A Guide To Bike Lights | How To Choose Lights For Road Cycling


– You’re going to be riding
in the dark, you need lights. But which lights do you need? I mean, there’s loads of
different types out there, varying from just a few pounds or dollars right up to hundreds of
your respective currency. So in this video, I’m going to explain all the different types of
lights, the different features that are on them, and what they’re for, so that you can best decide
what kind of lights you need for the riding that you do. But before I do that, make
sure that you subscribe to GCN if you haven’t already,
and click the bell icon to get notifications because
it helps support the channel and the content we make. (uptempo house music) Firstly, we’d always
recommend that you use at least two lights. A red rear one and a white front one. This is actually the law in many countries but irrespective of that,
it’ll just keep you safer. And I said at least two because
I’d recommend you use more, and this is for a couple of reasons. The first one is that if
one of your lights fails or the battery runs out,
you’ve got a backup. And the second reason
is it’ll just make you even more visible to other road
users, and therefore safer. The next thing to be aware
of is that front lights fall broadly into two categories, lights to be seen and lights to see with. Rear lights aren’t really
used for seeing on bikes, because, I mean well, no one
really reverses on a bike. (beeping sound) Beep, beep, beep, beep, beep,
beep, beep, beep, beep, beep. (beeping sound) If you’re going to be riding on lit roads in an urban environment,
then a light that enables other people to see you, such as this one, is going to be sufficient. They’re generally less
bright but less expensive than more powerful lights that are designed to illuminate
your path on unlit roads. But how do you know how bright a light is? Well the SI unit, lumens,
is used to measure how bright a light is
and it’s usually written on the side of the box,
but, “What is a lumen?” I hear you ask. Well. The lumen is the SI derived
unit of luminous flux, which is the amount of visible light given by a given source per unit of time. Luminous flux differs from radiant flux as radiant flux is the total light given across all wavelengths,
whereas luminous flux is weighted towards the
wavelengths that are visible by the human eye. And lumens are related to lux in that one lux is one
lumen per square meter. So now you know. Now to put that into context, car headlights are typically 1 200 lumens. The landing lights on a commercial jet are around 5 500 lumens, and the bat signal is 525 000 lumens. Yep, I’m great fun at parties. Now within the context of bike lights, they typically range
between 50 and 2 000 lumens. And to-be-seen lights are typically between 50 and 200 lumens. I’ve got a couple of examples here. So this is a front one from CatEye, and on the back, I’ve got an
exposure rear light as well that’s around 50 lumens. (uptempo house music) If you’re going to be
riding on unlit roads, then I’d personally recommend something around the
800 lumen mark at least. You can go less bright, but ultimately, you’re going to feel
safer and more confident the more you can see. This CatEye Volt is well, 800 lumens, it says 800 on the side of it. If you’re going to be riding off-road, then you’re going to want brighter still, starting at at least the 1
000 lumen mark and upwards. So this a Topeak Cubi, about 1 200 lumens. And this CatEye Volt, whopping
1 600 lumens on this one. But be aware, if you do
have a super powerful light, tilt it downwards when on roads, and maybe on a lower setting at times as some car headlamps are 1
200 lumens when on full beam. You don’t want to blind the driver of the 18-wheeler Mack truck coming towards you at 60 miles an hour. So things to look for on lights. Firstly, flashing modes and
different modes for the beam. Now these are useful because when you switch
to a flashing mode, it makes your battery last longer. Also, if you’ve a got a super
bright light, like this one, then you don’t need on
super bright all the time. So when you come on to a lit road, you can switch to flashing
mode and save your battery. (uptempo house music) Beam pattern visibility. You don’t want to be just
visible directly head on and directly from behind. Consider lights that
offer side visibility too, or consider adding some additional lights that offer some brightness from the sides. This is because, it’s unfortunate, but most accidents tend
to happen at junctions, so this is important. (uptempo house music) It’s also worth bearing in
mind that some countries apply strict restrictions to bike lights based on the beam pattern. Germany springs to mind first. Even if you’re not bound by law to have certain types of
lights, some are designed to throw light really wide to
illuminate off-road trails. Again, meaning that they can
dazzle oncoming road users. Exposure’s Strada lights
have a beam pattern modeled on a car’s, and
allow you to dip the beam at the push of a remote button, which could prove useful on unlit roads. (uptempo house music) The cheapest lights tend to have changeable disposable batteries. But personally, I’d recommend
getting one with an in-built USB-rechargeable battery. This means that if you perhaps commute, you’re less likely to get caught out because you can charge it at work and make sure that it’s always got juice. And although they cost a
little bit more initially, over time, not having to
constantly buy new batteries makes them more cost-effective. (uptempo house music) (keyboard tapping) Battery life. Now bigger, more expensive lights tend to have bigger
batteries and last longer. And make sure you pick a light that has sufficient battery
life for your planned ride, and ideally longer. This CubiCubi light from
Topeak’s really good, because it has a modular
battery that you can remove and there’s different sized ones too. If you’re out for epic,
ultra-endurance rides, you could always look
at a dynamo front hub, which generates electricity
from the movement of your front wheel,
and allows you to charge or just power some pretty
hefty lights as you ride. (chilled hip hop music) Mounting options. So lights can be mounted
to bikes in different ways. The two most common methods are either with rubber straps like this,
or with brackets like this. And ideally, you want a
light that’s fairly easy to remove and take off because
if you’re commuting with it, you don’t want to leave your
light strapped onto your bike while you go to work because, undesirable, naughty people
will probably steal it if you leave it on. (beeping sound) (comical suspicion music) Being easy to remove and put back on is also useful for taking
off if you want to charge it. If you’re going to go for a bracket, go for a good quality one like this that’s going to help hold it on securely. Because a loose fitting
one is really annoying, because it’ll create a
rattle as you ride along. (chilled hip hop music) There’s loads of
different lighting options out there these days. My saddlebag even has
a light built into it and it’s quite good for
side visibility too. You just press it like that. How cool is that? The final thing to consider is where you’re going to
be mounting the light, and what kind of bike you have, making sure you get one that fits. So for example, a lot of
modern performance road bikes now have fancy aerodynamic
shaped handlebars and seat posts. And this can make fitting
traditional lights that rely on a round handlebar or a round seat post problematic. Fortunately, there are
plenty of lights that work, and I suggest going for something with a stretchy rubber mount like this, as that is generally fine at
fitting on a non-round post. Or you could go for an
action cam style mount, such as this on the Topeak light
I’ve got on the front here. Either way, there are loads of
different products out there. Just make sure you pick something
that works for your bike. Right, I hope you found this
look at bike lights useful, and I hope you’ve learned something. And if you have, please
give this video a thumbs up. And if you’d like to
head over to the GCN shop and grab yourself one
of the greatest hoodies available to humanity, well you can do. My favorite, the navy
and white, is in stock. And if you’d like to watch another video on dynamo hubs, then click down here.

