The Best Bike Lights for Every Kind of Ride 1

Over the past decade, brands have made big improvements in increasing the output and reducing the weight of their bike lights. That progress is driven by advances in two key technologies: the switch to efficient LED lamps that produce dramatically more light per watt than older halogen or metal-halide bulbs, and lithium batteries that pack more power into smaller packages. The result is brighter lights with similar or longer run times in smaller, lighter systems.

See at-a-glance reviews below of five of our top bike-light choices, or scroll deeper for more-in-depth reviews of these and other high-ranking options, plus some buying tips and advice.

Best Battery Life

NiteRider Lumina OLED 1200 Boost

NiteRider Lumina OLED 1200 Boost

competitivecyclist.com

$149.99

Powerful enough for trail rides

Best Value Daytime

Ascher USB Rechargeable Light

Ascher USB Rechargeable Light

Best Value

Cygolite Hotshot

Cygolite Hotshot

Cheap, powerful, and water-resistant

Best Safety Features

Garmin Varia with Radar Display

Garmin Varia with Radar Display

competitivecyclist.com

$199.99

Alerts you of approaching traffic

Best Daytime Lights

Bontrager Ion 200 RT / Flare RT Light Set

Bontrager Ion 200 RT / Flare RT Light Set

sunrisecyclery.com

$114.99

Our favorite daytime light set

Where and When Will You Use the Lights?

If you typically commute to work in daylight or at dawn and dusk when the light is low, a simple front and rear blinker set should suffice. If you ride before sunrise and after sunset, a more powerful front headlight paired with a blinking taillight is necessary. Also keep in mind that the brighter the ambient light, the brighter the system you’ll need for visibility. Rear blinkers that put out 15 lumens may seem bright after dark but are harder to pick out in full sunlight.

Because of the current pandemic situation, health organizations and state officials or land managers have reassessed their guidelines, limiting riding and access. Night riding on trails is not as safe or available as it once was. But more people than ever are dependent on their bicycles for transportation (at all times of the day), and many of the lights here will make your journey easier and safer. And if you are looking for trail lights, some of the ones we recommend here are on sale.

Do You Need a Rear Light Only or a Full Set?

If you ride only in daylight and your budget doesn’t yet allow for a full light set, at the very least start with a rear blinker (the cheapest on our list is $13), which will help make you more visible from behind. You can always invest in a front light later, especially if you begin to extend your rides to before and beyond daylight, when you’ll not only want to see what’s in front of you but also want motorists in front of you to see you. Keep in mind, though, that you can often score a slight discount if you buy the front and rear light at the same time, as a set or bundle.

Cameras & optics, Camera accessory, Camera, Product, Light, Digital camera, Flash, Emergency light, Camera lens, Lens, For being seen during day- and nighttime hours, a front and rear light set, like the Bontrager Ion 200/Flare RT combo, is a great option.

Courtesy of Bontrager

Where Do You Want to Mount Your Light?

Most headlights mount to the handlebar, but some models can also be helmet-mounted. The handlebar mount is a good first location—it’s more secure and isn’t dependent on a snug helmet fit for steady illumination. Helmet mounts are more appropriate for night mountain bike rides, for which you may want illumination to follow your gaze (say, around a switchback) rather than where the bike is pointing. A helmet mount can also be a good secondary location if you run two headlights, as the beam patterns from the different positions fill in shadowed areas and provide more even illumination.

Cameras & optics, Camera accessory, Personal protective equipment, Bicycle part, Bicycle lighting, A handlebar-mounted light is a good choice if you need more illumination than street lighting provides or for pairing with a more powerful helmet-mounted light.

Courtesy of NiteRider

Is Brightness All That Matters?

Lights are typically rated in lumens, which is a measure of the total light output of the system. It’s not perfect, but it’s a decent gauge of brightness. And there are other important factors, chiefly beam pattern (how wide and far the light reaches, and how evenly it illuminates), which relies heavily on the geometry of the reflector in the light. Some companies, like Light & Motion, have useful comparison tools on their websites to show how their beam patterns stack up to the competition.

