The Best Bike Headlights to See and Be Seen on the Road

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Front lights are increasingly becoming a very important piece of accessories to have especially when it comes to safety. They serve 2 purposes; for you to see and be seen.

There are many things to consider such as the brightness levels, the number of light modes, battery life, and more. 

Since we began publishing this guide a few years ago, we’ve always kept an eye for newly launched products and are in constant contact with the manufacturers through direct contact, meeting up at bike expos (pre-COVID), and scouring press releases.

In making our picks, we focus on the objective criteria below :

  • Price points. Lights can cost anywhere from $20 up to $200. The more features, the higher the price. Our budget picks are between $50 to $70 and smart light picks usually range from $150+.
  • Brightness settings. The brightness you need depends on where and when you ride. We picked daytime riding lights that are much smaller, compact, and between 50 to 100 lumens. If you do mountain biking at night, you’ll need at least 1,200+ lumens. The sweet spot for road cycling (day and night) is between 400 to 800 lumens.
  • USB rechargeable lights make it more convenient and environmentally friendly. You can forget about disposable batteries.
  • LED Bulbs. There is a general consensus that LED bulbs last longer and is way more energy-efficient than traditional bulbs. 
  • Mount Compatibility. All our picks are known for their sturdy handlebar and helmet mounts. Depending on the models, they can be mounted either on top or in front of the handlebars. Some models can be mounted below the bike computer for a cleaner look.

Our Bike Headlight Recommendations​

Blackburn Dayblazer 1100

Best Value for Money

Blackburn Dayblazer 1100
Photo Credit : Lezyne
  • Max Output : 1,100 lumens (1 hour)
  • Weight : 140g

The Blackburn DayBlazer 1100 headlight is our value for money pick. It is the Dayblazer lineup’s second brightest light and ideal for riding along unlit backroads or even in the trails.

It runs for 1 hour at full power, 3.5 hours at 400 lumens, and up to 12 hours running on a 200 lumens Strobe mode. The lithium-ion battery takes 5 hours for a full recharge. The rubber strap mount provided can fit handlebars from 22 to 35mm. It can also fit on the helmet using the action camera mount.

The CNC (Computer Numerical Control) machined aluminum shell is IP67 rated according to ANSI FL1 standards. It is completely dustproof and waterproof when submerged in water up to 1 meter for 30 minutes.

  • Pros : Durable casing will withstand the harshest riding conditions.
  • Cons : Rubber strap mount can come loose over time.

Lezyne Micro Drive 800XL

Best Budget Pick

Lezyne Micro Pro Drive 800XL
Photo Credit : Lezyne
  • Max Output : 800 lumens (1 hour, 45 minutes)
  • Weight : 114g

The Lezyne Micro Drive Pro 800XL model is our top budget pick. It runs for 2 hours at 800 lumens brightness, making it more than enough for most road cyclists, even on unlit roads.

The lightweight aluminum body has cooling fins on the sides for effective heat dissipation when running on the brightest mode. The tactile, single button at the top makes it easy to operate. This same button also acts as the power switch and battery indicator.

The silicone mounting strap is compatible with 31.8mm handlebars. Best of all, it comes with a 2-year warranty compared to the standard 1 year for other brands.

  • Pros : 2 years warranty.
  • Cons : Too many modes (eight in total) makes toggling between modes a hassle.

NiteRider Swift 500

Best Cheap Option

NiteRider Swift 500
Photo Credit : NiteRider
  • Max Output : 500 lumens (1 hour, 40 minutes)
  • Weight : 82g

The NiteRider Swift 500 is for those looking for bike headlights under $50. While not packing as much punch as other lights on this list, it is still a solid choice with 500 lumens. The lens wraps around the sides, providing side visibility, especially when riding in urban areas.

The light beam has a good throw distance, lighting up unlit roads when riding up to 15mph. There are five light modes to choose from; 500 (High or Flash), 250 (Medium), 150 (Low), and 30 (Walk) lumens.

