i.e. they are as bright as a car headlight, if not more.

    I chose to buy a torch so it could be helmet mounted with 2 silicon straps. I purchased from ebay for about $25 with 2 batteries, AC and DC rechargers, pouch etc. The Lithium ion batteries last for 3+ hours at full illumination (it has 5 different modes, including flashing). I can’t understand why anyone uses anything else. The “bang for buck” is unbelievable.

    • Tony permalink
      17 May, 2013 12:57 pm

      You state: “i.e. they are as bright as a car headlight, if not more”.

      Why is brighter considered by so many to more desirable and presumably safer? There are now headlights on motor vehicles they are much brighter than they need be. As I’ve said before, riders only need to be seen and see their way without blinding other cyclists and motorists on the road at the same time.

    • Ian permalink
      2 July, 2014 1:38 pm

      Ditto, I have been commuting with a set of CREE head lights and mine cost around $45 on EBAY. I am suspicious of lighting reviews that are sponsored by retail outlets. Check out EBAY too. The end game is that you can commute safely at night. Don’t worry if bright lights annoy drivers as your goal is to make sure that they see you approaching. Be considerate of other cyclists & your impact on their ability to commute safely – ie don’t sit behind a slower cyclist with your booming light behind them – it creates a shadow in their path that could be hazardous. BTW, my light has 3 functions – high, low & flashing so I can choose the appropriate option for the situation.

  20. David permalink
    16 May, 2013 6:50 pm

    I’d like to see the nitelights brand tested. They are an Aussie brand ( and they are extremely bright and good value.

  21. Muz permalink
    4 June, 2013 4:32 pm

    I’ve got a flashing yellow rear light to compliment/balance the flashing ‘blip, blip, bright’ red. I reckon the offset color should really distinguish me. Up front I have a helmet mounted Moon 500 and a basic three LED flasher on the bars.

  22. Joseph permalink
    17 June, 2013 4:31 pm

    FYXO King Bright is the best by a country mile. $80 for a 1000 lumen light. How’d you miss it in your review? So good I bought one for my wife and son.

  23. Pete permalink
    8 August, 2013 11:28 pm

    Wow, a deluge of negative sentiment against helmet mounted, high power, flashing lights, including “It stands to reason that helmet-mounted lights shouldn’t be used when sharing the paths or roads – they are for mountain biking in the dark” in the article!

    I wholeheartedly disagree, and do not see the “reason”. I commute the length of the Yarra Trail, on road around the CBD and on dirt with the rabbits and wombats further out. By far the majority of people that I see riding with helmet mounted lights have the sense and courtesy to turn their head down or away a little as I approach. They can’t do that with their bar mounted lights, so many also place a hand over their bar mounted light as they pass. Granted, that happens less closer to the city. Luckily those clever people that design fantastically bright lights also include a switch to dim them, which most of my fellow trail users make good use of when in better lit areas.

    As for high power pulsing and flashing? Almost nightly I see cars that were happily rolling through give way signs, or about to turn right across my path, pull up short when I lift my head and turn it their way. A bright flash just puts me on par with the cars I know are behind me.

    Modern lights have transformed night riding into a safer more enjoyable activity that’s getting people out on their bikes, riding for more of the year. We don’t complain about cars having high beam, we complain about drivers not dipping their lights. Same goes for bikes; the power is a good thing, we all must learn to use it wisely!

    • quimbylips permalink
      9 August, 2013 2:40 pm

      Pete, agree whole-heartedly.

      IMHO, bikes should always have low-power flashing LED’s for visibility when riding with cars. High-power lights for seeing the road is a different story (and why would you want those to flash??), but those saying flashing lights should be banned completely are opposed to all current wisdom, cycling groups recommendations, research, and basic common sense.

