Best bike lights reviewed 2021/2022

Your essential guide to buying bike lights, including how much to pay, the features you need, and our pick of the best bike lights on the market

Group of cyclists riding on an unlit road with bike lights
The best winter bike lights will make winter riding much more enjoyable

If you're planning to ride after dark or before daybreak, you need to have a good quality set of the best bike lights.

Most cyclists will regularly ride after dark in autumn and winter, making bike lights an essential piece of kit, although daytime running bike lights are growing in popularity because they help you to be seen out on the road, even in bright sunlight.

We've split our guide into categories: bike light sets (made up of a 'be seen' front light and a rear light), 'seeing' front lights, and rear lights. This is based on lumen count, the industry standard for expressing how much light you'll get.

'Be seen' lights make you more conspicuous and are designed for use on lit roads. 'Seeing' lights highlight the road in front of you, and are designed for cyclists who ride at night on unlit roads. 

 

Seeing front bike lights: 2021/2022 showdown

Test protocol 

Our team of three testers used these lights over the course of a month, and then met up for a ride after dark to compare the beams on a loop around Sussex.

As well as beam strength, other factors we took into account include the number of modes, how useful these were in practice, as well as battery life and the security of the mounting system., and burn time.

2021/2022 bike light test: the scores on the doors 

LightBlackburn Dayblazer 1500Knog PWR Trail 1100Lezyne MacroDrive 1300XXLExposure Strada MK10 SB
Score3/54/54.5/54.5/5
Lumens1500110013001500
Weight143g (claimed 140g)220g226g (claimed 208g)228g (claimed 230g)
Battery life (claimed)2hrs (lasted 2hrs+)1.7hrs (lasted as claimed)2.5hrs (lasted as claimed)2hrs
Modes56720
MountRubber strapClampRubber strapAlloy mount
RRP£89.99/$95£119.99£90/$99.99£300/$411

2021/2022 front light grouptest: beams compared

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blackburn light beam

The Blackburn Dayblazer beam is bright, but quite centered in one patch
(Image credit: Future)
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blackburn light beam

The Blackburn Dayblazer beam is bright, but quite centered in one patch
(Image credit: Future)

Lezyne Macro Drive 1300XXL

(Image credit: Future)

Best performance/value blend

Specifications
RRP: £90/$99.99
Lumens: 1300
Battery life : 2.5hrs (lasted as claimed)
Modes: 7
Mount: Ruber strap
Weight: 226g (claimed 208g)
Reasons to buy
+Solid construction+Reliable mount+Wide beam
Reasons to avoid
-Takes up quite a bit of space on your handlebars

The Lezyne MacroDrive 1300XXL puts out 1300 lumens. It provides a wide beam, and attaches to the handlebar via a rubber strap - which is thick and stretchy, resulting in a robust overall package when paired with the CNC'd aluminium body.

You can choose to use the 'Race' mode, which lets you switch between 1300 lumens and 130 lumens, or the standard mode, where you can cycle through all seven options. The Race mode is handy as it effectively lets you 'dip' the beam.

Charging is via a micro USB cable. The battery life is a claimed 2.5 hours. We tested this twice, and found we still had either a flashing red light (indicating 5% battery left) or solid red light (indicating 5-10% left) after 2 hours 20 minutes.

All in, we concluded that this is a solid light which we would wholeheartedly recommend. 

Read the full review of the Lezyne MacroDrive 1300XXL here, for an alternative check out the Lezyne Micro Drive Pro 800XL review or Exposure Lightdrive 1000XL review

Exposure Strada MK10 SB

(Image credit: Future)

Best 'money is no object' option

Specifications
RRP: £300/$411
Lumens: 1500
Battery life: 2hrs
Modes: 20
Mount: Alloy mount
Wright: 228g (claimed 230g)
Reasons to buy
+Super bright with a helpful beam pattern+Wide range of easy to use modes+Quality construction+Long burntime
Reasons to avoid
-Mount is very fiddly to attach-DC charging cable not as universal as USB

Exposure has been a market leader for some time and the Sussex based brand is known for engineering products that really last - members of the CW team have managed to keep some of Exposure's beams going for over a decade. So, whilst the price is high, if you've got the cash we'd fully recommend the Strada MK10. 

