With the steady ebb of sunlight from evenings, the inevitable slide into darkness has begun, and for cyclists, that means only one thing - lights season is upon us. Yes - though we’re sad to see the end of sun-drenched miles, we’re keen not to be separated from our bikes, and so the matter of which lights to pick looms large.
Riding in the dark can mean anything from a swift commute home from work to a night mountain bike ride, so finding the right light to suit your needs is a real challenge. With this in mind, we decided to offer some recommendations on what you should be looking for, and perhaps suggest some pointers as to which light’s we will be banding to our bikes this season.
The street lit commute
For anyone completing a daily commute, a light that’s going to get you to work regardless of what the weather is doing is imperative. Offering you a long-life battery, meaning you do not need to regularly recharge it, this type of light blends power with perfectly worked out pulses of light to make sure that other road users are well aware of your presence, even if they struggle to believe it in such Siberian conditions.
Throwing their hat into the ring to offer you fantastic coverage on your commute are Beryl with their Laserlight Front Light. Offering the innovative inclusion of a projector, which emits a bike graphic on the road, this light not only ticks all the boxes for your commuting front light but also claims to improve visibility out on the road, with a 97% chance of being seen in a driver's blind spot. A premium aluminium casing ensures the light is 100% waterproof, while the 300 lumen LED is bright enough to help you stand out on even the busiest of junctions.
A battery life of up to 29 hours makes this ideal for week-long suburban commutes. The USB charging function and option to fit to 24-32 millimetre handlebars makes this light versatile and easy to switch between bikes.
Ensuring you are seen from behind, we recommend the Bontrager Flare RT 2 Rear Light. Over three years of stringest testing and refining has resulted in this, Bontrager's most advanced rear light yet. Visible from up to two kilometres away, the light can be connected to your Garmin Edge Cycling Computer, allowing you to control the different modes and keep an eye on the battery status. 90 lumens are more than sufficient for urban riding, while the integrated light sensor auto-adjusts the brightness to the environment around you.
Ideal for the unlit trail
Maybe the ride to the office isn’t what you’re about though, and you prefer to get your kicks riding through undergrowth rather than across town. If so you’re going to need a very different type of light. Emitting enough lumens to make you think the sun had risen twice in one day, a top trail light combines raw power with a carefully designed beam, ensuring that distortion is kept to a minimum and detail and depth are easily perceived when darting down a tight twisting track and avoiding technical obstacles in your way. Furthermore, for tackling tricky terrain, trail lights need to be tough, and ready to deal with the odd knock here and there.
Perfectly suiting the bill, for high-octane riding we recommend the Exposure Lights Maxx-D MK11 Front Light. Emitting 3300 lumens when in Reflex+ mode and made from a rugged anodised 6063 aluminium, this is the perfect light for mountain biking. Giving crisp detail and near daylight brightness, if you don’t want to make concessions on speed, then this light ensures you don’t have to.
Reflex+ technology is designed to save battery life, adjusting seamlessly to the conditions to provide just the right amount of light. Offering three hours of full power light and extending up to 36 hours for prolonged use, whether you're an enduro rider or downhill expert on a midnight dash, this light offers plenty of functionality.
Bringing up the rear, the Exposure Lights Blaze MK3 Rear Light with ReAKT and Peloton is ideal in this respect. A huge 150 lumens of bright rear-facing light and a battery life extending up to 48 hours, REAKT technology links your stopping speed to your brightness, effectively making this a brake light. Alerting the rider behind you on the trail as to your speed, they have the ability to make the decisions that will avoid a collision, taking the guesswork out of group riding.
To see and be seen
Riding all day and rolling all night, for some people, lights are just an essential element of their life by bike. Highlighting their presence, the urban native wanting to ride the concrete jungle without taking any chances is going to need a light that sparks out lumens whilst also offering you enough power for that unlit towpath or sprint through the park. In short, for entire days by bike, this is a light that’s got to have a little oomph behind it.
One such contender for your next front light is the Fabric Lumaray GPS Mount Light. Built into a Garmin Bike Computer Mount, the neat device provides up to 7.5 hours of flashing light to grab attention on the road. With 30 lumens for those darker interludes, this light equips you well to deal with whatever lays in your path.
Paired with the Garmin Varia Radar RTL510 Rear Light you’ve got a full spectrum of cover and visibility in traffic. Flashing a full 65 lumens and boasting a 220-degree viewing angle, the light's real USP is the ANT+ connectivity, allowing it to be paired to your Garmin device, whereby it alerts you to traffic coming from behind. When a vehicle is detected the beam of light intensifies, flashing to warn the driver of your presence.
To get yourself home
We’ve all been there. You’re a matter of minutes or miles from home but, not wanting to take any chances, you’re in need of a compact little light that’s going to simply wrap around your handlebar or seatpost and highlight your presence. Simple, small, and seeing you home safely, these lights are designed for visibility and usability, making sure you're seen by strobing rather than beaming.
A simple duo, perfectly paired for just this sort of job, the Bontrager Ion 100 R Front Light and Bontrager Flare R City Rear Light give you that base-level coverage for rides where your ambition isn’t setting a new personal best, but getting back and into bed without any drama. Lightweight, simple, and powerful enough to see you home safe, this is an ideal choice for those quick little stopovers.
For training and taming the road
Road riding distilled to its essence is always a mixture of fast and light. When it comes to the matter of lights on your speed machine, you’re going to want to keep them slight and bright. Cutting out the bulk whilst offering you plenty of lumens to show up that pothole in good time, a good front light offers a spread of modes to see you tackle everything between dusk and dawn. Keeping your handlebars uncluttered and your seatpost slick, these lights are pared back, designed to offer intuitive performance with minimum fuss.
Our benchmarks for performance? Well, our gold medal front light would have to be the Lezyne Macro 1100 Front Light. With seven modes to choose from and two LEDs kicking out up to 1100 lumens, this light is heavyweight when it comes to features, although, at just 144 grams,won't weigh you down out on the road. Charging via USB and offering a battery life of up to 78 hours, the light can be attached to a range of handlebars, including aero bars, using the versatile strap. A MOR(Maximum Optical Reflection) lens adds further visibility out on the road and the design ensures you can be seen from the side.
The equivalent rear light from Lezyne, the Strip Pro 300 Rear Light is sure to offer you a top level of visibility on the road. Simply strapping it to your seatpost and weighing just 69 grams, this is a great choice for road riding. Waterproof, aero and with a simple, slick design, this light encapsulates everything you could need to extend your ride into the night. Both lights can be bought as a set, ensuring you keep both the front and rear of your bike illuminated.
With any luck, we’ll have shone a light on the best choices for your type of riding, and you’ll have a little more of an idea in what to look. If you’re feeling clued up and raring to pick out your next photon thrower to affront the darkness, why not check out our selection of lights?