      • Tony permalink
        9 August, 2013 3:38 pm

        Sadly, most people, whether cyclists or not, lack wisdom; are not interested in adhering to recommendations and researching, and have no common sense. And even more sadly, common sense cannot be taught! Most people are stupid and selfish. I have yet to actually hit any of these stupid cyclists dressed in all black lycra riding in the dark on the Beach Road!! They pretty much stand out regardless because somewhere on their bike, clothing or shoes will usually be some sort of reflective material to catch a motorists eye. You also need to be the type of motorist whose attention is always focussed on his/her driving. Sadly, not many motorists fall into that category either these days. So you can argue ’til the proverbial cows….. but there always be a motorist who will be not notice you however brightly lit you are because they’re driving while being distracted. How else is it possible for the guy in Sydney on this forum, who abused my way of thinking, to state that because he had been hit three times by motorists that he feels he’s entltled to light himself up to the max?!! Maybe, he should take a look at his own riding etiquette; be even more alert by scoping the road ahead in order to foresee potential disasters to avoid the types of collisions which he states has always been the motorists fault!!! There are collisions and there are accidents, but again, for most people the subtlety of that comment will be lost. Cyclists need to be even more aware than motorists when on the roads. Don’t assume however obvious you may think you are to other motorists that they will always notice you. Don’t assume that they can judge the speed you’re travelling either. If, as a cyclist, I cannot make eye contact with a motorist who should give way to me, I then yield and assume they have not seen me, therefore preventing putting myself in a situation where I could accidently be hit!! I’m only saying this as someone who has never been involved in a motor accident whether while on my bike or in my car, and suggesting that all of us should try and be more aware and more patient when on the roads and be more generous in extending courtesy to other road users.

      • Bill from Sydney permalink
        9 August, 2013 4:24 pm

        Oh Tony! You’re such a grizzled old whinger! I do over 20,000kms per year – I am confident that’s more that you’ve done in your life. It’s all about individual responsibility is it? Your “arguments” get sillier by the post. I’ve just purchased another 2 4000 lumen light – I’m going to mount one facing left and another facing right … drivers might mistake me for a U.R.O … . You agreeing or not with my attitude … who cares.

      • Grame Broderick permalink
        9 August, 2013 7:25 pm

        Brilliant Tony. I am sorry to see such vitriol towards you. As an OHS Practitioner, common sense is not an argument or an excuse. Look carefully at this phrase and align it to the situation. Knowledge and experience is not common and sense is not always a bright light. So lets forget the angst and simply discuss the impact that we may be presenting to the person driving the two tonne vehicle to the point where it causes them angst. I simply state that our actions as cyclists should not negatively impact others no matter what we engage in. That negative impact could cost a life. Lets have a great weekend and not be so quick to attack others for simply putting forward any concerns and advice.

  24. 9 August, 2013 4:45 pm

    As some arguments here are getting a bit bogged down, you need to know that further comments won’t be approved if they don’t add worthwhile material to the debate.

  25. 12 August, 2013 1:35 am

    I wonder if you people *actually* commute by bike. The advice here is not good at all.

    1) “Helmet lights are for mountain biking in the dark.” Are you serious? Riding past of row of parked cars/SUV’s and a car is pulling out from the side street. Guess what? That helmet light is the only light he can see!! Your handlebar light will be blocked by cars. Riding up at overpass with cars waiting to turn left in front of you? They see the helmet light before the handlebar. Helmet lights are *essential* for road riding. Saying they are for mountain biking in the dark is putting people at risk.

    2) “Worry about too much light”. Again are you serious? How many accidents have been caused because the cyclist had a light that was *too* bright? ZERO. Come on, get with it.