What Should You Look For and What Should You Avoid?

When purchasing new lights, look for sturdy, no-slip attachments; an easily removable light body for charging and theft prevention; battery indicator lights or sounds to alert you when it’s time to recharge the system; and an IPX water-resistance rating of five or higher (anything lower and a splash, spray, or spritz is as much as they can handle). Try to avoid anything that’s not a purpose-designed bike light. Sure, you can duct-tape a Maglite to your handlebar—there are even handlebar mounts for them—but that doesn’t make it a bike light.

How We Tested

Every light on this list has been thoroughly tested in all conditions by our team of editors. We start by researching the market, surveying user reviews, speaking with product managers and engineers, and using our own experience with these lights to determine the best options. Then we spend many hours riding many miles using these lights for their intended purpose—as well as unintended purposes—to push the limits of their functionality. We’ve commuted to and from work with them, used them for nighttime road and trail rides, even tested the water resistance of one with an unintentional trip through the washing machine. We gauged battery life based on real-life usage, even if it meant riding the last mile or two home in the dark when the light died on us. And because these things are meant to live on our bikes, and everything else on our bikes is meant to look good, we evaluated them on their aesthetics as well.


TAILLIGHTS

―BEST VALUE―

Cygolite Hotshot

The Best Bike Lights for Every Kind of Ride 2

Amazon

Cygolite

Hotshot

amazon.com

You’d be hard-pressed to find a more feature-rich taillight than the 50-lumen, USB-rechargeable, 30-buck Hotshot. Two buttons allow you to toggle between customizable blinking and strobe modes, as well as six programmed daytime and nighttime modes: steady, zoom, triple flash, random flash, DayLightning (bright flashes to call attention to you when the sun’s up), and SteadyPulse (a beam that gradually changes intensity to keep motorists alert at night). Though the Cygolite is intended for commuter use, we found the clamp is strong enough to survive bumping and jostling over rocks and roots during mountain bike rides, too. And after accidentally sending it through the wash, we can vouch for its water-resistance.

―BUILT-IN BRAKING SENSOR―

Lupine Rotlicht

The Best Bike Lights for Every Kind of Ride 3

Lupine

Rotlicht Rear Light

Lupine bikeinn.com

$86.49

This light is pricey, but it had our tester raving because of its reliability, impressive battery life, myriad settings, and even an accelerometer that makes the light glow brighter to warn those behind that you are braking. The Rotlicht has four brightness settings ranging from .1 watt up to 2 watts, and four modes: steady, blink, pulse, and steady + pulse. On the most battery-draining mode, 2-watt pulse, the light still runs for three hours. Even more astonishing, we found the claimed 60 hours of run time on the lowest setting to be accurate. The light attaches to most tube shapes with a rubber strap, and also comes with a clip to mount it under the saddle. When turning the light off, it flashes through up to five lights to indicate remaining battery life. We found it takes about six hours to fully recharge the battery when it’s dead, so we got in the habit of charging the light overnight.

―MOST VERSATILE―

Serfas Thunderbolt USB

The Best Bike Lights for Every Kind of Ride 4

Serfas

Serfas Thunderbolt USB Taillight

$34.95 amazon.com

The Serfas Thunderbolt has everything you need in a taillight. Two included rubber straps let you mount it almost anywhere, and the light’s no-slip exterior ensures it holds fast to a seatpost, a seatstay, or elsewhere. Serfas claims the strip of 30 mini LED lights can grab motorists’ attention for 2.5 hours on the high-flash setting (35 lumens) and as many as 8.5 hours on the low-flash setting (10 lumens). There are also steady low and high modes. An indicator light warns you when the juice is low, and charging via USB takes about 3.5 hours.

