The 14 Best Bike Lights for 2019

Are you looking for the a bike lights?

Well, look no further as I've done all the research work for you and curated some of the best headlights available today.

If you ride a lot in the dark, a good set of bike lights is a must have.

Other Reading : The 5 Best Bike Tail Lights

But before you jump straight into buying, there are many things to consider such as brightness levels, number of light modes, battery life, material used, mounting types, beam types and more.

Further Reading : 6 Things to Consider Before Buying Bike Headlights and Bike Headlights FAQ.

Here are some of the best bike headlights which would suit your needs.

Value for Money Bike Headlights

If you're looking for headlights that provide the most value for your money, look no further than these 3 below.

They typically range between 500 to 700 lumens, bright enough for riding along lit roads.

1. Cateye Volt 500XC

This is a great bike headlight for those who have a tight budget. It's also among of my 3 favorite bike headlight models below $50.

As far as the Cateye brand is concerned, you'll be getting top-notch Japanese quality and technology.

With the 500XC, Cateye has updated its mounting design. It now uses rubber strap which is much easier to attach and remove as compared to the previous plastic strap which was cumbersome and prone to breaking.

2. Light and Motion Urban 650

Another winner from the Light and Motion brand. The Urban 650 is the smaller version of the popular Urban 900. 

The only significant difference the 2 models is the brightness level. At 650 lumens, it's ideal for everyday riding through well lit roads.

Other than that, you still get all the good stuffs Light and Motion is well known for; FL-1 certified, CREE LED and a durable, waterproof body but at a lower price point.

3. Lezyne Micro Drive 500XL

Don't be fooled by this small and compact headlight. It's seriously bright for its size at 500 lumens.

Couple this with the Enhanced Maximum Optical Reflection lens, you'll get built-in side visibility which is important for riding around urban areas.

If you're particular about colors, there's good news for you. There's a silver color model besides the standard black to choose from.

Compact Sized Bike Headlights

These are headlights that are small enough to fit into your palm.

Their brightness is between 80 to 120 lumens and are best used during the day to increase your visibility.

1. Exposure Lights Trace

Exposure Lights is a British brand known for manufacturing high quality bike lights.

At only 57mm long and weighing a mere 35g, the Trace is one of the smallest headlight available today.

But don't be fooled by its size. It still packs a punch at 110 lumens. It's best used during the day especially when riding around in urban areas.

With its Optimum Mode Selector (OMS) feature, you can easily toggle between 3 light modes to adjust the brightness vs battery life to your liking.

The body is made of aerospace quality, CNC machined aluminium to allow for efficient heat transfer and increased durability.

2. Lezyne Zecto Drive

The Zecto Drive has been around for a good 4+ years by now and continues to be very popular among cyclists. 

If you've been following Lezyne, you'll know that they manufacture some of the best cycling accessories today.

As with most things that work flawlessly, if it ain't broke, don't fix it.

This little bike light packs 250 lumens and can run for 4.5 hours on a flashing mode, ideal for use during the day time. 

3. Knog Blinder Mob Kid Grid

The Kid Grid is part of Knog's Blinder Mob's headlight line up.

What's unique about the Kid Grid is it uses 16 Surface Mounted LED that produces 80 lumens at its maximum brightness.

It comes with 5 light different modes which you can toggle between Steady High, Steady Low, Strobe, Fancy Flash, Eco Flash.

Another unique feature is its cable free charging, where you can insert the light directly into a USB charger port.

Great Looking Bike Headlights

If you're fussy over how the bike headlight look on your bike, these are for you.

Not only they look good and pro, they can be mounted beneath the bike computer so that they don't clutter the top of the handlebars.

1. Knog PWR Road

The PWR is Knog's latest addition to their already solid lineup of bike lights.

With the PWR Rider, not only you'll get 600 lumens of light output, but you'll also get a powerbank to go with it.

That's why it's called PWR to begin with.

The battery can be used to power the headlight as well as charge all your other electronic devices while riding. To put things in perspective, you can charge a iPhone7 from flat to 50% and do an hour of riding at 600 lumens.

Best of all, you can program the light modes to suit your needs through their ModeMaker app.

2. Exposure Lights Sirius MK7

The Sirius MK7 is a recent upgrade of the top rated Sirius MK6 model.

Exposure has bumped up the Sirius' brightness from 575 lumens up to 750 lumens in the MK7. There are 7 light modes to choose from, depending on your type of riding, location and duration.

With an upgraded electronic circuitry and battery, it can now run at 750 lumens for 2 hours, or 375 lumens for 4 hours.

You can even mount the Sirius below your bike computer using a small adapter, making way for a very clean handlebar.

Smart Bike Headlights

These bike lights are for the tech geeks, like myself. They come with built-in intelligence and can communicate with your phone via Bluetooth.

1. Garmin Varia UT800 

The Varia signifies Garmin's entry into the bike headlight market.

