What lights do I need for winter riding?

It is a bit more complicated that just sticking on some lights and going for a ride in the dark and that's why companies like Lezyne offer a range of lights to best suit your needs

Promotional feature with Lezyne

LED technology has advanced so rapidly that blindingly bright lights are cheap and accessible — but not always necessary.

>> Struggling to get to the shops? Try 6 issues of Cycling Weekly magazine for just £6 delivered to your door <<

When you’re choosing a front light, first decide whether you need it to actually light your way on unlit lanes or whether it’s primarily to make you visible to other road users.

If you’re riding on lit roads or want to use lights during the day for extra visibility, you may find an ultra-bright constant beam is unnecessary and a flash function at the front is perfectly adequate.

For commuting or training on mostly lit roads, Lezyne’s KTV front light, with an RRP of £21.99, has a daytime flash mode with a 180-lumen output and five-hour battery life as well as a 70-lumen continuous mode. It is available in four different colours and has an integrated USB stick for cable-free charging.

The rear KTV has a 10-lumen output and an eco mode with a seven-hour run time. It also has a Group Ride setting that lowers output to avoid dazzling other riders.

A step up in power and with a compact, low-profile body design, the Lezyne Zecto Drive (£32.99 front and rear or £62.99 pair) has a 250-lumen random flash mode and 80-lumen constant and more body colour options, while the rear gets an 80-lumen daytime flash. There’s also a new Zecto Auto rear light that switches itself on when you start to move and off again once you’ve stopped moving for three minutes, conserving battery life. The Zecto Max rear light has twice the battery size for longer run times of up to 12 hours in daytime flash mode.

Lezyne has just launched the Lite Drive 700XL (£56.99). Its 700-lumen daytime flash is the brightest in Lezyne’s range, and its constant modes are enough to light your way in inky blackness. It offers up to 76 hours’ run time and is helmet mountable.

Meanwhile, new at the back is the Lezyne Laser Drive rear light (£57.99), which includes two side-projected laser lines for better visibility and to help deter close passers. Its four conventional LEDs provide up to 40 lumens of output with 180° visibility and it’s also designed to be compatible with aero seatposts.

For a mega-bright light that will almost turn night into day — and perfect for lighting up the potholes on the darkest lanes — the Lezyne Super Drive XXL (£109.99) has a maximum output of 1,500 lumens.

Lumens explained

In short, a lumen is a unit of visible light. It is different from a watt because watts measure the amount of energy used rather than brightness emitted. Since modern LEDs require far less energy, expressing their brightness in watts is redundant.

To get an idea of how bright a lumen actually is, an old-style 100W incandescent bulb emits 1,600 lumens.

For bike riding 200 lumens is enough to create a directable beam on the road in front, but for more challenging, very dark lanes more lumens is better.

However, different lights have different beam patterns and whereas some people prefer a flood, others prefer a spot or a mixture of both, and this means lumen count is not always an accurate guide:

700 lumens is a lot of light when focused on a single spot, whereas if the manufacturer has chosen to spread the focus it’s not so much.

Whatever light you opt for, it ought to have plenty of depth — you need to see more than just your front wheel.

Looking after your battery

The most common type of battery in a modern bike light is the lithium-ion (Li-ion) type. The beam strength or flash setting you select will dictate how much run time you get from the battery. 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, which can significantly reduce the run time.

The lifespan of a Li-ion battery is between 300-500 charge/discharge cycles. It’s obviously impossible to say how many years that equates to because it depends how often it’s used.

Li-ion batteries do not have a charge ‘memory’, as the older type of NiCad batteries did, so it is not necessary to completely discharge and charge them. Many manufacturers recommend charging little and often, with the occasional complete discharge so that the battery’s power gauge can recalibrate.

During the summer, it’s best to store a Li-ion battery in a cool place at about 40 per cent charge. Storing it ‘flat’ will reduce its capacity.