    • Rick Gilbert permalink
      14 August, 2013 3:38 am

      @MM. I was hoping someone would point out the benefit of helmet lights in commuter settings. I’m riding without one this summer for the first time in years, but will reinstall it this fall. I ride with flashing front(Light & Motion Urban 300, 550, or Taz 800) & pulsing rear (Light & Motion Vis180) year round, day and night, when riding solo. In the suburb where I live, there are few enough cyclists on the road that motorists are not conditioned to looking for bikes. Cyclists are essentially invisible. A flashing light has a shot at catching a driver’s attention. If I have any question as to whether or not a driver on a side street or in an opposing left turn position has seen me, I point the headlight in his/her direction. In addition, the amber sidelights on my light mounted at helmet height are easily seen even by drivers of 4-wheel drive trucks and commercial vehicles.

      As for flashing/bright lights, I live in the Pacific Northwest of the United States, and from October through March, it’s dark and usually wet when I commute, both morning and evening. Light from street lighting and vehicle headlights reflects from water droplets on the road and other wet surfaces, creating a sea of glinting reflections against which I must try to be seen. A fairly bright flashing light, moving against the background, has a reasonable chance of being distinguished as a human-powered vehicle.

      An unlit paved trail is part of my route home. I’ve encountered walkers there who have a penchant for wearing only light-absorbing, “stealth” fleece. A bright light (500 lumens or more) is the only way I can see them in my path.

      I’d like to find a “sealed beam” style light that would work for road commuting. I have no wish to blind or annoy drivers, only to be seen, and I think my flashing light is far less annoyance that the annoying delay and hassle of dealing with the police, courts, and insurance after they hit me because they didn’t see me, Up to now, sealed beam options seemed over-priced or essentially unusable. The original Phillips SafeRide was expensive, heavy, and underpowered (replaceable batteries, requiring tools for access, that I’d have to change daily). ActiveRide sounds more usable, but it hasn’t shown up at any U.S. retailers, brick or online.

  26. 2 September, 2013 3:53 pm

    You mean AT LEAST 300 lumens (or 300 lumens OR MORE). The way you have the hi/low power distinction is hugely misleading and unequivocally erroneous!

  27. Wayne permalink
    1 January, 2014 2:44 pm

    I have to disagree about the high powered lights not being applicable in city commuting. I live in Perth WA and street lighting is poor and non exsistent on cycle paths. Using the “be seen” lights is just dangerous in the dark as you can’t see road hazards in front of you. I use three lights facing backwards and three facing forwards with high lumens day and night. I don’t commute without them ever being on. I also place a 200 lumens flashing on my helmet. My lights are at different viewing levels as cars objects can obscure vision from some motorists. Helmet lights are awesome as you can focus the full beam at a motorist that is about to pull out in front of you and you can also see round corners for obstacles. I have to many near misses. Motorist either claim they don’t see you or don’t care because you are a pushbike. If I flash or blind them into stopping so be it!

  28. Wayne permalink
    1 January, 2014 3:03 pm

    I would just like to add, when I use my high powered lights for “seeing” at night they are pointed down quite a bit. They really have to be to light the road in front of you. These lights have a narrow beam and don’t dazzle unless you look directly into the angle of the reflector beam, therefore they shoundn’t dazzle oncoming traffic. Eg like dipping your lights. I use flashing mostly in daylight. My helmet light, I look down or away from a oncoming bike. Cars I look at them if they are at a crossing intersection.

  29. Ari permalink
    20 March, 2014 12:25 pm

    Hi all!
    I just have a quick question. I am looking for a light that’s durable enough to withstand some mtb’ing. I only got back on a bike after couple years and got myself a proper mtb. I was looking at Bontrager ion2 but I read it tends to turn off when hitting a bump. So I am looking at something that wont do that, and can stand some “roughness”. I am not doing anything extreme (at the moment at least) so I am not looking for any of the high end stuff.
    Thanks guys!

    • Wayne permalink
      21 March, 2014 11:09 am

      Its wayne hear again,
      Just like to add I have removed my lights from my helmet and fitted them to my bike. From my research this could make your helmet illegal as it is not being worn as per manufacturers specifications. Therefore deemed “as the law states” if not being worn correct it is if it is not being worn! Fine or in a accident deemed not being worn!
      As to Ari,
      I would recommend the moon xl 300 or 500. They have really good mounting clips that have a button release, no clip or friction mount. A bit expensive but if mtbing you will need lots of light.

