The best bike lights do two things: they allow you to see, and they ensure you can be seen. If you’re riding regularly, you’ll probably want a front light and a rear light, even when you’re riding in the daytime. That means choosing the best bike light actually means choosing two lights.
Fortunately, a lot of bike lights are sold as kits. You’ll get both a front light and a rear light in one package, usually with a charging cable and appropriate mounts included. If you’re looking for one-stop shopping, a front and rear kit is your best bet. But if you want the best bike lights, you’ll probably want to mix and match among individual options.
That’s because there are a ton of bike lights out there that offer features beyond just, well, light. Some bike lights include radar systems, integrated video cameras, and even Bluetooth capabilities to communicate with your smartphone. So how do you choose the best bike lights? Start by deciding how, when, and where you’ll be riding.
To help you choose the best bike lights for you, we’ve road-tested some of the most popular lights on the market. We looked at how bright they were, how long the battery lasted, how long it took to recharge the lights, as well as how much they weighed, and how easy they were to get on and off the bike. Read on to find the best bike lights on test, and while you’re shopping, why not check out our best bike helmets and our best electric bikes here.
What are the best bike lights?
The best headlight overall is the Lezyne Macro Drive 1300XXL. The Macro Drive lasted longer than any other headlight in the test at the highest setting, shining brightly for just under three hours. The beam casts a broad light out in front of you, and there is the option to buy an optional remote switch to control the light from the handlebars.
The best taillight overall is the NiteRider Sentry Aero 260, which beats the competition in side visibility, with its long, aero-shaped lens casting light in all directions. It’s easy to mount to any type of seatpost using the silicone strap, and it stayed in place securely throughout our testing.
Finally, if you’re on a budget, the best value headlight is the NiteRider Lumina Micro 900, which pushes out an impressive amount of light, hits a great price point, and sits on the most stable and convenient mount in the test. The best value taillight is the NiteRider Sabre 110, which is easy to use, super bright, and convenient for removing from the mount to clip on a backpack.
Read more about what to look for when choosing bike lights, what the rules are around bike lights in the UK and the US, and how to install bike lights here. We’ve also found some of the most important cycling safety tips to follow.
The best headlights
The Macro Drive 1300XXL from Lezyne narrowly beat out the NiteRider 1200 OLED Boost for best bike headlight. They are both excellent lights, but the Lezyne light comes in $70 cheaper than the NiteRider.
The Macro Drive lasted longer than any other headlight in the test at the highest setting, shining brightly for just under three hours. At the 450-lumen setting, the Macro Drive lasted just under eight hours.
The mount offers a stable system that’s easily adjustable to handlebars of various thicknesses. It’s a thick band that seems like it’s built to stand the test of time. It’s so thick, in fact, that it can be a touch difficult to pull it to length to secure it to the hook on the other end of the mount. But once it’s in place, it’s easy to adjust the position and the light stays solidly in place.
The beam itself casts a broad light in front of you, with a concentration of light in the center of the beam. It’s great if you’ll be riding dark roads and trails and need to see as much as possible. With 1,300 lumens, you won’t be in short supply of light.
And you can even add an optional remote switch ($15) that mounts closer to your handlebar’s grips. That allows you to adjust the light level and pattern on the fly without having to remove your hands from the bar.
The only real downside to the Lezyne Macro Drive 1300XXL is its size. It’s on the heavy side for a light at 208 grams, and it takes up a bit more handlebar space than the thinner mount on the NiteRider 1200 OLED Boost.
But that seems to be about the only downside to this powerful light.
The NiteRider 1200 OLED Boost narrowly missed out on the top spot in the best bike headlights list. The only thing that held it back was its price, which is $70 more than the Lezyne Macro Drive 1300XXL.
But you get plenty for the price. For starters, the mount secures the light better than all of the others in this test, aside from the Cycliq Fly12, which is bolted in place. The 1200 OLED Boost’s mount is actually better though; it can be adjusted easily using the thumb-twist screw, and you can remove the light entirely from the mount to charge it, or use it as a flashlight.
The OLED screen on top of the unit offers key data that’s helpful while you’re riding. In particular, you can see how much time you have remaining before the battery dies. The screen also tells you what light mode you’re in at any given time.