―BEST SMART TECHNOLOGY―

Light & Motion Vya Smart

The Best Bike Lights for Every Kind of Ride 5

Light and Motion

Vya Smart Taillight

Light & Motion lightandmotion.com

$33.99

In addition to the standard features, the Vya—a 50-lumen, USB rechargeable taillight visible at just over half a mile and lasting up to eight hours on a full charge—does something not many others do. It uses smart sensor technology to adjust to the ideal light mode. Simply insert the Vya into its mount, start pedaling, and the light turns on when it senses motion, flashing in daylight and shining steadily at night. Stop pedaling (or remove the light altogether) and it shuts off. But don’t worry when you stop at intersections; there’s a slight delay before the system shuts off.

―BEST COMPACT DESIGN―

Lezyne LED Femto Drive Rear

The Best Bike Lights for Every Kind of Ride 6

Lezyne

Lezyne

LED FEMTO DRIVE REAR

$13.49

lezyne.com

The Femto taillight is small, simple, and unobstrusive. It comes in seven anodized colors, including purple and gold, and attaches just about anywhere via one stretchy strap or its clip-on system. The red lens, which doubles as the power button, shines in 180 degrees but puts out only seven lumens (a flash boosts visibility). This isn’t the brightest taillight out there, and it runs on two single-use batteries rather than a more convenient USB charge. But for the price, it’s a handy option for clipping to backpacks, belts, or pockets.

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HEADLIGHTS

―BEST BATTERY LIFE―

NiteRider Lumina OLED 1200 Boost

The Best Bike Lights for Every Kind of Ride 7

Lumina OLED 1200 Boost Headlight

NiteRider competitivecyclist.com

$149.99

Commuting, mountain biking, and gravel riding—the rechargeable Lumina is good for all three. At full power, it blasts out 1,200 lumens in a widespread beam that nicely illuminates the road or trail up to 20 yards ahead. Its OLED screen shows the remaining battery life for whichever of the five light levels and four daylight flash modes (from 275 to the max 1,200 lumens) you’re using. When the battery gets close to empty, the Lumina automatically shifts down to the lowest setting to preserve juice. In testing, we found the battery indicator to be pretty accurate, and in twilight and post-sunset riding conditions we were able to get almost two hours of life by making good use of the various settings to save power. After 15 months of consistent use, albeit less in the summer, this light is still one of our favorites.

―BEST FOR TECHNICAL TRAILS―

Blackburn Countdown 1600

The Best Bike Lights for Every Kind of Ride 8

Backcountry

Blackburn

Countdown 1600 Headlight

$169.95

backcountry.com

On high, steady mode, this handlebar-mounted headlight emits 1,200 lumens and lasts a claimed two hours, long enough to fit in a respectable after-hours trail ride. (You can double the battery life and cut the lumens in half if you run it on medium.) The backlit digital display is easy to read and lets you know how much juice is left depending on which mode the light’s in. Charge time via USB is a claimed four hours, but the battery will reach 80 percent after being plugged in for just 10 minutes, according to Blackburn. And the Countdown’s mount allows you to adjust the angle of the beam, so you can point it wherever it’s needed most—handy if you’re simultaneously running a helmet-mounted light.

BUNDLES

―BEST DAYTIME LIGHTS―

Bontrager Ion 200 and Flare RT

The Best Bike Lights for Every Kind of Ride 9

Ion 200 RT / Flare RT Light Set

Bontrager sunrisecyclery.com

$114.99

For such tiny lights, the 200-lumen Ion 200 RT (front) and Flare RT (rear) daytime lights pack a lot of power—Bontrager says they’re visible from 1.25 miles away. With multiple steady and flash modes and the ability to control them from your cycling computer, they’re also the most user-friendly lights on this list. The taillight clip is angled to match your seat tube angle, shining the light straight back rather than slightly downward, and the USB charging port has an IPX7 rating, meaning it can be submerged for 30 minutes in up to one meter of water. Be sure to push the rubber charging port cover firmly back in place when removing the light from the charger. Should you forget, road spray can get into the USB port and short out the light. It’s an expensive set, but it stands the test of time. One of our editors is still using the same taillight he originally tested when he reviewed the light in 2018.