It comes with 800 lumens and 4 lighting modes - high, low, flashing and auto.

Being an intelligent headlight, it pairs with the Garmin Edge computers, allowing it to adjust the light beams according to your speed.

The faster your speed is, the farther away it shines and vice versa.

2. See Sense ICON+ 

This award winning headlight from See Sense packs a lot of features in it when paired with your smartphone.

Through the app, you can customise the brightness, flash patterns and light modes. It also has an anti-theft alert and can send crash notification to your nominated contact.

Coming in at 420 lumens, powered by 2x 210 lumens LED, it's ideal for riding around urban areas.

3. Cycliq Fly12

The unique thing bout the Fly12 is it combines a headlight with a HD bike camera. 

The ultra wide angle camera (135╦Üfield of view) records audio and video at full HD at 1080p, 60fps. It also has a High Dynamic Range (HDR) option which allows you to record videos with amazing clarity under difficult conditions. 

It can connect automatically when connected to the Garmin Edge computers via ANT+, or to your smartphone via Bluetooth.

The CycliqPlus software allows you to seamless overlay ride data (speed, HR, power, etc) onto the videos for quick sharing.

Brightest Bike Headlights

These are among the brightest you can use for road cycling, typically around 1100 lumens.

Of course there are brighter ones, but they're more for off road and mountain biking. You could blind oncoming cars if you use anything above 1100 lumens on the road.

1. Exposure Lights Joystick MK12

The first thing you'll notice about the Joystick is its price tag. Yes it's expensive and for a good reason.

It's probably one of a few compact bike headlights that can run for 1.5 hours at 1000 lumens, or 3 hours at 500 lumens, which will get you through most of your road riding in the dark. 

This is achieved through a patented, intelligent electronic circuitry inside the light that regulates power output, thermal management and beam coverage.

Couple this with a lightweight and durable CNC aluminium body and mounting, you have a real winner.

2. NiteRider Lumina OLED 1100

A premium, super bright headlight by NiteRider with a OLED display on the top.

The multifunctional display shows you exactly how much battery is left in percentage and run times so you don't have to worry running out of battery juice again.

This light is powered by the industry leading CREE LED with a wide beam pattern.

3. Cygolite Metro Pro 1100

This high end bike headlight from Cygolite is the first to exceed 1000 lumens with a single LED which is quite an achievement itself.

At 1100 lumens, it's suitable for both on and off road riding. There are 9 lighting modes to choose from; more than enough to cover all your riding needs.

The unique thing about Cygolite is the SteadyPulse mode where the LED shines a solid beam and a pulse simultaneously to alert oncoming vehicles.

6 Things to Consider Before Buying Bike Headlights

1. Type of Cycling You Do

I've seen many people make this mistake during their buying process.

They go for the one with the highest lumens they can afford. 

While this might be the safer option to go with, it's not always the right option and by knowing how lumens work, you might even save some money.

A higher lumens count doesn't necessarily means a brighter bike light.

PRO TIP : You don't need bike lights with the HIGHEST lumens count.

99% of bike light manufacturers today specify the brightness in terms of Lumens, except maybe for a German company, Busch & Muller.

While there is nothing wrong with using Lumens, there is another way to do it, which is better but less talked about.

Let me introduce you to the term Lux.

Lux vs Lumens

What's a Lux and why is it better interpretation of the brightness?

Imagine the car salesperson telling you that the gas tank of the car you're buying is 20 gallons. Would you know how far 20 gallons will last you? It depends on several factors, like the engine capacity right?

Lux is the measure of a light's intensity and it affects what you see.

  • Lumens: The unit used to represent the amount of light, aka brightness emitted by a single source.
  • Lux: The unit used to measure the amount of light in a specific area, a certain distance from the source. In other words, it's a measure of the light's intensity.
  • Beam Angle: The coverage of the light beam in front of you. A higher beam angle results in a diffused beam (lower lux), while a lower beam angle results in a focused beam (higher lux). A beam angle of around 20-30 degrees is what you should be looking for.
A photo explaining the difference between Lumens and Lux

2. Headlight Visibility Range

Like I mentioned in the section above, most light manufacturers specify the brightness in lumens. 

Take 2 different set of bike lights with the same amount of lumens and their visibility range could differ.

It all depends on whether the light beams are narrow or wide.

PRO TIP : For a headlight where you can clearly see 40-50 feet in front, the lumens count usually falls somewhere between 300 to 500 lumens.

How Fast Do You Usually Ride?

Let's assume for a second that you ride at 15mph and using a light with 50 feet of clear visibility.

With that, you'll have around 2.27s of reaction time. That's just about enough time for you to react to any hazards in front.

  • 10
  • 30
  • 50
  • 60
  • 70
  • 80
  • 100

3. Types of Light Bulbs (LED vs non LED)

Did you notice that most bike lights in the market today use LED or Light Emitting Diodes?