The NiteRider 1200 OLED Boost’s light beam casts wide and evenly. It’s perhaps slightly less bright than the Lezyne Macro Drive 1300XXL, but the Lezyne also has an extra 100 lumens. It was honestly difficult to tell the difference between the two lights in practice; both gave me more than enough light in front and to the sides.
NiteRider says you can get about an hour and a half of battery life at the highest setting. I had it set to medium, which gives you 550 lumens; NiteRider says you should get about three hours of life at this setting. I got five hours and 10 minutes from it.
Great battery life, an excellent mount, a strong beam, and a nifty screen make this a top choice in the headlight category. It’s a touch expensive but worth every penny.
Knog’s PWR Trail 1100L does more than just light the way — it also doubles as a power bank so you can charge your phone or GoPro from it; pop it out of the mount and use it as a flashlight; or swap out the light head and use it to power other PWR accessories, like the PWR Sound speaker or the PWR Lantern. There’s no other light in this test that comes close to the PWR’s versatility.
Turning the light on and off is super easy; just twist the light head. It’s an excellent system that eliminates the need for buttons of any kind. Pressing the red release button on the unit allows you to pop the light attachment off if you want to use the battery as a power bank, or when it’s time to charge the unit.
The PWR Trail 1100L casts a nice, even, wide beam on the maximum mode. At the Mid mode (600 Lumens), the light ran for 3 hours and 40 minutes, besting the advertised run time by over an hour. The small lights on the side of the PWR Trail 1100L indicate how much battery life you have left.
There are only a few downsides to Knog’s big light. For starters, the mounting system was my least favorite among the test lights. It seems over-complicated, though it does allow you to run the light underneath your handlebars easily.
Given that this light has Trail in its name, it seems it would be marketed specifically to mountain bikers. But the mount only accommodates handlebars up to 31.8mm; most modern mountain bikes have transitioned to 35mm bars.
And it’s heavy and long compared to the competition. Of course, that’s a minor consideration if you’re interested in the PWR Trail 1100L for more than just its light beam. This light is best for adventurers; think bikepacking, camping, and long adventure rides.
The Lumina Micro 900 from NiteRider uses the same mount as its big brother, the 1200 OLED Boost. It’s an excellent, stable mount that adapts to handlebars of various sizes, and the light itself detaches easily from the mount should you want to stuff the light in a pocket or use it as a handheld flashlight.
It’s far less expensive too, largely because you’ll do without 300 extra lumens and the OLED screen on top. The single button also acts as the low-battery indicator; it lights up blue when you’ve got a good charge and turns red when you’re running low.
The body of the light feels stout and durable. The beam casts wide at full power, so you can definitely use this as a trail light on your mountain bike.
The run time during our testing wasn’t bad, but it did not quite reach the advertised two hours of operation at 900 lumens, falling about twenty minutes short of that.
Still, the Lumina Micro pushes out an impressive amount of light, hits a great price point, and sits on the most stable and convenient mount in the test. It’s a safe bet if you like the build, mount, and features of the 1200 OLED Boost but want to save some cash and don’t mind doing without the information screen.
The Fly12 from Cycliq is a light, but that’s almost its secondary purpose. The Fly12 also records video so you can capture ride highlights — or altercations. If an incident occurs, such as a crash or collision, the Fly12 detects it and ensures the footage before, during, and after the altercation do not get overwritten. Otherwise, the Fly12 records in a loop.
There’s a lot to love about the video capabilities with the Fly12. A wide viewing range and stereo audio recording can all come in handy should you need to record a specific event, and the image stabilization makes the footage smooth.
On the light side, you won’t get as much as other headlights in the test. For starters, the Fly12 only offers 600 lumens. And the light beam itself is fairly narrow.
Battery life is just okay. With the camera rolling and the light on medium, the Fly12 went dead after 2 hours and 20 minutes. With just the camera rolling and the light off, Cycliq says you should get up to 7 hours of recording. There’s an integrated “HomeSafe” mode that starts when the battery is low to ensure you have lights for up to 30 minutes.
The handlebar mount is rock-solid, largely because you need to bolt it on with an Allen key. You can mount the Fly12 on top of your bars or underneath, but once it’s set in place, adjustments require tools. Of course, the ¾ turn mount allows you to take the light off when you’re not using it, so you can stuff it in a pocket.
Buy this light if you’re more interested in the camera features. You can also opt for the Fly6, which is the rear-facing version of Cycliq’s light/camera combos.
