What is a bike light?

Bike lights are small, compact lights specifically designed to be easily mounted to your bike. They can help you be seen by drivers, and they help you see where you’re headed on the road, path or trail when riding in low-light conditions or after dark. Front bike lights shine white just like the headlights of a car. Rear bike lights or bike tail lights are red in colour and help a rider be seen from behind. Both are typically powered by replaceable or rechargeable batteries.

How do bike lights differ?

Front lights

Front bicycle lights are designed to shine in front of your bike. Bike headlights can make it easier for you to see where you’re riding after dark, and they can also help make it easier for drivers to spot you. They usually attach on your bike’s handlebars or to your helmet using a bike light helmet mount.

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Rear lights

Rear bicycle lights are designed to shine behind your bike. Bicycle tail lights can help make it easier for other road users to see you, and some rear lights are designed for better daytime visibility. They typically attach on a bike’s seatpost.

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Bike light brightness

There are many types of bike lights out there, and they come in many different brightness levels. Thankfully, bike light Lumen ratings make it easy to compare brightness. The more Lumens a light has, the higher the output and the brighter the light will be. But Lumens aren’t everything – well-designed lenses and optics also play a large role in determining a light’s brightness.

Daytime running lights

Front and rear daytime running lights (DRLs) for bicycles are designed to be used during the day and can help make cyclists more visible. High-quality daytime running lights are designed with specific flash, focus and range in order to be seen from far enough away to help give drivers more time to react and pass by safely. For example, many Bontrager Daytime Running Lights can be seen from up to 2 km away!

Learn about Daytime Running Lights

Battery type

Bike lights can be USB-rechargeable or run on replaceable batteries. Generally, higher-end, brighter lights will have rechargeable batteries. Most rechargeable bike headlights and rear lights are easily recharged with micro-USB cables. Bike light battery life can vary widely across bike lights and is another key differentiator to look for between models.

Mount type

Most bicycle lights are designed to be easily and quickly installed or removed. Hard mounts generally provide a more secure attachment and will hold larger lights in place better than soft mounts. Soft mounts are made with stretchy elastic or silicone, and they’re generally easier and quicker to install and remove than hard mounts. Some lights come with both types of mounts so you can choose what’s best for how you ride.

Waterproof rating

If you ride in rainy or wet weather, you’ll want a light that can withstand these conditions. Bicycle light waterproof ratings use the same ANSI FL-1 Standard that headlamps or torches use. Look for the IPX rating (for example, IPX4 means it’s water-resistant) to determine a light’s waterproofness before you buy.

Visible distance

Many lights are rated with a bike light visible distance, typically measured in metres, which is super useful when comparing models. Lights visible from a long distance can help give other road users more time to notice and react to your presence. They can also help you see further down a dark path or trail.

Wireless connectivity

Many lights have built-in wireless technologies that add functionality to your lights. This kind of connectivity lets you pair them with a computer, GPS or other device.

How to choose the right bike light?

The best bike light for you will depend on where and when you ride. There are lights designed for city, road and mountain bike riding, and lights designed for lighting conditions ranging from total darkness to broad daylight. If you ride mostly riding during daylight hours, you will want a daytime running light that is visible during the day. We recommend the Flare RT as the best rear bike light for daytime riding.

The best bike light for mountain biking

The best MTB lights should be powerful enough to light up the entire trail. MTB lights often have 1,000 Lumen or greater brightness ratings. If you plan on mounting your light on your helmet, make sure that the light is compatible with your helmet mount and look for a lightweight yet powerful option. We recommend the Ion Elite R or Ion Pro RT as the best night riding bike light options for MTB. Pro tip: one light on your bars and one light on your helmet can really help illuminate a trail.

The best bike light for commuting

Many lights are rated with a bike light visible distance, typically measured in metres, which is super useful when comparing models. Lights visible from a long distance can help give other road users more time to notice and react to your presence. They can also help you see further down a dark path or trail.

The best bike lights for road riding

Use daytime running lights on every ride – no matter how bright the sun is shining. We recommend the Flare RT/Ion 200 RT light set. Both are visible from over 2 km away during the day. Compact and powerful, they easily mount on your road bike without added bulk for a clean, bright look.

Lights for electric bikes

Electric bike lights are often integrated into the bike and powered by the e-bike’s battery, which is super cool! But if your e-bike doesn’t have lights, you can easily mount any front and rear bike lights to illuminate your way.

Where do bike lights go and how do I install them?

It’s generally recommended that you mount a bike light directly on your bike. If you mount a light on your body, the light will follow your body’s movement and may not be optimally orientated at all times. When you mount the bike lights, be sure to do so where they will not be obstructed by your bike or any accessories. Always be sure to position your bike lights so they have an unobstructed path to the rear or to the front of your bicycle.

Mounting rear bike lights

We recommend attaching rear bike lights to your seatpost. Check that the bike light mount is secure and tight, and properly orientated level to the horizon. It should shine straight back. If you are using a bike rack, you may want to mount your bike light directly on your rack so that it’s not blocked.

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Mounting front bike lights

We recommend mounting front bike lights directly on your handlebar. As with your rear light, check that the bike light mount is secure and tight, and properly orientated level to the horizon. It should shine straight forwards. Helmets are also a popular place to mount front lights with a bike helmet light mount, especially for mountain bikers, as the light follows their line of sight as they turn their head.

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Other types of mounting options

Many bikes stems and saddles also feature integrated mounting capabilities. Bontrager Blendr is a good example of this. Blendr makes it easy to mount front and rear Bontrager Flare lights and provides a clean, integrated look.

Clip-on mounts or belt-clip mounts can make it easy to affix a light to your clothing, a bike bag or to a backpack.

Okay, fantastic! But how do bike lights vary from company to company?

Not all lights are created equal. Lenses, flash patterns, visible distances, run times, modes and charge times can vary greatly across the bike light industry. This is especially important when it comes to daytime running lights. Every aspect of a true DRL is designed and optimised to be visible during the day.

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