Best Bike Lights for Safe Biking Even at Night

Last updated: February 03, 2020
Your guide

You may not think it, but bike lights are probably one of the most important things you can buy right after purchasing a bike. In fact, I would even go so far as to say that you shouldn’t really go out on the road without at least some kind of bike light.

For one, it allows you to see in a dark environment, whether it’s a city or a rural area. Secondly, and arguably more importantly, it lets other people on the road see you. You can avoid a ton of accidents and potential issues by just having a headlight and taillight. So, with that in mind, let’s take a look at some of the lights that may potentially save your life on the day.

If you’re looking for more safety upgrades for your bike, check out our guides on the best bike locks and some great bike computers.

Top 5 Bike Lights

There’s a variety of different bike lights out there on the market, and with so many different technical jargon flying around, it might become a little confusing. Don’t worry, once you understand the couple of basic things to look at, you’re going to be set to go!

Output: Lumens Rating

Lumens is a measurement standard just like foot or meter. In this case, lumens measure the amount of light produced by a source over a period of time. Of course, it’s a little bit more complicated than that, and there are physics and spheres involved, but what you really need to know is that lumens are essentially a measurement of light production. (Fun fact, the sun has 10,000 lumens per square foot, 66840000000000000000000000000 lumens).

setting up a bike light

Now, when talking about bike lights, you aren’t going to get that super high lumen, at least if you want your battery to last more than a couple of seconds. 

At a minimum, you should want to aim for 100-200 lumens if you’re in a city. Outside you’re going to aim for 600 or more. If you’re in a super-dark area that just doesn’t have a ton of light, well . . . the more lumens you can get the better, starting at 1k. 

Bike Light Mounts

There’s one ‘main’ type of bike light out there. Headlights or front lights are exactly that, lights that fit in the front of your bike, usually somewhere on the handlebar. This is the very least amount of bike lights you want, but it doesn’t end there . . . The rest of the bike lights are called general safety lights.

Tail Lights or rear lights are probably one of the most important safety lights you can get since it tells any potential driver behind you that you physically exist and they should take precautions to not hit you. If you think the front light is enough, you’d be wrong, and also surprised at how little you can see or discern from front lights when you’re in a car coming down the road.

Frame Lights are lights that fit on various places on your bike. These can also help visibility, and even be used to indicate turns if you’re inclined to go that way.

Helmet Lights are lights that go on the bike helmet and can either be front-facing or back-facing, so basically an extra set of front lights and rear lights.

bike tail light

Batteries: Rechargeable/Disposable

Most modern lights tend to come with rechargeable batteries, although there are a few there who don’t. While disposable batteries are great since you can just replace them if they run out in an emergency, the cost does pile up and it’s not super great for the environment.

On the other hand, most rechargeable batteries in bike lights can last about 3-4 hours, and if you’re worried you could always carry around a power bank or an extra set of lights to recharge them. Failing that, you could always carry a bike light with disposable batteries as an emergency light you can keep replacing batteries with until you get to safety.

1. Best Choice - Cycle Torch Shark 500

Key Features:

  • 500 Lumens
  • Rechargeable with an included cable
  • Flat Beam
  • Four modes to choose from
  • Six inches in length

Cycle Torch Shark 500 Review

Toeing the line between cost and value can be quite difficult, and the Shark 500 does a reasonably good job of it. For example, the rear light that comes with the package is made of machined aluminum and feels pretty premium. On the other hand, the headlight is made out of plastic, and yet it feels pretty solid and well built.

Speaking of the 500 Lumens headlight, it’s actually pretty interesting. Whereas most headlights tend to go for a rounded light which isn’t always super useful, the Shark 500 goes with more of a trapezoidal beam, which keeps the light where you need it. I accomplish this using shrouds, although because they aren’t mirrored or have a reflective surface, a lot of that light isn’t being used, which is a bit of a waste.

Thankfully mounting is relatively simple and should be reasonably easy on any bike, especially with the different harness sizes it comes with. Unfortunately, there is a little bit of vibration when going over bumps or bumpy roads, although they aren’t that bad and for the price you’re paying, they can certainly be worse. I should also mention that neither of the lights has a soft shell or rubber coating, so you might end up getting scuffs if you aren’t too careful.

Operation is pretty straightforward for these lights, with a press on the rear light switching it between settings. The same goes for the front light, although for that there’s a button you can press which makes it easier to deal with. The front light also changes colors to indicate power, so that’s certainly a handy feature to have.

The only real downside is that the rear light is not bright enough for day use, so not a super-great option if you commute to your work with a bike. On the other hand, the front light is 500 lumens, just as advertised, so that’s good.

