While the lumen count has steadily risen for front bike lights, rear lights haven’t seen quite the same level of advancement. That’s not to say that there aren’t plenty of options available, though.
Bike lights are broken down into two categories: “be seen” and “see.” Be-seen lights flash to grab drivers’ attention and help them estimate your speed and distance.
Over the last decade, significant improvements in lighting technology have been made. These advances include LED’s that provide far more light per watt than older halogen bulbs, and lithium batteries that can pack more power into smaller packages.
When shopping for a bike light, it’s easy to get sucked into the lumen count. However, a light’s optics and lens design are just as important to its brightness as the number of lumens it produces.
To see, you’ll want a handlebar mounted light with a high lumen count and narrow beam angle that can throw a wide beam to illuminate your surroundings. A helmet mount with a high lumen count is also helpful for seeing obstacles and terrain as you ride. Be sure to check if your chosen lights have a flashing setting, as these can be dangerous for people with epilepsy. They may also be distracting to other road users. If this is a concern, consider a solid-state mode that provides constant illumination.
The amount of lumens a bike light emits determines how bright it is. It’s important to consider the lumen count when choosing a light for night riding, especially since it can affect your visibility. You can also look for features like a rechargeable battery that is easy to use; a no-slip attachment; and an indicator light or sound that tells you when it’s time to charge the system.
The number of lumens you need for your bike will depend on the type of commuting you do. For example, if your commute takes you through an urban area, then a higher lumen count is needed to see clearly. Also, if you’re riding at night on poorly lit roads, you will need more lumens to see objects at greater distances. You’ll want to choose a light that has several modes and an adjustable beam pattern. Many lights come with a remote switch that mounts near the handlebar’s grips and lets you change the mode on the go.
Almost all bike lights use lithium-ion batteries that offer great power for their weight. These battery technologies have allowed manufacturers to create very bright lights with longer run times than those based on older halogen or metal-halide bulbs.
Most rear bike lights are clipped onto the seatpost and need to be positioned carefully so they don’t obscure jackets or low hanging bags. Most of these lights also feature a USB charging port that needs to be pushed in firmly or it could get water in and short out the light.
Different riders have different lighting needs. Commuters typically only want to be seen, while road and gravel cyclists may need a combination of being seen and being able to see the path ahead. The most important thing is that the light meets your needs and can be easily used in the dark.
Bike lights allow cyclists to be seen by other road users, increasing their safety. They also help drivers and other cyclists identify potential hazards. Many cycling accidents occur due to motorists not seeing cyclists or because the cyclists themselves aren’t able to see potential hazards. By equipping their bikes with bike lights, cyclists can minimize these risks and contribute to a safer cycling habitat for everyone.
The latest rechargeable rear lights have a flash rate and pattern that minimises dazzle for other road users. This should reduce the risk of photosensitive epilepsy (around 1 in 100 people are affected), which is triggered by flashing or flickering patterns.
Look for a battery that’s easy to replace, or a light set with a spare battery, as well as a sturdy mounting system. You may want to consider a waterproof system, as well as one with battery indicators and a quick-release for when you’re leaving your bike behind.