Best bike lights of 2023: Front and rear lights to help you see and be seen

Best bike lights header
(Image credit: Josh Ross)

Like so many other aspects of cycling, the best bike lights of today come in loads of different guises. There are options for front bike lights and rear bike lights, with some designed to make you more visible and others designed to help you see where you're going at speed on a totally unlit street. 

We also have a separate guide to the best budget bike lights. There's some overlap in the products we recommend across the two lists, but the primary focus here is on maintaining a quality product without overspending on added features. This guide is dedicated to finding the best for every potential user, there are lights to pair with the best commuter bikes but also lights to pair with the best road bikes. Some of us here at Cyclingnews are even big fans of pairing the best bike lights with the best gravel bikes and getting seriously adventurous.

With so many options available, I understand doing all the research is a daunting process. There are also a host of things to consider such as battery life, brightness and tech features. That's why I've taken the time and done the legwork for you. I spent time looking for both the best front bike light and the best rear bike light plus a few options for even more visibility. I made sure to include options for helping you see when riding in remote areas but also when you just need to make sure you are visible to other road users. Whatever kind of riding you are doing there should be something on this list to provide the visibility you need. If you are looking for options for riding a bike after the sun goes down, or before it comes up, keep reading to see what I think are the best bike lights. 

The best bike lights available today

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Best front bike lights

Magicshine RN3000

(Image credit: Josh Ross)
Best front bike light for extended runtimes or maximum lumens

Specifications

Lumens: 3000
Charging connection: USB-C
Intended Use: Seeing
Mounting: Standard Garmin mount with included strap mount and available outfront mount
Battery life: 13:30-hrs at 750 lumens
Battery size: 10000 mAh

Reasons to buy

+
USB-C charging
+
Incredible battery life
+
Garmin mount means lots of options 

Reasons to avoid

-
 No reason for single light mode to exist
-
Complicated control system  

The MagicShine RN3000 is firmly divorced from the needs of the commuter. You could certainly use it for getting through the city but calling it overkill would be an understatement. The trick to this light is a 10,000 mAh battery that makes for incredible runtimes and it even has the option to use a battery pack. Mounting is via a Garmin quarter turn mount so if you want to go looking for some kind of alternative mounting option, there are tons of choices. Once mounted, you can either power all the way up for a 3000-lumen option that will happily manage off-road use for a couple of hours, or you can power it down for longer run times. With the light powered at 750 lumens, enough for visibility on the road without street lights, you can make it through the night. The only drawback is an unnecessarily complicated control scheme that allows for the use of the left, right, or both of the LED lights. Just stick to both LEDs lit up for the best lighting and longest runtime. This is a quality light for all kinds of adventures. 

You can read more about the details of this light in our MagicShine RN3000 full review. 

Bontrager Ion Pro RT 1300

(Image credit: Josh Ross)
Best front bike light for everyday use

Specifications

Lumens: 1300
Charging connection: micro USB
Intended Use: Seeing
Mounting: No tools required hard mount with quick removal and Blendr
Battery life: 3 hours at 800 lumens
Battery size: 5000 mAh

Reasons to buy

+
Warm, eye-friendly beam colour
+
Easy mounting that can even sit over bar-tape without issue
+
Daylight flash and side visibility

Reasons to avoid

-
Double-click to turn on can be hard to remember when tired
-
Doesn't use USB-C charging

If you are looking for a light you can use in most situations, the Bontrager Ion Pro RT is the best choice. For fast road riding, on dark roads, a front bike light of around 800 lumens is where things feel safe and easy. You can certainly go more but going less will cause you to start slowing down. With the Bontrager Ion Pro RT 1300 you get a light that will cover three hours of runtime at a comfortable brightness. There are brighter lights with longer runtimes but the Bontrager is less expensive and the smaller size is easier to mount. The lights around the power button change colours to let you know the available battery life and you can connect it to most of the best cycling computers for a more exact battery readout. 

Although the double press to turn on control scheme does a good job keeping it off when in a bag, when tired it can be difficult to remember. This light would also benefit from an update to USB-C fast charging as the charge time is around seven hours long. More than anything else though what gets this light on this list is its mounting. It requires no tools and you can attach it right over the top of the bar tape. Even with an arsenal of longer-lasting lights with higher specs, I continue to grab this option from Bontrager because you don’t have to preplan. If you think you might get back after dark, go ahead and grab it and put it on if you need it. It’s also a great backup option in adventure situations for that same ease of mounting.   

