As we know, the two biggest areas of concern while riding at night are us seeing the road, and cars seeing us. Purchasing a light that can address our concerns can sometimes be more overwhelming than purchasing the bike itself. Here is a guide to help with the decision of what you should look for in a light and how you should more effectively use your light.
The most common way that bicycle light companies rate the brightness of their lights is based off the measurement of lumens. Lumens is the measurement of luminous flux, which is the total output of light in all directions. So when we talk about bicycle lights, we are looking at the brightness that is being projected forward. For example, a light that may not look as bright but has a wider beam may have the same lumens as a visibly brighter but narrower beam.
Typically, lights are sold on a dollar- by-the-lumen basis (more lumens equal a pricier light). You must be careful while shopping for a light, because most companies will have a 1000-lumen light available for between $130-$200, while you might be able to find the same amount of lumens in a head lamp for about $20. Lights that have the ANSI FL-1 Standard logo on their packaging follow strict compliances that make the tested lights exactly what are advertised for lumens, waterproofing, run-time and impact resistance. There are a handful of cycling light companies that advertise being ANSI FL-1 compliant. Buying an ANSI FL-1-compliant light will guarantee that you are buying what you paid for; unfortunately, they are few and far between for the time being.
HOW TO USE YOUR LIGHTS
Okay, technically there’s not a right or wrong way of using a bicycle light, except making sure you have the red light facing backwards and the headlight facing forward (we’ve actually seen cyclists riding at night with the headlight mounted rearward on the seatpost). Most riders believe that having a flashing front and taillight is the best when it comes to maximizing your visibility. You will, without a doubt, increase your visibility with a flashing light. The downside with using flashing front or rear lights is the decrease of depth perception and increased disorientation that can result, especially with brighter lights. For the best safety results, during the day it is best to use the flashing or strobe features on your lights. During the night, using a pulse or solid front and rear lights would be optimal to increase your visibility of the road in front of you without disorienting the riders or drivers either in front or behind.
Any way you can improve the visibility of your presence while riding is key to keeping drivers and other cyclists aware of your presence. Blaze Laserlight helps cyclists announce their impending presence by shining a green laser image of a bicycle on the road in front of the rider. This laser image is especially helpful when riding next to a car in slow traffic by putting the image almost in front of the drivers.
The dual-function Blaze Laserlight is also a standard bicycle light with a 300-lumen LED lamp. It uses a sleek, well-made metal mount that is easy to clip and unclip onto the bracket for quick installation after charging. It has three modes, including full power, low power and flashing, while the laser light has two modes—flashing or solid.
Weight: 221 grams
Lumens: 100–300 max
Run-time: 2–29 hours
Settings: LED high, LED low, LED flash (all LED settings can either have the laser on, off or flashing)
BLACKBURN CENTRAL 700 FRONT
Blackburn has been synonymous with everyday commuter, urban and touring products for much of their 40 years in the cycling industry. A main focus of Blackburn is developing front and taillights for most needs and price ranges. Though they do not make any extreme high-powered lamps, they produce commuter/urban all-in-one front lights. The ANSI FL-1-certified Central 700 is their highest-powered front light that at max output shines a 700-lumen beam.
The Central 700 uses a single Cree LED for a single beam of light, but also has a lens that improves ambient light around the main beam, as well as side lighting for extra side visibility. It has five light functions and a battery-level indicator built into the top function button. The Central’s mounting system is universal for any mounting position using the same OEM bracket for either the handlebar or helmet. If you would want to mount the light onto an action camera mount, you also have that option.
Weight: 173 grams
Lumens: 150–700 max
Run-time: 1.25–16 hours
Settings: Strobe, pulse, low output, medium output, high output
CYCLIQ FLY12 & FLY6
Cycliq knows that even though you can do everything in your power to prevent an accident or collision, there is always a possibility of it still happening. Their lights feature a unique two-in-one safety solution; both a light and an action camera that can capture useful images in case of a crash or run-in with a motorist.
The Fly12 is a front-facing light and camera featuring a 400-lumen lamp and a 1080p HD camera with audio and connectivity with Wi-Fi and smartphones. The Fly12 also has a security feature that will alert you if someone is tampering with either your bike or your light to help prevent theft.
The Fly6 features the same light and camera function as the Fly12, but it keeps an eye on what is behind you. The Fly6 uses a 30-lumen light with a 720p camera that attaches to your seatpost. The Fly6 will last up to six hours of run-time with both the light and the camera on for all-ride security. Both the Fly6 and Fly12 are waterproof and arrive ready to shoot with memory cards (16 GB for the Fly12, 8 GB for the Fly6).
Weight: 252 grams
Lumens: 100–400 max
Run-time: 2–10 hours
Settings: Three flashing and three solid modes
Weight: 146 grams
Lumens: 30 max
Run-time: Up to 6 hours
Settings: Two flashing modes and a solid mode
Serfas is famous for its catalog of products and accessories that are aimed at riders of every segment of the sport. Many of their products are known to be reasonably inexpensive, but with features that give a good amount of bang for the buck. The Thunderbolt is one of those products. A 30-micro LED tail- light provides a large strip of bright light that is very noticeable. Though it is only 35 lumens, it still boasts a great amount of visibility for anyone behind you.
Even though the Thunderbolt is designed to strap to the seatstays, you can also strap it to the seatpost, seat rails, helmet, seat pack or backpack. It has the widest versatility of mounting options of any taillight we have seen. The body is made of lightweight silicone, which is durable, shock resistant and waterproof. The Serfas is USB rechargeable and available in eight different colors.
Weight: 55 grams
Lumens: 35 max
Run-time: 1.5–8 hours
Settings: High steady, low steady, high flash and low flash
SPECIALIZED FLUX EXPERT HEADLIGHT & TAILLIGHT
Specialized may have had a bad history of cycling lights in the past, but oftentimes when they fail at something, they will give it up for a while, then, all of a sudden, they are an industry powerhouse in the subject. Specialized’s Flux Expert headlight is a 1200-lumen light that is an all-in-one lamp featuring a 5200 mAh battery and three high-powered LEDs. The lamp spreads a wide beam of light across the ground instead of a single spotlight to increase your visibility of the road and for motorists to see you.
The Flux Expert taillight boasts an ultra-bright 110-lumen rear light with three different flashing/pulsing modes and has a remote control for the brightness. It is designed to be seen over 180 degrees and up to a kilometer away. The taillight comes with three mounting brackets for 27.2mm, 30.9mm and Venge seatposts.
Flux Expert Headlight Price: $275
Weight: 267 grams
Lumens: 400–1200 max
Run-time: 1.75–20 hours
Settings: Flash, pulse, low output, high output
Flux Expert Taillight Price: $100
Weight: 80 grams
Lumens: 110 max
Run-time: Up to 14 hours Settings: Steady, surge and flash
BONTRAGER FLARE R TAILLIGHT
Bontrager is Trek’s in-house parts and accessories division responsible for their apparel, wheels, seats, tires and bicycle lights. Bontrager’s most powerful taillight is their Flare R, which is a 65-lumen taillight with a Cree LED lamp. The Flare R has side windows for 270-degree visibility for additional side protection. At max output the 65-lumen light can be seen up to 2 kilometers day or night. The Flare R has four settings—two for daytime and two for night riding.
Weight: 35 grams Lumens: Up to 65 max Run-time: 4.25–23 hours
Settings: Day steady, day flash, night steady and night flash