The 1500 lumens is measured, not calculated - meaning that you really do get a full 1500 lumens. The beam was quite visibly the brightest of the bunch. 

Battery life is 2 hours, and Exposure's digitial screen actually displays the number of minutes you have left; these figures rang true for us.

Exposure also offers a full 20 modes, with a feature that allows you to select a 'sub mode' so you don't have to cycle through all 20. 

The mount is a beautifully engineered aluminium construction, though, it is fiddly to swap between bikes when compared with a simple rubber strap.

View the full Exposure Strada MK10 SB review here. For alternatives, read the  Exposure Sirius MK9 DayBright review or the Exposure Toro MK12 front bike light review

Knog PWR Trail 1100

(Image credit: Future)

Best operation when wearing gloves

Specifications
RRP: £119.99
Lumens: 1100
Battery life: 1.7hrs
Modes: 6
Mount: Clamp
Weight: 220g
Reasons to buy
+Even spread of light that’s very bright for 1,100 lumens+Twisting to change modes is easy with gloves on+Mount holds it secure, doesn’t need tools and isn’t too fiddly to swap between bikes+Programmable with ModeMaker app+Modular system means battery can be used as a powerpack
Reasons to avoid
-Doesn't switch to eco mode when charge is low-Fuel gauge could be more meaningful

Knog's PWR Trail 1100 didn't perform as well, across the board, as the offerings from Lezyne and Exposure, but it still scored 4/5 and is a solid product.

The Knog light is a modular system, you can actually use it as a power pack, should you find you're riding in daylight but (for example) need to charge your phone. This is a great touch, however, its battery life is only 1.7hrs, and we did find that claim rang true - giving it the shortest burntime of all those on test.

Changing modes is performed via a twist function, this is very easy to use, and could be particularly useful when wearing gloves.

The mount is a clamp with a ratchet wheel, whilst a little more fiddly than a rubber strap, it is robust. 

View the full Knog PWR Trail 1100 light review here

Blackburn Dayblazer front on

(Image credit: Future)

Solid option, but there's better out there

Specifications
RRP: £89.99/$85
Lumens: 1500
Battery life: 2hrs (surpassed this)
Modes: 5
Mount: Rubber strap
Weight: 143g (claimed 140g)
Reasons to buy
+Low weight+Battery life surpassed claim
Reasons to avoid
-Rubber strap is too skinny-Helmet mount need additional purchases

The Dayblazer 1500 from Blackburn is the lowest scorer on test. It lost marks for the mount, which broke during testing, largely due to its skinny profile and the amount of force required to fit it to a chunky road bike handlebar. In addition, whilst it claims to come with a helmet mount, we'd suggest it comes with a helmet mount adapter which doesn't provide all you'd need to fit the light to your lid.

On the plus side, the Blackburn Dayblazer 1500 does put out plenty of light, and it was the lightest option on test, at 143g. The body is robust, and water and grit protection is excellent. 

View the full Blackburn Dayblazer 1500 review here

Blike light sets

Giant HL 100 and TL 100 Combo

The Giant HL 100 and TL 100 Combo lightset is simple and easy to use

(Image credit: Giant/ Cycling Weekly)

Best for combining function and form

Specifications
Lumens: 100
Battery life: 2.5–18 hours
Battery type: Integrated rechargeable
Weight: 33g per light
Reasons to buy
+Lightweight+User friendly+Powerful for their size+Quirky design
Reasons to avoid
-On/off switch not the easiest to operate

The Giant Recon HL 100 and TL 100 are very simple to operate, with no long presses, counting flashes to determine brightness level or anything like that. You just cycle through the five modes by short-pressing the on/off button and it’s the standard long press for on and off.

The switch, however, is a small oblong that needs a direct pressure in exactly the right place. A protruding, rubbery switch would be easier but it would wreck the cube’s symmetry. I can live with form over function this time, but sometimes it takes a couple of attempts to activate it, especially with gloves.

