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The 8 Best Bike Lights of 2021

Not only does “Crazyboy” sound like the best company to make great bike lights for children, the bike light system with a horn from Crazyboy is perfect for the versatility and safety kids need for cycling. This light system is tough, functional, and fun enough for just about any kid who loves biking.

Ideally, children should not be riding in the dark, however, if he or she is caught in a storm, dusk or nightfall, the Crazyboy light provides excellent visibility. The white LED headlight, which mounts to the handlebars, has three light modes and can help kids easily see the street in front of them. The rear light is a vertical, red LED bar and has four light modes. Both lights have USB rechargeable batteries, quick-release attachments, and are waterproof.

An added feature to the Crazyboy lights is the 120-decibel horn on the headlight. While kids may enjoy this feature when riding around with their friends and playing on their bikes, the horn adds an extra level of safety, giving kids the chance to warn others of their presence when they ride.


Best bike lights: Front and rear lights to help you see and be seen

The best bike lights will not only help you to see where you're going after dark, they also keep you visible to traffic at any time of day. In fact, many brands recommend using lights during the day as well as the night, particularly in fog, low light and rain, to promote safer cycling as well as to improve awareness among motorists.

If you consider that most cycling collisions occur during the day, it’s probably worth investing in a daytime running light (DRL) with multiple modes that can also serve as a night light. Most contemporary bike lights offer varying degrees of brightness, battery life and flash patterns, and have a built-in DRL function — the output of which is measured in lumens.

Like everything else in the bike industry, the best bike lights are improving at a rate of knots with options available for all types of riders and terrain types. Whether you're a seasoned cyclist or currently running through our commuter bike accessories checklist to ready yourself for the return to the office, there are plenty of great options listed here.

To keep things as simple as possible, we've broken our list down into three sections: best front lights, best rear lights, and best light sets. We usually recommend buying your lights as a set because they tend to offer better value for money, however if you have very specific needs, or you just want to have full control over what you buy, you may want to mix and match from the other two lists. 

Read on for our recommendations, or jump ahead to read about how to choose the best bike lights.

Jump to the lights you need:

Best front bike lights

Giant Recon HL1600

Excellent power for the price, good mount and decent run-time with smart auto mode

Lumens: 1,600 | Battery: Lithium-ion, up to 100hrs | Mounts: Quick release | Price: £99.99 / $TBC / AU$TBC

Powerful for price

Decent battery life

Loads of modes

Auto mode

Very secure bar bracket

Out front and GoPro mounts

Limited battery comms

Switches on accidentally

Wasteful beam

Giant's Recon HL1600 is one of the best bike lights on the market, and the most powerful in the brand's HL range. Not only does it put out a whopping 1,600 lumens for dazzling brightness, it has a solid and reliable mount, as well as a very decent battery life of up to 100 hours of run time.

The Recon puts out an even beam without any distracting sudden edges or holes, and the beam pattern points slightly downwards so as to light up the path or road ahead. While its long battery life is based on running it in more eco modes, it still boasts 100 minutes of full-power running, which should be perfect for you getting you out of a poorly lit area.

Garmin Varia UT 800

Light at any speed

Lumens: 800 | Battery: Internal | Mounts: GoPro-style and Garmin quarter turn | Price: £149 / $100 / AU$249

Beam auto-adjusts based on speed


Only works within the Garmin eco-system

There is nothing worse than outrunning the beam on your light on a ride after dark, and it can lead to some pretty scary moments on the bike. Garmin’s Varia UT 800 light aims to prevent just that by working with your Edge head unit to tailor the light to your speed.

The Varia light sends just the right amount of light down the road to match the speed you are riding. Unfortunately for the time being the ‘smart’ functions of the Varia are restricted to the Garmin cycling computers.

Using a single CREE LED, Garmin says it offers 270-degrees of nighttime visibility and can be seen up to a mile (1.6km) away during the day. At full blast, this front bike light will last a little over an hour and the light uses a GoPro-style mount or can be paired with Garmin’s universal out-front mounts using the quarter-turn adaptor. 

Knog PWR Road

Modular light that doubles as a powerbank

Lumens: 600 | Battery: Modular | Mounts: Quick release | Price: £85 / $90 / AU$120

Swappable battery and heads, battery doubles up as power bank

Light modes customisable through app

Lots of pieces to lose

Can't charge your phone and use the light at the same time

Not that bright

Knog’s PWR lights are an innovative idea that pairs a light head to a battery pack, allowing you to customise the pieces depending on your riding situation. With a quick-release bar mount, the battery doubles as a power bank should you need to top up your phone or head unit — although you can't use the light at the same time. 

The light gives you 600 lumens of brightness and throws a nice oval-shaped beam that you’re unlikely to outrun. Swapping between light modes is done by twisting the head, easily performed even with thick gloves, and the light modes themselves can be customised through the brand's ModeMaker app. 

Even though the lights pull apart, they are fully sealed from dust and moisture.

Lezyne Mini Drive 400 XL

Best brightness bang for buck

Lumens: 400 | Battery: Internal | Mounts: Silicone | Price: £30 / $29.99 / AU$N/A


Value for money

Battery life could be better

Packing 400 lumens into an extremely compact unit, the Lezyne Mini Drive 400 features what it calls a MOR (Maximum Optical Reflection) lens to focus every lumen into the best possible beam pattern. Side reflectors help other road users see you when the light isn’t painting in their direction, and the CNC-machined casing does well to dissipate heat and resist the elements.

With seven modes (three solid, four flash modes, including a daytime flash) the light has built-in mode memory so the light returns to the mode it was in before being turned off. A simple silicone mount makes for a stable and faff-free install. 

There is no need to rummage around for a charging cable as the Mini Drive 400 XL has a built-in USB stick that plugs directly into your computer or wall plug and a charge indicator lets you know how much battery the light has. 

Cycliq Fly12

The best front bike light with an inbuilt camera

Lumens: 600 | Battery: Internal | Mounts: Go-Pro style | Price: £255 / $279 / AU$399

Inbuilt camera can record badly-behaving drivers

Very expensive

The beam isn't that powerful

What started as a Kickstarter project spurred on by a time Kingsley Fiegert, Co-Founder of Cycliq, was hit with an object flung from a slingshot out of a passing car, has turned into full-coverage front- and rear-light camera combos. The Fly12 is the front-facing piece of the puzzle and pairs 600 lumens to a full 1080p camera with built-in stabilisation, 60fps capability and a 135-degree field of view - something that no other light on the market can offer (except for Cycliq's own Fly6 rear).

The light itself throws out a well-shaped beam for nighttime riding and features a home-safe mode where if the battery drops below five per cent the camera cuts out to extend run time. 

The light also features Bluetooth and ANT+ connectivity, an accompanying app, and a bike alarm, too.

Exposure Strada MK10 SL

A dedicated road beam in a durable, well made unit

Lumens: 900 | Battery: Internal | Mounts: Bar and helmet | Price: £210 / $287 / AU$410

Bright and compact spotlight

Remote switch for easy access


Six-hour charge time

With a 900-lumen output, the Strada MK10 SL has Cree LEDs, is cable-free and features a road-specific beam which is optimised to light up the tarmac without blinding oncoming traffic.

The 3400mAH lithium-ion battery will give you two hours at full brightness and up to 36 hours on lower modes. The six-hour charge time isn't as fast as some of its contemporaries, but weighing in at 386g and at 100mm x 44mm in size, it's a compact front light that is built to last.

While we think the 900-Lumen MK10 SL is the best option, the Strada MK10 is available in three variations, topping out with the 1500-lumen MK10 SB (Super Bright).

Compatible with bars from 31.8mm to 35mm, it can be used on both your road and mountain bikes, but it's certainly designed for pounding the pavement.

The light features Exposure's OMS (Optimised Mode Selector) with a choice of 10 programs, so you shouldn't have any trouble finding the right brightness for your ride. Like all Exposure products, it's anything but cheap; however, in our experience, it's an investment that is well worth the cash.

Lezyne Micro Drive Pro 800XL

A solid and reliable light for daily use

Lumens: 800 | Battery: Internal | Mounts: Quick release | Price: £60.00 / $69.99 / AU$71.46

Easy to mount

Great beam pattern

Long running time

Lots of modes

Would benefit from better side visibility

The Lezyne Micro Drive Pro 800XL is a solid and reliable light that arguably provides one of the best power-to-price ratios available. With two LEDs sat side by side, the Micro Drive Pro 800XL emits a wide central beam with a large-coverage diffused light surrounding it. It throws out sufficient light to illuminate the road ahead while still maintaining a steady pace.

In terms of build quality it feels bombproof, and represents excellent value for money. It comes with eight light modes (great for some, while maybe too many for others), with a claimed run time ranging from 1 hour 45 minutes at full 800 lumen capacity, to 87 hours in its dimmest setting.

It comes with a non-removable rubber strap, making it easy to mount to all bars, and you can check the battery life by tapping the power button. Finally, the light it emits has a slight green cast to it, so if you find the bright white of other brands' lights, these might be for you.

Bontrager Ion Pro RT

A versatile and powerful front light that performs exceptionally well

Lumens: 1,300 | Battery: Internal | Mounts: Quick release | Price: £99.99 / $129.99 / AU$189.99

High power output

Well-focused beam pattern

Warm, yellow light colour

No sideways adjustment

When it comes to powerful brightness and a consistent beam pattern, the Bontrager Ion Pro RT is difficult to beat. It produces a warm, yellow beam with up to 1,300 lumens on offer, without any glare, and that feels easy on the eyes. The beam pattern it emits is also well-focused and soft at the edges, making for clear illumination when riding at night.

It comes with give light modes to choose from, ranging from the full 1,300 lumen output down to 400 when preserving battery life. At the sides it emits small amber beams for increased visibility at junctions, and thanks to its Bluetooth connectivity you can sync it with a Garmin to monitor its battery life.

