Words: Hannah Bussey
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If you’re still riding your bike now, the chances are you’re pretty committed to the cause. Now that the clocks have gone back, your cycle commute, or after-work head-clearing pedal, is almost certainly going to be in the dark. Back in October, we gave you a big lights round-up and promised to follow up with a full front light review to help you keep getting the midweek miles in.
With so many front lights on offer, it can be a minefield to work out which one is right for you. With settings, burn time, bracket mounts and lumens, it’s a complex list of features and functions to work through.
We’ve tested these lights in streetlamp-lit roads and country lanes to give you the lowdown on seven of the best lights on the market between £80 and £150 — a price range that won’t break the bank, but will give you great illumination so you can continue your bicycle manoeuvres in the dark.
What to look for
How and where to mount
Lights and their brackets come in all shapes and sizes. If the light doesn’t have an integrated battery, then you’ll need a space to mount the battery as well as the light’s head unit. We like brackets that are quick and simple to use, so getting the light off when you reach your final destination is a breeze, but also secure enough not to worry about it falling off and plunging you into darkness or getting caught up in your front wheel.
Lumens seem to have become the new inches! With so many claimed and actuals, we have decided not to take account of the numbers for this test; just how well we could see in the dark, so it didn’t slow us down, and whether it ran out of power mid-ride. Different lights have different beam patterns and where some people prefer a flood, some prefer a spot or a mixture of both. Whatever kind you opt for, make sure it has plenty of depth — you need to see more than just your front wheel.
The beam strength setting you select will dictate how much burn time you get. Most lights will give you several hours on the lowest or flashing settings, but as soon as you move from lit streets to darker lanes, you’ll probably need the brightest setting to light the road before you, which can significantly reduce the burn time (in some cases down to an hour or so). Having some kind of battery life indicator is a helpful tool in making sure you don’t get caught out.
Our 7 of the best
Moon X Power 500 £119.99
We really liked this bar-mounted light with its good balance of flood and spot to enable you to see forwards in detail at speeds over 20mph (if your legs allow). All constant light options produce usable light, but it’s the top two that give visibility confidence on unlit roads. Most impressively, the burn time on the ‘high’ setting is 2hr 20min, and ‘Overdrive’ gives a worthy 1hr 40min. With a USB or mains plug charging options, it’s very good value for money.
Sigma Karma Evo Pro £141.95
The Karma comes with enough cable to mount the battery anywhere on the bike, but it is best suited to small-diameter tubes. The spot beam is good enough on the medium setting for riding around town, and the high beam is capable of picking out potholes on darker roads for up to four hours. The bar ratchet closure only just closed on our 31.8mm bars, which meant we weren’t convinced it was going to stay put.
Electron Terra 2 Evo £124.99
We can’t help being reminded of Disney’s Pixar animation WALL-E when looking at these lights. They are very cute and are bar mounted via simple o-rings. Having two lights gives you a variety of setting options; we liked one flashing and one on high beam in the town. Out in the sticks, you will need the full beam on both to see — but with four hours of burn time available on the high setting, this should be sufficient for the majority of riders.
Supernova Airstream £150
The Airstream has a combination beam; a wide spread for overall visibility, and a concentrated spot. The light output is really good and the mounting bracket is an effectively simple o-ring. We also found the battery indicator helpful and the illuminated logo meant you are visible from the side. There is no ‘hood’ over the light, however, so when out of the saddle, you can get a bit of an eyeful from your own light.
Lezyne Powerdrive £79.99
The integrated unit fitted the bars with a user-friendly tool-free mount. You will need the semi-spot beam on high as soon as you hit the darker lanes, but we would probably want to combine this with another light if wanting to go faster than 12mph to pick out enough road detail. The light is USB charge only, so it’s a great commuter light as you could charge it in the office.
Hope 1 LED Universal £90
We mounted the Hope 1 LED unit with the simple bar mount for this test (you also get helmet and wrist mounts, too). Powered by four AA batteries, if you are low on juice, you can easily buy some more. The spotlight’s low and medium beam were both good to be seen when in town, but you need the highest setting for darker country lanes at 16mph.
Light & Motion Urban 300 £119.99
A really simple rubber attachment, but we found the light did twist a lot on the bracket. The spot beam is effective; we especially like the side amber lights when riding in traffic. All settings are fine in town, but riding in the country lanes you really do need it on the max setting, which is good enough when travelling below 18mph to feel, for the 2hr 20min it lasts, that you’re not going to ride down an open manhole.
The Moon X Power 500 for a reasonable £119.99 really impressed, ticking all boxes on a light wishlist — a powerful mix of flood and spot and an integrated battery with a good burn time and versatile charging options. We definitely noticed a clear difference in the lights over £100.
They are more powerful and we recommend that if your night riding is predominately in non-lit areas, you stump up the cash!
If your rides keep you in urban environments then all of the offerings create enough light for you to wend your merry way around the streets with the support of the street lighting for a few hours.