Read our Bontrager Ion Pro RT 1300 review to find out why we awarded it 4.5 stars.

Portland Design Works City Rover Power 700

(Image credit: Josh Ross)

3.Portland Design Works City Rover Power 700

Best front bike light for commuter duties

Specifications

Lumens: 700
Charging connection: micro USB
Intended Use: Seeing
Mounting: No tools required hard mount with quick removal
Battery life: 4 hours at 350 lumens
Battery size: 2,200 mAh

Reasons to buy

+
Clear battery gauge
+
Slide on and off the bike
+
Excellent balance of price battery life and brightness

Reasons to avoid

-
Doesn't use USB-C charging
-
Mount not as user friendly as some others 

The market for commuter focused lights is incredibly tight. There are a lot of options and sometimes they can be difficult to tell apart. The Portland Design Works City Rover Power 700 gets my nod for this use because of the balance of features it brings to the table. At half power, the light it offers is plenty for riding in the city with street lights and that gives you three hours of runtime. It's likely that will be quite a few days of commuting so having a really simple to understand, no code, battery gauge makes it easy to know when it's time to put it on the charger. 

The mount isn't quite as easy as the Bontrager but once you get it in place it's solid and you can remove the light with ease when it's time to lock up the bike or charge the light. If you do decide you want to take it for a more performance-oriented ride, it's also workable even if it's not ideal. This is a light that doesn't cost a fortune and will get you where you need to go with no fuss.

An Exposure front light mounted to a K-Edge combo mount on the one-piece cockpit of a Ridley Kanzo

(Image credit: Josh Croxton)

4.Exposure Strada Mk11 SB AKTiv

Best front bike light for high power and long run times combined

Specifications

Lumens: 1600
Charging connection: Proprietary port
Intended Use: Seeing
Mounting: Metal with a locking slide off
Battery life: 4-hrs at 800 lumens
Battery size: 10,200 mAh

Reasons to buy

+
AKTiv automatically reduces light for oncoming vehicles 
+
Clear LED shows exact runtime left
+
Everything is metal and incredible quality

Reasons to avoid

-
One of the more expensive lights here 
-
Slightly bulky which may require a clever mounting solution 

There are a couple of other options for riding through the night on this list, but the Exposure Strada Mk11 SB AKTiv takes things to a whole other level when it comes to ultra-endurance endeavours. Everything is proprietary and initially the way everything works is confusing, but it's worth sticking with it. The advantage is that you can spend your time figuring things out at home, then when you are in the heat of the moment, everything is incredibly simple. The light output is 1600 lumens max and the 10,200 mAh battery will give you a burn time of two hours at max power. From there, drop the power by half and you get twice the battery power. You can figure out what power and battery life you need, then on the road you turn on the light at the selected program and you've got high, medium, and low available within that program. 

There is a display that says exactly how much burn time you have at the power you have selected with no thinking required. If you need even more runtime there are weatherproof batteries you can connect and there's also an included remote switch. The AKTiv version even has an auto-dim feature that temporarily reduces the light when an approaching vehicle's headlights are detected. The lights are beautifully made, robust, and simple when you need them to be. The only downside is that you do pay for the quality. 

Exposure also sells a range of mounts for different handlebar setups, as well as a 'Support Cell' battery pack that will almost double the runtimes. 

Read more details in our Exposure Strada Mk11 SB AKTiv review.

Thousand Traveler front light

(Image credit: Josh Ross)

5.Thousand Traveler front light

Best front bike light for being seen in the city

Specifications

Lumens: 250 in flash mode/100 lumens solid
Charging connection: USB-C
Intended Use: Being seen
Mounting: rubber strap
Battery life: 6-hour flash at 250 lumens
Battery size: 500 mAh

Reasons to buy

+
Simple control scheme
+
Magnetic mounting makes for easy take off
+
Bright flash

Reasons to avoid

-
The extra turn to lock is a little bit of a hassle

Much of this list is about seeing where you are going. Sometimes that means being out of the city and riding through the night, and other times, it means going to and from the office. 