Bontrager’s Ion 200 RT packs a powerful punch for such a small light. The beam is very focused, so you won’t get a wide sweep of light, but it’s viewable from a very long distance — up to two kilometers (1.25 miles), according to Bontrager. While it casts some light out front so you can see what’s right in front of you, the primary function of the Ion 200 RT is to ensure you’re seen rather than able to see.
The Ion’s diminutive size is perhaps its biggest benefit. It’s small enough to stuff in a pocket, and it mounts easily just about anywhere. It’s super simple, with a single button to turn it on and off and to adjust the modes. The best light is the one you actually use, and Bontrager has done a great job ensuring it’s as easy as possible to do just that.
You can buy the Ion 200 RT individually or as a set with the Flare RT rear light. The combination of the two ensures you’re seen from the front and the rear, even in daylight. But you won’t get much visibility from the sides; just from the direct front and rear.
The biggest drawback to this tiny light is its price. $65 seems steep for a light that doesn’t have enough lumens to cast a big beam for seeing well ahead of you at night. If you’re after convenient, always-on visibility lights in a tiny package that won’t take up much space on your handlebars, it’s hard to beat the Ion 200 RT. But if you’re cost-conscious and need as many lumens as you can get, this probably isn’t the right choice.
The Vis Pro 1000 Blacktop from Light & Motion comes in at just 121 grams, and the design is sleek and simple. If you’re looking for a powerful light that will save you some weight, the Vis Pro is definitely worth a look.
The beam feels more focused than others in the test, so if you want a wide beam, look elsewhere. But the Vis Pro 1000 Blacktop still provides ample light for city riding and light trail riding, especially at the highest 1,000-lumen setting.
Light & Motion says you should be able to get about 1.5 hours of run time on the highest setting. In testing, the Vis Pro 1000 Blacktop outperformed that number, lasting just under two hours on the highest setting. However, other lights in the test have longer battery life, even with higher lumens.
The Vis Pro comes with a handlebar mount and a GoPro-style mount. The handlebar mount accommodates various handlebar widths easily with a rubber band. You can leave the mount on the handlebars and remove the light itself to use as a flashlight or to stow in a pocket.
But Light & Motion’s ‘quick-release’ system isn’t very quick, or easy. You have to loosen a very small dial, then pull the light backward from the mount. This system could use some refinement for easier and quicker use.
The Vis Pro also features amber lights on the sides to cast off some light for visibility on either side of the rider. But these lights aren’t very bright and don’t seem especially useful.
The Vis Pro 1000 Blacktop is best if you’re looking for a powerful light and want to save a few grams. But if you’re after a wide beam, long run time, or easy removal from the mount, look elsewhere.
The best taillights
During testing, I set the Sentry Aero 260 to the setting I most commonly use: solid light on the sides with a flash at the rear. In that setting, the light lasted a whopping seven hours and 45 minutes. That runtime would be shorter on certain settings, but I have owned this light for almost two years now and use it almost exclusively on this setting. It seemed fitting to test it this way.
The Sentry Aero beats the competition in side visibility, with its long, aero-shaped lens casting light in all directions. It’s easy to mount to any type of seatpost using the silicone strap, and it stays in place securely. I did manage to break the original silicone strap; fortunately, a second was included in the box and that one has lasted over a year and a half so far.
While other lights in the test are more visible from further away, particularly in the daytime, the Sentry Aero 260 offers the best all-around visibility (rear and sides). It hits a good price, too, especially given its durable design and solid mounting system.
After a couple of years of use, and in comparison to all the other lights in this test, the Sentry Aero 260 remains my favorite light for its reliability, visibility, and durability.
Topeak’s Taillux 100 offers a lot of visibility in a small, convenient package. It’s one of the best taillights you can buy.
Single-button operation turns on the light and allows you to choose from four different modes. You can toggle between constant light and blinking, or a combination of the two. Topeak says you can get up to three hours of battery life in the constant, 100-lumen setting, and that played out almost to the minute in the course of testing.
Topeak also says you get up to 220 degrees of visibility, which means you’ll be seen by vehicles behind you and on the side of you. The visibility is indeed very good here, both from the rear and sides.
The mounting system uses a small but stout silicone band, which means the Taillux will work with a variety of seatpost sizes and shapes. The light comes with adapters that slide into place on the rear of the light to best accommodate the most common seatpost shapes. A clip mount is also included, so you can clip the light to your pocket or backpack.