Well, there's a reason for that.

Benefits of Using LED Bike Lights

  • Energy Efficient: High quality LED are 80-90% more energy efficient than traditional light bulbs which means that you'll have longer battery life on your bike lights.
  • Less Heat: Up to 95% of the energy in LED are converted to light and only around 5% is wasted as heat. Compared to traditional bulbs, which does the exact opposite - 95% into heat and 5% into light!
  • Longer Durability: LED are generally don't 'burn out' or simply fail. Overtime, they experience what industry experts call lumens depreciation, whereby its brightness gradually decreases.
  • Light Direction: LED emit lights in a specific direction. This property of LED enables bike light manufacturers to accurately control the light beams to shine to where matters most.

Now I don't see any reason why you should even consider non LED bike lights!

PRO TIP : Go for LED bike lights as they're small, energy efficient and last forever (well, almost).

4. Number of Light Modes

Most bike headlights these days comes with at least 4 modes; the standard High, Medium, Low and Flash mode.

Some goes as high as 10+ like the Knog Blinder Arc 400.

From my experience, it doesn't matter how many modes are there. It's just a numbers game for the manufacturers to look better than their competitors.

What's more important is how you use the the light modes.

PRO TIP : You don't need a bike light with the most number of light modes.

However, it's important that you buy headlights with Flash/Strobe mode.

Most headlights today have them. But for some strange reasons, there are still lights without them.

5. Good Battery Life

You can still find bike lights using disposable alkaline batteries today in the market.

For a longer battery life and durability, I'd you go with rechargeable batteries. Most bike lights either use the Lithium Ion (Li-Ion) or Lithium Polymer (Li-Pro) batteries today as they are lighter, smaller and has much more capacity. 

There were major advancement made in lithium batteries in the past 5 years so it's just not worth the effort to keep replacing batteries, especially if you use the bike lights on a daily basis.

A chart depicting the types of batteries vs run times

The chart above shows why Lithium based batteries are preferred, especially for small electronic devices.

  • For the same weight, Lithium based batteries hold more charge.
  • For the same volume, Lithium based batteries hold more charge.

Size, battery capacity and battery life are relatively proportional. A longer battery life would require a larger battery capacity and hence a larger size.

That's the reason why lights with above 1000 lumens comes with a separate battery pack. Another reason is to avoid the battery overheating the entire light body.

What's considered a good battery life?

Some lights like the Cygolite Expilion 850 takes things up a notch with a user replaceable battery. With this, you can have the option of carrying a spare battery if you forgot to charge.

PRO TIP : You don't need a bike light with the most number of light modes.

6. Headlight Mounting Options

With most bicycle lights today, the 2 most popular mounting options are using straps mounts and clamp mounts.

When it comes to mounting locations, there are various options available, depending on the design of the light.

On Top of the Bike Handlebars

Knog PWR Rider Bike Headlights

Most bicycle lights are still designed to be mounted on top of the handlebars as its the most straightforward way.

  • Easy access to the buttons, to adjust the tilt and to tighten the straps
  • Crammed cockpit, especially on narrower handlebars below 40 cm wide

Below the Bike Computer Unit

Light and Motion Urbans GPS Mount

Some newer lights like the Light & Motion Urban 900 are designed to be mounted on both on the handlebars and below your cycling computer with a separate mounting kit. 

It certainly looks better with this but it does come with a downside; it's harder to access the light and buttons while riding.

  • Very clean cockpit look as the light is out of your sight
  • Buttons are not easily accessible while you're riding

In Front of the Bike Handlebars

Knog Blinder Road 400 Headlights

Knog came up with a creative way of mounting the light which gives you the best of both worlds.

  • Clean cockpit look
  • Handlebars might be a little crammed if you're using a narrow one below 40cm

Frequently Asked Questions

1. How many lumens do I need for a good set of bike headlights?

In normal circumstances, the ideal range is between 300 to 600 lumens if you're riding along lit road. If you're riding mostly along unlit bike paths, then you can go up to 800 lumens. 

As I've mentioned above, you don't need the highest lumens for 2 very simple reasons. If you're riding on the road, you could risk blinding the oncoming cars.

Secondly, running on the brightest mode will significantly shorten the battery life.

2. Are bike lights a legal requirement?

It depends on where you're located. But for safety and visibility purposes, I strongly recommend you to use one.

There are local bike laws in every state in the U.S. that regulates how bicycle lights are used. There are also similar laws in the U.K. and Germany.

While each state might have a subtle difference between them, it's generally accepted that you should have both active and passive lighting on your bike.

3. What are CREE LED bike lights?

Good that you asked! You've probably noticed the word CREE in many of the bike lights' description.

CREE is an American company who is an industry leader in LED lighting today. It was started back in 1987 in North Carolina. 

Today, CREE manufactures top quality lights and they are widely used in indoor, outdoors and to LED bike lights.