READ FULL REVIEW

―BEST SAFETY FEATURES―

Garmin Varia RTL510 (add $100 for Radar Display Unit)

The Best Bike Lights for Every Kind of Ride 10

Garmin

Varia RTL515 (Add $100 for Radar display unit

Garmin competitivecyclist.com

$199.99

The Varia has all the typical features of a taillight: solid, night flash, and day flash modes; 220 degrees and up to a mile of visibility; and a slim, vertical design that easily attaches to a seatpost. So why the high price? It can also warn you of approaching vehicles. Using a radar display unit (for which you’ll have to pay an extra $100) or a compatible Garmin device (the list is endless), the Varia senses vehicles approaching from behind and sends a visual and audible alert to your device. It also automatically adjusts its blinking pattern to alert drivers of your presence. It’s not as useful on busy roads when there are always cars around, but it provides additional comfort and awareness in areas with intermittent traffic, especially as quieter hybrid and electric cars become more prevalent.

―CHEAPEST DAYTIME LIGHTS―

REFUN Bicycling Light Set

The Best Bike Lights for Every Kind of Ride 11

Amazon

REFUN

Bicycle Light Set

$11.99

amazon.com

This light set makes no bold claims about being visible for over a mile, nor does it have rechargeable batteries. It’s refreshingly simple and very effective. Push on the top of the light to toggle between steady and flash modes. Push the top again to turn the light off. CR2032 batteries power the lights for enough hours to get most of us through a solid month of riding, although they get a little dimmer after about 36 hours. The set includes two front lights, two rear lights, and eight spare batteries.

―BEST VALUE DAYTIME LIGHTS―

Ascher USB Rechargeable Bike Light Set

The Best Bike Lights for Every Kind of Ride 12

Amazon

Ascher

USB Rechargeable Bike Light Set

$13.99

amazon.com

They aren’t as small and sleek as the Bontrager Ion 200 and Flare RT light set, but these lights are $106 cheaper, so the extra size and less refined shape are a reasonable trade-off. Choose between two steady and two flash modes, and confidently get 2.5 to 10 hours of run time, depending on flash mode. We consistently got more than 10 hours of run time on fast flashing mode and love these lights because we can safely do multiple rides on a single charge. Even better, these batteries don’t deteriorate quickly—we’ve been using our set for more than a year. Last but not least, the micro USB charging port has a rubber cover so there is no need to fret if you get caught in the rain.

―BEST FULL SYSTEM―

Blackburn Luminate 360

The Best Bike Lights for Every Kind of Ride 13

Jenson USA

Blackburn

Luminate 360 Light Set

$109.95

jensonusa.com

The Luminate 360 set takes Blackburn’s already popular Dayblazer 400 and Dayblazer 65 head and taillights and adds two side lights, which you can attach to the fork, down tube, or top tube. This is especially useful when you’re crossing an intersection and want the driver next to you to see you before making a right turn. Count on getting a 90-minute run time at 85 lumens or up to six hours at 50 lumens on the low strobe setting. The Dayblazer 400 headlight remains the same, giving you four modes to choose from, ranging from 200 to 400 lumens with 10- and one-hour run times, respectively. The Dayblazer 65 taillight can shine for up to six hours at 35 lumens, or 1.6 hours if you run it in the 50-lumen solid mode. All four lights mount via rubber straps and can be recharged with a micro-USB cable.

―CHEAPEST HEADLIGHT―

Gyhuego USB Rechargeable Bike Light

The Best Bike Lights for Every Kind of Ride 14

Amazon

Gyhuego

USB Rechargeable Bike Light

$22.99

amazon.com

This budget light found on Amazon makes bold claims: 10 hours of run time at 3,000 lumens. We were unable to verify the lumens claim, but in using this light we can attest to the fact that it is incredibly bright and the battery life—10 hours on full power—is astounding. Once battery life gets low, just after the 10-hour mark, the light switches to a lower setting to save power but keeps running for nearly four more hours. We haven’t used it long enough to know how the battery stands up to repeated charging cycles, so check back for updates. The set includes a taillight, which leaves something to be desired in terms of visibility, but for $23 it’s hard to knock it.

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