Bike lights may sometimes be overlooked, but they can be the difference between life and death. After all, you never know if you’ll end up in foggy, rainy, or otherwise inclement weather where visibility is reduced. In such situations, it’s crucial for other motorists and pedestrians to be able to see you and vice-versa. Bike lights help you achieve that end.
There are plenty of bike light types to choose from, so it can get confusing trying to select the best one for you. On this page, we’ll go over the various types of bike lights and share some of our favorites.
Bike Light Types
There are several bike light types you might be interested in. These include the following:
- Helmet lights: In addition to bike lights, you might get a helmet light. This hooks onto your bike helmet and allows you to see into the dark distance even better. The only downside is the light may weigh down your helmet.
- Off-road lights: There are also off-road lights, which are intended for those who like to ride off the beaten path (like mountain bikers). This light will adhere to the base of your bike, typically below the handlebars. With brilliant illumination, you should have no problem seeing what’s in front of you. Unfortunately, battery life on off-road lights tends to be short.
- Backup lights: Backup lights typically include two in a set. These lights are much smaller than most other bike lights. With their rubbery strap attachment, you can move backup lights anywhere you need them most. They’re not designed to be used as your predominant lights, but rather, to augment your bike light setup.
- Main lights: Finally, there’s your main lights. As the name tells you, these are the primary lights on your bike. It’s not uncommon for main lights to use battery power. Installation involves connecting a bracket to your bike. The bracket is often made of plastic.
Our Favorite Bike Lights:
For Your Main Light — Cygolite Metro 700 USB Rechargeable Bike Light
The Metro 700 light is backed by the decades of experience and quality synonymous with the Cygolite name. You can get the Metro wet and it won’t stop working, so there’s never any need to worry about riding through puddles or getting caught in the rain. Even if you do need to replace it prematurely (which is pretty unlikely), this light isn’t very pricy.
Sometimes you don’t need a super bright light. That’s why you can select between several light modes with the Metro, six in all. There’s the Walking light, which is the dimmest but should last 115 hours before a recharge. If you need a somewhat brighter light, the Low setting should get you by for about nine and a half hours. The SteadyPulse light is brighter still and lasts for about three hours of riding.
You can also toggle to the Medium light, which is pretty bright but not the most intense. It lasts for about two and a half hours before having to be recharged. If you’re in foggy or extremely dark conditions, you can trust in Cygolite with their High light setting. This has the brightest illumination possible but will last the least amount of time, roughly an hour and 15 minutes.
The SteadyPulse mode is for more than just providing light. The intermittent flashes serve as a warning to motorists so they stay out of your way.
Is it a cloudy day and you need more illumination? Try the DayLighting mode. This has intermittent flashing too but is designed for use during the day. Even if it’s somewhat bright out, you’ll still be able to see this light. That’s because Cygolite’s Metro light promises 700 powerful lumens. If preferred, you can also get this main light with 400 or 500 lumens.
For Your Rear Lights — Cygolite Hotshot Pro 150 USB Rechargeable Bike Tail Light
The Cygolite Hotshot Pro 150 USB Rechargeable Bike Tail Light is another of our favorites, as we can attest to here. This USB light with bright red casing also has a daylight flash option. Whether the weather is bad during the day or you want to ride safely and alert other vehicles of your presence, this mode is handy.
You also get Cygolite’s Steady Pulse mode with the Hotshot Pro. Again, this is for your safety, as it allows motorists to determine how far away you are and keep a good distance from you and your bike.
The other included light modes are Random Flash, Triple Flash, Zoom, and Steady. That gives you six modes in all, just like with the Metro light. The Hotshot Pro rear lights are much less bright though, as you get only 150 lumens. Still, you’ll enjoy them for hours and hours. Cygolite says it’ll be 210 hours before you’ll have to recharge the batteries.
Is It Illegal to Go without Bike Lights?
While the laws will vary from state to state, it’s generally illegal to ride your bike without some form of light. Helmet lights on their own are not enough.
This law is for your own safety more than anything else. When it’s dark or the weather is inclement, visibility is reduced. Other motorists might not spot you until it’s too late. Getting struck by a car when you’re on your bike could be fatal. Having bike lights also prevents you from crashing into your surroundings, potentially seriously injuring yourself.
If you want to read about your home state’s specific bike light laws, you can click this link.
What to Look for When Browsing for Bike Lights
Now that you know you need bike lights, it’s smart to start shopping for them if you don’t already own a set or two. Here’s the characteristics of a safe, durable bike light:
- Strong frame: The frame that houses the light must be able to withstand weather changes, physical impacts, and other wear and tear from riding. Otherwise, you’ll have to replace the light quickly.
- Sturdy but simple installation: Installation shouldn’t take you hours, but when you set up your bike light, it should be secure. If it’s wobbling or falling off your bike, you need a different light.
- Multiple settings: Sometimes you might need to use a pulse or flash setting while other times you want steady light. A bike light with several settings can improve your visibility no matter what situations arise when riding.
- Different brightness settings: Being able to adjust the brightness, thus making your bike light dimmer or stronger, is also necessary. This way, you can always see what’s in front of you without shining excessively bright light into the eyes of passing motorists.
- High lumens: The higher the lumen count, the brighter your lights will be on the highest setting. This is much more important for main lights than rear lights.
- Long battery life: You should be able to get at least several hours out of your bike lights before they need to be charged via USB port or you have to replace the batteries. Do keep in mind that the higher your light brightness, the faster you will drain the battery.
Bike lights are not an optional accessory. Many states legally mandate them for your safety and that of other motorists. The lights we recommended on this page cover the front and rear of your bike, providing you great illumination as well as several brightness settings. They’re inexpensive, too, so what are you waiting for? It’s time to outfit your bike with lights.