Bike lights are essential for safety on the road and trail. Our avid riders spent months testing to determine the best bike lights for every use and budget.
Bike lights have come a long way since their early years. Then, to illuminate the road or trail after sunset, a rider needed a light mounted on the handlebars with a wire running to a battery pack. And they were quite pricey.
Now, you can get the same number of lumens — a light’s measure of brightness— in a thumb-sized, USB-rechargeable clip-on light for under $50.
The best bike lights for road riding (with the occasional off-road jaunt) not only offer plenty of visibility to cars but also have enough lumens to illuminate the road ahead. It should also have a solid battery life so you don’t end up in the dark after only an hour of pedaling.
Most high-quality bike lights on the market are rechargeable, which helps save money and reduce waste in the long term. The mounting system, as well as the lights themselves, are easier to use and more durable than ever before.
Finding the Best Bike Light
While this article touches on the best front and rear bike lights, you may want to get more specific. If you’re a mountain biker, we have a full guide for the best mountain bike lights that will help you navigate singletrack long after the sun has set.
Here, we’re looking at the best front and back bike lights and sets of both, with options ranging from $16 to $400. Whatever kind of ride you’re planning for, you’ll find a light that’s right for you.
- Front Lights
- Rear Lights
- Best Set
The Best Bike Lights of 2022
Best Overall: Light & Motion Vis Pro 1000 Blacktop/Trail
For diehard commuters who ride to work in the rain, sleet, and snow, it’s critical to have a light that truly can stand up to anything the elements throw at it. Light & Motion’s claim to fame is their waterproof, virtually indestructible lights.
This option is a bit pricier than some of the other 1,000-lumen models on the market, but the reliability is unbeatable. The Vis Pro 1000 Blacktop/Trail ($125 and $135) will last for years, no matter what you put it through.
Recently Light and Motion added a second light — the Trail, to the Vis Pro 100 lineup. Functionally the two lights are almost identical, however, the Trail version comes with a Velcro strap to attach the light to your helmet.
Compared to similar lights, the battery charge is a little bit faster. Most lights take 3-plus hours to charge, but this one goes from empty to full in 2.5 hours. It can be charged with an external USB power source while running at 150 lumens; a huge perk for bikepackers and those who forget to charge their lights with any regularity.
The handlebar mount for both lights is excellent, albeit somewhat difficult to manage with large thumbs. Having logged a ton of gravel and dirt miles with this light, our tester felt extremely confident about the light staying fixed in place and experienced zero issues.
Light & Motion designed the SafePulse beam for daytime riding, along with amber sidelights. While having a rear light in addition to a front light is ideal, the small lights on the side may help improve visibility to drivers. As far as front lights are concerned, we’re confident the Vis Pro 1000 is the best bike light available.
- Max Output/Lumens: 1,000
- Run Time (at max power): 1.5 hrs.
- Recharge Time: 2.5 hrs.
- Unbeatable waterproof technology
- Excellent handlebar mount
- The Trail version comes with a helmet mount.
- Rechargeable while riding
- More expensive than other models with similar lumen output
- Handlebar mounting hardware is small & finicky
- More expensive than others
Best Budget: Cygolite Dash Pro 600
For $65 the Cygolite Dash Pro 600 is an excellent value. The Dash Pro punches well above its weight with a slew of features and an intuitive design.
One of the Dash Pro’s claims to fame is the three-mode daytime running lights (DRL), which increase visibility and safety for when it’s not-quite-dark-but-still-sort-of-light-out. And while you might not find yourself using the DRL feature all that often, the Dash Pro features five other modes: Boost, High, Medium, Low, and Steady Pulse.
On boost, the Dash Pro will last approximately one hour, and Cygolite claims that on lower levels users can get up to 70 hours of light out of one charge.
