Essential Commuter Bike Light Guide 11 May 2019
Finding the right bike light can be a bit like choosing a mobile phone tariff: there are just so many options! This commuter bike light guide is aimed at providing a bit of direction amid the plethora of choices. It is impossible to consider all the various lights on the market, so this guide will focus on some of the things to look for in bike lights for everyday commuting.
We have all passed (or been stopped by) roadside police operations reprimanding cyclists for riding without lights and sending them away on foot looking sheepish, and so we all know that it is mandatory to have bike lights. In fact, it a legal requirement to have both front and back lights, a rear reflector and pedal reflectors.
Five things to consider
When I think of bike lights – as I often do – I have one overriding emotion: panic. The thought is inextricably linked with memories of frantic searches whilst leaving the house, invariably late for one thing or another. These panicked forays were usually in search of batteries, double-A to be precise. The solution: USB charging.
Aside from the power source, you may also want to consider battery life, weight, brightness and, of course, cost. Most commuter lights have similar battery lives: around 3 hours constant, and 30 to 50 hours on the strobe setting. Weight, also, is relatively unchanging: around 30 to 50 grams each. The final two considerations then – brightness and cost – are the most crucial.
In the interests of safety, the general rule when looking for a good commuting lights has to be: the brighter, the better. The brightness of a light is usually measured in lumens. (For those who are interested, a lumen is a measure of ‘luminous flux’ and is equivalent to 1 joule of energy emitted each second. Lumens do not take into account direction, so a more focussed beam will appear brighter to oncoming traffic than a wider beam emitting the same number of lumens.)
The key, then according to this commuter bike light guide, is to find the brightest lights for the cheapest price. Lifeline provide a good range of lights, from the battery-powered Lifeline Essential at £14 per pair, to the Lifeline USB Double Beam at around £33 per pair. In fact, the latter boasts one of the best lumens-per-£ at 80 lumens for the front light and 30 lumens for the rear.
Knog also produce a good range of reasonably-priced lights, including the Knog Blinder front and rear lights at 80 and 44 lumens respectively. The Blinder is much dearer, however, retailing at £35 each, so buying second-hand may be a good option for those counting the pennies. To explore more options, there are various useful tools available, in particular the handy Trendz bike light comparison site.