Author Since: Mar 11, 2019

  1. The use of the correct lights for daytime riding should also be advocated especially for cyclists that ride alone 👍 it is also law to use them in certain countries

  2. In Germany it is forbidden to ride with flashing lights and the headlight's values are only given in Lux as they must have a certain pattern to see not only a spot in a distance but a certain area starting directly in front of the bike. Because of these laws there aren't as many headlights available here but I do think these specifications are so good that every Light (at least for roadbikes) should fulfill them, because 2000 Lumens which illuminate only a small spot 10m in front of you are pretty useless, right?

  3. Why, in your on-the-road example video, are you guys riding side by side…, in the dark? Here in my state in the good ol' USA, cyclist have the legal right to ride side by side, but in my experience that only infuriates motor traffic by blocking a lane. To ride side by side at night seems to be an invitation to problems, no matter how well illuminated one might be.

  4. Why is a built-in USB battery preferred when if you have regular rechargeable AA batteries you can always buy some cheap ones nearly everywhere should your charge run out?..
    It is extremely useful with a road bike; my Ixon IQ Premium lasts 5 hours in full beam mode and when it runs out of power I can just flip it open, put some AA things in, and continue with my trip. Good luck attaching a power bank securely to your monolithic USB-charged thing.

  5. Cheers Ollie BUT bit frustrating. As with most GCN videos this video was really good – apart from missing the single vital requirement that is the achilles heel of most bike lights – IS IT WATERPROOF? The weather has killed so many of my lights over the years – this can be a real problem if you are out in the rain miles from home. There are some brands from sunnier climes that just don't even attempt to address this. It supports your "Have more than one" point and your "USB charging" point as these tend to be far better sealed as you only have to seal the USB port and the switch. Last point: carry a small headtorch so that if you have any issues you can see to fix them.

