On your bike, it’s critical to see the path ahead and be seen by drivers you’re sharing the road with. A proper set of bike lights helps with both. Lights are a smart safety purchase no matter where you ride, and they’ll also keep you in compliance with the many local ordinances that require cyclists to be visible at night.
When choosing a bike light, look for its brightness rating, measured in lumens: A higher lumen rating means a brighter light. For comparison, a typical halogen car headlight emits 700 to 1,200 lumens, according to the National Automobile Dealers Association. But for a bike, brighter isn’t necessarily better. You’ll need a more powerful light to illuminate darkened singletrack, but if you mainly ride beneath streetlights, maxing out on a high-powered trail light probably isn’t necessary.
Whether you’re commuting, riding trails at night, or just want some extra visibility by day, bike lights are a wise investment. These are some of our favorites.
Light & Motion Urban 350
With a maximum output of 350 lumens, this isn’t the brightest light on our list, but it’s well-made (one Men’s Journal editor has used his for years without an issue) and affordable. The strap mount will fit just about any handlebar, side lights create extra visibility, and with its waterproof case, it’ll keep shining even if bad weather moves in on your ride.
Cygolite Dash Pro 600 and Hotrod 50 Bike Light Set
If you’re looking for a do-it-all set of LED bike lights, this inexpensive Cygolite duo is just as good as some $100-plus sets. The 600-lumen headlight can shine for up to 70 hours and has eight beam modes, and the 50-lumen tail light stays powered for up to 100 hours and has six modes. Both emit a wide, long-range beam and are USB-rechargeable. The flexible mounts make them easy to attach, and together they weigh a mere 124 grams.
Kryptonite Incite X6
Kryptonite is best known for bike locks and cables, but last summer the brand launched a new series of lights that emphasizes lux over lumens. Lux is the measure of a light’s intensity on a surface at a specific distance, so this light is better at focusing the beam where you need it to go.
Aside from a powerful beam, the XC includes other useful features, too. It has three hours of battery life on its highest setting, it includes a sensor that automatically adjusts the brightness based on ambient light, and it offers seven different beam modes.
Blackburn Dayblazer 1100 Headlight
The Dayblazer is a top choice for commuters. We especially like its battery life—12 hours on its lowest setting (200 lumens). For darker scenarios, you can crank it up to 1100 lumens, and its IP67 water- and dust-proof aluminum exterior makes it especially rugged. Plus, the grippy universal mount is easy to place on handlebars, and it can be swapped for a helmet mount, too.
Outbound Lighting Trail Evo
The Trail Evo is like a high-beam headlight for your bike. The 2000-lumen beam has a wide pattern that’s ideal for illuminating potential obstacles in your pathway and on the periphery. It’s pricey, but it comes with thoughtful features like a centered handlebar mount and a unique adaptive setting that optimizes battery life and run time. Pair it with the Hangover helmet light ($132) for stadium-like clarity and brightness when you hit the trail.
Knog PWR Mountain
Another heavy hitter for the trail, the PWR Mountain is designed for maximum illumination and usefulness in the backcountry. The simple twist switch is easy to use while riding, and like the Trail Evo above, it offers a powerful 2000-lumen beam (you can even create customized light modes, too). The light also doubles as a portable power bank: Remove the light head, and you can charge your other devices via USB.
Garmin Varia RTL515
This little device is the best kind of backseat driver. In addition to a red light, it features a built-in radar that alerts you with a beep or vibration if there’s a car on your tail (it can sense vehicles up to 153 yards away). It pairs with your phone, Edge bike computer, or an optional radar display unit, and it’s a great pick for riding safely on roads without a shoulder, especially at night.
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