Bike lights recommendation
For about a decade, my main mode of transportation to school and to work was my bicycle. During the summer months, the sun would stay out long enough to make a bike light unnecessary, but as the days grew shorter, a light was indispensable.
These days, I mainly cycle for exercise and for trips within a few miles of my house. Proper lighting is still a must to compensate for my terrible night vision and to make it clear to drivers that I'm on the road.
When choosing a bike light, look at the number of lumens it's capable of producing. This tells you how bright the light is. Many models give you this number right in their name, and from our research, the advertised lumens rating is accurate for the best units, though the brightness may dwindle as the battery loses juice.
For headlights, the number of lumens you need depends on where you will be cycling. For riding trails at night, you need at least 1,000 lumens. For urban roads where there are streetlights, 200 lumens will do. And, taillights should produce between 40 and 100 lumens of output since they are mainly there so others can see you.
Experts warn against using bright flashing headlights while cycling. This can disorient drivers and make it hard for you to see. Also, anything above 300 lumens could potentially blind oncoming traffic. So, consider dropping down to a dimmer setting when cars are coming — much like you might use the high beams on your car. If you are concerned about drivers seeing you from behind, consider installing two rear lights: one that flashes and one that remains steady.
While researching the best bike lights, we examined thousands of expert and buyer reviews and ratings of dozens of models. Our guide features lights that have demonstrated their durability, user-friendliness, and usefulness in a variety of situations.
Here are our picks for the best bike lights you can buy:
- Best bike light overall: Cygolite Streak 450 Hotshot SL Bike Light Combo Set
- Best affordable bike light: TeamObsidian Bike Light Set
- Best strap-mounted bike light: Knog Blinder Mob USB Rechargeable Light
- Best high-end bike light: NiteRider Pro 1800 Race Light
- Best bike light featuring side lights: Light and Motion Urban 500 Headlight
Updated on 06/19/2019 by Les Shu: Updated selections, prices, links, and formatting.
The best bike light overall
For a reasonable price, the Cygolite Streak 450 Hotshot SL Bike Light Combo Set includes a bright headlight and taillight to make your early morning or late night commutes safer.
The Cygolite Streak 450 Hotshot SL Bike Light Combo Set comes with the Streak 450 Lumen headlight, which lasts for up to 100 hours on a single charge, and the Hotshot SL 50 Lumen taillight, which lasts for 200 hours on a single charge.
The lights charge using a Mini USB cord that you can plug into your computer or a cube. Since many electronics these days rely on Micro USB (not mini), you may want to keep a Mini USB cord with you on your rides so you aren't stranded with dead lights. Or, if you see the low battery indicator turn on, be sure to charge the light before you go out.
The headlight has seven lighting modes: boost, high, medium, low, steady pulse, walking, and day lighting, which consists of powerful flashes that make you stand out in broad daylight. The taillight also has lightning mode as well as five other modes of varying flash tempo and brightness.
The Wirecutter recommends the Cygolite Streak 450 Hotshot SL Bike Light Combo Set because the testers found the headlight put out a beam that was incredibly bright at close range and long distance. And, the reviewer notes the taillight puts out enough light for most bike-path or urban riding while offering a great battery life.Single Geared's reviewer noticed a significant difference in drivers' awareness of him when riding. He also appreciated how effortless the tool-free mounting process was.
About 77% of the people who rated the Cygolite Streak 450 Hotshot SL Bike Light Combo Set on Amazon left a positive review. One customer touted the long battery life and the brightness of the headlight. Yet, he noted that the headlight has hot spots, but he found that useful for avoiding potholes.
Several other buyers were impressed with how bright the headlight is. One buyer warns that the quick-release on the light is tight at first. She ended up cutting her finger trying to get it loose, but it slid off easier over time.
Pros: Incredibly bright, long battery life, easy to mount, several useful lighting modes
Cons: Uses Mini USB (rather than the more common Micro USB)
Buy the Cygolite Streak 450 Hotshot SL Bike Light Combo Set on Amazon for $55.60
The best budget bike light
If your funds are limited but you still want to ride safely, consider picking up the surprisingly well-built and brightTeamObsidian Bike Light Set.
One of the benefits you sacrifice with the low cost of theTeamObsidian Bike Light Set is usability out of the box. Batteries aren't included. Despite having to buy five AAA batteries ( I recommend getting rechargeable versions), there is a lot to like about this set.
The headlamp produces 200 lumens of light. Both lights have three lighting modes — high, dimmed, and flashing — and are designed to withstand water, snow, heat, and dust. Installation is effortless and tool-free. And, the lights have quick-release mounts so you can take them with you and avoid potential thefts.
TeamObsidian stands behind the quality of their bike lights by offering a "100% no-hassle lifetime guarantee." The company specifically states that they will refund your money if you are dissatisfied for any reason. And, if the lights break, they will send you new ones.
WOM-derful blog recommends the TeamObsidian Bike Light Set because of the powerful headlights with adjustable beam patterns and lack of dead spots. However, the reviewer felt the tail lamp wasn't sturdy, was hard to open, and wasn't impressed with the brightness or beam patterns. Outside Pursuits recommends this light for country roads and urban riding but notes that it isn't designed for trails.
More than 1,300 customers have left positive reviews of theTeamObsidian Bike Light Set on Amazon. Of the of bike lights in this price range and preferred this model. One customer found the metal build quality was better than other bikes lights he tried in the same price range. He also says that the light detaches easily and can be used as a flashlight, and he was impressed by customer service.
There are several other comments regarding how good the customer support is. Other common positives are that the lights are quite bright and the mounts, though they are made of thin plastic, hold the lights solidly.