Overall, the Cycle Torch Shark 500 is an excellent product for its price point, doing a good job being both cheap and good quality. Mounting is easy, and so is operation, although you might need to keep an eye out for mounting and vibrations scratching your bike. If you aren’t a heavy biker, then this is probably a great option for you.

Pros
  • Easy to attach and use
  • Very light and can be easily carried
  • Rechargeable front and rear light
Cons
  • Rear light not bright enough for day use
  • Light usage is not the most efficient

2. Premium Pick - Bright Eyes

Key Features:

  • 1600 Lumens
  • 5-hour charge on the highest setting
  • Fully waterproof
  • Comes with helmet attachment

Bright Eyes Fully Waterproof 1600 Lumen Review

If you’re a heavy-duty biker that needs the most light they can possibly get, then the Bright Eyes can probably meet any situation you might run into.

As you can tell from the name, this light can hit 1600 Lumens with its CREE T6 headlight and lasts around 5 hours if you use it on that strength. You can also bring it down to 800 Lumens, which is still quite powerful and lasts for around 10 hours. Finally, you can set it at a pretty low Lumens of 350, which can last 26 hours, although I don’t really see much use case for this.

In terms of the actual light, you get around 500 feet of solid light and a whopping 3,000 feet of more diffuse light. You also get a diffuser if you would prefer to just generally have more diffuse lighting (such as if you’re using this in a city with). The whole shebang also comes with a super-rugged 6,400 mAh battery which fits snugly and securely to the crossbar. 

Speaking of lights, you also get a rear light if you want, although this uses its own CR232 batteries, rather than draw off the rechargeable one. The light output is ok enough, and I’d mostly use it for backup along with another light if you can.

The only real issue with the light is that the mounting isn’t that great, mostly using Velcro straps, so you’re almost certainly going to have to add some more to that.

Similarly, the radius of the mount might not fit most crossbars that aren’t 1 inch in diameter, so there’s going to be a bit more jury-rigging. That being said, the head harness is reasonably good, so you shouldn’t have to worry about it too much.

One thing that I do particularly like is that it’s fully waterproof, so you can use it in pretty much any weather without any worry. 

The Bright Eyes 1600 Lumen is an excellent bike and general light at an excellent price. It has a pretty long-lasting battery, especially if you go with the medium setting. It does have an issue with the mounting, but it’s not an insurmountable issue and is certainly good enough.

Pros
  • Included tail light
  • Strobe setting
  • Great for a variety of activities
Cons
  • Mounting isn’t universal

3. Best Value - AUOPLUS Bike Lights

Key Features:

  • 800 Lumens
  • Rechargeable front and rear lights
  • Five light settings
  • IPX4 water resistance

AUOPLUS Bike Lights USB Rechargeable Review

A great option if you want to get something on the cheaper side but that isn’t necessarily budget, the AUOPLUS is a great option.

Much like the other lights on this list, it comes as a package of two lights: the front light and rear light, each using a different set of rechargeable batteries. Thankfully, both batteries are pretty good, with the rear light lasting you ages before needing a recharge. The front light, on the other hand, can last around 4 hours on the highest setting, and 40hours on the lowest, although with an 800 Lumens light, the low setting might not be useful beyond certain specific applications.

Mounting is a relatively painless process, with the front light having a bit more adjustability in terms of the crossbar (up to 28mm). Unfortunately, one of the problems here is that the front mounting isn’t that great, and it might start failing after a few months of use, which is unfortunate, but fair enough for the price. 

Similarly, the AUOPLUS is IPX4 water-resistant, which isn’t super great but should be enough for the majority of the weather outside of heavy rain. Either way, if you live somewhere that has torrential amounts of rainfall, then I’d suggest you go with the fully waterproof Bright Eyes. 

All in all, the AUOPLUS is a great overall bike light package, with front light and equally good rear light. Granted, it does have some issues with the mount, but it isn’t necessarily a deal-breaker at the price. Battery time is great, it recharges reasonably quickly, and it’s also relatively small, so it’s easy to carry around with you if you need to. 

Pros
  • A low beam that’s direct to the ground
  • Small and easy to carry around
  • Easy to Mount
Cons
  • Not fully waterproof

4. Best Budget - BLITZU Gator 390

Key Features:

  • 390 Lumens
  • Includes tail-light
  • Rechargeable batteries
  • Good usability
  • IPX4 Water-resistance

BLITZU Gator 390 Review

On the other hand, if you’re looking for a pretty great budget version for your bike, the Blitzu is a pretty good option. Of course, the first thing I’d probably mention is the 390 lumens, which isn’t much compared with the other lights on here, but it’s pretty adequate for the price.