Sometimes though that's more than someone needs. If all you need is a basic light so people can see you at night, then the Thousand Traveler Magnetic Bike Light is an excellent option. There’s a rubberized strap that wraps around the handlebars then the actual light snaps in with a magnetic and a small turn to lock. That extra turn is a little bit of a hassle to get undone but that is kind of the point. Other than that, this light is the kind of simple option you can leave on your bike and not think about much. Rotate it to turn it on and while it won't be bright enough to light up the way, put it on daylight flash and you'll stand out in traffic, day or night. 

It's small, inexpensive, and it works. That's all I ask of a light like this and Thousand delivers.

Best bike lights - Lezyne Mini Drive 400XL

(Image credit: Josh Ross)

6.Lezyne Mini Drive 400XL

Best front bike light for unexpected night riding

Specifications

Lumens: 400
Charging connection: direct USB
Intended Use: being seen
Mounting: Rubber strap or optional action camera mount
Battery life: 1 hour at 400 lumens
Battery size: unlisted

Reasons to buy

+
Action camera mount is an inexpensive addition
+
Affordable
+
No cable required for charging

Reasons to avoid

-
Full power offers short battery life
-
Could be a little brighter

More and more riders have found that adding a daytime running light is helpful. Other road users seem to be a bit more forgiving when they know you are there and a daytime running light helps. With that in mind, we've included a couple of options to fill that need. The Lezyne Mini Drive 400XL takes things another step. It starts by being beautifully made with a CNC-machined aluminium housing and five colour options. Then it adds simplicity with an integrated USB attachment that means no cable for charging. When it comes to mounting, it's also dead simple with either a rubber strap, or an action camera mount that's great for using under a bike computer. 

As a front daytime running light, you have the option of a full 400 lumens in flash mode for seven hours or 50 lumens for 15 hours. What's really useful though is that 400 lumens is just enough to get you home in the dark. If you ever find yourself out a little later than you expected, the full 400 lumens in solid mode is there as an emergency backup. You may need to slow down a bit but you won't be riding blind. The Lezyne Mini Drive 400XL is a mount-it-and-forget-it option that's there when you need it. 

You can read more about the details of this light in our Lezyne Mini Drive 400XL review.

Bontrager Ion 200 RT

(Image credit: Josh Ross)

7.Bontrager Ion 200 RT

Best bike light for front mounting and staying visible day or night

Specifications

Lumens: 200
Charging connection: Micro USB
Intended Use: Being seen
Mounting: Silicone and Blendr
Battery life: Night Flash 30hrs / Day Flash 12hrs
Battery size: 420mAh

Reasons to buy

+
Small size
+
ANT+ connection for GPS headunit control
+
High visibility flash pattern

Reasons to avoid

-
Hasn’t switched to USB-C

Trek, and Bontrager, are at the forefront of the science behind what it takes to make cyclists visible both day and night and the Ion 200 RT is part of that. There’s both a front and back, also featured on our list, and both are a few years old now but continue to be a leader in the technology. The trick is a combination of a clever lens design and a very specific flash pattern. The lens focuses a minimal 200 lumens and makes it visible from up to 2km away while the flash pattern grabs attention. It’s a combination that’s backed by research but I’ve also tested it extensively and can confirm just how well it works. 

Riding it’s less dramatic compared to other options but during the day it will mean you are visible far out on the horizon before a motorist is even able to understand what’s making that flash up ahead, even despite the low lumen count. Keeping the lumens low means Bontrager is able to keep the light ultra-small while still providing up to 30-hours of nighttime flashing (12 hours for the brighter daytime flash mode). 

That tiny packaging also makes it comfortable if you want to utilise the Blendr mounting system to put the light on a helmet like the Bontrager Circuit Wavecel Helmet. Even if you decide not to go that route though, the silicone strap allows for tons of mounting options. There is a continuous light mode that would get you home, in the city, in a pinch but really the best use is for making yourself visible.

Outbound Detour

(Image credit: Josh Ross)

8.Outbound Lighting Detour

Best front bike light to avoid dazzling other road users

Specifications

Lumens: 1100
Charging connection: USB-C
Intended Use: Seeing
Mounting: Standard GoPro Mount or custom quick release
Battery life: 1.8-hrs at full power
Battery size: 5000 mAh

Reasons to buy

+
Weatherproof USB-C charging
+
Sharp cutoff line
+
Clear battery metre 

Reasons to avoid

-
No power level around 800 lumens
-
No StVZO certification

There are a lot of riders deeply concerned with blinding other road users. When adjusted correctly that shouldn't be an issue for most lights but if you want to be sure it's not an issue you might go looking for a StVZO-compliant light. StVZO is a German certification and outside the German market it can be tough to actually purchase a light that meets it. Just because a light doesn't carry the certification doesn't mean it doesn't solve the same problem though. The Outbound Lighting Detour is a front bike light with a sharp upper cutoff to the light pattern. You won't find a StVZO certification but it does the job. 