Cateye Volt 800

A high intensity beam well suited to unlit roads

Lumens: 800 | Battery: Internal | Mounts: Quick release | Price: £89.99 / €115

Robust build

Lots of light options

Well-focused bright beam pattern

A little heavy

Cateye's Volt 800 feels robust and well-built, if a little heavy at 134g. However if you're not counting the grams, it makes an excellent light riding in unlit areas, whether it's cruising along country lanes or getting from one side of the city to another.

It comes with five modes to choose from, with three constant beam options and two flashing. Its maximum run time is claimed to be 80 hours on its flashing mode, while running consistently at 800 lumens maxes out around 2 hours.

It comes with a plastic bracket that stays affixed to your bars, which the light can be easily mounted onto and then removed in seconds. It's claimed to be weather resistant as well, which is an added bonus.

Best rear bike lights

Topeak Taillux 100

Compact yet super powerful with neat seat tube profile and excellent reliability

Lumens: 100 | Battery: Lithium Ion, up to 30hrs | Mounts: Silicone band | Price: £36.99 / $44.95 / AU$39.99

Brutally bright

Super reliable


Long battery life

Well priced


USB C connection

Dimmer from the sides

Topeak's Taillux range comes with three models, with the 100 being its most powerful. Despite being brutally bright, it's also super compact and has a neat fitting system for all seat posts. It's loaded up with six powerful LEDs alongside three emitters up the centre, and it toggles through four different lighting modes that sequence the two sets of LEDs in different patterns.

Topeak claims that the Taillux 100 makes you visible up to a distance of 3.2km, and from our own experience with it, we reckon that's about right. It's IXP6 waterproof-rated, making it a great option for riding in all weathers, and it doesn't even cost an arm and a leg - what's not to love?

Moon Nebula

One of the brightest and most affordable bike lights in the segment

Lumens: 180 | Battery: Li-Poly USB, 16 hours | Mounts: Silicone band | Price: £39.99 / $50.78 / AU$50.78

A lot of brightness for the price

Multiple modes

Compact design 

Highest setting can be too bright

The Moon Nebula is one of the lightest, brightest and most affordable rear bike lights on the market. Rated at 180 lumens in its highest mode, the Nebula is incredibly bright which makes it an ideal option for those who spend a lot of time in the saddle during the day.

That said it does possess eight modes which differ in terms of brightness and flash patterns. The 20-lumen flash mode is the most economic setting providing a good balance between visibility and battery life, nearly 20 hours.

In terms of mounting, the Nebula can be fixed to the seat post, saddle and helmet in both a horizontal and vertical format. Everything from universal brackets, clips and rubberised o-rings are included in the package. This is an excellent overall rear light. 

Lezyne Zecto Drive Max

Ultra-compact in design, the Lezyne Zecto Drive Max is one for the minimalists

Lumens: 250 | Battery: Li-ion USB, 24 hours | Mounts: Silicone band | Price: £48 / $49.99 / AU$73.49

High brightness

Multiple modes

Rubber strap mounting system doesn't play nicely with thinner/aero seatposts

The Lezyne Zecto Drive Max might be one of smallest rear lights on the market but it’s also one of the hardiest units, too. Built to last, it benefits from a two-piece, plastic outer shell which mounts securely to the seat post via a rubberised band.

Each of the eight modes is controlled through the power button on the top of the unit — press and hold to switch it on or off and then a single click to scroll through each mode. The most powerful setting is the 250-lumen day flash, which is claimed to last an impressive nine hours, followed by the 125-lumen flash and 35-lumen steady blast.

The Zecto Drive Max also benefits from a nifty ‘mode memory’ feature which returns to the last selected mode each time the light is turned back on.

Garmin Varia RTL510 radar rear light

A pricey add-on but the early warning system makes it worth every penny

Lumens: 65 | Battery: Li-ion USB, 16 hours | Mounts: Garmin quarter-turn mount / silicone band | Price: £169.99 / $199.99 / AU$299

Warning-detection system

Smart connectivity to be controlled by bike computer

Good visibility 



Ideal for nervous riders or those who commute on dangerous and congested roads, the Varia RTL510 is a great piece of kit. It provides visual and audible alerts to warn of vehicles approaching from behind up to 140 metres and can be synced to a dedicated radar display unit or paired with a Garmin Edge computer.

Doubling up as a 65-lumen tail light, it offers day-time visibility of up to 1.6km (1 mile) within a 220-degree range.

In terms of battery life, the Varia RTL510 is on par with the Bontrager Flare RT with a maximum running time of 15 hours in flashing mode or six hours in steady- or night-flashing mode.

Lezyne Strip Drive Pro

The best rear bike light for daytime riding

Lumens: 300 | Battery: Li-ion USB, 53 hours | Mounts: Silicone band | Price: £50 / $54.99

Very powerful beam

Multiple modes

Universal fit 

USB plug can make charging awkward

As the company’s flagship rear bike light, the Lezyne Strip Drive Pro boasts some impressive features including a 300-lumen daytime flashing mode and a 53-hour battery life.

With 11 different output modes to choose from – including three constant modes, six flashing modes and two daytime flashing modes – the Strip Drive Pro caters for all types of riding conditions and disciplines.

Unlike its rivals, the Strip Drive uses an integrated cable-free USB stick for recharging purposes — a nifty feature but the chunky body housing can get in the way when mating it with certain laptops and charging devices.

Cateye Rapid X3

One of the brightest, most adaptable rear bike lights money can buy

Lumens: 150 | Battery: Li-ion USB, 30 hours | Mounts: Silicone band | Price: £49 / $40 / AU$59

Powerful beam

Offers great visibility

Easy to fit and remove

Battery lasts just one hour in the most powerful setting

The Rapid X3 is the most powerful rear bike light in Cateye’s range, doubling the brightness of the company’s popular X2 with an output rated at 150 lumens (maximum power mode).

In this setting, the light will stay on for around one hour - not great by any stretch - but there are five alternative settings including a 30-lumen flashing mode that boasts a 30-hour battery life.

The X3’s narrow profile and rubber-band-style mount means it’s compatible with most bicycles and can be attached to any part of the frame including round and aero seatposts, seat-stays, handlebars and forks. 

Exposure Blaze MK2 DayBright

A dazzling light that slices through pollution to make sure you're visible

Lumens: 80 | Battery: Internal | Mount: Quick release | Price: £95 / €114 / $130.15

Powerful output

Upward facing for visibility

Long run time

Mounting options are limited

Over-complicated mode selection

Whether you're riding at night or day, it's important to be seen by drivers coming up behind you. The Exposure Blaze MK2 DayBright is, as the name suggests, designed to improve visibility in daylight hours.

It achieves this by putting out a powerful 80 lumens (which is quite high for a rear light, generally), while its unique design points the beam upwards slightly in order to make it as visible as possible. It also emits light from the sides for added visibility at junctions and when joining traffic.

It has six modes, including two functions called REAKT and Peloton. The former is a motion sensor that automatically adjusts the beam output accordingly and also doubles up as a brake light when you slow down. The latter, as its name hints at, is for use in group riding conditions and it emits a slightly dimmer beam to avoid dazzling your team mates. While these functions are excellent, selecting them is quite complicated, so that's worth bearing in mind.

Best light sets

Bontrager Ion 200 RT & Flare RT

Compact yet powerful lights that punch well above their weight

Lumens: 200 / 90 | Battery: 420Li-Poly USB, 15 hours | Mounts : Silicone and Blendr | Price: £84.99 / $114.99

Daytime visible from 2k away

ANT+ connectivity

Garmin only ANT+ control

Battery life could be better

Bontrager claims the Ion 200 RT and Flare RT are visible from up to 2km away in daylight. With only 200 lumens of power up front and 90 at the rear, the lens focuses the light into a retina-burning flash that makes it one of the best bike lights for drawing attention.

Both use a silicone mount or Trek’s Blendr mounting system, and also have a built-in ambient light sensor to auto-adjust brightness for maximum 'be-seen' visibility. The beam pattern isn’t ideal for lighting up the road, so if you’re riding without streetlights after dark, we suggest looking at something with a higher lumen count and a more focussed beam pattern. 

The Ion 200 RT and Flare RT are ANT+ and Bluetooth compatible and can be paired with your Garmin head unit to show battery status, change the light setting or toggle on/off.

Finally there’s a neat battery-saver mode that provides an additional 30 minutes of power when the charge drops to five percent.

See.Sense Icon2 Front and Rear Set

Interactive and smart, the See.Sense Icon2 set has every base covered

Lumens: 400 / 300 | Battery: Li-Ion USB, 16 hours | Mounts: Silicone strap | Price: £149.99 / $217.00

Smart connectivity

Excellent visibility

Additional safety features

May be over-budget for some

With 400 lumens up front and 300 at the rear, the See.Sense Icon2 light set uses both a high-powered CREE LED (visible from up to 3km away) and a CoB LED panel which gives a wide dispersion of light and 270-degree range of side visibility.

Like its forebear, the Icon+, the Icon2 connects to a smartphone through an app where you can customise the flash patterns and brightness as well as monitor the battery level. It can also be set up as distress beacon if you crash and an alarm in the event that your bike gets stolen.

GPS is used to alter attributes such as flash rate and brightness when approaching intersections and roundabouts or when cars are approaching by sensing the headlights. There’s also a new brake mode on the rear light which provides a constant beam as you reduce your speed reverting to the previous setting as you start pedalling again.

Lezyne Lite Drive 1000XL & Strip Pro Light Pair

A powerful multi-purpose bike light set with big battery life

Lumens: 1000 / 300 | Battery: Li-ion USB, 87 hours | Mounts: Silicone band | Price: £115.00 / $109.99

Day flash mode

High powered

Huge battery life

8 modes might be too many to scroll through

If you're looking for a set of lights with a decent power output and a big battery life, you could do much worse than the Lezyne Lite Drive 1000XL and Strip Pro Light Pair. The rugged set of lights put out 1000 lumens at the front and 300 at the back, emitting a powerful and wide beam for good night-time visibility.