Pros: Affordable, adjustable beam width, excellent customer service, impressive lifetime guarantee
Cons: Doesn't come with batteries, not designed for trail riding
Buy the TeamObsidian Bike Light Set on Amazon for $15.99
The best strap-mounted bike light
The Knog Blinder Mob USB Rechargeable Light is available in a variety of styles and is easy to transfer from one bike to another within seconds.
The Knog Blinder Mob USB Rechargeable Light comes in about nine different styles and a few different colors. The lights can be used as headlights and taillights.
The variety allows you to choose a light that is ideal for your purposes. For example, the Mr Chips style casts a broader beam that doesn't go as far. Whereas The Face and Four Eyes produce longer, narrower beams. Each of the lights features a secure strap system that allows you to effortlessly switch the light from one bike to another.
The Wirecutter recommends the Knog Blinder Mob V Kid Grid taillight because the reviewer found it put out a long, wide beam, and it was easy to move between bikes. However, it wasn't her top pick because of the short battery life and hefty price tag. Outdoor Gear Lab tested The Face and appreciated the wide, eye-catching beam. Yet, the reviewer would have liked an easier to press on/off button and more beam distance.
Approximately 77% of the Amazon buyers who reviewed the Knog Blinder Mob USB Rechargeable Light left a rating of 4 or 5 stars. One of the most popular lights is the Mr Chips headlight. Buyers note that the battery tends not to last long unless you use eco-mode. The beam is easy to see from several angles, and people appreciate that the light plugs right into a USB port so there's no need for a cord. One buyer was left without a light mid-ride because there is no low-battery indicator on this unit.
Pros: Several configurations to meet your specific needs, USB rechargeable, can be reinstalled easily on any bike
Cons: Short battery life, no low-battery indicator
Buy the Knog Blinder Mob USB Rechargeable Light on Amazon for $22.95 and up (price varies by model and size)
The best high-end bike light
If you prefer to take your mountain bike off-road at night and you have a little extra to spend, consider the NiteRider Pro 1800 Race Light.
What sets the NiteRider Pro 1800 Race Light apart from the other lights in our guide is that it gets brighter than your average car headlight. There are five modes: high, medium, low, walk, and flash.
The light is designed to stand up to the elements with Dupont fiberglass reinforced nylon housings and a borosilicate glass lens, which is resistant to extreme temperature changes. The eight-step power gauge tells you how much battery power is left, and you can easily swap out batteries so you aren't left in the dark while you wait for your light to charge.
Outdoor Gear Lab recommends the NiteRider Pro 1800 Race Light because the brightness and beam quality received top scores in their tests. Of the 20 lights it tested, this unit reached the greatest distance (172 meters.) Yet, the reviewer notes that the light is not very portable.
Mountain Bike Action compared the Pro 3600 to the Pro 1800, and the Pro 1800 came out on top. The reviewer found the narrower beam pattern was still enough for aggressive night riding. We Test Lights performed an analysis of the specs, and demonstrated that the light produces 1720 lumens with a 27-degree beam angle and a run-time of 137 minutes.
Around 74% of the buyers who reviewed the NiteRider Pro 1800 on Amazon gave it 5 stars. Several mountain bike riders vouch for the light's ability to truly put out 1800 lumens, which effectively turns night into day according to one buyer.
A rider with more than 30 years of trail-riding experience notes that it works best on the third and fourth settings because the top setting tends to produce wash out that decreases your night vision. Another buyer found the battery didn't last long for him, and when he left the battery charging for multiple days, the blue LED that shows that charging is done actually killed the battery.
Pros: 1800 lumens output, long distance beam that maintains uniformity, excellent for trail riding at night
Cons: Expensive, hard to remove
Buy the NiteRider Pro 1800 Race Light on Amazon for $225
The best with side lights
Light and Motion
Why you'll love it: The Light and Motion Urban 500 Headlightkeeps you visible from the front and sides with its powerful headlight and helpful side lights.
When mounted just right, the Light and Motion Urban 500 Headlight has two amber safety side lights that make you visible to drivers on your sides. There are four light modes: high (500 lumens), medium, low, and pulse.
On high, the battery lasts for about 90 minutes, and on pulse, it lasts for up to 12 hours. The light mounts right onto your handlebars and has a quick release feature so you can take your light with you. It charges using a Micro USB charging cable. And, Light and Motion backs the quality of this product with a two-year warranty.
Bike Rumor recommends the Light and Motion Urban 500 Headlight because of its compact, lightweight design, which easily fit in the reviewer's pants pocket when not in use. The Wirecutterrated this the best commuting headlight because it offers better optics than any of the other headlights they tested. However, the reviewer notes that the battery only lasted six hours on the second-lowest setting.
The light registered 494 lumens in We Test Lights' tests, and it had a run-time of 97 minutes on high. The brightness dropped consistently over the course of the runtime until it hit about 260 lumens at 90 minutes and died soon after.
Of the Amazon customers who left reviews, 68% gave the Light and Motion Urban 500 Headlight 4 or 5 stars. Many say that the 500 lumens are plenty bright for road riding at night and that anything more could be disorienting for drivers, other cyclists, or pedestrians.
The biggest complaint has to do with the cover over the Micro USB port. It is not attached to the unit and falls off. And, it's so small that if it falls off during a ride, you are unlikely to find it. One buyer lost the USB cover, which allowed moisture to enter the unit and caused it to malfunction.
Pros: Has side lights, 500 lumens, lightweight and compact, easy to remove, two-year warranty
Cons: USB port cover falls off easily