Recharging takes approximately 4 hours, which certainly puts this light on the slower end of this list, but not so slow that it’s a deal breaker. The universal handlebar mount is simple and easy to use, and although not as good as the Light and Motion Vispro mount, our tester still preferred it over the Lumina. Like the Lezyne, this light is also available in a front/rear set for a couple of extra bucks ($100 at REI).
Anyone looking for a solid and easy-to-use light for commuting after dark would be hard-pressed to find a better deal than the Dash Pro. While not as bright as other lights on this list, the slew of modes and features, an easy-to-use mount, and a super-friendly price point make the Dash Pro our choice for the best bike light for the price.
- Max Output/Lumens: 600
- Run Time (at max power): 1 hr.
- Recharge Time: 4 hrs.
- Daytime Running Lights enhance safety
- 5 light modes
- Easy, intuitive mount
- Not as bright as other lights
- Longer charging time
Best Commuter: Lezyne Lite Drive 1000XL
The Lezyne Lite Drive ($85-115) is designed for riding in night and daytime conditions where high visibility is essential for safety. It’s ideal for a road cyclist who puts in a lot of miles on busy roads and occasionally hops onto singletrack or technical gravel roads.
With a simple universal mount that can swap from handlebar to handlebar, this is a great light to use with your bike collection depending on the day’s ride. Or you can shell out a few bucks for the helmet mount or a more secure handlebar-specific mount if you’re often on bumpy pavement.
Unlike every other light on this list, this light comes in a few different colors of aluminum, making it easy to figure out which light is yours. Additionally, buyers have the option of purchasing both front and rear lights as a set, literally and figuratively covering your backside for just a few dollars more ($115 for the set).
The battery life at full power isn’t too impressive — only 90 minutes in overdrive mode of 1,000 lumens. But drop it down to blast mode at 500 lumens and you get over 3 hours. Or you can ride a more normal low mode of 250 lumens (where most road-based front lights would sit) and you can ride for a full 5.5 hours with plenty of visibility.
At about $80 for 1,100 lumens of light — two-thirds of a car headlight’s brightness — the Lezyne Lite Drive 1000XL isn’t the least expensive light on the list. However, it’s technically the cheapest dollars-per-lumen light of the bunch. In our opinion, it’s the best bike light for commuting.
- Max Output/Lumens: 1,000
- Run Time (at max power): 1.5 hrs.
- Recharge time: 4 hours
- Supremely bright
- Excellent price point
- Super easy to mount
- Less than secure mount for rough roads
- Short battery life on high
- Helmet mount sold separately
Runner-Up: NiteRider Lumina 1800 Dual Beam
Anyone who’s ever had a close call bicycle commuting knows that one of the best insurance policies is to be offensively visible. With the NightRider Lumina 1800 ($180) strapped to your bars the likelihood of going unseen is vastly diminished.
Niterider has had the Lumina line in the game for a while now, and this newest light builds on previous iterations. With two beams (two bulbs) this light provides an excellent wide beam at supremely high output. That high output comes at a cost, however, lasting only 45 minutes on the max setting. At medium power (750 lumens) the Lumina 1800 will run for approximately 3 hours, and double that on the low setting (350 lumens).
Additionally, this light boasts two flash modes, an oversized handlebar mount (35mm bars), and a helmet mount which can be purchased separately. The lumina 1800 is sealed to be water and dust-resistant and features a red light to let users know it’s nearly time to recharge, which takes 3 hours.
While the oversized bar mount is certainly a plus, the design of the mount itself doesn’t appear to have been updated. The clamp itself works well and the design is intuitive, but the interface between the light and the clamp is less than secure. This made our tester less than confident in rough or offroad conditions.
At $180, this is the most expensive light on the list, and depending on where and how you ride, it may or may not be worth it to you. This light is plenty bright and offers a high degree of visibility to both the rider and the people around them. Folks looking for the most lumens should most definitely consider the NightRider Lumina 1800.
- Max Output/Lumens: 1,800
- Run Time (at max power): 45 min.
- Recharge time: 3 hrs.