You do get four different lighting modes, with the highest light level giving you around 2-3 hours of battery usage before the front light dies out (although the rear light can last a bit longer). Again, it might not seem amazing compared to the heavy hitters above, but for a budget option, it’s actually pretty impressive.

What’s equally impressive is that it’s IPX4 water-resistant, so it can handle quite a bit of adverse weather without potentially running into an issue. 

I should mention that the rear light is probably around 40 Lumens or so, therefore don’t expect a super strong light being shown off, although it’s more than enough to show up at night and warn drivers of your presence.

Similarly, the front light isn’t that strong either, and while it doesn’t have a super far throw like the more expensive lights, it’s enough for 300 feet and to see where you’re going. Unfortunately, just like the AUOPLUS, the Blitz does have a bit of an issue with the mounts, although for just under $20, that’s to be expected. 

There’s not much else to say about the Blitz except that it’s probably one of the best budget bike lights out there. 390 lumens may not seem like enough, but 300 feet of visibility isn’t’ bad for under $20, plus you get a rear light and IPX5 thrown in. If you don’t do a lot of biking and don’t want to spend a lot of money on lights, this is a great package.

Pros
  • Small and easy to carry
  • Easily removable from mount
  • Rear light can work in several different applications
Cons
  • Only 390 Lumens

5. Best Compact - Ascher USB

Key Features:

  • 120 Lumens each
  • Rechargeable
  • 650 mAh battery for each light
  • Four different light modes
  • IPX4 water-resistance

Ascher USB Rechargeable Bike Light Set Review

Sometimes, you don’t necessarily need a powerful light to see in front of you, especially if there’s a light of background light in the sky. As such, these small bike lights can be super useful and don’t require you to drop too much money on something fancy and expensive.

While the lights aren’t super powerful, at a lumen rating of 120, that’s reasonably good for the price your paying. Since ideally, you want to have as much light as you can, you could consider purchasing two of these sets, for a total of 240 lumens, plus it offers an extra layer of redundancy if one of the lights stop working.

Speaking of which the battery should last you around 3-4 hours on a full charge and on the highest light setting, which isn’t too bad considering how small they are.

What’s especially impressive is that these lights are IPX4, which for the price, they don’t really have to be. That means you don’t need to worry too much about the weather and causing wear and tear on the lights. On a similar note, since the lights are light and easy to mount, you can probably use them beyond just on your bike (a stroller in a city comes to mind).

Over the Ascher bike lights are really good at what they are: cheap lights. Yes, the lumens rating isn’t the greatest, but for just under $12, it’s not a bad proposition. That being said, if you are going into very dark areas, then you’re better off getting lumens of at least 600-1k.

Pros
  • Versatile
  • Small and easy to carry
  • Easy to mount
Cons
  • A charge doesn’t last that long

Bike Lights: Frequently Asked Questions

How Many Lumens Do I need for a Bike Light?

This varies a lot on where you use the light and the time of day. In the day time in 100-200 lumens should be enough to see and be seen in the city. In rural areas, you’ll probably want 500-600. If you’re going into the remote wilderness where it’s just incredibly dark, then 1000 lumens+ is the best bet.

Do You Need Lights on a Bike?

From a legal perspective, that can change from country to country, but putting the law aside for a moment (don’t worry, we’ll pick it up again!), having bike lights can be incredibly useful. For one, it actually lets you see at night where you might potentially go somewhere that has no other lighting. More importantly, by having front and rear lights you warn drivers of your presence on the road so that they can see and react to you, thereby saving your life.

Should My Bike Lights Flash?

Honestly? Not really, there’s no need for them in the modern-day and age where bike lights are powerful and battery life tends to be longer.

The issue with flashing lights is that they can be a bit dangerous, one because it could disorient drivers in-front of you and two, it might make it difficult for cars to judge their distance to you. A steady beam of light is the best option is to have a steady light always on. If you’re worried about running out of battery, I’d suggest getting a secondary emergency bike light for that situation.

What Should Cyclists Wear at Night?

Mostly reflective clothing, or even clothing that has LED lights on it. I’m not even talking about just a reflective vest here. Get reflective bands for your ankles and hands, shorts with LEDs on them, and any other light you can strap on yourself.

The more visible you are, the less likely you’re going to be hit by a car and don’t think you’re safe if you’re in a rural area, it’s more dangerous there because drivers won’t necessarily expect a cyclist on the road.

Best Bike Lights for Safe Biking Even at Night in 2020 — Bike Hacks