Best Rated Bike Lights
Biking after dark can be dangerous and scary, but sometimes you just can’t avoid it. Maybe you have to commute home from work late, or maybe after dark is the only time of day you can squeeze in your workout.
Whatever your reason, biking after dark carries significantly more risks than biking during the day. For instance, one in five bicycle fatalities occur in the three hours from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. There are a few things you can do to improve visibility and, therefore, safety if you must bike after dark–the easiest is to add a bike light.
Benefits of bike lights
The dangers of skipping out on a bike light are pretty obvious. There are two pretty big ones. First, cars won’t be able to see you as easily, especially if you are not wearing reflective clothing or if you are biking on curvy roads. Second, you won’t be able to see as easily. Even a low-brightness headlight will help light up reflectors, and you can even get a headlight that makes it feel almost like daytime.
There are two kinds of bike lights, front and rear. Rear bike lights serve only to let other cars or cyclists behind you see you. They often strobe to increase visibility. Front lights are always to help people in front of you see you, but they may also serve to light up the road or reflectors in front of you to help you ride.
Rear lights should always be red. Think about your car lights–you know if you’re seeing red lights in front of you, those are cars that are driving in the same direction you are. Similarly, red bike lights tell everyone that you are going away from them.
Front lights should always be white so other people on the road know you are coming towards them. This means that bike lights not only have the benefit of letting people know where you are, they also tell them which way you are headed. This creates a safer road for everyone.
How to use bike lights
The main function of a bike light is to improve your own visibility. So, you should always have a front-facing white light and a rear-facing red light. This helps drivers quickly know where you are and whether you are coming towards them or away from them.
If you mostly ride in well-lit areas after dark, your front-facing light does not need to be very bright. A 100 lumen white light should be plenty to make sure you are seen after dark, and if you are biking on well-lit streets, even less brightness might be okay. However, if you are riding in dark areas, you will want to find the brightest light possible. Starting at 300 lumens will help you see enough road to ride at a casual speed, but you will need 700 lumens or more to ride at a faster pace.
Rear-facing lights should ideally strobe, but check first to make sure strobing lights are permitted in your state. This strobing makes you more noticeable to motorists without burning through excess battery. A good strobing light will only need to be about 50 lumens, but extra brightness can give added visibility and better safety.
Buying a bike light
There are three key things to consider when shopping for a bike light. The first, of course, is brightness. You can use the guidelines above to help pick the best brightness for you.
The next thing to consider is light modes. You may need 800 lumens occasionally, but that will drain your battery quickly. Luckily, most powerful bike lights can be adjusted depending on what you need to optimize battery life. Look for lights that have a few different modes, like high, low, fast strobe, and slow strobe.
Finally, you should consider how much the lights can be adjusted once mounted. This is particularly important for headlights. It’s best to have a light that can adjust from pointing straight ahead for when you need to be seen to angling down for when you need to see the road in front of you.
Recommended Bicycle Lights
A lot of bike lights are USB rechargeable, which offers the convenience of rechargeable batteries and eliminates battery waste. There are plenty of affordable sets of bike lights, like this pair of Ascher lights. This headlight is only 80 lumens, so it will not help much in seeing the road, but it will be plenty to be seen at night.
If you need a little more power, you might consider the Ascher Ultra Bright light set. This headlight offers up to 300 lumens of brightness for 5 hours, and 10 hours in the flashing tail light. The higher power means you might have to recharge more often, but it will also add safety and let you see more road.
For maximum power, check out the BrightRoad 800 Lumens light set. These lights have it all: four headlight modes with up to 800 lumens of brightness and a full range of adjustability. However, the battery can only hold enough charge to run the headlight at maximum brightness for just over an hour.