Picking the right bike lights for night riding can make Spring, Fall, and even Winter rides longer, safer, and more enjoyable. With the days being shorter and nights longer you might find yourself riding in the dark, even if that wasn’t your plan. Bike lights are especially important during these times of the year. For riders looking for bicycling lights, there is one essential question you need to ask first: do you need to be seen, or do you want to see?
Flashing notification lights (AKA blinkers or flashers) are great for helping others see you on the road. However, they don’t have the power (lumens) to help you see in low-light conditions. These lights are meant for biking in the daylight when you want to be safe and more visible to others. Even the most basic set will improve your daytime visibility for drivers, other cyclists, and pedestrians. It is highly recommended to use these lights anytime you are riding on the road.
Most flashing notification lights run off of powerful USB-rechargeable batteries and are very convenient. Some cheap bike lights use batteries and make you visible. However, with lights that require batteries, there will be a need to replace the batteries in the future. Most lights have multiple flash settings that impact the battery life. Such as steady modes, flash modes, different levels of brightness all add up to one light letting you be as visible as you want to be. Take a look at the Specialized Stix biking head and tail lights for excellent examples of lights that will keep you visible.
Any cyclist planning to ride at dusk, dawn, or anytime it is dark needs to see and be visible. The bike light should be bright enough to illuminate the road ahead of you. Also, it needs to allow you to see objects and obstacles in enough time to avoid them.
To gauge how bright a light is, we use lumens. Lumens are a measurement of actual light output and are the standard for comparing light performance across the industry.
How many lumens do you need? If you only have one light, a minimum of 500 lumens allows you to see what’s on the road. For a source of comparison, low beams on a car are about 700 lumens.
Cyclists want to stand out in traffic, and they want to see things regardless of conditions. As a result, youâ€™ll find lights in the 650-1200 lumen range to be fairly common for commuters. One of the most popular lights out there, the NiteRider Lumina 1200 even comes in a combo pack that includes their Solas tail light, measured at 250 lumens.
Most high-lumen lights come with multiple brightness settings and flash modes. You can adjust the level of light to fit the riding conditions. The lower brightness settings on a high-lumen light help the battery last significantly longer. Consider that a 900-lumen headlight typically gets 1-1.5 hours on 900 lumens, but at its lowest setting it’s putting out 500 lumens for over 5 hours.
These lights will often come with helmet-mounting options. Like a headlamp, the light follows where you look. For anyone doing a lot of riding at night, we recommend mounting lights on both the handlebars and helmet. This setup keeps the road lit and allows you to see your surroundings. Check out all of ERIK’S high-lumen lights here.
Brave souls addicted to dirt take their mountain bikes offroad for some night adventures. You will really want to find some of the best bike lights for night riding on the trails! Whether it’s an endurance mountain bike race, or for pure pleasure, the split-second decisions along the razor’s edge of technical nighttime trail riding require more light.
For that, you should look for something along the lines of 1000-2000 lumens. These lights often come with multiple LEDs to get a broader beam with fewer “hot spots” of light. Because of this, you’ll have better depth perception and more intuitive riding. To match the power requirements of these lights, it’s not uncommon to find external battery packs, connected with cables to the lamp itself. In addition to the commuter headlights above, it’s not unusual to find optional mounts to put these spotlights on your helmet.
The NiteRider Pro 2200 Race is one such light, versatile enough to handle any trail, and strong enough to last the night. For riders pushing their limits, it’s the difference-maker.
Get a set of notification flashers to always be visible to others. However, if you ride in low-light conditions, a 700 lumens USB-rechargeable light is a good start. Then, for trail riding during the night, you’ll want the pinnacle of brightness that comes with 1000+ lumens and multiple LED bulbs.