Our avid riders sorted through hundreds of options and spent months testing to find 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 that took up an entire water bottle cage — and it cost hundreds of dollars. 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.
A great bike light for road riding (with the occasional off-road jaunt) not only offers plenty of visibility to cars but also has 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.
In 2021, nearly all of the 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 best 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 on the market that will help you navigate singletrack long after the sun has set.
Here, we’re looking at the best front bike lights and the best rear bike lights, with options ranging from $16 to $400. Whatever kind of ride you’re planning for, you’ll find a light that’s right for your ride. And if you need help figuring out what type of light to look for, scroll down to view our comprehensive buying guide.
- Front Lights
- Rear Lights
- Best Set
The Best Bike Lights of 2021
Best Overall: Lezyne Lite Drive 1000XL
This light ($79) is designed for riding in night and daytime conditions while being highly visible. 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.
Bonus: 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.
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.
- Max Output/Lumens: 1,000
- Run Time (at max power): 1.5 hours
- 1,000 lumens at under $80 is tough to beat
- Super easy to mount
- You may want to buy the handlebar mount to feel secure if you ride bumpy roads
Best Budget: NiteRider Lumina 650
At about $60 for a whopping 650 lumens of light from a well-known and trusted brand, the NiteRider Lumina 650 is hard to beat. In a pinch, it’s bright enough for trail riding. However, it’s best used on roads, as it doesn’t have quite the same brightness as the other options.
The battery life is nothing amazing — 90 minutes at the brightest setting, 7 hours on low at 150 lumens. This is enough for casual evening rides but not enough illumination for serious night riding.
However, the light has one more setting — the walk setting, which can last for 20 hours at 50 lumens. It won’t light up the night, but it will keep you safe. It’s great as a daytime running light, especially for riders who often are on busy roads or commute in bad weather.
You can also opt for flash mode, which blasts 650 lumens for 6.5 hours for maximum daylight visibility.
The NiteRider Lumina 650 comes with a basic plastic mount that fits on most standard road and mountain bike handlebars. However, if you have a bike with a more specialized bar that has a wider curve or flat spot, it may not mount as sturdily.
- Max Output/Lumens: 650
- Run Time (at max power): 1.5 hours
- Good battery life
- Low battery indicator
- Mount may not work with specialty handlebars
Best Bike Light for Commuting: Light & Motion Vis Pro 1000 Blacktop
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 that not only are their bike lights water-resistant, but they’re also waterproof even if you drop them in a meter-deep puddle, or ride through a monsoon.
It’s 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 ($125) will last for years, no matter what you put it through.
Compared to similar models, the battery charge is also a bit faster. Most lights take 3-plus hours to charge, but this one goes from empty to full in 2.5 hours.
It can also be charged with an external USB power source (like you would use to charge a phone on the go) while running at 150 lumens. This is a huge perk for bikepackers — or those who forget to charge their lights and only realize that fact as they’re running late as they head out the door.
Lastly, the commuter-specific additions are worth calling out. 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.
- Max Output/Lumens: 1,000
- Run Time (at max power): 2.5 hours
- Unbeatable waterproof technology
- More expensive than other models with similar lumen output
Best Bike Light for Night Riding: Magicshine Monteer 8000S
If you’re a do-it-all cyclist who shreds singletrack and then rides the road home, a light that can brighten up your entire trail may make the group mountain bike ride a lot more fun. Enter the Magicshine Monteer 8000S ($400), which, as the name suggests, offers 8,000 lumens of illumination.
At $400, it’s easily the priciest light on the list. But if you want the best and the brightest, this is it.
Unlike the other lights on this list, the Magicshine Monteer 8000S attaches to the handlebars of your bike. However, it connects to a separate rechargeable battery pack because 8,000 lumens requires a lot of power.
The separate battery also means your battery life is extended. At 8,000 lumens, you only have 90 minutes of ride time, but you can ride for a whopping 15 hours at 900 lumens. This is especially great for riders who want to shred for an hour on the trail, but also do a long ride to and from the trailhead to home.
One caveat: While your friends may love that you’re lighting up the trail, you can easily blind your fellow riders if you shine the light in their eyes, so you’ll need to stay at the front of the pack. It’s the light that feels the most like riding in daylight, so you may even hear from friends that you’re taking the challenge out of night riding!
- Max Output/Lumens: 8,000
- Run Time (at max power): 1.5 hours
- The brightest light available
- Overkill for most riders from a weight and cost standpoint
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 seatposts.
- Max Output/Lumens: 200 white light, 40 red light
- Run Time (at max power): 2 hours at 200 lumens on front, rear 4 hours at 40 lumens in 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 the 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. 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 bring inside 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 seatpost.
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 actually 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 lights 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, plus 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.
- Max Output/Lumens: 22/600
- Run Time (at max power): 4 hours/2.5 hours
- 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 set comes highly recommended.
- 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
- Diameter of front light clamp is too small for some handlebars
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 to 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. On this list, the Magicshine Monteer 8000s is the ideal mountain biking headlight.
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.
Generally, front bike lights range from around $25 to over $300, while rear lights range from about $10 to $80. Plenty of excellent front and rear light sets can be found in the $75-150 range.
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.
If you do a lot of different types of riding, look for a light that can dial between outputs. You may want to consider the NiteRider Lumina Micro 650, which can run for 20 hours at 50 lumens, or for 90 minutes at its maximum output of 650 lumens.
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. Magicshine boasts the 8,000-lumen MJ-908 that we listed as the best night-riding light above.
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.
For rear lights, a few lumens is all you really need to stay visible. 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 to 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 requirement for visibility. You’ll want to check your local bylaws. Certain states require not just a small red rear light on your seatpost, 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.