- Cris Arenas
The best front and back bike lights for road cycling.
Updated: Sep 25, 2022
It’s that time of the year. Daylight is shorter as days go by. As many other cyclists, you try to squeeze those rides (either early in the morning, or perhaps in the afternoon after work) before it gets too cold and dark out.
But regardless of the season, using lights when going for a ride makes sense for many reasons, being safety the number one: we need to be visible in the road, not only for drivers (although those are the ones who represent the highest risk for cyclists) but also for other cyclists sharing the road and even pedestrians.
There is no unanimous consensus on how many Lumens a bike light should have because it varies depending on the type of cycling you do. As a rough guide, here’s how to think about lighting:
100+ Lumens, to be best seen in daylight
50 to 200 Lumens, to be spotted immediately
400 to 600 Lumens, to see where you’re going
600+ Lumens, to see everything in your view
Light intensity is measured by Lumens. The higher the lumens, the brighter the light will be with the more visibility you gain.
Best headlights for road bikes
When it comes to front headlights, I’ve bought a range of options over the years for different light conditions. Depending on how early I start my ride and duration I pick the best light for the job. The range of bike lights to choose from have kept pace with lighting technology and I’ve selected what I consider to be the best headlights in the market that deliver top value, and performance.
Headlights for short distances on a road bike
Blackburn Click USB Front Light
My go-to light for twilight riding is the Blackburn USB Front Light. It's incredibly small and versatile but not the brightest. This little guy (1.9 x 0.7 x 1.2 in) delivers 60 lumens up to 3 hrs in flash mode.
This front and backlight combo has a very small form factor but don’t be fooled by its size: the front size delivers 200 lumens and the rear one 90, which is good enough to get you home safely.
Headlights for medium distances on a road bike
Best headlight for early morning riding
This is the light I use when I leave before twilight, and I know I will be out for 3 hours or more. Light & Motion is not a heavy light but provides 1000 lumens in the highest setting, which is more than plenty to illuminate the road. I have only used the highest setting a few times on trails when I need maximum visibility. For the road, the medium setting of 500 lumens (for 3hrs) works just fine.
Another great option is the NiteRider Lumina 900 Boost. A little heavier than the Light and Motion one, but for those not obsessed with weight, it’s a solid opton.
If weight, general quality and duration are important pricing starts around $25 and can go into the hundreds. If you don't need anything specialized, consider buying a used light and other used cycling gear to save money.
Bike tail lights for road bikes
Just as important as front lights, tail lights keep you visible to drivers, pedestrians and other cyclists. Tail lights have evolved significantly in the last years, with some lights even offering a radar option to let you know cars are coming by (Garmin Varia) or lights that adjust its brightness when you hit the brakes just like cars do. Tailgator is the leading supplier of auto adjusting lights.
The Ascher USB Rechargeable LED bike tail light is inexpensive offering 4 different flash modes and it has a long duration span for every charge: 9.5hr (full brightness) ,16hrs (half brightness), 10hrs (slow flashing), 11 hrs (fast flashing). It comes in a pack of two, so you can attach the light to your seat tube and a spare to attach to your helmet or saddle bag.
Our choices for the best bike tail light
The Hotshot is a dependable and reasonably priced light that keeps you visible to oncoming traffic. It is IP64 water resistant, so you can have peace of mind in case the rain shows up during your ride. A single charge will keep you visible for at least 4 hrs, one of the longest lasting lights on the market.
Night biking is about more than simply lighting. In recent years, a whole market of related safety gear has emerged and it seems like there’s no end in sight! Lights are also being designed for different types of riding for example bikepacking.
Garmin's Varia radars, will physically make you aware of and track cars as they approach, and the CatEye Sync range allows you to turn on several lights with the push of a single button.
More new devices are being introduced all the time, so have fun exploring the world of bike lighting. Remember, the essential guidelines have not changed: remain safe and visible.
Post your existing lights to upgrade to new ones on Pedal's app The Pedals mobile application is a platform where users can sell and buy used bikes, parts, clothing, & equipment locally.