  6. having tried lights from people like knogg and cateye i used to use a bicygnal setup with indicators (front & rear) til i got fedup with non-wired link from the front to back getting interrupted by cateye computer

    i'm now using blinkers which i've had for a couple of years and they are brilliant even if the rest of the world don't seem to take this seriously of offer cheap chinese crap that doen't work front and rear

    very sadly though i've just seen a press release on blinkers.bike to say they've ceased development

    a guy from sussex got investment backing from deborah meaden on dragon's den but nothing ever happened despite him saying he had patents for technology that had already developed and in put the market place by other companies

  7. Im a UK resident, and and use white and blue flashing light's, this catches the attention, how ever some jobsworth officer's frown upon this

  8. Surprised you didnt mention the Garmin Varia rear light. Expensive but worth every penny as it works as a radar to detect approaching vehicles and shows up on my head unit. Invaluable when riding alone.

  9. 10:00 Turn 'em all on, go on, all of 'em! (That would've been a dazzling end to an <**ahem**> "en-LIGHT-ening" video.)

  10. good to remind about blinding drivers, this is especially the case if you choose to ride on the pavement (sidewalk) against the flow of traffic!. Also saw last year some guy with his speed displayed on the rear, handy to let motorists know how fast you are going before they try to overtake in a dangerous spot.

  11. As well as front and rear lights I have a Lumos helmet which has front and back lights that I set to pulsing, and a bluetooth switch on the bars that changes the helmet to left or right indicator. I commute in the dark (and mostly rain) for half the year. Every now and then a car window will slide down when stopped at a traffic light and the driver will thank me for wearing the helmet. Most drivers are worried about hitting someone they can't see. At my age (63), I know that my eyesight, especially in the dark, was much much better when I was young. Most cyclists are young and perhaps do not appreciate how hard it is for older drivers to see them through wet windscreens in the dark. The average driver (in Canada) is over 45. Sadly I do see young people with a death wish on the Vancouver bike routes (shared with cars) at night with no lights. The secondary hazard for them, as well as injury or death, is being yelled at by a passing middle aged curmudgeon with very bright lights.
    A secondary issue is the actual flashing pattern you select from the dizzying options on many lights. I believe that blinky, blinky, steady, blinky, blinky, steady is the best. The blinky bit gets the drivers attention, and the steady bit lets their eye settle and estimate range and closing speed.

  12. High quality reflective tape on bike, fenders, bags, and helmet will do much more to keep you visible than most of these lights (not that you shouldn't have good lights too). The reflective tape returns those powerful car headlamps and is visible from MUCH farther away than the typical bike taillight. It's also better because you get coverage in many different spots. Yesterday, I saw 2 cyclist on a busy road, in the dark, wearing all black, barely visible with their red taillights. But as soon as I got to a certain angle on the road they were invisible because their taillights were at the same level as a guardrail. I knew they were there, I'm a cyclist, and I could not find them. It was scary. When I'm commuting by car, I see so many racer wanna-bes with their little red lights, light, aero, and worthless. Meanwhile, the construction guys half a mile down the road, I can see them just fine because they're wearing reflectors. Get better lights AND ditch the black gear. Stick reflective tape all over some bright colored clothing and all over your helmet. There's a reason road crews wear reflective gear and aren't issued little flashy lights instead.

  13. I was very surprised to see that a certain modern LED rear light wasn't mentioned.
    The one I'm referring to shines about a 6 foot streak of red light behind and to either side of the bicycle.
    It creates a "don't touch zone" on either side, as well as a steady or flashing lamp on the seat post.
    As soon as I get finished building my current bike, that's what I'll use to keep me safe while riding at night in my small Colorado town of 700.

  14. Hi so I know this was a video about lights but I do have a question about reflectors as I have heard that legaly in the UK you must have reflectors on your pedals but wondered how this is supposed to work for clipless pedals?

  15. the biggest cycling chanel on you tube and yhey use blink front lamps idiots and this https://shop.globalcyclingnetwork.com/gcn-pro-team-bib-shorts-black-red only 150?

  16. Helmet lights are a lifesaver, both for being seen and seeing. It doesn't even have to be that bright; I've found around 150 lumens in the sweet spot for not blinding oncoming cyclists and still being effective.

    As a year-round, daily bike commuter in Seattle, WA, USA, the difference in how many close calls I have from motorists who didn't see me (and I was using a 300-ish lumen handlebar light) before and after using a helmet light is astonishing. Plus being able to see around corners and scan problem areas is incredibly helpful.