With eight different modes to choose from, there's definitely a lot of versatility there, and when running on the lowest mode it can keep going for up to a whopping 87 hours. For the forgetful commuter, this could be a one-charge-a-week job.

Of the many modes included is a Day Flash mode, which is designed to help drivers to see you better even in daylight, though you might find yourself succumbing to mode-fatigue, as it can take a while to scroll through all of them to find the one you want.

Blackburn Dayblazer 800 Front & 65 Rear Light Set

One of the best value bike light sets

Lumens: 800 / 65 | Battery: Li-Poly USB, 6 hours | Mounts: Silicone | Price: £79.99 / $84.99

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Having the best bike lights could literally save your life. Not kidding. One of the most essential pieces of kit for any rider after a good bike helmet, bike lights are the tech that keep you seen and safe on the roads. And, whilst we're not going to nag, we are going to heavily suggest you invest in whichever fits your budget and keeps you riding happy.

We've done the leg work for your leg work (geddit?) and rounded up 11 of the best on the market RN. Whether your budget is shy of £10 or over £100+, there's an option for all. Just make sure you snap some up – especially if you're riding at night. WH orders.

11 best bike lights to buy today

1Balhvit Super Bright USB Rechargeable Bicycle Lights – Set of 2



If you're a keen mountain biker, these durable gems will keep you secure and seen in the dark – no matter how rough the road. Waterproof and rechargeable, with a six hour battery life from full charge you can't go wrong for £12.99.

  • Rechargeable via USB
  • Waterproof
  • 6 hour battery life from full charge
  • 4 light mode options
  • Super bright lights

2Challenge 2 Piece Silicone Bike Light Set



A cheap option at £6.99, this silicone set of two will keep you visible cycling in low light. The 'stretch and clip' design fits around handlebars easily, while the three light modes (full on, quick flash and slow flash) work to keep you seen. 

  • Stretchy strap for easy handlebar fit
  • 3 light modes

3Ascher Rechargeable LED Bike Lights Set



A front light, tail light duo, attach these lights to your handlebars, bike helmet, backpack or under your seat for max visibility. 

  • Rechargeable via USB
  • Multi-function – use for camping and hiking too
  • 5 hour battery light on front light at full brightness
  • 9.5 hour battery life on taillight at full brightness
  • Waterproof

4Beryl Pixel Duo Light


The got-to light for keen cyclist and runner, WH acting digital editor, Ces Menato. This clever little bit of tech has two colour options, red or white, so perfect if you need to quick switch. Also, the clip on option makes it ideal for dark early morning runs too.

  • Dual colour – red or white
  • Can be either a front or a rear light
  • Multifunction – use for walking/running too
  • Solid and heartbeat mode for both colours
  • 10 hour battery life from full charge

5LXL USB Rechargeable Super Bike Headlight and Back Light Set,



Fitting all bicycles this front and back light combo will keep you seen and safe on the roads. The powerful front light is over 600 Lumen (think: bright) and has a run time of over 10 hours. Get in. 

  • Rechargeable via USB
  • Front light can be used as an emergency flashlight
  • 5 light mode options
  • Water resistant
  • Taillight included

6Ascher USB Rechargeable Bike Light Set,Super Bright Front Headlight and Rear LED Bicycle Light,650mah Lithium Battery,4 Light Mode Options(2 USB cables and 4 Strap Included)


Another great option – they have over 6500 5* reviews on Amazon – this light duo comes in at under £8 and more than does the job. Rechargeable, super bright, with four light modes, stay safe on the roads as the light draws in. 

  • Rechargeable via USB
  • Super bright
  • 4 light modes

7LifeLine ORI 1700 Lumen Power Bank Front Light




Straight up, this one's spenny. At over 100 squids, it's not something you purchase on a whim. But, for your cash, you do get a helluva lot. Chucking out 1700 Lumen (super bright) plus 3 LEDs (one central and two side beams), a battery level indicator and a USB power bank, staying seen as you ride has never been easier. If you're a consistent cyclist or ride mostly at night, invest in something you'll have for years and years to come. 

  • 1700 Lumen
  • 5 hour battery time from full charge
  • Rechargeable via USB
  • 4 light modes on the central beam
  • 3 light modes on the side beam
  • USB Power bank included

8Degbit Bike Light Set, Front Light and Back Tail Light



At under a tenner, get a front and tail light that have multiple brightness options for extra visibility. The rubber strap is easy to attach and fix to handlebars for easy installation. 

  • Water resistant
  • Rechargeable via USB
  • Front light has 2 light modes and 4 brightness options
  • Tail light has 2 light modes and 6 brightness options

9Cateye Ampp 800 Front Light




Currently on sale, score a 31% discount on this absolute winner of a bike light from (aptly named brand) Cateye. Pumping out 800 lumens, this front light can be used as an emergency flashlight as an when you need. 

  • 800 Lumens
  • Scratch resistant
  • Rechargeable via USB
  • Quick release strap for easy commuting
  • Only 1.5 hour battery life from full charge on high

10Garmin Varia RL510 Radar Bike Tail Light



Another spenny (but 100% worth it) option, Garmin's Varia slots neatly onto your seat post and is visible in both daylight and darkness. Most importantly, this tech provides visual and audible alerts to warn of vehicles approaching from behind up to 140 metres. When it comes to safety, you can't get much safer than that, hey? 

  • Up to 15 hour battery life in flashing mode
  • 6 hour battery in solid or night flash mode
  • Light visible during day and night
  • Light visible up to a mile away

Rechargeable via USB

Rolson USB Rechargeable Front and Rear Bike Light Set



Another affordable front and back light set, this duo comes in at just under £15 and have up to five hour battery life from full charge. Rechargeable via USB, never be without your lights – just plug into a plug head or your laptop port and be done with it. Winner. 

  • Up to five hour battery from full charge
  • Front light has full beam and strobe modes
  • 5 rear light modes to choose from

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Over the past decade, brands have made big improvements in increasing the output and reducing the weight of their bike lights. That progress is driven by advances in two key technologies: the switch to efficient LED lamps that produce dramatically more light per watt than older halogen or metal-halide bulbs, and lithium batteries that pack more power into smaller packages. The result is brighter lights with similar or longer run times in smaller, lighter systems.

See at-a-glance reviews below of five of our top bike-light choices, or scroll deeper for more-in-depth reviews of these and other high-ranking options, plus some buying tips and advice.

Best Value

Cygolite Hotshot

Cygolite Hotshot


Cheap, powerful, and water-resistant

Best Value Daytime

Ascher USB Rechargeable Light

Ascher USB Rechargeable Light


Best Battery Life

NiteRider Lumina OLED 1200 Boost

NiteRider Lumina OLED 1200 Boost


Powerful enough for trail rides

Best Daytime Lights

Bontrager Ion 200 RT / Flare RT Light Set

Bontrager Ion 200 RT / Flare RT Light Set


Our favorite daytime light set

Best Safety Features

Garmin Varia with Radar Display

Garmin Varia with Radar Display


Alerts you of approaching traffic

Where and When Will You Use the Lights?

If you typically commute to work in daylight or at dawn and dusk when the light is low, a simple front and rear blinker set should suffice. If you ride before sunrise and after sunset, a more powerful front headlight paired with a blinking taillight is necessary. Also keep in mind that the brighter the ambient light, the brighter the system you’ll need for visibility. Rear blinkers that put out 15 lumens may seem bright after dark but are harder to pick out in full sunlight.

Because of the current pandemic situation, health organizations and state officials or land managers have reassessed their guidelines, limiting riding and access. Night riding on trails is not as safe or available as it once was. But more people than ever are dependent on their bicycles for transportation (at all times of the day), and many of the lights here will make your journey easier and safer. And if you are looking for trail lights, some of the ones we recommend here are on sale.

Do You Need a Rear Light Only or a Full Set?

If you ride only in daylight and your budget doesn’t yet allow for a full light set, at the very least start with a rear blinker (the cheapest on our list is $13), which will help make you more visible from behind. You can always invest in a front light later, especially if you begin to extend your rides to before and beyond daylight, when you’ll not only want to see what’s in front of you but also want motorists in front of you to see you. Keep in mind, though, that you can often score a slight discount if you buy the front and rear light at the same time, as a set or bundle.

Courtesy of Bontrager

Where Do You Want to Mount Your Light?

Most headlights mount to the handlebar, but some models can also be helmet-mounted. The handlebar mount is a good first location—it’s more secure and isn’t dependent on a snug helmet fit for steady illumination. Helmet mounts are more appropriate for night mountain bike rides, for which you may want illumination to follow your gaze (say, around a switchback) rather than where the bike is pointing. A helmet mount can also be a good secondary location if you run two headlights, as the beam patterns from the different positions fill in shadowed areas and provide more even illumination.

Courtesy of NiteRider

Is Brightness All That Matters?

Lights are typically rated in lumens, which is a measure of the total light output of the system. It’s not perfect, but it’s a decent gauge of brightness. And there are other important factors, chiefly beam pattern (how wide and far the light reaches, and how evenly it illuminates), which relies heavily on the geometry of the reflector in the light. Some companies, like Light & Motion, have useful comparison tools on their websites to show how their beam patterns stack up to the competition.

What Should You Look For and What Should You Avoid?

When purchasing new lights, look for sturdy, no-slip attachments; an easily removable light body for charging and theft prevention; battery indicator lights or sounds to alert you when it’s time to recharge the system; and an IPX water-resistance rating of five or higher (anything lower and a splash, spray, or spritz is as much as they can handle). Try to avoid anything that’s not a purpose-designed bike light. Sure, you can duct-tape a Maglite to your handlebar—there are even handlebar mounts for them—but that doesn’t make it a bike light.