Beyond that, the light has a unique trick for anyone looking to ride long distances. Not only does it use a USB-C charging port but the brand includes a cord with a weatherproof connection to the light and it will run while charging. It allows you to plug in a USB battery pack of your own choosing and ride while charging, even in the rain. The one thing I'd like to see is another option with a lighting output of around 800 lumens. Despite that omission, it's a slick package that has use cases for both commuters and adventure cyclists.  

Read more details in my Outbound Lighting Detour bike light review

Cycliq fly12 sport

(Image credit: Josh Ross)

9.Cycliq Fly 12 Sport

Best front bike light with a camera

Specifications

Lumens: 400
Charging connection: USB-C
Intended Use: Seeing
Mounting: Standard GoPro Mount or custom ⅛ turn mount
Battery life: 2-hrs at 600 lumens with camera
Battery size: 3000 mAh

Reasons to buy

+
USB-C charging
+
Integrated camera with 4k recording
+
Image stabilisation 

Reasons to avoid

-
Video first feature set
-
Trade off in light performance 

The Cycliq Fly12 Sport is a front light with an integrated camera. The mounting system is a custom 1/8 turn bracket that you can mount above, or below, your handlebars. Alternatively, you can make use of a standard action camera mount and use whatever your favourite out-front bracket is. 

On the lighting side of the equation, you get a max 400 lumen light. The real purpose here though isn't lighting and if you turn down the power on the light to the flash mode for visibility, you can stretch as much as 6.5 hours of battery life out of the unit. 

There are certainly better lights on the market if that’s the primary focus, but think of this as a light focused on recording your ride in the event of an incident. There is a 135-degree wide angle camera with quality as high as 4k at 24fps and recording to an SD card. The video will loop record and automatically lock a piece of the recording covering before and after an incident. Six-axis Electronic Image Stabilisation helps make sure the video is usable and the light does the same when the sun goes down. 

Best rear bike lights

Garmin Varia RCT715

(Image credit: Josh Ross)
Best rear bike light with a camera and radar

Specifications

Lumens: 65
Charging connection: USB-C
Intended Use: Being seen
Mounting: Silicone straps
Battery life: Six hours with day flash and camera recording
Battery size: 2800 mAh

Reasons to buy

+
Built in radar
+
IPX7 exceeds the competition
+
Controllable via some Garmin head units

Reasons to avoid

-
False positive incident detection can cause issues at times 

If you want a camera for incident detection on the rear of your bike then you've got two choices, Cycliq and Garmin. They both work by recording all the time and looping when the memory card is full. In the event of an incident, the period of time around the incident gets locked so and won't be overwritten. They both offer the same 1080p at 30fps video recording too. It's from there that the options differ and Garmin comes out on top. The Garmin RCT715 will come close to seven hours of recording time with a brighter flash at 65 lumens and a wider field of view. The Garmin also has a big ace up its sleeve in the form of Varia radar.

Varia radar lets you know when cars are behind you and it's not hyperbole to say it will change the way you ride. The RCT715 takes what is already an amazing light with an excellent radar system then adds the camera functionality. You will have to put up with an occasional false positive where the system thinks you had an incident when you didn't but it will never miss a car. 

You can read more about the details of this light in our full review of the Garmin Varia RCT715 rear light.

Garmin Varia RTL515

(Image credit: Josh Ross)
Best rear bike light with radar

Specifications

Lumens: 65 lumens for daytime flash
Charging connection: Micro-usb
Intended Use: Being seen
Mounting: Rubber strap and plastic bracket
Battery life: 16 hours day flash
Battery size: 1400 mAh

Reasons to buy

+
Long battery life
+
65 lumen light with irregular flash pattern
+
Controllable via headunit

Reasons to avoid

-
No provision for attaching a leash
-
Outdated micro-usb charging

We realise this is just the older version of the RCT715 light above, but here you're foregoing the camera feature and saving some money. There are also some newly released alternatives but despite a long time on the market, and the competition, the RTL515 continues to be the king when it comes to the core functionality. 