- Supremely bright
- Excellent wide beam
- Easy to mount
- Highly visible
- Less than secure mount for rough roads
- Short battery life on high
Best Overall: Blackburn 2’Fer-XL
Arguably the most versatile light of the bunch, the Blackburn 2’Fer-XL ($49) is one seriously hardworking light. It doesn’t replace having a front and rear light. But because it can be used as a front light in the white light mode and a red rear mode in the other, it’s an excellent option to have on hand.
The 40-lumen rear red light has two modes, flashing and solid, as does the white light option. Plus, 40 lumens is plenty for a rear light, as its purpose is to make you visible, not to light your path ahead. But when you swap to the 200-lumen front white light option, you can see the road ahead of you.
The Blackburn 2’Fer-XL is a great light option for a bikepacker who rides at dawn and dusk and needs a rear light for visibility — and then wants to use the white light option as a campsite flashlight.
As a light that can do it all, it has a few mounting options. It has a clip for mounting to clothing or backpacks, and it can be mounted to a helmet or handlebar mount. It also has a silicone gripper that lets it mount easily to most handlebars and seat posts.
- Max Output/Lumens: 200 white light, 40 red light
- Run Time (at max power): 2 hours at 200 lumens on the front, rear 4 hours at 40 lumens on back
- Perfect for when you realize you need a front light to make it home, but didn’t pack one (or don’t own one)
- You may want to buy two — while it’s cool to have the front light option, using the front light means you’re riding without a rear light
Best Budget: Lezyne Femto USB Rear STVZO
Even budget bike lights are now USB rechargeable. At $17, the Lezyne Femto USB Rear STVZO runs for 8 hours. It isn’t the brightest light at 8 lumens, but for a rear light, that’s all you need.
The simple mounting strap makes it easy to swap this light from bike to bike, and its ultra-simple design makes it easy for even the newest riders to use.
The lens is optimized for 270 degrees of visibility. Unlike the super-budget rear lights you can buy in a discount store, this light can be seen from the sides and offers more protection from motorists.
Charge it with a micro-USB cable, and you’ll have 4 hours at maximum lumens or 8 hours at a dimmer setting.
- Max Output/Lumens: 8 lumens
- Run Time (at max power): 4 hours
- Rechargeable lights are rarely this inexpensive
- Not needing to replace a battery is a major plus
- Some riders report issues with the mounting strap, which may depend on your seatpost’s size and shape
Best for Commuting: CatEyeSYNC Wearable
If you ride using city bike shares, switch between bikes, or leave your bike outside and hate the idea of needing to take a light on and off to charge, the CatEyeSYNC Wearable ($50) is a great option.
It’s designed to be snapped onto your bag or clothing, and you can easily snap it onto your backpack or belt loop. Or if you prefer, it has a rubber strap to mount it in a more standard way to your seat post.
The CatEyeSYNC Wearable is designed for both nighttime and daytime riding, so expect to be highly visible regardless of the time of day. Compared to most rear lights, the max output of 30 lumens is quite bright. If the battery is low, the light automatically switches to flash mode to save power.
If you’re looking for a full suite of bike lights, the CatEyeSYNC collection is pretty nifty. All of the lights synchronize, so when you click one on, the others turn on as well. All are connected through an app. So, if you’re in a rush when you leave work and you tend to forget to turn your light on, this is a great option.
- Max Output/Lumens: 30
- Run Time (at max power): 1.5 hours
- Easy to switch between bikes because you’re wearing it, not attaching it
- Depending on what you’re wearing, it may be tough to attach
Best Overall: Garmin Varia
Consider the Garmin Varia ($300) front and taillight if you’re a serious road rider who wants the best in high-tech safety and visibility. This is also a great choice if you just want a set of bike lights that are smarter than you are, especially if you’re already using a Garmin Edge cycling computer.
These smart lights adjust to your speed and sense drivers behind you. So if you’re suddenly heading downhill and your speed has picked up, your light automatically projects farther ahead so you can see what’s coming up.