How We Tested

Every light on this list has been thoroughly tested in all conditions by our team of editors. We start by researching the market, surveying user reviews, speaking with product managers and engineers, and using our own experience with these lights to determine the best options. Then we spend many hours riding many miles using these lights for their intended purpose—as well as unintended purposes—to push the limits of their functionality. We’ve commuted to and from work with them, used them for nighttime road and trail rides, even tested the water resistance of one with an unintentional trip through the washing machine. We gauged battery life based on real-life usage, even if it meant riding the last mile or two home in the dark when the light died on us. And because these things are meant to live on our bikes, and everything else on our bikes is meant to look good, we evaluated them on their aesthetics as well.



Cygolite Hotshot




  • Six modes
  • Water-resistant
  • Clamp is durable enough for trail rides

You’d be hard-pressed to find a more feature-rich taillight than the 50-lumen, USB-rechargeable, 30-buck Hotshot. Two buttons allow you to toggle between customizable blinking and strobe modes, as well as six programmed daytime and nighttime modes: steady, zoom, triple flash, random flash, DayLightning (bright flashes to call attention to you when the sun’s up), and SteadyPulse (a beam that gradually changes intensity to keep motorists alert at night). Though the Cygolite is intended for commuter use, we found the clamp is strong enough to survive bumping and jostling over rocks and roots during mountain bike rides, too. And after accidentally sending it through the wash, we can vouch for its water-resistance.


Lupine Rotlicht


Rotlicht Rear Light



  • Internal accelerometer makes light glow brighter when slowing down
  • Excellent battery life
  • One of the most expensive taillights you can buy

This light is pricey, but it had our tester raving because of its reliability, impressive battery life, myriad settings, and even an accelerometer that makes the light glow brighter to warn those behind that you are braking. The Rotlicht has four brightness settings ranging from .1 watt up to 2 watts, and four modes: steady, blink, pulse, and steady + pulse. On the most battery-draining mode, 2-watt pulse, the light still runs for three hours. Even more astonishing, we found the claimed 60 hours of run time on the lowest setting to be accurate. The light attaches to most tube shapes with a rubber strap, and also comes with a clip to mount it under the saddle. When turning the light off, it flashes through up to five lights to indicate remaining battery life. We found it takes about six hours to fully recharge the battery when it’s dead, so we got in the habit of charging the light overnight.


Serfas Thunderbolt USB


Serfas Thunderbolt USB Taillight



  • Rechargeable via USB
  • Decent battery life
  • Not the brightest light available

The Serfas Thunderbolt has everything you need in a taillight. Two included rubber straps let you mount it almost anywhere, and the light’s no-slip exterior ensures it holds fast to a seatpost, a seatstay, or elsewhere. Serfas claims the strip of 30 mini LED lights can grab motorists’ attention for 2.5 hours on the high-flash setting (35 lumens) and as many as 8.5 hours on the low-flash setting (10 lumens). There are also steady low and high modes. An indicator light warns you when the juice is low, and charging via USB takes about 3.5 hours.


Light & Motion Vya Smart

Light and Motion

Vya Smart Taillight

Light &



  • Visible from over half a mile
  • Battery lasts eight hours on a full charge
  • Sensor automatically adjusts light output

In addition to the standard features, the Vya—a 50-lumen, USB rechargeable taillight visible at just over half a mile and lasting up to eight hours on a full charge—does something not many others do. It uses smart sensor technology to adjust to the ideal light mode. Simply insert the Vya into its mount, start pedaling, and the light turns on when it senses motion, flashing in daylight and shining steadily at night. Stop pedaling (or remove the light altogether) and it shuts off. But don’t worry when you stop at intersections; there’s a slight delay before the system shuts off.


Lezyne LED Femto Drive Rear




  • Small and discrete
  • Offers 180 degrees of visibility
  • Not the brightest light you can buy

The Femto taillight is small, simple, and unobstrusive. It comes in seven anodized colors, including purple and gold, and attaches just about anywhere via one stretchy strap or its clip-on system. The red lens, which doubles as the power button, shines in 180 degrees but puts out only seven lumens (a flash boosts visibility). This isn’t the brightest taillight out there but it runs on a convenient USB charge. But for the price, it’s a handy option for clipping to backpacks, belts, or pockets.

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NiteRider Lumina OLED 1200 Boost

Lumina OLED 1200 Boost Headlight



  • Battery saver function shifts light to lowest setting when juice is low
  • Toggling between light modes can get you nearly two hours of light

Commuting, mountain biking, and gravel riding—the rechargeable Lumina is good for all three. At full power, it blasts out 1,200 lumens in a widespread beam that nicely illuminates the road or trail up to 20 yards ahead. Its OLED screen shows the remaining battery life for whichever of the five light levels and four daylight flash modes (from 275 to the max 1,200 lumens) you’re using. When the battery gets close to empty, the Lumina automatically shifts down to the lowest setting to preserve juice. In testing, we found the battery indicator to be pretty accurate, and in twilight and post-sunset riding conditions we were able to get almost two hours of life by making good use of the various settings to save power. After 15 months of consistent use, albeit less in the summer, this light is still one of our favorites.


Blackburn Countdown 1600


Countdown 1600 Headlight


  • Can burn for two hours at 1,200 Lumens
  • Charges up to 80 percent in 10 minutes
  • Fully charging it takes a long four hours

On high, steady mode, this handlebar-mounted headlight emits 1,200 lumens and lasts a claimed two hours, long enough to fit in a respectable after-hours trail ride. (You can double the battery life and cut the lumens in half if you run it on medium.) The backlit digital display is easy to read and lets you know how much juice is left depending on which mode the light’s in. Charge time via USB is a claimed four hours, but the battery will reach 80 percent after being plugged in for just 10 minutes, according to Blackburn. And the Countdown’s mount allows you to adjust the angle of the beam, so you can point it wherever it’s needed most—handy if you’re simultaneously running a helmet-mounted light.



Bontrager Ion 200 and Flare RT

Ion 200 RT / Flare RT Light Set


  • Increases visibility dramatically, even in daylight
  • Can be controlled from a cycling computer

For such tiny lights, the 200-lumen Ion 200 RT (front) and Flare RT (rear) daytime lights pack a lot of power—Bontrager says they’re visible from 1.25 miles away. With multiple steady and flash modes and the ability to control them from your cycling computer, they’re also the most user-friendly lights on this list. The taillight clip is angled to match your seat tube angle, shining the light straight back rather than slightly downward, and the USB charging port has an IPX7 rating, meaning it can be submerged for 30 minutes in up to one meter of water. Be sure to push the rubber charging port cover firmly back in place when removing the light from the charger. Should you forget, road spray can get into the USB port and short out the light. It’s an expensive set, but it stands the test of time. One of our editors is still using the same taillight he originally tested when he reviewed the light in 2018.



Garmin Varia RTL510 (add $100 for Radar Display Unit)


Varia RTL515 (Add $100 for Radar display unit


  • Visible up to one mile away
  • vehicles when used with compatible sensor

The Varia has all the typical features of a taillight: solid, night flash, and day flash modes; 220 degrees and up to a mile of visibility; and a slim, vertical design that easily attaches to a seatpost. So why the high price? It can also warn you of approaching vehicles. Using a radar display unit (for which you’ll have to pay an extra $100) or a compatible Garmin device (the list is endless), the Varia senses vehicles approaching from behind and sends a visual and audible alert to your device. It also automatically adjusts its blinking pattern to alert drivers of your presence. It’s not as useful on busy roads when there are always cars around, but it provides additional comfort and awareness in areas with intermittent traffic, especially as quieter hybrid and electric cars become more prevalent.


REFUN Bicycling Light Set


Bicycle Light Set



  • Silicone strap fits easily around odd sized tubes
  • CR2032 batteries last for days on flash mode
  • Set includes two front and two rear lights plus spare batteries
  • Lights aren't the brightest you can find
  • Batteries aren't rechargeable

This light set makes no bold claims about being visible for over a mile, nor does it have rechargeable batteries. It’s refreshingly simple and very effective. Push on the top of the light to toggle between steady and flash modes. Push the top again to turn the light off. CR2032 batteries power the lights for enough hours to get most of us through a solid month of riding, although they get a little dimmer after about 36 hours. The set includes two front lights, two rear lights, and eight spare batteries.


Ascher USB Rechargeable Bike Light Set


USB Rechargeable Bike Light Set

(Orig. $20, Now $16)


  • Two flash and two steady modes
  • Silicone straps make it easy to mount lights to odd shaped tubes
  • 12 hour battery life on fast flashing mode
  • Not the most aesthetically pleasing

They aren’t as small and sleek as the Bontrager Ion 200 and Flare RT light set, but these lights are $106 cheaper, so the extra size and less refined shape are a reasonable trade-off. Choose between two steady and two flash modes, and confidently get 2.5 to 10 hours of run time, depending on flash mode. We consistently got more than 10 hours of run time on fast flashing mode and love these lights because we can safely do multiple rides on a single charge. Even better, these batteries don’t deteriorate quickly—we’ve been using our set for more than a year. Last but not least, the micro USB charging port has a rubber cover so there is no need to fret if you get caught in the rain.


Blackburn Luminate 360

Jenson USA

Luminate 360 Light Set


  • Set includes front, rear, and side lights
  • Batteries rechargeable by micro USB
  • Battery life on the head and tail lights isn't super

The Luminate 360 set takes Blackburn’s already popular Dayblazer 400 and Dayblazer 65 head and taillights and adds two side lights, which you can attach to the fork, down tube, or top tube. This is especially useful when you’re crossing an intersection and want the driver next to you to see you before making a right turn. Count on getting a 90-minute run time at 85 lumens or up to six hours at 50 lumens on the low strobe setting. The Dayblazer 400 headlight remains the same, giving you four modes to choose from, ranging from 200 to 400 lumens with 10- and one-hour run times, respectively. The Dayblazer 65 taillight can shine for up to six hours at 35 lumens, or 1.6 hours if you run it in the 50-lumen solid mode. All four lights mount via rubber straps and can be recharged with a micro-USB cable.