The Dupont® Fiberglass reinforced nylon body meets all ANSI-NEMA FL-1 standards for impact testing, water, and dust resistance (IP64).

  • Pros : Solid and durable casing.
  • Cons : Run time at full power is shorter than advertised.

Specialized Stix Elite 2

Best for Day Time

Specialized Stix Elite 2
Photo Credit : Specialized
  • Max Output : 200 lumens (10 hours)
  • Weight : 94g

The Specialized Stix Elite 2 model is a compact bicycle light for day time. Weighing in at 94g, it is unobtrusive on the handlebars when mounted in front of the stem faceplate.

The flexible mounting system is compatible with handlebars from 22.2 up to 35mm. The mounting stays on the handlebar and when you unplug the light unit to recharge its 540mAh battery.

It runs for 2.5 hours for 100 lumens at its brightest setting. The Power Flash mode runs at 200 lumens for 10 hours and up to 112 hours on the Eco Flash mode at 12 lumens. With three LED’s, the primary LED has a spherical shape for you to see, while the two secondary LEDs have a Fresnel lens to increase wide-angle visibility.

  • Pros : Compact and unobtrusive on the handlebars.
  • Cons : USB charging port gets finicky over time.

Exposure Lights Sirius MK9

Best Helmet Light

Exposure Sirius MK9
Photo Credit : Exposure Lights
  • Max Output : 850 lumens (1.5 hours)
  • Weight : 84g

The Exposure Lights Sirius MK9 model is a minimalist-looking headlight from the British brand for road and commuter cyclists. The anodized 6063 aluminum body has lightweight and solid given its 850 lumens output and a 2,900mAh lithium-ion battery.

It can run from 1.5 hours (850 lumens) to 36 hours on Flash mode. The Intelligent Thermal Management circuitry keeps the light output as efficient as possible vs battery consumption and ensures the body does not overheat.

There are 10 light modes to choose from using the Optimised Mode Selector (OMS) to suit your riding needs. It comes with a 2-year warranty. Beyond that period, you can send back the faulty unit to Exposure Lights for repairs.

  • Pros : Best warranty and repair service.
  • Cons : Programming the Optimised Mode Selector (OMS) can be confusing for first-time users.

NiteRider Lumina Dual 1800

Super Bright for Night Riding

NiteRider Lumina Dual 1800
Photo Credit : NiteRider
  • Max Output : 1,800 lumens (45 minutes)
  • Weight : 258g

South Californian brand, NiteRider makes its second appearance on our list with the NiteRider Lumina Dual 1800 model. It is very bright with dual LED’s to the point that it is more suited towards riding off-roads.

It is versatile with five brightness settings from 1,800 to 1,500, 700, 350, and 100. This means that you can use it to ride both on and off-road during the day and night.

While not being among the lightest headlight models around, it more than made this up with its brightness and versatility. It mounts on 31.8 and 35mm handlebars via a tool-free mounting mechanism.

  • Pros : Very versatile for all types of riding.
  • Cons : Uses a proprietary charging cable instead of standard micro USB.

Knog PWR Rider

Best USB Rechargeable

Knog PWR Rider
Photo Credit : Knog
  • Max Output : 450 lumens
  • Weight : 114g

The PWR Rider is the flagship model from Melbourne-based, Knog. The standout feature of this headlight is the built-in power bank feature. The 2,200mAh battery can double up to charge your smartphone and other USB devices to get you home safely.

At 450 lumens, it is bright enough for riding on well-lit roads during the night. You can program the light modes and brightness to suit your riding needs using their Modemaker app. Or, there are also 6 pre-programmed modes out from the box.

The silicone strap mounting is compatible with handlebars from 22.2 up to 35mm. Separate adapters are also available to mount under the bike computer or on the helmet.

  • Pros : Dual function as a light and battery pack. You can program the light modes through the app.
  • Cons : Bulkier than other 450 lumens models due to the larger battery size.