If you’re connected to your Edge 1000 computer, it can do much more. The light automatically brightens or dims, depending on how light it is outside. The rear light contains a sensor that can alert your computer that a vehicle is coming up behind you.
At $300 for the set, it’s certainly not the cheapest bicycle light setup on the market. The features that make it worth the price only work when paired with the Edge cycling computer.
For riders who prefer an early warning when cars and trucks are coming up — and who want those cars and trucks to spot them as well — or for those who constantly change pace during rides, this light set will help make your ride significantly less stressful.
Paired, these are two of the best bike lights on the market.
- Max Output/Lumens: 22/600
- Run Time (at max power): 4 hrs./2.5 hrs.
- A smart system that makes your ride safer and easier with minimal work on your part
- The front light tops out at 600 lumens, so it’s not optimal for trail usage
Runner-Up: Cygolite Streak Front and Rear Set
This affordably priced bike light set ($51) is a reliable headlight and taillight combo. With quick, easy mounting and impressive battery life, this light set from Cygolite adds significant safety to your morning and evening rides.
The Streak’s 450-lumen headlight can last for up to 100 hours on a single charge (on a low setting), while the 50-lumen tail light lasts up to 200 hours. Both are rechargeable via an included mini-USB cable. A low-battery indicator will notify you when it’s time to charge. It is a good idea to keep the included cord on your person during rides, as it can be difficult to come by a replacement (mini USB is less common than micro USB).
With seven lighting modes — including boost and pulse — this light set is handy in all kinds of riding scenarios. The taillight has at least five modes, including multiple tempos of flash.
Cygolite has been making bike lights for 30 years, and it’s clear that they have figured out the balance between quality and affordability. If you’re looking for a long-term lighting solution with a sub-$100 price tag, this is the best bike light set you’ll find.
- Max Output/Lumens: 450 lumens (front) 50 lumens (rear)
- Runtime (at max power): 90 minutes at max power for both front and rear
- Easy to mount
- The diameter of the front light clamp is too small for some handlebars
|Bike Light||Price||Max Output/Lumens||Run Time (at max power)||Recharge Time|
|Light & Motion Vis Pro 1000 Blacktop/Trail||$125 and $135||1,000||1.5 hours||2.5 hours|
|Cygolite Dash Pro 600||$65||600||1 hour||4 hours|
|Lezyne Lite Drive 1000XL||$85-115||1,000||1.5 hours||4 hours|
|NiteRider Lumina 1800 Dual Beam||$180||1,800||45 minutes||3 hours|
|Blackburn 2’Fer-XL||$49||200 white light, 40 red light||2 hours (front) / 4 hours (back)||N/A|
|Lezyne Femto USB Rear STVZO||$17||8||4 hours||N/A|
|CatEyeSYNC Wearable||$50||30||1.5 hours||N/A|
|Garmin Varia||$300||22/600||4 hours/2.5 hours||N/A|
|Cygolite Streak Front and Rear Set||$51||450 lumens (front) 50 lumens (rear)||1.5 hours||N/A|
Why You Should Trust Us
Our team is composed of cyclists and outdoor-oriented people looking for the best products on the market. Our staff includes former racers, recreational cyclists, folks who bike commute 60 miles a week, and everyone in between — people who care about fit, finish, and function.
At the end of the day, we want a product we can trust. Our team spends their time carefully evaluating new products, which translates to less time shopping and more time in the saddle. We strive to create thorough, comprehensive, and helpful reviews to help you find the best gear for your individual needs.
Paul Mandell has two decades of experience in the saddle as an itinerant racer and recreational rider. He completed his master’s degree in exercise science where he studied the critical power model for cycling.
These days, he prefers lift-accessed gravity riding and long adventure rides with plenty of descending, but still finds time to get out for the occasional gravel grind or single-track loop near his home base in California’s Eastern Sierra.