Gyhuego USB Rechargeable Bike Light


USB Rechargeable Bike Light



  • Insanely long battery life
  • Taillight included
  • Headlight is very bright
  • Taillight isn't very bright
  • Mounts aren't as refined as the more expensive lights

This budget light found on Amazon makes bold claims: 10 hours of run time at 3,000 lumens. We were unable to verify the lumens claim, but in using this light we can attest to the fact that it is incredibly bright and the battery life—10 hours on full power—is astounding. Once battery life gets low, just after the 10-hour mark, the light switches to a lower setting to save power but keeps running for nearly four more hours. We haven’t used it long enough to know how the battery stands up to repeated charging cycles, so check back for updates. The set includes a taillight, which leaves something to be desired in terms of visibility, but for $23 it’s hard to knock it.


Amazon bike lights

More than 11,000 Amazon shoppers have given this Ascher bike light set a five-star rating. Each set comes with a headlight and a taillight that are both fully rechargeable and easy to install. There are four different lighting modes to choose from — full brightness, half brightness, fast flashing, and slow flashing — and you can switch between them with just the push of a button. They are both waterproof, so you don't have to worry about getting caught in the rain, and they have a maximum brightness level of 300 lumens. 

Shoppers love the flexible rubber grips on the lights because they allow them to attach the gadgets practically anywhere, including their bike handles, helmets, backpacks, and more. "You want to be seen on your bike? Let me tell you, you're going to be seen with this light set," wrote one customer. "I've had several in the past, but none were all that bright, especially the front light. Now, when I'm riding at night, I feel much safer with just how bright these lights are. I can actually see the road just as clearly as I could when driving my car. Installation is a snap for both front and rear lights."

To buy:, $20 (originally $27)


The Best Commuter Bike Lights

Why you should trust us

Michael Zhao is a daily bike commuter who has been building and riding bikes since he was 13. He has been participating in this Wirecutter review in one way or another since it was first assigned in 2013—including the time senior staff writer Eve O’Neill had her lights confiscated by the police in the middle of testing them. Co-author Hannah Weinberger was an editor at Bicycling magazine and has been an all-weather bike commuter for much of her adult life.

In addition to going by our own experience, Hannah emailed with Darlene Edewaard, a graduate student at Clemson University who conducted research (through a partnership with Trek Bikes) that explored how well drivers responded to rear lights. She also talked to Megan Hottman, an attorney focused on cycling safety, to learn about how brightness impacted safety (in short, it’s unclear). And we benefited from explanatory essays on light construction and beam qualities, especially those written by bike-industry veteran Peter White of Peter White Cycles, a custom-build bicycle and lighting-system shop in New Hampshire.

Who should get this

Every cyclist should use lights when riding in gloomy or dark conditions, but the focus of this review remains on commuting bike lights that are meant to be mounted onto a bicycle. These lights assist riders in seeing ahead of them as well as in being seen from ahead, behind, and either side. Recreational road cyclists and e-bike riders may need something that’s brighter and thus capable of keeping up with their faster pace (many of our picks come in brighter configurations suitable for these purposes). Mountain bikers are likely to prefer something with a taller, circular beam that can illuminate branches and other low-hanging trail obstacles not found on the road—sometimes supplementing that with a helmet-mounted light for better depth perception.

Lights can also help during the daytime. Over the years, multiple studies (PDF) have shown that using daytime running lights (DRLs) on cars can significantly lower crash rates, which is why many countries (but not the US) require all newly sold cars to use them. Although the issue hasn’t been as extensively studied for cyclists, a Danish study from 2012 found that cyclists who used lights all the time had a 19 percent lower incident rate compared with those who didn’t.

That being said, as Joe Lindsey lays out in his 2017 story for Bicycling magazine titled “The Science of Being Seen: A Guide to Safer Riding,” merely being visible isn’t always enough. Explains Lindsey: “Conspicuity is slightly different than visibility in that it includes an element of identification; if visibility is seeing something, conspicuity is seeing what something is, which can change how we respond to it.” So if your goal is to get drivers to behave towards you as a person on a bicycle instead of a mere object in the road, it helps to take further measures.

As to what those further measures may be, in that same article, Rick Tyrrell, PhD, director of the Visual Perception and Performance Lab at the University of Clemson, explains in an interview that human sight is “is exquisitely sensitive to biological motion,” and recommends placing reflectors or lights on parts that move when you’re biking, such as your knees or feet. Although we don’t cover such accessories in this review, we may look into them at a future date.

How we picked

As always, we began our research this time around by taking a look at what our colleagues at other publications had already established in their reviews and testing., a British publication, maintains a regularly updated database of tested lights, complete with a beam-comparison tool. When it comes to understanding how bike lights work and what to look for in a great light, The Geeky Cyclist’s review is second to none (skip past the picks at the top for the detailed explanations). Switchback Travel’s review features thorough testing across a wide range of models, including “smart” lights, although its picks are aimed more at bike enthusiasts than commuters. Bike Light Database remains a good resource for controlled testing and beam-pattern photos, although it hasn’t seen a proper update in several years. Bicycling magazine published a fresh comparison-test review in March 2020.

Additionally, the data from We Test Lights on brightness and battery life based on controlled testing conducted by engineers using calibrated equipment under the ANSI FL-1 standard is an indispensable resource for comparing manufacturers’ claimed specs against their lights’ actual performance. The site and its associated testing are operated by Light & Motion’s internal testing staff, but Light & Motion’s own models don’t fare any better (or worse) than other brands’ lights, and all the raw data is published directly to the site in the name of transparency.

For good measure, we tested a few of those Amazon best sellers that are so cheap, they seem too good to be true. (Spoiler: They’re only as good as their price would lead you to believe.)

We also included input from our own commenters, as well as customer reviews on various retailer sites, to decide how to prioritize our criteria for narrowing down our testing pool. And just for good measure, we threw in a few of those Amazon best sellers that are so cheap, they seem too good to be true. (Spoiler: They’re only as good as their price would lead you to believe.)

In many ways, not much has changed since Wirecutter published the first version of this review in 2013. We are still looking for a headlight that can maintain over 200 lumens of brightness for at least 90 minutes, with a mount that doesn’t suck. And we’re still looking at taillight options that deliver at least 30 lumens and last at least three hours between charges. The difference now is that almost every bike light available fits those criteria, so it takes a bit more for a light to stand out.

These were a few of the more important differences we kept an eye on as we decided which headlights to test:

All-in-one torch style: Bike lights that rely on separate power sources (such as an external battery pack or dynamo generator hub) can be brighter and last longer, but for commuting use, a torch that has a built-in rechargeable battery makes the most sense because you have no cables to fuss with and you can easily put it on and take it off to avoid theft.

Extra-wide beam: The primary reason to buy a dedicated bike light instead of a flashlight holster is to get a wide-angle beam that directs most of the brightness to the ground in front of you—this helps you see ahead without blinding oncoming traffic. (Flashlight optics cast an even, symmetrical beam across a circular area, which means a lot of brightness ends up in fellow road users’ eyes.)

Daytime visibility: Although early studies indicate that running lights during the daytime may help prevent accidents, the evidence is far from conclusive. That said, it’s hard to deny the arresting effect some of these lights’ daytime running modes can have when you see them in person. We found that a light of about 200-plus lumens was bright enough to be noticeable during the day, and that flashing modes were more conspicuous than solid or pulsing modes.

Side cutouts or lights: Models that have cutouts or additional LEDs on either side of a headlight provide more visibility from more angles than those with a single wide beam alone.

Waterproofing (not just water resistance): Light & Motion was among the first to release a fully submersible IP67 commuter bike light with its Urban series, but now almost every major light maker offers waterproofing at no extra cost. We see little reason to invest in a light that isn’t fully waterproof as a precautionary measure.

Strobe and pulsing patterns: Solid beams are helpful for lighting the path in front of you but can blend into the existing lightscape. Flashing modes help you stand out but don’t help you see. A dynamic lighting mode that maintains a steady beam yet changes enough to be conspicuous is helpful for riding in urban environments, where bike lights compete with street lamps, house lights, LED advertisements, and other sources of light pollution. There’s also some evidence to suggest that these kinds of lighting modes boost rider safety. In an interview, Light & Motion CEO Dan Emerson cited this Ford Motor Company report (PDF), saying, “The data show that flashing lights create awareness but they destroy the driver’s ability to judge distance to the lights.”

Last-mode memory: Having more modes is good for versatility but annoying when you have to shuffle through a dozen settings just to get to the one you want. Thankfully, the best lights we’ve found automatically remember and default to their last used mode so you don’t have to do this every time.

Articulating mount: Not all handlebars are straight, so it helps to be able to rotate the mount so that it faces the direction you want it to.

Battery-life indicator: This doesn’t need to be anything fancy, just a way of letting you know when to charge the light. Most lights have an LED indicator on or near the power button that glows red when there’s less than 20 to 25 percent charge left.

Some other nice-to-have, but unnecessary, features include GoPro mount compatibility for use on helmets or on the underside of a handlebar-mounted GPS unit, user-replaceable batteries to allow for longer rides and to extend the useful life of a light, and USB-C charging, which cuts down on charging time and allows you to juice the light up using the same charger as for your phone or tablet. You can also find a few lights that offer fast charging without using USB-C (two and a half hours instead of the typical four), but this feature comes at a steep premium and is handy only if you forget to charge your lights overnight, or during a workday.

As for stuff to avoid, pay no heed to smart features. If programmable flashing modes or the ability to check your light’s battery life on your cycling computer screen appeal to you, this guide probably isn’t for you. These kinds of features can be convenient, but they don’t make lights any brighter or more visible and aren’t worth the premium for most commuters.

The features that constitute a great taillight follow a similar set of priorities:

All-angle visibility: Taillights aren’t meant to light the road behind you. They’re meant to be as conspicuous as possible—without being annoyingly bright to those who witness them. As such, pure brightness doesn’t matter as much as the ability to be seen from more positions. The best taillight designs feature clear or red-translucent casings that allow light to spill out in every direction.