      • Muz permalink
        21 March, 2014 11:16 am

        I agree with the Moon lights Wayne, however (correct me if I’m wrong) you probably don’t MTB on trails at night. IMHO a helmet mounted light is compulsory at night (on trails)and will reduce your risk of crashing hugely (in conjunction with a handle mounted light). My Moon 500 came with a velcro mounted helmet adaptor – surely this would not be deemed illegal and if I am on trail, there shouldn’t be any third party damage where ‘legal’ is relevant.

      • Wayne permalink
        21 March, 2014 11:42 am

        Hi Muzz,
        I love the light mounted on the helmet and if MTBing would use one as you do (off road).
        I only added this comment as per road use, as you are required to meet the law and many people are not aware it could be illegal. The problem comes if you are in an accident, because you are deemed “not wearing a helmet” you could be fined or worse, be accredit a percent of the blame. This would make it difficult to find the other party fully responsible.
        In the light of all the coverage regarding cyclist collisions in the media and trying to aportion blame, I ensure I ride as “legal” as possible on the roads.
        A helmet mounting bracket does not mean that it is legal to mount. It is only legal if the helmet manufacture states these mounts can be fitted! This might seem crazy, but the helmet is tested without these attachments to meet australian standards and are certified for use in this configuration.

        This also applies to mounting cameras or any other device on the helmet.

      • Dan H permalink
        1 July, 2014 3:32 pm

        You should check out Busch & Müller Ixon IQ (& newer version) that are non-flashing cut-off lights. It’s fully adequate in CBD traffic and it’s perfect on the dark pathways.

        If your lights reflect off street signs 2 blocks away, that is a good indication that you are probably blinding oncoming traffic.

    • richard permalink
      24 March, 2014 2:03 pm

      Get a cree xml-t6 torch/flashlight. About $15-20 for 1800 lumens on eBay. Then buy a cheap handlebar or helmet mount for $2 depending on your preference. You can’t beat it for value.

  30. Wayne permalink
    10 April, 2014 10:42 pm

    Okay, I have read through all the comments and this is my spin…..
    When dark (I mean proper dark) I like high powered lights on continuous pointing down so they light the road about 5 to 7 metres in front of me. If they are not pointed down the light feels like it is wasted in the darkness. You want to see obstacles in the path so light the road. This has a good secondary effect, it limits dazzling oncoming traffic. Flashing to me is for twilight or daylight, or poor weather, were you can still see your way but you just want to highlight your presence. Flashing in full darkness, I don’t know how anyone can do this! Its like seeing 50% of the time and it freaks your eyes out without speaking of anyone else. All to there own, but flashing in full darkness, I don’t see why you wouldn’t have them on steady for better vision.

    • Tony permalink
      11 April, 2014 8:44 am

      Wayne, your words make good sense to me! I just wish there were more, particularly night riders, with the same views and considerations as yours.

    • Rick permalink
      30 April, 2014 3:20 pm

      If I’m poking along at 15 km/h, pointing the light down 7 m out is fine. In the part of my commute where I’m concerned about seeing & being seen, I’m travelling at 30-45 km/h, sometimes a bit more. 7 m look-ahead provides insufficient reaction time. When I can find a decent rechargeable headlight with sealed beam style cutoff, I’ll buy it. In the meantime, I try to point my helmet light away from nearby approaching cars, bikes, & walkers. I hope they have enough sense not to stare at my bar light.


      • wayne permalink
        30 April, 2014 4:15 pm

        Of course Rick, also weather conditions play a big part to as to where they are pointed & if you decide to select your max setting. All in all I would rather 2000 lumens beaming at me than zero! At least you are aware of the 2000 lumens, whilst zero, who knows where they are until they are on top of you!