I've ridden thousands of miles with an RTL515 and I've never once had it miss reporting a car. It's also brighter than some of the competition and it has more battery life. The downside of the unit's age is that it's still using a micro-usb charging port. There's also been a vocal request for a leash mount and while I've never lost my 515, it seems like it would be a prudent addition. Those details don't affect the core functionality though, when it comes to a light that tells when there is a car behind you, this is the best choice. 

Read more details about the Garmin Varia Radar RTL515 in our shared coverage with the Garmin Edge 1030 Plus review 

Exposure Boost R

(Image credit: Josh Ross)

3.Exposure Boost R

Best rear bike light if you need to ride through the night

Specifications

Lumens: 80
Charging connection: Micro-usb
Intended Use: Being seen
Mounting: Rubber strap and plastic bracket
Battery life: 24 hours in 40 lumen pulse mode
Battery size: 1400 mAh

Reasons to buy

+
Metal construction
+
Robust mounting
+
Large battery

Reasons to avoid

-
Difficult to get cover off of charging port

If rear radar sounds unnecessarily complicated, or if you want more battery life, then the Exposure Boost R is the way to go. Like the front Exposure light we included, the build quality is second to none and the mounting pieces are equally impressive. Although there's a rubber strap involved in the mounting, it's about twice as thick as you would expect and it will handle even a wide aero post. Aside from the details, the big trick is a massive battery compared to most rear lights. For years I've felt safe with around 40 lumens and the Boost R will get as high as 80. Knock it down to 40 though and you can get 24 hours on pulse mode. There's even an option to halve the output again for 48 hours of lighting. The only downside is that when you do need to charge the light you are going to need to wrestle the rubber cover off the charging port.  

Bontrager Flare RT

(Image credit: Josh Ross)

4.Bontrager Flare RT

Best rear bike light for staying visible day or night

Specifications

Lumens: 90
Charging connection: micro-usb
Intended Use: Being seen
Mounting: Rubber strap and plastic bracket
Battery life: 12 hours in 45 lumen flash mode
Battery size: 420 mAh

Reasons to buy

+
Long battery life
+
Tiny size
+
Disruptive flash pattern

Reasons to avoid

-
Micro-usb charge port design is outdates 

It should be no surprise to see the Bontrager Flare RT after we also included the Ion 200 RT. The two lights came out together, they are available as a pair, and they share many of the same strengths. The Flare RT is a light you can take with you on any ride, day or night, and know you will catch the attention of other road users. When I headed out my door to cross the state of Oregon on my own, I took a Flare RT. The 16-hour battery life was enough to cover all but the most extreme situations and the disruptive flash pattern, along with the focusing lens, meant that even in the bright midday sun of the Eastern Oregon desert, I was visible. In my experience, the 2km estimate might even be underselling it. The tiny size of the Flare RT, along with the Ion 200 RT, also makes both lights ideal for use on helmets. The only downside is that this isn't a brand-new light and it's starting to show its age with an outdated micro-USB charging port.  

Thousand Traveler rear light

(Image credit: Josh Ross)

5.Thousand Traveler rear light

Best rear bike light for being seen in the city

Specifications

Lumens: 80 lumens
Charging connection: USB-C
Intended Use: Being seen
Mounting: Rubber strap
Battery life: 6-hour flash at 250 lumens
Battery size: 500 mAh

Reasons to buy

+
Simple control scheme
+
Magnetic mounting makes for easy take off
+
Disruptive flash pattern

Reasons to avoid

-
The extra turn to lock is a little bit of a hassle
-
Doesn't take much to break the magnetic connection 

The spec for the Thousand Traveler puts the only daylight mode at 80-lumens but it’s a lot different than the Bontrager, or Exposure, lights even with those powered down. For one thing, the max battery life in that mode is less than four hours but it also has a different style of reflector. The light is broader and unlikely to have the same visibility at distance. Instead, the wider beam is great at putting out a lot of light and attracting attention at the closer distances needed in the city. The Thousand Traveler isn't a ride-all-day, visibility-in-any-situation kind of light. Not everyone needs that though and it does a great job for short rides in the city. If you just need an inexpensive, stylish, rear light that will help make sure you are visible then the Thousand is a great choice. Just like the front, there is a rubberized strap that wraps around a round bar then the actual light mounts magnetically with a twist. There is an option for flash or solid and charging is courtesy of a USB-C port. The magnetic connection between the mount and the light is exactly the same as the front, so the criticism remains the same. It takes a little more than a simple twist to get it free but for an otherwise quality light, it's only a small misstep. 

