Best bike lights: best front and rear road bike lights

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

If you're planning to ride after dark, you need to have a good quality set of lights. In most places it's a legal requirement to have a white light at the front and a red at the rear, and if nothing else, riding without them after the sun has set can be really dangerous as other road users will struggle to see you.

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

Sun in the eyes is often cited by motorists as a reason for not spotting a more vulnerable road user, a factor that can be negated by a set of bike lights switched on during the day to contrast the rider against the bright backdrop.

We've got more on everything you need to know when choosing a bike light below, but first here are some of our recommendations for lights worth looking into.

With each product is a ‘See more’ link. If you click on this then we may receive a small amount of money from the retailer when you purchase the item. This doesn’t affect the amount you pay.


Best bike lights: mini sets

Front lights are generally classified as 'seeing' lights or 'be seen' lights.

'Be seen' lights make you more conspicuous and are designed for use on lit roads. In this case, 100 lumens is a good starting point – but 300+ will let you see more of the road ahead.

>>> Do you need daytime running lights?

'Seeing' lights highlight the road in front of you, and are designed for cyclists who ride at night and need to illuminate the road ahead.

Generally speaking anything over 500 lumens should be good enough for a steady commuting pace where there are street lights. Anything over 1000 Lumens should provide good enough visibility to allow you to ride rapidly on unlit roads and trails as it should provide you with enough foresight to ride confidently.

Giant HL 100 and TL 100 Combo

(Image credit: Giant/ Cycling Weekly)

Giant Recon HL 100 and Recon TL 100 combo

Best for combining function and form

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

best bike lights

Beryl Pixel Dual Light

Best backup light

Lumens: Not given
Battery life: 5–10 hours
Battery type: Integrated rechargeable
Weight: 18g per light
Reasons to buy
+Lightweight+Versatile+Different mount options
Reasons to avoid
-Only for city riding

The Beryl Pixel Dual lights are pocketable, lightweight lights that'll keep you safe on well-lit commutes home when you don't want to be lugging around heavier options. 

The USP of the Beryl Pixel is not its size though – it's that it's two lights in one and can be used as a front or rear light. This makes the Pixel a great back-up light or an enhancement to the rear or front, dependent on the scenario you are faced with on the commute.

The mount for the light is made from a robust plastic that locks the light into place. This mount is a clip so can be attached to a bag or pocket if need be. The kit comes with a rubber band, again sturdy, which can wrap around bars or seatposts. We found it's even comfortable on some aero-shaped bars and posts too. There's also a Velcro strap so you can attach it to a helmet.

Read more: Beryl Pixel Dual Light review

Seeing light sets


(Image credit: Wiggle)

Lezyne Micro Drive 600XL and KTV Pro light set

Best for durability

Lumens: 600 front / 75 rear
Battery life: 1–44 hours
Battery type: Integrated rechargeable
Weight: 97g front / 50g rear
Reasons to buy
+Visibility+Durability+Burn time
Reasons to avoid
-Rear light tends to spin

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 lights

(Image credit: Exposure)

Exposure Trace and Trace R MK2 light set

Best for ultimate quality

Lumens: 110 front / 75 rear
Battery life: 3–24 hours
Battery type: Integrated rechargeable
Weight: 78g per light
Reasons to buy
+Visibility+Build quality+Simple attachment
Reasons to avoid

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 light set

(Image credit: Wiggle/ CatEye)

CatEye Sync; Core, Kinetic and Wearable

Best for ease of use

Lumens: 500 front / 50 rear / 40 wearable
Battery life: 2–25 hours
Battery type: Integrated rechargeable
Weight: 181g (set)
Reasons to buy
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

Best bike lights: front lights

Best bike lights: front lights

best bike lights

Knog PWR Rider front light

Best for useful extra features

Lumens: 450
Battery life: 2–24 hours
Battery type: Integrated rechargeable
Weight: 114g
Reasons to buy
+Range of five lights with illumination levels to suit your riding+Double up as a power bank+Easy operation with gloves+Robust mounts+Configurable lighting modes
Reasons to avoid
-Recesses in lights can accumulate dirt

The cylindrical black alloy body and has a pull-off waterproof cap which hides a USB port, allowing the light to be used as a power bank, by plugging the supplied USB lead into a phone or other device. It’s a neat trick if you want to recharge your phone or Garmin while on the move, as well as using your lights. The cap also covers the light’s charging port.

Knog says that if you run the PWR Rider at its peak 450 lumens for an hour, there’s still enough charge left to add 35% charge to an iPhone, so you get a reasonable level of performance for both. Used just for lighting, it will run for around two hours at 450 lumens.

You can also use Knog’s ModeMaker app to set up your own lighting preferences and drop ones which you won’t use. Configuration is via an intuitive drag and drop interface. It’s useful if, for example, you’re planning to go off road and only want a high and a low beam option.

We found there’s plenty of light output in the highest 450 lumen constant mode to ride steadily on unlit roads, or a bit faster if there’s street lighting. The beam is elliptical, so you can point the light down a bit, get wide coverage to make turns safely and avoid dazzling oncoming vehicles.

But the lens does have a round depression in its centre, which we tended to accumulate dirt. It’s pretty easy to clean, but does require wiping it out occasionally to keep output at its best.

