Are you after bike lights for night riding?
Well, look no further as I've done all the research work for you, picked and reviewed the best front lights you can buy today.
If you ride a lot at night and in the dark, a good and reliable lights set is a must have. The front and rear bike lights ensure you can see and be seen.
Other Reading : The 5 Best Bike Rear Lights
But before you jump straight into buying the bike lights, there are many things to consider such as the brightness levels, number of light modes, battery life, material used, quick release mounting types, beam patterns and more.
Further Reading : 6 Things to Consider Before Buying Bike Headlights
Here are my top 14 picks for the best bike lights.
- 1Cateye Volt 500XC
- 2Light and Motion Urban 650
- 3Lezyne Micro Drive 500XL
- 4Exposure Lights Trace
- 5Lezyne Zecto Drive
- 6Knog Blinder Mob Kid Grid
- 7Knog PWR Road
- 8Exposure Lights Sirius MK7
- 9Garmin Varia UT800
- 10See Sense ICON+
- 11Cycliq Fly12
- 12Exposure Lights Joystick MK12
- 13NiteRider Lumina Pro OLED 1100
- 14Cygolite Metro Pro 1100
Value for Money Bike Headlights
If you're looking for bike 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 road biking and commuting.
1. Cateye Volt 500XC
The Cateye Volt 500XC is great bike headlight for those who have a tight budget. It's also among of my 3 favorite bike headlights models below $50.
As far as the Cateye brand is concerned, you'll be getting top-notch Japanese quality and technology.
With the Cateye Volt 500XC, Cateye has updated its mounting design. It now uses rubber strap which is much easy to install and remove as compared to the previous plastic strap which was cumbersome and prone to breaking.
2. Light and Motion Urban 650
The Light and Motion Urban 650 is the smaller version of the popular Urban 900 which is availabl with the rear light, in a combo set.
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 needs.
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 has a run time of 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 lights 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 female USB recharging cable.
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 pack 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 has a run time of 2 hours at 750 lumens, or 4 hours at 375 lumens. It uses a special optical port for USB charging, but don't worry, this special cable is included in the box.
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 beam pattern 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 lights, 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˚field 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.
Super Bright 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 bikes. 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 a very popular among serious mountain bikes because it's one of the few compact bike headlights that has a run time of 1.5 hours at 1000 lumens, or 3 hours at 500 lumens, which will get you through most of your road cycling in the dark.
This is achieved through a patented, intelligent electronic circuitry inside the light that regulates light output, thermal management and beam patterns.
Couple this with a lightweight and durable CNC aluminium body and mounting, you have a real winner.
2. NiteRider Lumina Pro OLED 1100
A premium, super bright headlight by NiteRider with a OLED display on the top.
The multifunctional display on the NiteRider Lumina 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 lights with a wide beam pattern.
3. Cygolite Metro Pro 1100
This Cygolite Metro Pro 1100 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, the Cygolite Metro Pro is 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 light shines a solid beam pattern and a pulse simultaneously to alert oncoming vehicles.
Bike Headlights Buyer's Guide
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.
2. Headlight Visibility Range
Like I mentioned in the section above, most light manufacturers specify the brightness in lumens.
Take 2 different lights set with the same amount of lumens and their visibility range could differ.
It all depends on whether the light beam's patterns, 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.
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 Bicycle Lights
Now I don't see any reason why you should even consider non LED bike lights!
PRO TIP : Go for LED bicycle 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.
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.
PRO TIP : You don't need a bike light with the most number of light modes.
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 recommend to go with USB rechargeable batteries. Most usb rechargeable 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.
The chart above shows why Lithium based batteries are preferred, especially for small electronic devices.
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 rechargeable battery pack. Another reason is to avoid the battery pack 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 rechargeable battery. With this, you can have the option of carrying a spare rechargeable battery if you forgot to charge.
PRO TIP : You don't need a bike light with the most number of light modes.
6. Handlebar Mounted 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
Most bicycle lights are still designed to be mounted on top of the handlebars as its the most straightforward way.
Below the Bike Computer Unit
Some newer lights like the Light and Motion Urban 900 are designed to be mounted on both on the handlebars and below your cycling computer with a separate quick release 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.
In Front of the Bike Handlebars
Knog came up with a creative way of mounting the light which gives you the best of both worlds.
Frequently Asked Questions
1. How many lumens do I need for road cycling?
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. Is it illegal to bike without lights at night?
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.
For safety and visibility purposes, I strongly recommend you to use one.
3. What are CREE LED bicycle 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.