Topeak Taillux 40 DF

(Image credit: Josh Ross)

6.Topeak Taillux 40 DF

Best bike light for rear mounting and integrated mounting

Specifications

Lumens: 40
Charging connection: Direct USB
Intended Use: Being seen
Mounting: Seat rail hard mount with secondary accessory mount
Battery life: 20-hour with 40 lumen pulse
Battery size: 160 mAh

Reasons to buy

+
Secondary mount below light for accessories
+
Long battery life
+
Mounts high and out of the way

Reasons to avoid

-
Doesn’t remember settings when power cycled

There are a lot of people who spend an inordinate amount of time looking for all manner of accessories that leave a bike looking the best it can. If you don't want a bunch of accessories sprouting everywhere and would rather have everything looking as integrated as possible, the Topeak Taillux 40 DF is the rear bike light you've been looking for. 

The mounting system is a hard plastic that attaches to the saddle rails then the light slides into a slot above the mount. Below the mount is a secondary mount and there are options for bags and tool storage or mudguards. There's a lot of utility and a well-thought-out system plus you get a capable light at a reasonable price. There are three modes but each time you turn off the light it will start back at the beginning and require a press to get to your preferred mode. 

Best bike lights for extra visibility

Ideas for additional lighting beyond the traditional front and rear positions.

Redshift Arclight pedals

(Image credit: Josh Ross)

1.Redshift Sports Arclight

Best bike light when you want to add lighting to the pedals

Specifications

Lumens: 50 front / 20 rear
Charging connection: Direct USB
Intended Use: Being seen
Mounting: Magnetic mounting inside the pedal body or rubber strap and plastic bracket
Battery life: 11+hrs for standard flash
Battery size: 530 mAh

Reasons to buy

+
Easy to charge all four modules at once
+
Automatic on and off doesn’t require manual button presses
+
Lights automatically switch between red and white depending on orientation

Reasons to avoid

-
Questionable legality in certain countries
-
Could be damaged in use 

One of the best ways to add extra lighting is through the pedals. Pedals, obviously, move while you ride so having them light up definitely catches the eye. If that sounds like a great idea then the Redshift Arclight pedals are a system that make it easy. There are four LED modules that slide into the steel pedal body - two per pedal - and stay put magnetically. All of the modules will shine both red and white and switch depending on their orientation.

There’s also an extra mount available for using the modules as a front or rear light as well. In that configuration, the lights are red if mounted vertically or white if horizontal. Even on the brighter flashing mode, the battery will last a long time and they know to shut themselves off when not in use. It's really a set it and forget it kind of system and when you do need to charge them, there's an ingeniously simple four-port USB charger included. The whole set will fit and, if you lose it, replacements are cheap and easy to find. The only downside is that there is some question of legality depending on location. Make sure you check if you are outside the US.

Giro Escape MIPS front

(Image credit: Josh Ross)

2.Giro Escape MIPS helmet

Best bike light on a commuter helmet

Specifications

Lumens: 75 front, 40 rear
Charging connection: Micro-usb
Intended Use: Being seen
Mounting: Integrated into the helmet
Battery life: Flash mode - 10 hours, steady mode - 2 hours
Battery size: 500 mAh

Reasons to buy

+
Great commuter style
+
Easy to turn on and off without looking
+
Comfortable helmet that just happens to include lights

Reasons to avoid

-
Lacks USB-C charging 

Helmets are another great way to add lighting in an organic way that just makes sense. Mountain bikers will often add lighting to helmets because it tracks with your vision and even though the Giro Escape MIPS isn't for seeing, you do get some of that same effect. When you are turning, your head will swivel to check what's coming and, with the lights on the helmet, the lights will swivel towards drivers as well. Of course, there are a lot of options out there for urban helmets with lights but what I like about the Giro Escape MIPS, in particular, is that the brand really hits the mark for urban style.

It's a great helmet that's comfortable to wear and it's got MIPS. The lights are an additional safety feature that take nothing away and are easy to use if you want to. The only downside is that Giro remains behind the times with micro-USB charging. Read more in our full review of the Giro Escape MIPS

If you want to learn more about MIPS technology itself you can head to our what is a  MIPS helmet page. 