The Taillux comes very close to being the best tail light in the test, bested only by Niterider’s Sentry Aero 260, which offers more lumens and better side visibility. The Taillux is less expensive and lighter, however.
The Varia from Garmin feels more like a rear radar that happens to have a light integrated into it. The radar itself alerts you to vehicles approaching from your rear with visual and audible alerts. It pairs to your Garmin head unit or to your smartphone, giving you notice when a car is approaching so you can make better road positioning decisions.
If that doesn’t sound like it’s your cup of tea, the Varia RTL 515 definitely isn’t the light for you. The light itself is small, though Garmin says it is visible for up to a mile away. The rest of the light’s body is dedicated to the radar function; the body itself measures a long four inches, which means if your seat post is low, you might have trouble mounting this light.
While there are some smaller lights built into the sides of the Varia RTL515 light, they aren’t as prominent as other lights in the test. It’s great that the lights are integrated into the radar in the first place, but they definitely don’t seem to be the primary function here.
The quarter-turn mount lets you remove the light quickly and easily. Once slotted, the light stays in place solidly, though the mount itself is held in place with fairly thin silicone bands that could wear and break more quickly than some of the thicker bands on lights in this test.
And at $200, the Varia isn’t cheap. If you’re interested in the Varia, you’ll be doing it largely for the radar system, at which point the system seems worthwhile for the price. But if you’re after the best taillight functions, look elsewhere.
CatEye’s Rapid X3 features some of the best side visibility in our test. The 150 lumens pump out brightly both to the rear of the rider and to the sides. The flash modes seem particularly useful for grabbing the attention of drivers.
The Rapid X3 mounts easily to seatposts of various sizes and shapes, making it a good choice regardless of what type of bike you’re riding. It’s held in place with a rubber band. There are two power buttons, one on each side of the light, so you can activate the light from either side.
Overall, the Rapid X3 could make a very strong case as a top taillight, but it’s held back by a few mostly minor drawbacks.
For starters, the two power buttons are difficult to push. And it was difficult to turn the light on and off; sometimes when you pushed both buttons the unit would turn off, but other times it would simply change the flash mode. There really doesn’t need to be two power buttons to begin with, since the unit is so small anyway.
And while the mount system accommodates various seatposts, the Rapid X3 is held in place with a thin rubber band rather than a thick silicone one. This isn’t necessarily a problem if you’ll be riding mostly on roads, though such rubber bands tend to allow more movement and break down more quickly than thick silicone bands.
If you’ll be riding primarily on the road, the Rapid X3 is a good choice. It offers very conspicuous flash modes and lots of side visibility. The drawbacks certainly don’t outweigh the benefits here.
CygoLite’s Hotshot Pro 200C offers a bright, focused beam with plenty of flashing modes to get you noticed on the road. With 200 lumens blasting out, this light is plenty powerful for day or night visibility.
The light auto adjusts to ambient light conditions too, optimizing your lumen output for the light around you. The Hotshot Pro 200C does push out some light to the sides for some side visibility, but it’s not as focused or as bright as other options in our test.
I used this light on the highest flash setting during testing and it lasted seven hours. That’s decent battery life that can be extended by using a lower power setting.
The Hotshot Pro features two buttons: a power button (which also switches the flash modes) and a tempo-adjust button that lets you customize your flash patterns. I found this two-button system unnecessary; this light would be more convenient to use with just one button to contend with, and I’m not sure I need that much control over my flash patterns to justify a second button.
The mounting system is dated. It only accommodates round posts, and it requires a screwdriver for mounting and unmounting. That said, it is quite easy to slide the light off the mount without having to remove the mount itself, so you can clip this onto a backpack or slide the light in your pocket.
Fortunately, CycoLite offers another version of this light, the Hotshot Pro 200 USB, that features a silicone band mounting system that accommodates seat posts of various sizes and shapes. This is a better option that opens up far more mounting possibilities.
NiteRider has established itself as a leader in bike lighting, and for good reason. The Sabre 110 is another good example of NiteRider’s careful thought and design. For just $30, this is an excellent light that’s easy to use, super bright, and convenient for removing from the mount to clip on a backpack.