Lezyne Connect Smart

Best Light Set

Lezyne Connect Smart Pair
Photo Credit : Lezyne
  • Max Output : 1,000 lumens (front), 75 lumens (rear)
  • Weight : 153g (front), 45g (rear)

The Lezyne Connect Smart is a light set consisting of the Lezyne Connect Drive 1000XL headlight and KTV Smart 75 rear light. If you are in the market for both front and rear lights, give this light set serious consideration.

At 1,000 lumens, the Lezyne Connect Drive 1000XL hits the sweet spot for road riding. It has eight modes with a battery run time between 1.5 hours to 87 hours on the lowest Flash settings. The MOR (Maximum Optical Reflection) lens provides a uniform light beam with a good throw distance for unlit roads.

The Lezyne KTV Smart 75 rear light is compatible with both rounded and aero seatposts. It is completely waterproof and rated IPX7. So, you don’t need to worry about the rain damaging the internal electronics.

  • Pros : Solid build quality with enough lumens for road cyclists.
  • Cons : Rubber straps are prone to breaking over time.

Garmin Varia UT800

Best with Smart Features

Garmin Varia UT800 Smart Headlight
Photo Credit : Garmin
  • Max Output : 800 lumens (1.5 hours)
  • Weight : 130g

The Garmin Varia UT800 Smart Headlight is the only bike light offering from the leading GPS brand, Garmin. As such you can expect plenty of smart features not found on other models and it comes with premium pricing.

At 800 lumens and a burn time of 1.5 hours, this headlight is visible from 1 mile away. It senses the ambient light and uses your current speed reading from the bike computer to adjust its brightness. The faster you ride, the brighter it gets. The brightness is at 800 lumens at around 20mph.

The mounting is a thoughtful design. Rather than sitting on the handlebars like other GPS models, it sits below the bike computer mount. If your existing mount has a GoPro mount, then the Garmin Varia UT800 slots right in. Otherwise, you can use the various mounts provided or third-party ones such as Race Ware Direct.

  • Pros : Smart sensors adjust the light output according to riding conditions.
  • Cons : Only works with Garmin bike computers to access all its features.

Cycliq Fly12 CE

Best with Action Camera

Cycliq Fly12 CE
Photo Credit : Cycliq
  • Max Output : 600 lumens
  • Weight : 195g

The CYCLIQ FLY12 CE is developed out of Perth in Western Australia. They have a mission to make cyclists feel safer on the road after its founder, Kingsley Fiegert had many close encounters in the past while riding.

With a Feel safe. Record your ride motto, the CYCLIQ Fly12 CE is a combination of bike camera and headlight. The 600 lumens light can run for 4 hours with continuous video recording or 8 hours with the camera-only mode.

The 60 fps, 1080p camera, together with a 6-axis electronic image stabilization and a 135º wide-angle lens can capture all the action in HD. In the event of a crash, it will automatically lock up the before and after footage.

  • Pros : 2 in 1 package solves kills two birds with 1 stone (video footage + lights).
  • Cons : Heavy and bulky.

Frequently Asked Questions

How many lumens do I need for road cycling?

The ideal brightness is between 300 to 600 lumens. The Know PWR Rider and Niterider Swift 500 fall into this category. If you’re riding mostly along unlit bike paths, then you can go up to 800 lumens such as the Lezyne Micro Drive 800XL.

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.

Is it illegal to ride without lights at night?

Depending on where you’re located, it can be against the law to ride your 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.

What is a CREE LED?

CREE LED lights are manufactured by an American company, CREE who is the industry leader in LED lighting. It was started back in 1987 in North Carolina. Today, CREE manufactures top-quality lights and they are widely used indoors, outdoors, and in LED lights.

Lights such as the NiteRider Lumina Dual 1800 uses CREE LED.

Hisham Mirza

Hisham is a staff writer who has been with us for the past two years. He likes writing about gravel riding, and he’s always looking for new stories to tell our readers.