NiteRider Lumina Micro 650

(Image credit: NiteRider)

NiteRider Lumina Micro 650/Sabre 80 Combo

Best for simple functionality

Lumens: 650
Battery life: 1.5–12 hours
Battery type: Integrated rechargeable
Weight: 156g
Reasons to buy
+Well constructed front light+Brightness of both lights+Burn time
Reasons to avoid
-Heavy front light-Mounts are plasticky and chunky

The solid feeling light uses a single high-powered LED to produce a nicely diffused light that illuminates a large swathe of the road ahead, with a decent central focal point for picking out road detail.

A simple push button operating system that allows you to easily cycle the four modes, which also acts as a battery warning indicator. Not the lightest of bike lights and the mounting bracket is hardly quick release, but if you are looking for a higher powered commuting light, which is good enough to ride steady on unlit roads then the NiteRider Lumina Micro 650 is a very good choice.

Lezyne Micro Drive Pro 800XL front bike light

(Image credit: Lezyne)

Lezyne Micro Drive Pro 800XL

Lumens: 800
Battery life: 1.5–87 hours
Battery type: Integrated rechargeable
Weight: 153g
Reasons to buy
+Excellent beam pattern for road riding+Long run time+Simple bracket fits all bars
Reasons to avoid
-Too many modes-Side visibility could be better

Lezyne's Micro Drive Pro 800XL proved to be a solid and reliable performer. The power and beam pattern allows it to provide adequate light to enable you to ride at a fairly decent rate on unlit roads without feeling like you're being held back. It's packed with good features and great build quality and the price is brilliant, the only drawback is it does have a few too many light modes.

Read more: Lezyne Micro Drive Pro 800XL review

best bike lights

Cateye Volt 800 front light

Lumens: 800
Battery life: 2–80 hours
Battery type: Integrated rechargeable
Weight: 135g (without bracket)
Reasons to buy
+Good build quality+Many different light options
Reasons to avoid
-A bit heavy-Not as bright as some competitors-Pulse mode takes a heavy toll on the battery

At 800 lumens, this is just enough to commute on unlit roads and see where you're going. It's not so bright that it will illuminate the road just like a car headlight would, so you'll need to adjust your speed accordingly. There's six different modes and the battery will last between 2 to 80 hours depending which you run it on, taking 5 to 9 hours to fully charge.

Read more: Cateye Volt 800 front light review

Exposure Sirius MK9 Daybright bike light

(Image credit: Exposure)

Exposure Sirius MK9 DayBright

Best for brightness in a small package

Lumens: 850
Battery life: 1.5–36 hours
Battery type: Integrated rechargeable
Weight: 84g
Reasons to buy
+Build quality+Beam power and pattern+Versatility
Reasons to avoid
-More expensive than many of its rivals-Bracket won't fit aero bars as standard

The Exposure Sirius MK9 DayBright is the brand's entry in to 'proper; road lights, providing all the illumination you need to see and be seen while in most environments. It puts out an impressive 850 lumens so you'll be pretty visible, but the power output and beam pattern is hard to beat. It's one of the most expensive commuting options, and you'll have to also factor in an additional £5 bracket for aero bars.

Read more: Exposure Sirius MK9 DayBright review

best bike lights

Exposure Toro MK12 front bike light

Best high powered light

Lumens: 3,300
Battery life: 2–36 hours
Battery type: Integrated rechargeable
Weight: 232g
Reasons to buy
+All in one unit+Powerfull+Battery life+Display screen
Reasons to avoid

Designed with cross country mountain biking in mind, this light puts out a whopping 3,300 lumens. Running it at full power might not make you popular on a group ride, but of course, you can use a lower mode, but tackling the unlit back roads alone you'll have excellent visibility. Just make sure you lower the mode for oncoming vehicles.

The beam is tight and focused - whilst Exposure's more road-going offerings (like the Joystick) will spread it out more. The run time is two hours and this one weighs in at only 236g.

Read more: Exposure Toro MK12 front bike light review

best bike lights

Lezyne Lite Drive 1000XL

Lumens: 1,000
Battery life: 1.5–87 hours
Battery type: Integrated rechargeable
Weight: 153g
Reasons to buy
+Great value for money+Evenly dispersed light+On/off buttons easy to operate
Reasons to avoid
-Rear light's integrated USB stick is awkward-Front light mount quite tight on the bars

Lezyne's big lumen light range has come on in leaps and bounds in recent years. This model puts out 1000 lumens and weighs 153g. Battery life is up to 87 hours, though be aware that comes down to 1.5 hours on high power mode. A full charge takes 4 hours, and the aluminum unit is attached to the handlebars with an all-in-one mount and rubberized strap.

Read more: Lezyne Lite Drive 1000XL

Watch: Budget vs Premium bike lights

Best bike lights: rear lights

Rear lights are a little simpler to classify - they need to make you visible from behind, should have a battery life you can rely on and easy charging method. 

Here are our recommendations:

best bike lights

Lezyne KTV Pro rear light

Best for charging simplicity

Lumens: 75
Battery life: 4–19.5 hours
Battery type: Integrated rechargeable
Weight: 50g
Reasons to buy
+Visibility+Durability+Burn time
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

best bike lights

Cateye Rapid X3 rear light

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

best bike lights

Lezyne Laser Drive rear light

Best for daytime running

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

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

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 of 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


(Image credit: Exposure )

Exposure Blaze with DayBright

Best for build quality

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-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

Garmin Varia RTL515

Best for extra safety features

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

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


Best bike lights: what do you need to consider?

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.

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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

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.

>>>Cyclists’ guide to high visibility clothing and accessories

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.

>>> Winter cycling survival guide: 10 tips to keep you riding

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 law: US

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.

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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.

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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.

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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

>>> Read more: It is safe to cycle on roads but here’s how you can be safer

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.