Versatile and easy-to-use mount: You can find many capable taillights that feature a hard plastic quick-release mount, but we are slightly inclined toward those that mount with hooks and a rubber strap. It’s quite common for various bike accessories (or objects you might put on top of a rear rack) to block the intended mounting point for a hard plastic mount (typically the seatpost); a strap mount, in contrast, gives you the flexibility to move the light to an unimpeded location on the seat stay or a rack stay.

“Bright enough”: It’s possible to buy a taillight that puts out as much as 200 lumens these days. This is in the name of daytime visibility, but that degree of brightness doesn’t come cheap, and it can be downright dangerous at night. (Most lights that get that bright also include ambient-light sensors to prevent them from blinding fellow road users in dark settings.) For a red taillight, we found that a maximum brightness of 50 lumens was more than enough to stand out during the day, and that 30 lumens or so was already very bright at night. Any more than that is just overkill.

Solid, strobe, and pulse modes: A great light should at the very least offer a low and high solid mode, some kind of visually arresting strobing or flashing mode, and an oscillating glow. This variety allows you to choose between maximum visibility and total courteousness, with shades of gray in the middle.

Water resistance, some kind of low-battery indicator, and a clip for attaching the taillight to clothes or bags when there’s no good place to mount it on a bike are also handy features to look out for.

How we tested

We Test Lights and already publish independently verified figures for brightness, battery life, and beam patterns for almost every light we were considering for testing; we consulted these, of course. Additionally, many of the lights we tested already comply with ANSI FL-1 standards. With that in mind, we did not see a reason to replicate existing testing only to come to the same conclusions.

Instead, our testing focused on usability and the experience of riding with the lights in person. This process included installing and removing each mount, checking quick-release functionality where it existed, evaluating the color and spread of the beams while we were in motion, checking visibility from all angles—including during daylight hours—and going on a nighttime group ride with the New York Pizza and Dynamo Society to check how courteous these lights were to fellow cyclists’ eyes.

Our pick for headlights: Cygolite Metro Plus 800 USB

Our pick for headlights the Cygolite Metro Plus 800 USB on a bicycle's handle bar.

Our pick

Cygolite Metro Plus 800 USB

Cygolite Metro Plus 800 USB

Best headlight

This affordably priced light offers more brightness and a better-shaped beam than anything in its category. It’s fully waterproof and has a durable, easy-to-use quick-release mount.

For over half a decade now, Cygolite’s venerable Metro series has set the bar for what a great headlight should look like. And we’re not the only ones to say so. Bike Light Database writes, “The Metro series is our #1 recommendation for commuter headlights under $100.”

Compared with other headlights, the Cygolite Metro Plus 800 USB is more visible from more angles because it has both an extra-wide-angle beam pattern and side visibility cutouts. Whereas most lights rely on a simple reflective cone to control beam shape, Cygolite’s Enhanced Cycling Optics adds a diffuser to the protective clear plastic in front of the bulb. The term sounds like pure marketing language, but in our tests the resulting beam was the only one wide enough to stack up against the much larger dynamo lights we saw on our night ride with the New York Pizza and Dynamo Society. The diffuser also shortens the beam’s height so the majority of the light is cast below eye level; this means you’re less likely to blind oncoming pedestrians, cyclists, and drivers. Overall, while the other bike lights we tested cast beams that looked like those of cycling-optimized flashlights, the Metro Plus 800’s beam looked more like a smaller version of a car headlight’s output.

The outer plastic case of the Metro Plus 800.

The Metro Plus 800’s case is plastic, but it’s sturdily built and now waterproof—that is, it should survive being immersed a meter deep in water for half an hour. Photo: Michael Murtaugh

Close-up of the Cygolite's mini USB port.

Cygolite has finally abandoned Mini-USB charging and upgraded to Micro-USB with this Metro Plus series. Photo: Michael Murtaugh

The Metro series of lights has a reputation for delivering more lumens per dollar than its competitors, and the Metro Plus 800 is no exception. Although it’s listed as an 800-lumen light, We Test Lights’s testing shows that it actually shines at around 820 lumens for nearly the entirety of its claimed 60-minute battery life on boost mode—and that it continues to shine at reduced brightness for another half hour. This result is particularly impressive given that most other lights in We Test Lights testing have exhibited significant dimming over the course of their run times; for example, the Light & Motion Urban 800 started at 831 lumens but dropped to 523 lumens by minute 60.

The Metro Plus 800’s brightness is impressive in its own right, and certainly nice to have for times when you need it, but real-world commuting circumstances rarely call for such a bright beam. The more tangible benefit of a higher maximum brightness is that the light’s lower-power modes are proportionally brighter and last for longer. The Metro Plus 800 outputs a 270-lumen beam on its medium setting for three hours.1 That’s still bright enough to help you see and be seen on almost any urban or suburban road. In addition to the boost and medium settings, there’s a high mode in between that lasts 90 minutes, a low mode that lasts six hours, and a SteadyPulse mode that lasts for three and a half hours. (SteadyPulse maintains a low, solid beam at all times but blinks brightly at regular intervals in order to enhance conspicuity.)

If you start from the off position, holding the power button down for two seconds activates a number of alternate modes primarily meant for daytime use. DayLightning mode is a blinding flash that is intended only for daytime use and lasts for about 12 hours. Triple Flash is similarly bright but groups the flashes into triplets and lasts for 18 hours. Both of these modes look more like camera flashes than bike lights and should not be used at night. Then there’s the Zoom mode, which oscillates smoothly between low and high brightness (suitable for use day or night). Finally, there’s “walking mode,” which is too dim to be useful on a bike.

Close-up of the fastener knob on the Metro Plus.

While impressive visibility and battery life are must-haves for any decent bike light, a mount that’s easy to use and install is what separates the great from the merely good. For the Metro Plus series, Cygolite improved on its already excellent quick-release mount by replacing the plastic spacers (for accommodating handlebars of different diameters) with rubber ones that grip the handlebars better and don’t slip out as easily when you remove the mount. The company also enlarged the lock-release tab, making it easier to press even with gloves on. Likewise, the fastener knob is bigger and easier to turn. It rotates from side to side so you can find a good angle from any mounting position; once you’ve found that angle, you have the option of locking it in place using a Phillips-head screwdriver.

The Metro Plus series also checks all the boxes that make a light nicer to use. It remembers your last used setting so you don’t have to flip through all nine modes to find your favorite. It features a convenient Micro-USB charging port, protected by a durable and replaceable rubber cover. The power button has a satisfying clickiness and firmness that makes it easy to press yet resists accidental activation. The button also features a built-in battery-life indicator LED that glows red to warn you when it’s time to charge. We also like that holding the button down for 10 seconds activates a lockout mode that prevents it from turning on during transport in a full bag or pannier and draining precious battery life.

Although its exterior is primarily made of plastic, the Metro Plus 800 feels sturdy to the touch and is based on a time-tested design that has held up well. The fact that this newest version is fully waterproof (IP67) should only add to its durability.

Finally, we like that Cygolite’s California factory and customer support can provide responsive and affordable repairs for years to come. For example, an out-of-warranty battery replacement costs only $15 plus shipping.

Headlight pick: Flaws but not dealbreakers

Cygolite’s quick-release mount is the best hard plastic mount we’ve come across. But it is still made of plastic, and as a result you need to retighten it periodically to prevent slipping; you can easily do this by hand using the big adjuster knob. It would also be nice if the light came with a helmet mount instead of requiring you to purchase that separately. There’s also no way to add a GoPro mount, which can be useful for mounting a light under your GPS unit—but this is more of an enthusiast preference than a commuter need. Also, many people prefer the one-size-fits-all simplicity of a rubber-strap mount. If that’s you, check out our runner-up pick.

Some people might say that nine lighting modes is too many to sort through given that you’re most likely to find one you like and stick with it, but unlike some other lights we tried, the Metro Plus series remembers your last-used setting when you power it off and reverts to that setting when you turn it on.

Although the Metro Plus 800’s battery life is pretty long, and tests say it lasts longer than Cygolite claims, other lights can go longer without needing to be recharged.

The beam can appear dimmer compared with those of similarly rated lights because it’s so wide and evenly spread out. However, we don’t think this is a dealbreaker because it’s still plenty bright enough, and the benefits of increased visibility outweigh the costs in concentrated brightness.

It would be nice if Cygolite offered a limited lifetime warranty on non-electronic parts, as many of its competitors do. In our experience, the company’s customer service has been responsive and reasonably priced when needed outside of the one-year warranty.

Runner-up headlight: Blackburn Dayblazer 800 Front Light

Our runner-up pick headlight the Blackburn Dayblazer 800 Front Light

The Blackburn Dayblazer 800 Front Light takes most of what we love about the Cygolite Metro Plus 800 USB and puts it in a sleeker, all-metal body with a rubber-strap mount. It offers a comparable level of maximum brightness, a similarly diverse selection of lighting modes, and great battery life. It also comes with a helmet mount and a GoPro mount adapter in the box—both of which typically cost extra, if they’re available at all, for other lights. It falls short in only a few regards: It has no true flashing mode for daytime use, the beam pattern isn’t quite as even as it could be, and the rubber-strap mount can’t quite find a tight enough grip to avoid slipping a bit when bumped (this is true of all strap-mounted headlights we’ve tested). Although the Dayblazer series is a relatively new line and lacks the Metro series’s reputation, Blackburn does provide a two-year warranty on its electronic components and a lifetime warranty on the rest of the light.

Close-up of the Blackburn Dayblazer 800's rubber hook-and-ladder strap mount.

The Blackburn Dayblazer 800’s rubber-strap mount is its main differentiating factor. You have no spacers or knobs to fuss with. You simply twist the light 90 degrees to reveal the hook, run the ladder-shaped strap under the bars, pull tightly to secure it onto the hook, and rotate the light back into position so it’s facing the road. (To take the light off, reverse those steps.) Finding a tight fit takes a bit of force, but the silicone material is more forgiving than the TPU strap on the Light & Motion Urban lights. However, that bit of give can translate to a bit of wiggle on rougher terrain. Unlike with a plastic mount, you don’t have the option of ratcheting it down further for a tighter fit.