      • Rick permalink
        30 April, 2014 11:39 pm

        Yup. And I’m not running 2000 lumen lights, because I’m not riding single track at night. 1000 lumens max on the bar and 550 max on the helmet. My bar light has a pulsing mode for daylight running that is less obnoxious than a true on-off flash mode.

  31. 8 May, 2014 4:56 pm

    I’ve used Nite Lights (Aussie distributor for the last 4 years riding to/from work and they’ve never failed. They are cheaper and more powerful than the Ay Up brand. I bought a cheap set before I had the Nite Lights and they only lasted a few months. I would like to see the Nite Lights brand tested in the next review.

  32. 9 May, 2014 10:39 am

    great post

  33. 1 July, 2014 3:23 pm

    It isn’t the power of your lights, it’s how you point them. Stupidity like the “Don’t get blinded GET EVEN” sign at the repair trailer on the Yarra Trail near Hoddle St. doesn’t help.

    (totally agree with the MOON X-Power 500 recommendation. Mine is a year old, great light.)

  34. Lyndall permalink
    1 July, 2014 3:45 pm

    What a farce. No Ayups proves that straight away. Nothing comes close. And they look good! (No I don’t work for Ayup). Absolutely phenomenal brand that people are buying overseas (Brisbane based I think).

    Some people are mentioning that most lights don’t have a broad enough beam. Broad isn’t necessary if you helmet mount (ayups again, winners, so easy to helmet mount). You can curve around dark corners in the direction you’re looking. I made this change recently and it knocked 10 minutes off my commute home at night. Helmet mounting also helps alert particular drivers. So if you’re on a straight and there’s a car waiting at an intersection not looking like they’re noticing you… you can shake your head a little in their eyesight. Works every single time.

    • 1 July, 2014 3:55 pm

      Hi Lyndall,
      Thanks for your feedback. The Ay-Up V Twin Sport was included in this test. Its scores are listed in the table under High-powered front lights.
      Ride On

  35. 1 July, 2014 6:56 pm

    Number one consideration BY MILES is TO BE SEEN. Cars just don’t see bicycles so the flashing light is definitely more visible and therefore a potential life saver. I have two. One fixed on the handlebars and another on my forehead. It looks where I look…mostly down at the road. I deliberately turn it away from oncoming traffic….but I DELIBERATELY TURN IT TOWARD cars approaching at an intersection to make sure I say hello to their retina and then their brain hopefully. (I also have 2 flashing red LED’S at the back and I wear reflective yellow vest day and night.) Two lights are a must front and rear in case one fails or is obscured.

    • Wayne permalink
      2 July, 2014 9:23 am

      I use to think exactly the same as you.
      I have now changed my tune. Why?
      Helmeted lights are great and have a number of advantages, look around corners and it lights the area your head is turned, towards a car obstacle so on. The big BUT is;
      On lanes or PSPs they are confusing and blinding to other cyclist.
      Firstly the hieght confuses on coming traffic, and is more blinding than a zillion lumens chinese cheapie!
      Second, you can’t turn them down in transit.
      I have changed to one chinese cheapie from 4 name manufacturers. I can now change the intensity, shield the light and adjust it so easily. So although it is stupid bright I can turn it down depending on other lighting in the area or shield it with my hand.
      Flashing should only be used in daylight. In full darkness eyes can’t adjust to the flashing light for on coming traffic. Why would you want to only see half the time anyway?

  36. Andrew permalink
    1 July, 2014 9:38 pm

    Some riders use head lamps that are attached to their helmets! Please don’t! all they do is blind the person you are approaching or worse still the vehicle driver who is trying not to run you over. Remember where you look that beam of light shines?


  1. Top 50 lights for commuting | Ride On
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  6. Lights test 2014 – the top 100 lights | Ride On
  7. Lights test 2014 – the top 100 lights | Bicycling Western Australia

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