How to find the best bicycle lights
A bicycle light buying guide
Everyone needs light in the dark. This is especially true if you are a bicyclist. Fortunately, it's a breeze to find top-rated bicycle lights and other safety-enhancing bike accessories and parts to brighten your path, keeping you visible and safe.
>> Do you need a bicycle light?
The question of whether or not you need a bicycle light is twofold:
- Is a light is required in your area when you are riding after dark? In many jurisdictions in the US, bicyclists are required to have at least one white headlight and a red bicycle taillight to ride legally after dark. In those cases, you probably need a bike light set in order to ride legally.
- Do you want to buy bicycle lights to light your nighttime ride for your own peace of mind and convenience? The answer is often yes. Other than helmet lights, if you are enjoying bikes and similar toys, there are not a lot of other options to light your way in the dark.
If you're a mountain biker, look for the best bicycle lights. You want to maximize what you can see when you're riding on dim or dark trails that may hold unknown obstacles.
>> Consider bicycle light features
How you approach a bicycle light comparison depends on whether you'll use your light primarily for road riding or for mountain biking. If you're mainly a road bicyclist, then your search for the best bicycle lights should include the light's weight, battery life and side visibility:
- The weight of bike headlights is important because when one is mounted on your bike, it is one more thing that you're propelling with the force of your pedals. This isn't to say that a bicycle light design that's on the heavy side can't be the right choice for you. Determine if the added weight is justified based on the features that the bicycle light comes with.
- Buy bicycle lights that have a battery life you can live with. That is, if you're constantly forgetting to recharge your batteries, the best bicycle light is one with a long running time from a single charge.
- Many urban cyclists do bicycle light comparisons without checking out how visible new bicycle lights are from the side. This is a crucial feature, because a primary purpose of jurisdictional bike light regulations is to make sure motorists can see you. Test various bicycle light brands by switching each light on and then leaning to look at it from a side angle. Choose the ones that are easily visible from the side. Do the same test with bicycle taillights.
After you've narrowed down bicycle light designs that you like, if one also happens to be a unique bicycle light that catches your fancy, go for it.
Criteria for determining the best bicycle light for you are different if you're primarily a wilderness or trail rider. Brightness is the most important factor in your choice of the best bicycle lights. A bicycle light design that helps you see the trail ahead is paramount.
Sturdiness should be a major consideration when you're doing a bicycle light comparison for trail-riding needs. Wilderness riding involves lots of jarring, and the light must be able to handle this and shine on without a hiccup.
Some other factors can affect your decision about the best bicycle light for how you ride. For example, as you'll notice when shopping in the bicycle accessories section, you can buy bicycle lights with rechargeable batteries on board. It may be useful to choose top-rated bicycle lights allow you to remove the battery for charging. Many times, this means that you can buy a replacement battery when the old one has reached the end of its useful light, rather than purchasing a whole new bicycle light.
A rechargeable battery that detaches for regular charging can be a cost saver, however, making it a great option. You can buy extra batteries while the original one is still good, keeping charged spare batteries at hand in a bicycle bag or in your backpack.
You can find cool bicycle lights with other features too, such as built-in radios and MP3 players. Similarly, a bicycle light design that's combined with a bell is a good idea for decluttering your handlebars. Make sure that all components are of high quality, or you may find it's better just to buy a cool bicycle light and high-quality bell separately and enjoy having well-made models of both.
>> Safety considerations for bicycle light usage
Once you've chosen the best bicycle light, check routinely to see that lights aren't obscured while you're riding. They shouldn't be covered by clothing or by your panniers, by other carried items or by any bicycle replacement parts you later install.
Similarly, check your lights regularly to make sure that they're operating properly. Use your bike tools to fix any instances of bicycle light mounting coming askew. Whether you ride on roads or in the wilderness, make a point of regularly inspecting all bike light lenses. Keep them clear of dirt, dust and light-obscuring debris.
There are many well-made models of bicycle lights out there, so no matter what your preferred type of riding is, there are plenty of choices when looking for the best bicycle light for your rides. Take into account safety issues and then consider other factors that will enhance the enjoyment you'll get from from your new bicycle light.