The Dayblazer 800’s beam is just about as wide as that of the Metro Plus 800 but taller and rounder. As a result, it’s a little less bright on the sides and is slightly more likely to hit other road users in the eyes. The Dayblazer 800 also falls short in evenness of spread, as the lack of a diffuser in the optics produces a noticeably dim spot in the center of the beam and the immediate area surrounding the center appears brighter than the rest. By comparison, the Metro Plus 800 maintains an even brightness across the entire center of the beam. That said, the Dayblazer 800 still offers smoother optics than many of the other lights we tested. It also has side cutouts to improve off-angle visibility.

As for lighting modes, the Dayblazer 800’s five options are versatile enough to cover most situations but not so plentiful that it’s annoying to sort through them. Its low, medium, and Blitz solid modes live up to their respective claimed run times of five, three, and one and a half hours according to’s review. (This shouldn’t come as a surprise, given that the light is tested to the ANSI FL-1 standard—the same one that We Test Lights uses in its tests.) It also has pulse and strobe modes that last eight and 12 hours, respectively. Pulse produces a fast oscillating beam, and strobe is a flashing mode that projects two short flashes followed by a longer one. Unfortunately, this light has no daytime-specific flashing modes like those on Cygolite’s lights, but the strobe mode is still noticeable during the daytime—just not as noticeable as Cygolite’s DayLightning.

The one other major point of difference between the Blackburn light and the Cygolite model is in their appearance. While the Metro Plus 800 has a utilitarian, sturdy chunkiness to its black plastic body, the Dayblazer 800 is sleeker and clad in anodized aluminum. You may be tempted to conclude that the Dayblazer 800’s metal exterior makes it stronger or tougher, but keep in mind that it’s also susceptible to scratches. In our tests, an unintentional drop onto a paved bike path during a ride produced a visible scar along the top edge. Honestly, it looks kinda cool—more patina than damaged goods. But similar drops of Cygolite Metro lights we’ve owned over the years have never produced such visible marks.

Blackburn also gets most of the little things right. The Dayblazer 800 is fully IP67 waterproof. The beefy Micro-USB charging port cover is impressively overbuilt yet easy to operate. Additionally, the battery indicator in the power button works as advertised (green is good, amber means you’re about halfway done, red means it’s time to charge). And the power button itself is well designed—it’s stiff enough to resist accidental actuation but not so stiff that it’s difficult to use. However, it lacks a lockout mode, which the Cygolite and Light & Motion lights both have.

The Dayblazer series is a relatively new line for Blackburn, so it’s not as widely reviewed as the venerable Cygolite Metro series. But those who have tried it like it. gave the Dayblazer 800 a score of 8 out of 10, calling it a “[p]owerful and versatile compact light offering great value for money.” And the fact that it’s backed by a two-year warranty on the electronic components and a lifetime warranty on the other parts inspires confidence that it’ll last for years to come.

Our pick for taillights: Cygolite Hotrod 50 USB

Our pick for taillights the Cygolite Hotrod 50 USB

Our pick

The Cygolite Hotrod 50 USB is our pick for the best taillight because it’s clearly visible from almost any angle, even in broad daylight. Its rubber-strap mount isn’t limited by a bracket and can attach to almost any part of the rear half of a bicycle—including seat stays, which are typically too thin for most light mounts to grip onto. Its battery life on high flash mode, just three and a half hours, could be a bit longer, but overall it’s a great light at an affordable price.

Most newer taillights these days (including some from Cygolite) rely on only one or two bulbs, adding parabolic reflectors and larger batteries in an effort to chase ever higher lumen counts and the ability to advertise them as being “visible from up to 2 km away.” That’s not the Hotrod 50. Rather than focus on boosting one or two LEDs to maximum brightness, it has a whole strip of 20 tiny LEDs grouped closely together to shine in unison. The fact that they’re encased behind a domed enclosure allows their glow to reach onlookers from almost any angle. The net effect is a light that isn’t any brighter than its closest competitors but is a lot more noticeable from many more angles.

Close-up of the side view of a Hotrod 50 attached to a bicycle.

The Hotrod 50 also has all the flashing modes you could want out of a taillight. First is a high-flash 50-lumen scorcher that’s meant for use during the daytime. It’s highly effective at cutting through bright daylight or even dense British fog. “I’ve spotted other people’s at a good 200 metres when driving along dual carriageways on grey mid-mornings,” writes Shaun Audane in his review. You’ll also find a high solid mode that maintains a 50-lumen beam for just over 90 minutes according to We Test Lights’s test. Low flash is a dimmer, less frequent strobe that is still plenty visible at night and goes for 30 hours between charges—a good option for rural roads with less traffic. Zoom mode oscillates smoothly between low and medium brightness to help you stand out in urban settings, and SteadyPulse achieves the same effect by blasting two short flashes followed by a long one on medium brightness. Each of those lasts about six hours. Finally, there’s a group ride mode, which casts a very dim beam for up to 100 hours.

Close-up of the location of the micro USB port for the Cygolite Hotrod 50.

Water-resistance information isn’t published on the box or in any product listing, but Cygolite marketing manager Andrew Ibanez told us in an email interview that the Hotrod 50 is IP64 water resistant, which is typical of most taillights. That means it is rain- and spray-proof but not designed to tolerate being submerged. The fact that the Micro-USB charging port is located on the back of the unit, where it’s covered by a rubber seal and protected by the body of the bike when in use, makes it less likely for road spray to infiltrate and short-circuit the unit—a problem we’ve run into over the years while long-term testing the Cygolite Hotshot and Hotshot Pro (two previous top picks).

Taillight pick: Flaws but not dealbreakers

The Hotrod 50’s three-and-a-half-hour battery life on high flash mode is low compared with the five hours you can expect from the similarly designed Serfas Thunderbolt 2.0 or Cygolite’s single-LED Hotshot line of taillights, but that’s still enough to last most commuters a week between charges, so we don’t think it’s that big of an issue.

The Hotrod 50 also lacks a clip for attaching to clothing or bags. We think this is okay since its mount can find purchase on a wider variety of locations on a bike than most competitors can. But if you want that flexibility, consider one of our other picks.

Runner-up for taillights: Blackburn Dayblazer 65 Rear Light

Our runner-up pick for taillights the Blackburn Dayblazer 65 Rear Light

The Blackburn Dayblazer 65 Rear Light was the second most conspicuous taillight in our testing. It doesn’t have a strip of LEDs, but it does have one at either end of its body. Both LEDs are enhanced by parabolic reflectors and are covered by a clear dome-like case, which allows light to leak out in every direction, not just directly backward. And it’s waterproof (IP67), not merely water resistant—a rarity among taillights.

The Dayblazer 65’s two-bulb design isn’t quite as noticeable as the Hotrod 50’s strip of LEDs during the daytime. But the reflectors make it appear brighter at night—especially on its flashing modes.

We also like that the Dayblazer 65 has multiple mounting options. On its own, it has a built-in clip that you can attach to clothes or bags. You’ll also find a rubber-strap mount that you can dock it into. It comes with three differently sized silicone straps so you can mount it to a seat post, an extra-wide aero seatpost, or a skinny seat stay. This design isn’t quite as convenient as a single strap that can adapt to different widths, and having to remove and keep track of all the rubber bits to charge the light can get tiresome, but the added versatility is nice to have. It’s the only light we found that offers this much mounting flexibility without requiring you to use tools to switch between various modes.

the Dayblazer 65 attached to a bike.

The biggest knock against the Dayblazer 65, and the main reason it wasn’t in contention for our top pick, is that it has only three modes: high flash (65 lumens for three hours), steady high (50 lumens for one and a half hours), and low flash (30 lumens for six hours). High flash is best suited for daytime use because it’s almost too bright at night. Either of the other two modes is fine for nighttime use. But this model is missing a pulsing mode, which many cyclists prefer because it catches the eye while also allowing viewers to better judge distance.

Close-up of a Dayblazer 65, with its silicone loop. concludes in its 8/10 review that the Dayblazer 65 is a “usable and bright small-form-factor rear light” and that “it’s great value and well worth your attention.” We agree. Having a bit more battery life and a simpler mount would be nice, but the overall package works well for a wide variety of situations.

Budget pick: Cygolite Hotrod Front 110 and Hotrod Rear 50 USB Combo

Our budget pick the Cygolite Hotrod Front 110 and Hotrod Rear 50 USB Combo side by side.

Anyone who has thought about buying bike lights on Amazon has seen the sub-$20 sets of lights that claim to have specs as good as the brand-name models. If you’re like us, you’ve wondered whether that can possibly be true. After testing a few of those sets against our other picks, we think you’re much better off spending just a little more on something like the Cygolite Hotrod Front 110 and Hotrod Rear 50 USB Combo. Unlike those cheapo lights, such as the best-selling Ascher USB Rechargeable Bike Lights, the Hotrod lights feel sturdy, they’re backed by a warranty, and their beams have a consistent quality indicative of the real engineering and quality-control resources that go into designing and making decent bike lights. The white Hotrod 110 headlight uses the same, visible-from-all-angles design as the taillight. However—and this is a big caveat—it is effectively useless for lighting the path ahead of you. But not all cyclists need that capability.

Side view of the Hotrod 110 headlight.

Upgrade pick: Invest in a dynamo setup

If you’ve ever ridden a bikeshare bike and wondered how its lights manage to stay charged, it’s because they don’t need charging. Such bikes almost all use dynamo lighting setups, which convert rotational energy from the front wheel into electricity using a special hub. They never run out of battery power because they don’t need batteries.