Buyer’s Guide: How to Choose the Best Bike Lights
Every cyclist should have a set of reliable bike lights. When shopping for the ideal lights to fit your needs, the vast market can feel confusing and difficult to navigate. From lumens to side visibility, there are lots of factors that must be considered when selecting bike lights.
In this buyer’s guide, we’ll break down each of these factors and hopefully simplify your selection process. You’ll be cruising down well-lit roads, paths, and trails in no time.
Brightness and Lumens
Just about every bike light on the market comes with a rating in lumens. Lumens are a unit of brightness. Simply put, the higher the lumens, the greater the brightness. However, while the lumen count is a good place to start when thinking about brightness, it doesn’t tell the whole story.
Ultimately, the brightness of a bike light is a product of the lumen count, beam width, and beam angle. A light with a super-high lumen count is great, but only if it has been designed to use its brightness effectively.
Because every cyclist has different needs, there is no fixed lumen count that every shopper should aim for. If you are riding in the daytime and simply want to increase your visibility and be seen by other road users, 100+ lumen front and rear lights should be sufficient.
If you are riding in urban environments in the dark and need enough light to see where you are going, you’ll want a front bike light with at least 400 lumens. If you plan to ride on trails in the dark, we recommend a front bike light with at least 600 lumens.
Front bike lights are brighter than rear bike lights because they must illuminate the road ahead. Rear lights are meant to help you stand out from other people on the road or trail and generally emit red light.
It is important to note that most bike lights are not able to sustain their highest brightness setting for more than an hour or two. If you purchase a light that boasts 1,000 lumens, just know that the light will not able to remain on that setting indefinitely.
Brightness is good, but reliable brightness is better. A bike light with 600 lumens and excellent battery life may be a better buy than a light with 1,000 lumens and low battery life. Of course, this all depends on your riding preferences.
Front Lights vs. Rear Lights
While front lights need to be bright enough to light up the world in front of you, rear lights are mostly a safety mechanism that improves your ability to be seen. Most front lights are significantly brighter than their red-light-emitting rear counterparts. Front lights typically mount to the handlebars or front stem, while rear lights mount to the seat post or rear frame.
We recommend picking up both a front and a rear light, though your needs may vary based on your riding preferences. On this list, the Cygolight Streak Front and Rear Set is a great pair of bike lights.
Bike Lights for Different Kinds of Riding
Road riding generally involves straight lines and few obstacles. For this kind of riding, we recommend a front bike light with a narrow beam that directs its full brightness straight ahead.
On this list, the Garmin Varia is an excellent road-riding light. Road cyclists that will be sharing the road should also have a bright rear light with plenty of battery life for long rides.
Mountain bikers need to be able to see obstacles long before they reach them. Unlike most road cycling, mountain biking involves sharp turns and lots of major obstacles.
In order to best light the path in front of you while mountain biking, seek out a light that casts a wide and bright beam.
Side visibility can be an important factor to consider, and some lights rate higher in this category than others. When riding through busy streets, improved side visibility can help prevent accidents before they happen.
When mountain biking, extra side visibility can help you spot obstacles and remain in control on technical singletrack. On this list, the Lezyne Lite Drive 1000xd provides top-notch side visibility.
Mounting front and rear bike lights is typically a simple process. Always read the manufacturer’s instructions for mounting. When purchasing a front light, look for a mounting system that will allow you to adjust the beam angle on the go.
We especially appreciate lights that are easy to mount and dismount. When locking up your bike in a public place, you’ll want to be able to easily and temporarily remove your lights to prevent theft.
Battery Life and Burn Time
Battery life depends on many factors including the type of battery, the type of LEDs in the light, and the light’s settings.
Most rechargeable bike lights come with multiple settings. The highest and brightest setting will offer the shortest burn time. Good visibility is important, but you should always try to avoid unnecessarily bright settings in order to prolong your light’s burn time — especially on longer rides.
Flashing pulse settings tend to use less light than a steady beam, and they are great for being seen in the daytime. On this list, the Garmin Varia has extremely impressive battery life and burn time.
