Bike lights are a critical safety accessory, right up there with helmets. If you’re bicycle commuting, you’ll end up riding in the dark (or at dusk) at some point. If you’re mountain biking, road biking, or bikepacking, having lights can extend the hours that you can ride and train–especially during the winter.
In this article, we share some of our favorite bike lights for different types of riding (and different sorts of budgets). We’ll also help you know what to look for when choosing a bike light.
NiteRider Lumina Micro 850: Best All-Around Headlight
I use the Niterider Lumina for EVERYTHING. I use it for commuting in total darkness, mountain biking off-road, and even bikepacking racing. It’s just a fantastic light–high-output, affordable, and reliable.
The Lumina comes in multiple output versions, and I own several, but my fave is the Lumina Micro 850. It’s a great balance between lumen output and size.
The light is USB rechargable and has 5 different output modes, the lowest of which will give you 9 hours of ride time. Yes, I’ve tested that, and yes, it’s real.
Price: $71.77 (Last updated: 2023-10-29 at 13:08 – More Info)
Garmin Varia Radar RTL515 : Best Tail Light For Extreme Safety
It ain’t cheap, but if it’s safety you’re after, the Garmin Varia Radar is the taillight you want. This innovative little light is more than just a blinking red light, it also tells you when a car is approaching from behind.
The light itself is VERY bright and gives you up to 16 hours of riding between charges. The radar portion of the Varia pairs with your smartphone, Garmin or Wahoo bike computers. With it you can see traffic coming up from behind you–day or night.
It’s one of the most innovative pieces of safety technology on the market right now, and we’re here for it.
Read Our Review: Garmin Varia Radar
Price: $192.15 (Last updated: 2023-10-29 at 13:08 – More Info)
Knog Frog Light Set: Best For “Just In Case” Moments
The Knog Frog lights are ideal for leaving on your bike for those “just in case” moments. Just in case you stay at work longer than you expected. Just in case your mountain bike ride ends later and you need to ride home in the fading light.
These lights are tiny, but pack a punch. At 40 (front) and 20 (rear) lumens, they are quite bright. They take seconds to mount and are unobtrusive to leave on your bike when not in use.
Just bring them inside every once in a while to charge. They use a USB cable so you don’t have to worry about batteries.
Price: $47.50 (set)
Thousand Traveler Magnetic Bike Lights: Best For Commuting In Style
Thousand creates products (like their helmets) that are functional but stylish as well. The Thousand Traveler magnetic bike lights are no exception.
Unlike most bike lights, the Traveler lights are actually pretty. They also do a good job of providing plenty of light for urban riding.
The most unique thing about them is that the light and mount are magnetic. You leave the mount on your bike, taking the light off to charge, and then it snaps back into place via magnet.
You can buy the lights in a set or individually.
Price: $70 (for the set)
Reelight Lux Light: Best For Touring
The Reelight Lux is my new go-to for bike touring thanks to the fact that it works equally well as a bike light as it does as a flashlight. Simply take it off of the bike mount and you can use it around camp also.
The other thing that makes it well suited for touring is it’s versatility. You can recharge it using the USB-C cable or you can also replace the rechargeable battery with traditional disposable batteries as well.
MagicShine MONTEER 8000S: Best For Mountain Biking
I’ve been a fan of the MagicShine lights for mountain biking since the early 2000s. The brand creates brighter lights at a better pricepoint than just about anyone.
While MagicShine has several models of mountain bike lights, the MagicShine Monteer 8000S is the grand-daddy of off-road lights. With 8,000 lumens, no trail is too technical for night riding. The beam is wide and provides more than enough visibility on twisty trails.
CygoLite HotShot Tail Light: Best Value TailLight
When riding in urban areas, a good tail light is the most important light for keeping you visible. Fortunately, you don’t have to spend a ton to get a good one.
The CygoLite HotShot is reasonably affordable and provides a ton of visibility. It has six different modes for both day and night riding.
The mount is durable and stays in place, and the light itself is water-resistant which makes it a good choice for rainy climates.
Price: $25.13 (Last updated: 2023-10-29 at 13:08 – More Info)
Things To Consider When Choosing Bike Lights
Not sure how to choose the best bike lights for YOU? Here are some tips.
Type Of Riding And Location
The first thing to consider is what kind of riding are you going to be doing with the lights? Commuting? Mountain biking? The type of light you’ll want will differ based on the type of riding you’re doing.
Secondly, WHERE are you riding? If you are biking on well lit city streets you need lights to increase your visibility but not necessarily to see. On the other hand, if you’re biking on dark country roads, you’re going to need a lot more light power in order to light your way.
Which brings us to our next point….
The unit of measure of brightness for bike lights are lumens. The higher the lumens, the brighter the light!
For tail lights and for headlights for riding in highly lighted urban environments, you can get away with lights as low as 50-100 lumens. In these cases you are working on increasing your visibility rather than using a light to see.
For road or gravel riding in less lighted areas, you want a headlight that’s much brighter–around 500 lumens. For mountain biking, you want something with at least 800 lumens.
A mount can make or break a light setup. It doesn’t matter how bright a light is if it doesn’t stay securely in place.
In addition to being secure, you need to consider if you want a mount that’s quickly removable or that’s installed semi-permanently in place. Some mounts are bolted onto the bike which means they are super secure but not so easy to take on and off.
Other mounts use a strap or band and come on and off the bike in seconds. This is nice if you plan to swap the light between different bikes, or if you don’t want to leave the mount on your bike when not in use.
Battery Life And Charging
One thing to consider is how long the run time is on a light. Are you okay with charging it each night between uses, or do you want a light that will make it thru the week before needing to be charged?
If you’re doing longer rides or bikepacking or touring battery life becomes even more critical. We particularly like lights that have multiple power settings, so that you can get extended battery life at times when you don’t need as much light output.
The other thing to consider is the battery itself and how it charges. Is the battery rechargeable? What kind of power plug does it use? How long does it take to charge?
More Stuff You Might Like
- 7 Tips For Biking At Night
- Your Ultimate Guide To Bike Commuting
- 9 Best Women’s Commuter Bikes And City Bikes
About The Author
Kristen Bonkoski is the founder and owner of Femme Cyclist.
An avid cyclist for a few decades now, she took to cycling during her late teen years — a time when she needed something to help boost her self-esteem and confidence.
Mission accomplished, the sport has become an important part of her life. Kristen’s favorite disciplines are mountain biking and bike commuting, although you can also find her cranking out a century on her road bike and touring with her husband and son. If it has to do with two wheels, she enjoys doing it.
Kristen is a certified USA Cycling coach, and she runs Rascal Rides, a website about biking with kids.