How to choose the best bike lights for you

Like most purchases, buying the best bike lights for your needs requires an understanding of what those needs are, what features are available to meet those needs, and how much you want to spend. First and foremost, you probably want lights so that those around you can see you when the sun goes down. Any good bike light will do this, but as you start spending more, the list of added features grows. Some will add huge power so that you can also see where you're going on pitch-dark country lanes. Others will add huge batteries to last longer between charges, and others will add extra wide-angle visibility so that it's not only the traffic directly in front and behind you that can see you. When you get to the upper echelons, you'll start to see the addition of inbuilt cameras and radar. 

Balancing those features against your needs, you'll need to know what sort of riding you'll be doing, whether it's going to be daylight, street-lit, or totally off-grid in the dark. The latter will require more brightness up front so you can see where you're going. You'll also know how long you're riding for - it's no use having a two-hour battery life if your ride lasts three. 

Then begin to ask yourself what's important: do you think an inbuilt camera is worth the added expense? Do you want a radar device to tell you when cars are coming up from behind? Or do you simply want maximum brightness and maximum battery power? Your answer to those questions will affect your decision. Once you've got an idea of what you want from your light, the list of products above will help you to choose a good option from within those parameters. 

How many lumens do I need for a bike light?

For me, when I need to use a light to see where I'm going, the best front bike lights will have at least 800 lumens, assuming I'm riding on a surface that is mostly predictable such as a road or relatively smooth gravel. Anything below 800 lumens and I will start to slow down in order to give myself time to process the information from the road surface. Above 800 lumens isn't wasted, the more the light the better, but battery life becomes a greater consideration in my riding. Off-road terrain is a different story, and here I tend to look at 1500 lumens or more. 

For rear lights, I'm clearly not using it to see where I'm going, so the focus shifts towards being visible to other users. Again, more light is better, but I find myself feeling comfortable at around 40 lumens. This is a number I've settled on through experience and feedback and, like the front, a balance of battery life and pricing. Brighter lights are always better for visibility but other road users seem to respond well near 40 lumens and it's a number that's achievable with long burn times on reasonably priced lights. 

Do I need a light to ride my bike at night?

Legally speaking, that depends on where you live but that doesn't answer the question. I haven't looked at the details of every country and listed out where you absolutely must have it because it's almost irrelevant. In my opinion, you should be using one. 

To make sure you are visible at night while riding a bike I recommend using a light. There is also some research showing benefits for cyclists using lights during the day. Not every situation requires the absolute brightest light and longest battery but you will make yourself more visible with a light than without. Most organised events will also require lights for riding at night so if that's your focus that could also be a factor. 

What kind of bike light do I need?

The point I want to make with this question is that there are different needs for different people who are doing different kinds of riding. If you are riding through the city at night on well-lit streets you probably don't need a light to see where you are going. In that case, look for lights designed to help you stay visible to other road users. I labelled these with the intended use "being seen" and every rear light also gets that designation as a matter of default. 

For those who instead intend to ride with less street lighting - such as in the countryside, parks, lanes, and off-road, the best bike light for you will help you see where you're going. The addition to this is that if you are riding in the city with plenty of light, the faster you go the more light you will want to feel comfortable so keep that in mind as well. 

Another, perhaps less complex, way of looking at this question is just as a matter of what form the bike lights should take. In that case, a white front light and a red rear light are what you will want. Add more if you’d prefer extra visibility.

What battery type is best for a bike light?

At this point, high-quality lights almost universally use integrated lithium-ion batteries. There was a time when many people would look for lights that used swappable batteries but that's mostly a relic of the past. Mountain bike lights tend to use a separate head with only the light as well as a battery pack that attaches to the head with a cord. There are also some road-specific lights that use that strategy and it's a good solution if you want to be able to bring extra batteries. A different strategy is that many modern lights can charge their internal battery while in use. Attach a USB battery pack and you can power the light as long as your battery pack has power, then swap it when you need to. The only challenge you need to consider with this strategy is inclement weather. All of the best bike lights are weatherproof but almost always that requires the charging port to remain closed and sealed. 

How long should my bike light battery last?