    Just keep it pointed down and NEVER put it on a flash mode.

  17. Particular care should be put in cosidering lumens and blinding oncoming traffic, as you point out… Some lamps with more than 200lm are even not considered road safe in Germany!

  18. All those lights are great but GCN needs a high-visibility kit like Trek-Segafredo has. For a motorist you're just a bundle of light if you arent wearing anything reflective.

  19. And so i made a bike light that lasts 12hrs battery usage that uses signal lights, front light, tail light and brake lights just by using solar cell for charging. Expensive but cost efficient project to my roadie

  20. Passive lighting is also a good idea: reflecting material on clothes & tires. Bright/light clothing instead of the usual black.

  21. Simple rule of thumb for selecting bike lights:
    "If, at a distance of 33 feet, you can see the approaching driver's eyes smoldering, that is the correct luminance".

  22. Ollie, could you always speak with that accent that you used at 2:35 – 3:06? Your words will have so much more weight!

  23. I’m curious about the Google search term “Chinese carbon frame,” now I know these are no-name, or obscure Chinese name (such as Tideace). When is GCN gonna address the elephant stampeding through the room?
    https://forums.roadbikereview.com/bikes-frames-forks/chinese-carbon-thread-ebay-direct-version-7-0-a-346068-48.html

  24. I much prefer lights that take replaceable batteries. Use good rechargeable cells and then when they inevitably wear down, you can start with another set of rechargeables instead of discarding the light.

  25. Great video! I've been using Cateye products since I was a kid in the 90s. Glad to see they continue to evolve. I also like the evolution of the small, daytime bright blinking lights.. lets me leave my heavy duty ones at home.

  26. I would have liked a bit more info on the lumen/lux. In the U.S.A. many lights are measured in watts. It is my understanding that 10 lumens = 1 watt of light. And that 100 candlepower = about 10 watts of light. Please correct me if I am wrong.

  27. Would be great to get a review of helmets with lights as well. There are products now, such as the Lumos helmet that offer quite intriguing tech.

  28. I highly recommend having lights during the day too even on paved trails, with closing speeds over 30 mph it helps see oncoming cyclists on the other side of pedestrians.

  29. I would have liked to see some recommendations for lights that can handle colder temperatures. Every winter I end up commuting late at night in temperature down to -10C, and struggle to find lights with batteries that can handle it. I haven't seen any lights with cold temperature claims at my local bike stores.

  30. Flashing modes should never be used in traffic. If you can't afford the energy to use your light in constant mode you should walk your bike or wait for the daylight.

  31. I use 2 headlights, one aimed about 75' in front, another aimed about 10' in front. I also have 2 taillights, in case 1 fails.

  32. Which brands of lights did you show in the video? Qb/cube? Can't find the brand.

  33. Which brands of lights did you show in the video? Qb/cube? Can't find the brand.

  34. those bloody bastard using the hell beams bring me to the state where I want to crash directly onto them – and to be fair, it's a bloody fun game directly going and directing toward them.
    German standard lights are very good on cutting off the light beam. Look for those and don't use those bloody high beam flashlights for dare games!

  35. I know as the minority of road users we should be nice to the car drivers…… But how many of us have been dazzled by morons leaving their lights on full beam. So Im a little arrogant but I leave my front light on full power, angled on the road.

  36. i have trouble finding decent light to use that doesn't cost 1/10 my bike with decent lumens and battery… opted for discontinued cateye volt 80 but i just realize that the mount is not detachable… i have to charge it with freaking rubber feet, and my $4 set light is brighter that it… what…

  37. It´s funny thing, lamp designers never ever meet together to talk about good and bad ideas. Something is alway wrong. If light is good, mounting is bad. If power is OK, beam is bad. If all is OK, direction not stay, and so on. If lamp is resonable good, it`s too expensive and some steal it.

  38. Blinding car driver by bike lamp is not easy. He`s light power is very strong.
    Using two separate light beam is good idea. One far and one near. Black out risk also disappear. Driving fast require to see far

    Driving on bad terrain path demand wide beam, because you must see where you are going to turn. Head lamp is good choice to spare lamp. Other people see what you looking at

  39. Risk goes way up when biking at night when sharing the road with cars and trucks. Highway maintenance workers have huge billboard flashing lights and they still get consistently hit by motorists not paying attention. I used to ride a lot at night till I got hit by a deer.

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