The mount features a thick silicone band that will accommodate seatposts of various sizes and shapes. It grips solidly and doesn’t shift when the road or trail gets rough. That band connects to a plastic mount that pivots so you can adjust the light up and down. Those two components connect via a small screw, which is not ideal, but it’s also not something you’ll need to mess with frequently.
The light itself casts a bright beam directly behind you. The six modes allow you to toggle between steady and flashing. The only downside is the Sabre 110’s side visibility, which is quite limited.
Still, for the price, it’s hard to beat this small and convenient light. With its solid mounting system and small, versatile design, it’s a worthy purchase, especially if your budget is limited.
Bontrager’s Flare RT certainly wins the battle for most compact design. It’s downright tiny, in fact, and easy enough to stash in your pocket simply by removing it from the mount. Despite its tiny size, the Flare RT manages to pump out a strong beam of light that Bontrager says is visible for up to 2 kilometers.
The silicone band mount features a plastic hook that makes it easy to mount just about anywhere, and it accommodates various seatpost sizes and shapes. The side lever makes it super easy to remove the light from the mount too.
The Flare RT also features a light sensor that auto-adjusts the light intensity based on the ambient light around you. On top of that, there’s a battery save mode that ensures an additional 30 minutes of run time when the battery reaches 5% left of its life.
The flash patterns are quite intense, which means motorists are more likely to notice you, even though the Flare RT only boasts 90 lumens. But there’s not much side visibility to speak of.
Bontrager notes a maximum run time of 15 hours in the 5-lumen flash mode. I ran this light in the 90-lumen flash mode and got just over six hours of run time out of it (Bontrager advertises six hours of life in this mode).
This tiny light packs a punch. Grab it if you don’t mind spending the cash on the small package, great mount, and decent battery life. Look elsewhere if you’re looking for good side visibility too.
Right out of the box, Serfas’s UTL-6 Thunderbolt Tail light feels well-constructed, with a silicone-encased body and two silicone bands that secure the light to your seatpost. The bands accommodate seatposts of any shape and size, making the Thunderbolt easy to mount. Keep in mind, though, that this light is fairly long at just about four inches, so it takes up a bit of real estate on your seatpost. If you run your post low, you might not have enough room for this light.
The Thunderbolt is one of the least expensive lights in our test, but it also features the lowest brightness level at 35 lumens. It punches above its weight class here, with a directional LED strip and noticeable flash patterns that alert surrounding vehicles to your presence. There’s almost no side visibility, however. The light blasts almost exclusively backward from the rider.
Serfas advertises up to 8.5 hours of run time on the 10-lumen low-flash mode. This isn’t especially impressive compared to other lights in the test that run longer, even with higher lumens. I tested the Thunderbolt on the high, steady setting, and it died after just under two hours. This bests Serfas’s advertised battery life of 1.5 hours in this setting, so it did outperform in that sense.
It took almost five hours to charge the Thunderbolt from a fully depleted battery. Notably, the Thunderbolt uses a USB mini port, which is dated. USB micro ports and USB-C ports are far more common these days, so be sure you don’t lose the included charging cable.
If you’re looking for an inexpensive light with a solid mounting system and a durable build, the Thunderbolt is worth a look. But there are more powerful lights with better run time that don’t cost that much more than Serfas’s option.
How to choose the best bike lights for you
Price is always a good starting point for choosing the best bike lights for you. If you’re budget-conscious and want both a front and a rear light, consider a combo package that includes both. And stay simple: the more features you add, the higher the price tag goes.
Then consider whether you want to see, be seen, or both. That will often dictate whether you need a high-lumen light or if you can opt for a less expensive light that has less lumens. This applies mostly to front lights.
Whenever you’re choosing the best bicycle lights for you, consider how much visibility the lights truly give off. This is especially pertinent to tail lights; the best bicycle tail lights will feature plenty of side visibility in addition to rear visibility. And the best tail lights also offer various modes — from steady light to flashing and a combination of the two — to ensure you’re as visible as possible both in the daylight and at night.
Perhaps most importantly, the best bicycle light is the one you’ll actually use. Make sure the one you choose is simple to mount, easy to operate, and compact enough that you won’t mind taking the lights with you on even the shortest trips.
How we tested the best bike lights
To test the best bike lights, we went riding in them! We tried all of the bikes on this list for hours of riding to test battery life and ease of use, as well as performance in a number of different lights and weathers.