Bicycle lights serve two functions. They help us to see where we are going when it’s dark outside, and they make us more visible when we are riding around other traffic.
In the past few years a quiet revolution has been taking place in the realm of bicycle lighting. The advent of CREE LEDs along with lithium rechargeable batteries and superior optics has been nothing less than astonishing. It is now possible to purchase really good, strong lights that last a long time, and the price is quite reasonable.
We are not going to get into prices and brands here, but rather, let’s consider some situations, and our best recommendation for specifications to meet them.
For daylight road riding:
Front light ~ Look for a white light, in the 800 to 1200 lumen range.
Rechargeable. At least 1.5 to 2 hour burn time on high. Handlebar mounted.
Rear light ~ To be “daylight visible, these should emit at least 150 lumens,
and have multiple flash and solid modes. Again, rechargeable. Burn time
should be at least two hours on the bright setting
Expect to paybetween $75 and $120 for the front light and $40 to $60 for
For night time road riding:
Oddly, much lessillumination is required at night on the road. Your LED type lights have a very high point source intensity, and are visible for a great distance at night. It takes a lot less power to give you sufficient light to see and ride safely.
Front Light ~ White light, in the 400 to 800 lumen range. Rechargeable.
2 hour burn time on high. Handlebar mount is adequate, but mounting lower
on the bike gives better contrast illumination of road surface hazards.
Rear light ~ I would recommend the same thing as above.
Expect to pay between $50 and $75 for the front light and $40 to $60 for the
For night time path riding or mountain biking:
More light is required at the front of the bike for off-road activities because there is much less ambient light in these areas. On the other hand, a less powerful tail light is just fine. Light mounting strategy also changes when we go off-road. The ideal setup is to have two headlights, one mounted on the handlebar, and one helmet mounted. Next best, if only one headlight, use it on a helmet mount.
The emphasis on a helmet mounted light for off-road riding is practical. Roads are built for cars, and even a “curvy” road is fairly straight for cycling concerns. Paths and trails twist and turn sharply. Often it is desirable to shine a light into a tight turn, and it’s notpractical to turn the handlebar mounted light.
Safety Note: Do not use a helmet mounted light with a MIPShelmet. The mount will interfere with the function of the MIPSinner shell. (I’m not sure yet how to solve this one, but I’ll publish info as soon as I have it.)
Handlebar light ~ Minimum 400 lumens. To 800 lumen (or better)
Rechargeable. Two hour burn time at 800 lumen setting.
Helmet mounted light ~ about the same as handlebar.
Rear light ~ anything over 50 lumen is sufficient. Rechargeable. At least
four hours burn time.
Expect to paybetween $75 and $120 for bright high quality front lights and
at lease $30 for a decent tail light.