The Tail-Light (TL) is surprisingly bright – blinding even – for such a small light. It’s really all you’d ever need from a rear light. The Head-Light (HL) is fine for streetlit commutes but is not enough for seeing on unlit roads – it is strictly a ‘be-seen’ light.

Landing in the middle ground price wise, they're well designed and have good functionality. Perfect for a lightweight, versatile, good-looking, commuter light set with a very useful daytime mode.

Read more: Giant Recon HL 100 and Recon TL 100 combo review

Lezyne Micro Drive 600XL and KTV Pro light set

The Lezyne Micro Drive 600XL and KTV Pro light set is solid and secure

(Image credit: Wiggle)

Best for durability

Specifications
Lumens: 600 front / 75 rear
Battery life: 1–44 hours
Battery type: Integrated rechargeable
Weight: 97g front / 50g rear
Reasons to buy
+High level of visibility+Durability due to aluminium casing+Long burn time
Reasons to avoid
-Rear light tends to spin

At 600 lumens, the Lezyne 600XL packs a punch and isn't far off being a 'seeing' light.

The front 600XL uses a permanently attached rubber strap to wrap it tight around the handlebar but it also rotates on the clamp allowing you to fit on fork leg or any odd angled position. Despite being used on the fork leg for riding LEJOG, we had no issues with the light remaining steadfastly in place.

The LEDs are arranged in a side-by-side pattern and push out a decent spread of light that in most modes works as a flood light to light up the road ahead evenly. Only in the two brightest modes does it take on more of a spot pattern, highlighting a smaller but brighter patch of the road ahead. But we can attest that even the lower flashing modes are bright enough to light up road signs from over five hundred meters away easily.

With regards the rear KTV unit, mounting is reliant on the thick rubber strap and slightly compliant rear recess on the light body. This recess is a little too narrow and the rubber a little too stiff to hold it tight against a standard seatpost. This does result in the light spinning of centre during a ride and reduces rear visibility. Something you will need to keep an eye on.

Read more: Lezyne Micro Drive 600XL and KTV Pro light set review

Exposure Trace bike lights

Exposure Trace lights are a long term favourite in the Cycling Weekly office

(Image credit: Exposure)

Best for ultimate quality

Specifications
Lumens: 110 front / 75 rear
Battery life: 3–24 hours
Battery type: Integrated rechargeable
Weight: 78g per light
Reasons to buy
+HIgh level of visibility including side visibility+Build quality is renowned from Exposure+Simple attachment
Reasons to avoid
-Exposure lights are usually more expensive than the competition but they do last 

The Trace and TraceR lights are the smallest and most featherweight units Exposure produce and at first glance it's hard to imagine the sort of performance they are capable of. But just like David against Goliath, size isn't everything.

Tiny, robust, extremely bright and with long burn times. There really is nothing to fault the Exposure Trace and TraceR light set. Ideal for everything from commuting to being a backup set for longer trips, this is a set of lights that will provide reliable service for many a year.

The beam pattern and visibility for both lights is exceptional. The front throws out a good spread of light and in flashing mode easily lights up road signs for a few hundred metres ahead and the rear daybright mode is searingly bright. Both lights also have an extended lens that enables it to throw out a good level of side visibility, extending the safety levels.

Charging is simple and it takes just 1.5 hours to charge each from empty. A USB charging port is located under the rubber band that encircles the light. It can be a bit fiddly to pull it out of the way but you soon get used to the process. We’re yet to have any water ingress so despite its flimsy appearance it works really well.

Read more: Exposure Trace and Trace R MK2 light set review

CatEye Sync; Core and Kinetic bike light set

CatEye Sync; Core and Kinetic light set uses wireless connection to pair lights together

(Image credit: Wiggle/ CatEye)

Best for ease of use

Specifications
Lumens: 500 front / 50 rear / 40 wearable
Battery life: 2–25 hours
Battery type: Integrated rechargeable
Weight: 181g (set)
Reasons to buy
+Additional wireless connection between lights 
Reasons to avoid
-Battery life of the wearable light was short compared to the other two lights

The new CatEye Sync range is the next step in bike lights where three units are connected together wirelessly so that when one is switched on, the others light up too. Equally, when a mode is changed or the lights are to be turned off, one press of a button on one unit will change all the lights too.