Always overestimate your needs and underestimate the specs. If you are trying to ride through the night on an epic adventure the last thing you want to start worrying about is an ever-dwindling light supply. Look at how long your ride will last then make sure you have a light that gives a comfortable buffer. Then bring an extra just in case. 

For commuting things are a little less serious but you should still overestimate your needs. After a long day at work and a rainy ride home it's very easy to forget to charge your light. Longer battery is more convenient because you will need to charge it less. 

Whatever your need, keep in mind that brighter lights have bigger batteries and you can turn them down. A 2000 lumen light will require a bigger integrated battery than a 1000 lumen light because some people will need a reasonable burn time at full power. Instead, you can halve the power and double the burn time plus if you ever need more light, it's there. 

How do I mount a light to my bike?

For riding on the road, a single light mounted to your handlebars and seat post would be more than enough - mountain bikers often use a helmet-mounted light to illuminate where they are looking, but for road riding these aren’t necessary. 

Many lights will come with a plastic/silicone mount, however, some of the more heavy-duty bike lights will have a dedicated mounting bracket, often made from aluminium for extra security. 

With the advent of out-in-front computer mounts, there are plenty of options which see an action camera-style or brand-specific bracket on the underside; we like these as it cleans up your cockpit but still allows you to ride with a light. 

If you’re commuting and you need to secure your bike outside with a bike lock, look for lights that can be quickly removed without a multitool. 

Why are bike lights so expensive?

There are a lot of cheap, poorly constructed and unreliable options out there, and the truth of the matter is, you get what you pay for. The last thing you want is a light that fails mid-ride, especially a rear one that you're unlikely to notice right away. Therefore, it’s imperative that you invest in a set of bike lights from a reputable brand. While this might cost you a little more initially you can rest assured knowing they will last for years and often be covered by a warranty.

What is a StVZO light?

StVZO bike lights are named as such because they meet the requirements of Straßenverkehrs-Zulassungs-Ordnung, German Road Traffic Registration Regulations. They're specifically designed to shine a focused beam of light that points to the road ahead, rather than emitting a wide beam that spreads outwards and upwards and puts oncoming road users at risk of being blinded.tVZO bike lights are named as such because they meet the requirements of Straßenverkehrs-Zulassungs-Ordnung, German Road Traffic Registration Regulations. They're specifically designed to shine a focused beam of light that points to the road ahead, rather than emitting a wide beam that spreads outwards and upwards and puts oncoming road users at risk of being blinded.

As with all certifications, just because a light isn’t certified doesn’t mean it’s an issue. StVZO certification is a requirement in Germany. Outside of that market it’s not and as such it doesn’t always mean a non-StVZO light is going to blind everyone else. A good light will use an effective reflector to maximise brightness and battery life. Take care to aim it precisely and it’s unlikely to be an issue. There are also non-StVZO lights that prominently discuss the cutoff characteristics of their lights if you still have a concern. 

What is Lux and why aren't StVZO lights measured in Lumens?

In the majority of cases, the output of StVZO lights is measured in Lux rather than Lumens. Lux is used because it’s a measure of how much light is projected onto a surface (called luminance), whereas lumens simply refers to how much light can be produced. 

Lumens is all about potential, but Lux is about how much light you can actually use in the real world. 

How do we test bike lights?

The Cyclingnews tech team are a group of dedicated cyclists who cover thousands of kilometres, and miles, every year. We ride road, and gravel, bikes and just like you we do it after the sun goes down, or before it comes up. Some of us commute on bikes and some of us only head out on our bikes for fun. With all the miles covered, we need lighting and that means using the best bike lights available. 

We've pulled from our experience to put together a list of what we think are the best bike lights on the market for a variety of different situations. We've got the best front bike lights and the best rear bike lights and some of them are bike commuting lights while others will work best for adventures. We even pulled a few in that have special tricks like cameras and radar capability. 

Josh Ross

Josh hails from the Pacific Northwest of the United States but would prefer riding through the desert than the rain. He will happily talk for hours about the minutiae of cycling tech but also has an understanding that most people just want things to work. He is a road cyclist at heart and doesn't care much if those roads are paved, dirt, or digital. Although he rarely races, if you ask him to ride from sunrise to sunset the answer will be yes.
Height: 5'9"
Weight: 140 lb.
Rides: Cannondale Topstone Lefty, Cannondale CAAD9, Enve Melee, Look 795 Blade RS, Priority Continuum Onyx