When we say “dynamo,” we’re not talking about those little doodads that look like a hot-sauce bottle and rub against a bike tire’s sidewall to generate a modicum of barely usable light. Modern dynamos are integrated into the hub of a bike’s front wheel, and the best ones rotate almost as freely as a regular wheel. So long as you’re moving (above 5 mph or so), the hub sends enough power to the light to produce a visible beam. Most lights also have capacitors that store energy and allow for about five additional minutes of illumination after you come to a full stop.

When paired with a high-end light, a dynamo system can generate more than 700 lumens of steady output. And because the lamps themselves are much larger than your typical all-in-one torch light, the mirrors and lenses that shape the beam are bigger and more effective at focusing the light where you need it. As a result, even dimmer dynamo lights can effectively light up the road ahead for several car lengths. Moreover, because the light is useless without the hub it’s wired to, and the hub is built into your wheel, thieves have little incentive to mess with your stuff.

When we say “dynamo,” we’re not talking about those little doodads that look like a hot-sauce bottle and rub against a bike tire’s sidewall to generate a modicum of barely usable light.

The downside to dynamos is that the traits that make them unappealing to thieves are the same traits that make it prohibitively difficult to recommend one specific setup for a broad group of people. Because wheel diameters, braking needs, and tire widths vary from bike to bike, there’s no one wheel that will work for most bikes. Setup is also far more complicated than simply screwing a mount onto your handlebars or slapping a strap on—you have wires to splice, tires and tubes to swap, mounting points to consider, and so on. If you don’t already have a good idea of what you’re doing, this process is best handled with the help of a professional.

If all of that sounds expensive, that’s because it is. Unlike in Europe, where dynamos are mainstream and can accommodate a wide range of needs and budgets, American dynamo demand is primarily driven by enthusiasts who are willing to pay a premium for high-performing gear. As a result, the stuff that gets imported to the US tends to be pretty spendy. Nevertheless, we still think that anyone seeking to commit more than $100 on a rechargeable light should look seriously into investing in a dynamo setup instead.

The easiest way to navigate all this is to establish a relationship with a local bike shop that is familiar with dynamo lighting setups. If you live in a midsize to large US city with an active bike culture, odds are, at least one shop in your area will be able to help you out. Call around. If you go this route, you can expect to pay at least $400 for a new front wheel—which will likely need to be custom built—a decent set of lights, and the labor to get everything working.

If no shops near you can help, you have two options. The first is to work closely with a shop that’s willing to ship stuff to you. They can walk you through finding and building a wheel for your specific bike, picking a set of lights to suit your riding needs, and figuring out what, if any, additional mounting accessories you might need to make your setup work. Shops that offer this kind of service tend to specialize in higher-end setups, and shipping wheels can be pretty costly, so you can expect to pay at least $500 to go this route (and possibly a good bit more for shipping). Among these kinds of shops, Peter White Cycles in New Hampshire is the first name in American dynamo setups because it’s also the primary US distributor for most of the components. The shop’s website also offers beam pattern images for all the lights it sells, as well as email and phone contact info to get the process started. Analog Cycles is another East Coast shop specializing in bespoke dynamo setups. (Full disclosure: This is the shop that guide writer Michael Zhao used for his own wheels.) And in Portland, Oregon, Joe Bike offers a wide range of dynamo components, including more bargain-oriented brands.

Your other option is to do your own research to determine what kind of wheel you need, what your mounting choices are, and which light(s) you’d like to use. If you go this route, you can get a good setup sent from Europe for under $250 including shipping, but returns are prohibitively difficult, so proceed with caution. You can find many buying guides out there—primarily written by and for Europeans—that you can lean on to start. Cycling About, a blog maintained by an Australian bike tourer who has traveled more than 100,000 kilometers around the world by bike, has the best basic overview of how to get started in choosing your components. And reviews dynamo lights and hubs as part of its broader bike light coverage.

What to look forward to

Among the lights we’re testing for fall 2020 is Knog’s new Lil’ Cobber Rear taillight, a wrap-around design that promises 330 degrees of visibility.

Notable competition

Light & Motion Urban 700: The Light & Motion Urban line’s exceptionally smooth optics, excellent side visibility, and great value made it a perennial favorite in past iterations of this review. But in recent years, some minor flaws revealed by our long-term testing, as well as increased competitive pressure, have pushed it out of the top tier. The first flaw is its fragile charging-port cover. Because the cover is now made of plastic instead of rubber, the hinge weakens over time and eventually breaks. It’s easy to replace under warranty, but other lights we’ve tested over this same period of time that use a rubber cover haven’t had this flaw. The second problem is the mount. Light & Motion markets it as being a quick-release mount, but in reality it’s more like a “random release” mount. Wirecutter senior editor Christine Ryan has seen her Urban 500 fly off her handlebars after hitting a bump on multiple occasions—and we’ve seen the same issue reported in customer reviews. You can avoid the problem by installing the (included) screw-in security pin, but at that point it’s no longer a quick-release mount. Moreover, this light’s lack of true flashing modes makes sense for nighttime riding but greatly impedes daytime visibility. Finally, although lumens aren’t everything, it’s now commonplace to find other lights offering 20 to 40 percent more brightness compared with similarly priced Urban-series headlights. That being said, the Urban 700 does still offer the brightest side cutouts and the smoothest optics of any torch light we tested. If you can find it on sale for closer to $50 (rather than $70, as is typical), it’s worth checking out.

Serfas True 750 TSL-750R: If USB-C charging and a swappable battery are must-have features for you, the Serfas True 750 TSL-750R is currently your only option. It’s not a bad light, but it does have some notable flaws that keep it from being a pick. First off, it typically costs about $100, yet it falls short of the much cheaper Cygolite Metro Plus series in both brightness and beam quality—it has an uneven, circular beam with a concentrated central hotspot. Second, its power button is overly sensitive and lacks a lockout function. Finally, the included quick-release mount is dreadful. It uses a combination of hard plastic and stretchy rubber in a way that highlights the worst characteristics of both materials—it makes both installing the light and finding a tight grip difficult. This is somewhat mitigated by the inclusion of a GoPro mount adapter and a helmet mount in the box. In 2020, the True 1100 TSL-1100C replaced the 750 in Serfas’s lineup; the light is more powerful and does now include a lockout function, but the quick-release mount we disliked so much remains the same.

Blitzu Gator 390: We need to preface this by saying that we would not buy this Amazon best seller, nor would we recommend it to anyone else. But we can confirm that the Blitzu Gator 390 punched well above its sub-$20 sticker price, unlike the anemic Ascher two-light combo. The beam may have had an eerily blue hue and a pronounced hotspot, but in our tests it still managed to shine bright enough to be visible during the day. Just don’t count on the included “Free Rear Back Tail Light” to do anything for you. It’s too dim to be useful, even at night, and it lacks any kind of flashing modes. Drivers will ignore it, and so should you. (In 2020, the Gator 390 vanished from Amazon’s pages and the Gator 320 appeared; it’s less powerful but costs more—go figure.)


Cygolite Hotshot Pro 200 USB: If you want the absolute brightest taillight with the longest battery, this is the one to get, and that’s why it was a Wirecutter top pick for so long. However, a few issues we’ve uncovered during long-term testing over the years give us pause. Guide writer Michael Zhao had his fail after riding in the rain but was able to replace it under warranty (for the cost of shipping). However, it then broke again in just a few weeks of use. This Amazon review and dozens like it indicate that his was not a unique experience. Additionally, despite the additional lumens the Hotshot Pro 200 offers, its off-angle visibility in our tests wasn’t as good as that of the cheaper Hotrod 50—especially during the daytime. Also, be aware that the Hotshot Pro 200 is now available in a redesigned “flexible mount” version that customer reviews report is more prone to slipping compared with the tried-and-true hard mount (the version we tested).

The rest


The Knog PWR series has a clever design that should’ve stayed as a clever design. This modular system allows you to choose between three light heads of varying brightnesses and three battery packs of varying capacities—all of which can also charge your phone. This sounds neat but has little utility in the real world. Torch-style bike lights are designed around batteries of a certain size because using smaller ones severely limits run times and using larger ones adds unnecessary weight. And since bike lights last only about an hour or two on high, the idea that you would steal battery from your light to power your phone seems impractical—especially if you consider that a phone battery pack costs $20 whereas these packs start at $50. All that aside, the mount we tested with the PWR Trail was just horrendous. It’s finicky to install and operate (doing so involves twisting a dial a bunch of times every time you move the light), it’s flimsy feeling, and multiple owners report that their lights fell off during rides.

According to We Test Lights’s data, NiteRider lights suffer from a much steeper decline in brightness over time than similarly equipped and priced lights. For example, the Lumina Micro 850 starts out at 924 lumens and then begins dimming immediately. It fades to 347 lumens after 50 minutes of continuous operation and then drops again to 171 lumens by the end of its 90-minute claimed run time. By comparison, the Cygolite Metro Plus 800 also starts at 924 lumens but holds steady above 800 lumens for almost the entirety of its 60-minute claimed run time before dipping below 700 lumens.

The Cateye Volt800 comes highly recommended by the British publications and Cycling Weekly, but we passed on it because it’s pricey and not easy to get ahold of in the US. As of this writing, it’s available on Amazon only through a third-party seller and is entirely absent from Competitive Cyclist and REI. (As of summer 2020, it’s available through Amazon’s Global Store UK program; however, that means that manufacturer’s warranties may not apply.)

The Exposure Sirius series is another highly regarded headlight line from Europe that doesn’t have much of a US presence. These lights sell at a premium and have premium features such as programmable flashing modes and all-metal construction. But we think such things go above and beyond commuting needs.

The Bontrager Ion Pro RT is Switchback Travel’s top pick for the best headlight, and by all accounts it is an excellent light. Then again, for about $125, it better be. That extra money buys you extra brightness (1,300 lumens max) that is useful only for recreational trail riding at night, as well as Bluetooth integration (the ability to check battery life and to control modes using your phone or cycling computer) that doesn’t add much utility for commuters. If you want one light to do it all, including trail riding, this seems like a good option, but commuters are better off applying that amount of money toward a dynamo setup.


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