It might sound a little excessive, but we found that it did genuinely make commuting easier – particularly with a train journey splitting up the riding and consequently having to turn the lights on and off twice as often.

Firstly the rear Kinetic has an inbuilt accelerometer, which automatically turns on high mode when it detects a deceleration. This is very bright at 50 lumens and works very well to attract attention of road users behind.

The front light, which is 500 lumens, has extended side illumination for added 'be seen' credentials. It has five light modes and seems to super bright during night time commuting. We were especially impressed by its quality build and the Daytime HyperConstant mode.

The Wearable is a nice addition too. It is a small light but still knocks out 40 lumens. Its shape lends itself to be seen from the side also and placed on the back; clipped to a pocket or bag, gives you some extra peace of mind that you'll be seen.

Read more: CatEye Sync; Core, Kinetic and Wearable review

Watch: Budget vs Premium bike lights

Best bike lights: rear lights

Lezyne KTV Pro rear light

Lezyne KTV Pro rear light uses a simple USB charging stick

Best for charging simplicity

Specifications
Lumens: 75
Battery life: 4–19.5 hours
Battery type: Integrated rechargeable
Weight: 50g
Reasons to buy
+Great visibility+Durable build+Burn time is impressive
Reasons to avoid
-Rear light tends to spin

A bright 75 lumen rear which offers a variety of modes, including a daytime option.

Charging is via an inbuilt USB stick, you just whip the end off and plug it in. The light uses a rubber band for mounting and can fit aero or round seat posts, though we did find it suited aero versions better.

Read more: Lezyne KTV Pro rear light

Cateye Rapid X3 rear light

Cateye Rapid X3 rear light mounts simply, with an elastic band

Specifications
Lumens: 150
Battery life: 1–30 hours
Battery type: Integrated rechargeable
Weight: 64g
Reasons to buy
+COB tech leads to large lighted area+Independent switches for each array make for lots of lighting options+Option to have a constant and a flashing array at the same time+Step down to flashing output leads to long run time
Reasons to avoid
-Limited battery life in highest output constant mode

Plenty of modes and 150 lumens on the highest output make the Cateye Rapid X3 very competent rear light. We like that it uses two LEDs which makes the flash setting seem particularly bright and that it automatically goes into a reduced 'low battery' mode when it's running out of juice. Charging time takes about 3 hours.

Read more: Cateye Rapid X3 rear light

Lezyne Laser Drive rear light

Lezyne Laser Drive rear light can mount anywhere on the rider or bike

Best for daytime running

Specifications
Lumens: 250
Battery life: 2.5–17 hours
Battery type: Integrated rechargeable
Weight: 74g
Reasons to buy
+Extra rear visibility through high output and laser guides+Lots of lighting modes+Very bright flashing option
Reasons to avoid
-Quite a large unit-Expensive compared to the competition

At over £50/ $50, this is quite a pricey option - but it's got a unique party trick. The 250-lumen rear bike light also incorporates laser beams which can be displayed either side of the cyclist, designed to reduce the number of close passes cyclists experience. The mount is compatible with both round and aero seat posts, too.

Read more: Lezyne Laser Drive rear light review

Bontrager Flare RT rear bike light

Bontrager Flare RT rear bike light packs a punch in a small package

Best for packing a punch in small package

Specifications
Lumens: 90
Battery life: 4.5–13.5 hours
Battery type: Integrated rechargeable
Weight: 33g
Reasons to buy
+Light weight+A lot of technology+Can turn off ambient light sensor as you wish
Reasons to avoid
-Mode settings can be a bit confusing

Don't be fooled by the Bontrager Flare RT's compact size, this miniature tail light backs the punch of a flashbang. The LED inside only outputs 90-lumens, but the optics built into the lens focus the beam in such a way that the Flare RT can be seen from up to 2km / 1.2mi away. ANT+ connectivity means it can be connected to Garmin computers to show battery status and for control, and an integrated ambient light sensor adjusts brightness for maximum visibility.