Bike lights vary wildly in price. Like most things, you generally get what you pay for. While it isn’t necessary to buy the most expensive light out there, we do recommend that you go for the nicest lights that you can afford. When you’re riding home in the dark, you’ll appreciate having a reliable light with plenty of battery life to keep you rolling along safely.
Do You Need Different Bike Lights for Mountain Biking and Road Riding?
If you’re planning to do both, consider bike lights with easy mounting systems that can be switched over without any tools needed. Generally, mountain bike lights will be higher powered than a light designed for a road bike, but a road bike light will last longer.
So, if you’re a gravel-riding cyclist who often is on unlit back roads, consider a mountain bike light. If you’re a touring rider who requires a long battery life from your light, you may want to opt for a lower-lumen road bike light.
What Are the Brightest Bike Lights?
A car’s headlights put out around 700-1,300 lumens on average, according to the National Automobile Dealers Association. Most brands manufacture bike lights up to 1,200-1,800 lumens.
But a few brands make ultrahigh lumen lamps for diehard night riders who need to light up the trails: CatEye makes the Volt6000, which tops out at roughly 6,000 lumens.
How Many Lumens Do I Need for a Bike Light?
It depends on what kind of riding you’re doing. For urban usage, you’re looking for something around 200 lumens or higher. The more well-lit the riding area is, the fewer lumens you need.
For trail riding, a bare minimum of 700 lumens is critical. Warning: Over 700 lumens can be pretty hard to look at, so make sure you’re angling your light slightly downward if you have a bright light to avoid blinding fellow riders and pedestrians.
A few lumens are all you need to stay visible for rear lights. Many rear lights drop as low as 4 lumens, although 20 lumens or more is ideal.
Rechargeable Bike Lights vs. Battery Powered: Which Is Better?
Unless you’re simply looking for a blinking rear light for the occasional commute, a rechargeable bike light is superior to a battery-powered option. Rechargeable lights might cost more initially but after just a couple of battery charges, the cost will balance out.
The Sierra Club notes that rechargeable options are more eco-friendly, as they avoid constantly disposing of used batteries.
Do I Need Just a Rear Light or a Full Bike Light Set?
It depends on how much you ride in the dark. A full bike light set is optimal if you find yourself regularly riding at night, at dawn or dusk, or in bad weather conditions.
Studies have confirmed that bike lights do help make drivers notice cyclists. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has found that the highest incidence of bike cyclist fatalities happens between 6 p.m. and 9 p.m.
If you live in a well-lit area and rarely venture out on the bike in the dark, a rear light (and perhaps a headlamp for the occasional short night commute) will be plenty. The rear light is critical for making yourself visible to cars coming up behind you.
A front light can also help you stay visible to cars that might be veering off course, as well as to pedestrians who may run or walk opposite the flow of traffic. It can also keep you from crashing on the road. Legally, you might be obligated to have both.
Is It Illegal to Ride a Bike at Night Without a Light?
During the day, very few places will require that you have a bike light, but at night, most cities and states have some requirements for visibility. You’ll want to check your local bylaws. Certain states require not just a small red rear light on your seat post, but a full light set.
The reality is, if you’re riding a bike in the dark, front and rear lights are critical for your safety. So, even if you can ride legally without them, you shouldn’t.
You should also run your rear light during the day, and possibly even a front light when the weather is poor. A Clemson University study found that cars were much more likely to spot cyclists who were using lights during the day, as well as at night.
Can You Use a Headlamp as a Bike Light?
While you can use a headlamp as a bike light, the space you need to be illuminated for your bike may not be quite the same as the lighting you need for hiking or running in the dark. That said, a headlamp can be a great addition to a bike lighting setup, especially for night-riding mountain bikers who want to scan the trail.
You can use the headlamp to scan from right to left ahead of you while keeping your trail directly ahead lit up with your handlebar-mounted light. For which headlamp to choose, check out our best headlamps roundup.