Read more: Bontrager Flare RT review

Exposure Blaze with DayBright bike light

Exposure's Blaze with DayBright might be pricey but it will last you for years

(Image credit: Exposure )

Best for build quality

Specifications
Lumens: 80
Battery life: 6–48 hours
Battery type: Integrated rechargeable
Weight: 77g
Reasons to buy
+Lumen output (80)+Design+Finish+Burn time
Reasons to avoid
-Price is higher than competition-Limited mounting options-Complicated mode selection

There's no doubt that you'll feel safer in the knowledge that you'll be much more likely to be seen by approaching cars and other traffic with the Exposure Blaze rear light attached to your bike. It truly is a dazzling light that cuts through the light pollution to grab the attention of other road users. The Daybright function is impressive in bright sunshine, especially at cutting through low level sunrays.

Read more: Exposure Blaze with DayBright

Garmin Varia RTL515 rear bike light

Garmin Varia RTL515 comes loaded with safety features

Best for extra safety features

Specifications
Lumens: 65
Battery life: 6–16 hours
Battery type: Integrated rechargeable
Weight: 100g (incl mount)
Reasons to buy
+Ups your road presence+Usually quicker to spot approaching vehicles than you are
Reasons to avoid
-Only one alert for vehicles in convoy-Does not spot all approaching vehicles-Expensive, but does offer extra features for the outlay

Garmin's Varia RTL515 has four light modes, 65-lumens under the hood, and has a viewing angle of up to 220-degrees, but that's not what sets this light apart.

Hidden inside this sleek looking taillight is a rear-facing radar which can pick up cars from up to 140m / 459ft away, and when connected to a Garmin or Wahoo head unit, alerts you to and tracks cars as they approach. It may sound like a gimmick, but in our experience, it is surprisingly accurate, and often picks up cars before our ears do.

Read more: Garmin Varia RTL515 review

 

What do you need to consider when looking for a bike light?

We’ll look at specialist lighting options in a moment, but for now, let’s assume you’re a road rider or commuter who wants to see and been seen when the sun sets. What do you need to consider when buying your lights?

Most modern cycle lights use LEDs rather than old-school bulbs, and such has been the advancement of technology, these can be blindingly bright.

Of course, light power is an important part of your buying criteria, but don’t let that be the be-all and end-all. Beam shape and the effect of the light lens can make a huge difference — we’ve seen lights of supposedly lesser power trounce rivals when it comes to real-world performance.

Even if you plan on using a light to see, it will still perform the double duty of helping you to be seen by other road users.

If you’ll be riding on lit roads, you may find the need for an ultra-bright constant beam is unnecessary and a flash function at the front is perfectly adequate.

 

best bike lights

Bike lights and the UK law

New bikes are sold with reflectors and many people dress in high visibility clothing, which are good additions but in no way make up for a bike with no lights. Bicycle mounted illumination is essential for safety and to keep you on the right side of the law. A decent set of bike lights can be the difference between riding home safely or not getting there at all.

In the UK, law regarding bike lights is governed by the Road Vehicles Lighting Regulations, first published in 1989 but amended six times since, which says that as well as your pedal reflectors and rear reflectors (the side and front reflectors aren’t actually a legal necessity) night-riders will also need lights front and back.

The lights have to be mounted on the bike centrally or to the offside, positioned up to 1.5m from the ground, and conform to British Safety or EC standards.

Both front or rear lights can be flashers, but if so they must emit at least four candela. “But bike lights tend to be rated in lumens or Watts, what’s a candela?” we hear you cry.

It’s not a particularly easy subject to explain, and they’re not directly convertible units. But simply put: as long as you buy decent quality bike lights, fit them properly, and remember to switch them on, the law shouldn’t be a problem.

Bike lights and the US law

In the US, the law requires riders to have both active and passive lighting — active lighting is well...lights, while passive lighting are things like reflectors and reflective clothing.

The exact wording of the laws varies from state to state, but the summation of it all is that between sunset and sunrise or in conditions of 'limited visibility' you must have a white light pointing forwards, and a red light pointing backward.

Lumens and power

Lumens are used by the bike industry to measure the power of a light: a lumen is a unit of visible light. Since modern LEDs require far less energy, expressing their power in watts — which tells you how much energy they consume rather than how much light they produce — is redundant. For comparison’s sake, a 100W incandescent bulb emits 1600 lumens.

The more you pay, the more lumens you get, but lumens burn up charge, meaning that if you want to run a high-lumen light for a long period of time it will need a big battery.

For road riding on unlit back streets, you need a 'seeing' light. This needs to be at least 700 lumens, though to ride fast like you would in the summer then 1000+ lumens is a safer bet as you'll have longer to anticipate obstacles like pot holes.

To be seen when riding on lit roads, 100 lumens is a good benchmark, but 300+ will show you a little more of what's going on at ground level ahead of you. At the rear, anything from 20 to 100 lumens is plenty.

Battery life and charging

For your rear light, the flash function is ideal. But if you’re a bike commuter, with both front and rear lights also consider how effective the lamp is in terms of side lighting, as this will make you more visible from more angles and help avoid the "sorry, I didn't see you" excuse from a turning vehicle.

It’s still generally a case of the brighter the better, but you also need to consider other qualities that will make your life easier. Look to see how many flash settings the light has; what the run times will be on a single charge or one set of batteries; and see if it has a rechargeable power source.

In this case, check if it needs its own special charger or if it can be recharged via USB, which aids convenience immensely. Some lights even have a helpful gauge showing how much power they have left.

Bike light mounts

The last consideration is mounting. Smaller bike lights may be simply mounted using a rubber or silicone strap, whereas big lamps — especially front lights — may require a fixed bracket. Truly powerful front lights may even feature an external battery pack that will also need to be accommodated on the bike.

In any case, if you’re planning to leave your bike parked up in public for any length of time, make sure your lamps can be easily removed.

Rear bike lights: what do you need to consider?

Though the amount of power you'll need for your front light will vary depending upon where you're riding, no cyclist should be without an adequate rear bike light. Rear bike lights will usually omit around 30 lumens or more, and generally have several modes: steady light, flashing, or a combination between the two. All options are safe and legal, but a flashing mode will usually help to save battery life and attract more attention.

Recently we have been introduced to the idea of using a rear bike light even in the day time, because it will help drivers pick you out from behind. It's also a sensible idea to double up on rear lights. Though it's unlikely, you won't be quite so aware if your rear bike light fails as you would be in the case of a front beam, so having a back-up fitted can provide extra security and peace of mind.

Back-up bike lights, helmet-mounted bike lights and extra brightness

The typical bike commuter on urban streets will only need a relatively simple set of front and rear lights. There’s still every reason to buy the best you can afford, and even double up with an extra set of cheap emergency-only flashers front and back. But if you’ll be riding off-road or on unlit back roads, you really do need to go for the bigger, more powerful lamps with wider beams.

To augment their bike-mounted torch, many riders also opt for helmet-mounted lights. These can be very effective and have the added benefit of directing the light wherever you are looking. However, these should be in addition to those on the bike, and not your only source of illumination.

Another sensible option is the dynamo light. This uses a compatible hub or wheel-rubbing bottle dynamo to convert your forward motion into electricity which then powers the light — so no need for batteries. Bottle dynamos can be disengaged in daylight hours so they don’t drag unnecessarily, and at night means you’ll never need to worry about run times or recharging again.

best bike lights

Super safe accessories

Night riding isn’t just about illumination. In recent years a whole industry of associated safety accessories has come about.

There are some smart options out there designed to improve your safety. For example, Garmin's Varia radars will literally make you aware of and track cars as they approach, while the CatEye Sync range allows you to switch on multiple lights at the push of one button.

There are more innovative products appearing all the time, so do enjoy exploring the world of cycle lighting. Just remember, the basic rules haven’t changed: be safe, be seen.