It's that time of year, when the nights are getting longer and the weather conditions deteriorating... it's time to invest in some good bicycle lights! A good set of bike lights will ensure you're seen by other road and trail users, and also let you see in the dark - potentially extending your riding time!
In this staff group test, we've picked out a selection of the best sets of bicycle lights on the market for autumn/winter 2016. From urban commuters to mountain bikers, there is a light set here for everyone!
For the 'Urban Commuter' Exposure Sirius Mk5 front light and TraceR rear light set
Review by Kerry Thackaberry
"My daily commute takes me through busy roads - so visibility is key. I've been testing the Exposure Sirius Mk5 front light with the Exposure TraceR rear light for the past 2 weeks, and I'm suitably impressed!
At first glance, the lights look pretty sweet; solid but not too bulky. The Sirius (front light) has one button that is easy to see/use while on the bike, and a charging port which is concealed by a rubber cover that will keep out any moisture. Similarly on the TraceR (rear light), there's one button and one charging port with a rubber cover. Both charge via USB cables, which is ideal (although I only needed to charge them once in the space of 2 weeks!). The light mounting brackets are curved with thick rubber O-rings to keep them in place on the handlebar/seatpost. This simple mounting system is important - I need to be able to secure and remove the lights by hand, and without too much fuss.
The output on these lights are fantastic. The Sirius radiates a huge 550 lumens on the highest setting, which I only used down certain paths, as it's so bright! The button at the back of the light allows you to change setting easily, even with gloves on; so you can either choose to dim the constant light, or you can switch to a flashing light. I find that the flash setting is best when riding through traffic. There is a small light next to the button on the Sirius, which serves as a handy fuel gauge - changing from green to amber to red as the battery decreases. The TraceR rear light also packs a punch, and will certainly ensure you are seen by passing drivers.
I couldn't fault these lights at all and would give them 10/10."
View the Exposure Sirius Mk6 and Exposure TraceR light set at Wiggle
For the 'Minimalist Road Cyclist' NiteRider Lumina 750 Boost front light and Sabre 50 rear light
Review by Harry Staley
"NiteRider is a relatively unknown brand in the UK, but they make lights that are up there with the very best! At less than £84 for the pair, the power and functionality can't be beaten!
The NiteRider Lumina 750 Boost front light is a standout performer. It can be as bright as you need it to be, with a multitude of modes, and the fantastic 750 lumen Boost function. Of course, at its brightest, the battery drains quickly; but in most cases the 600 lumens is plenty for road riding and will last for nearly 2 hours. The charging time is super-fast. It uses a Micro USB, but when plugged into the wall it can be charged from 0-100% in just 3:30h!
The mount is my biggest and only gripe. It's too loose for 31.8mm bars and too tight for 31.8mm bars! Without a spacer, the light slips down which can be deeply frustrating. That said, once secure the light isn't heavy, bulky or messy – in fact it looks good!
The NiteRider Sabre 50 rear light packs a real punch despite its 28g weight. 3 brightness's, with 3 flashing modes – the latter having the most impact. The strobe function is described best as 'eye popping', and the pulse mode is ideal for urban commuting. In fact pulse feature on both lights means that the light is always active, and I've noticed that traffic gets out the way much quicker!"
View the NiteRider Lumina 750 Boost front light and NiteRider Sabre 50 rear light set at Wiggle
For 'Unlit Roads and Trails' Lezyne 1100XL Front Light, Macro-Duo Helmet Light and Strip Drive Pro Rear Light
Review by Tim Wiggins
Commuting on a mix of dark country lanes, trails and also in urban Portsmouth, provides a real variety of demands from my lights. They need to be bright enough to light up the unlit roads and trails, but also not so dazzling that they blind city car drivers. They need to last for more than the length of a few commutes (to avoid constant charging), and they need to be visible in the urban assault!
With the above in mind, I opted for a set of lights from Lezyne; featuring the new compact Lezyne Power Drive 1100XL, the new Lezyne Macro Drive Duo Helmet Light, and the superb Lezyne Strip Drive Pro Rear Light. The intention was to create a package that maximised visibility to other road users, contained a back-up light in case either the front or rear light failed; as well as being a light set that will 'go the distance' in terms of battery life, beam and lifespan.
These Lezyne lights have hit the nail on the head, for the ultimate 'diverse commuting' package. The Lezyne Power Drive 1100XL front light is super compact, for an output of 1000+ lumens (it's the same size as last year's 600XL from Lezyne!). I am also a big fan of the Overdrive-Low mode that features within the various mode set-ups - it allows you to toggle directly between full beam and low power, which has proven the perfect quick touch alteration for when you ride onto unlit roads.
The Lezyne Macro Drive Duo Helmet Light is also a really neat bit of kit; it provides an additional front and rear light to the set-up, which gives you a back-up light, and extra power on unlit roads. The sleek and light unit is super well made, easy to use, and the battery life has been impressive on mid-power mode.
The last part of the package is the Lezyne Strip Drive Pro Rear Light. This light is in fact one that I had for last year's staff lights test, but it has continued to be used and abused over the last twelve months, and complements this new package perfectly (so I saw little need to change). With a whole host of flashing modes, including a 'Daytime Bright' mode (which is super powerful!); this rear light provides a serious output. It is simple to charge, it will fit aero seatposts, and I particularly like the 'memory feature' that remembers what flashing mode the light was in when it was last used (to save toggling through the modes again).
As a complete package, these Lezyne lights are fantastic. It is a set of flashers and power beams, which are all well-made, well thought-out, and easily capable of 'going the distance'.
For the 'Urban Explorer' Lezyne Micro Drive 450XL, Femto Duo helmet light and Strip Drive rear light
Review by Chris Wright
This year I've been testing the Lezyne Micro Drive 450XL and Strip Drive light set, coupled with the Femto Duo helmet light - I've been using them for commuting, riding to the local shop and general riding around town.
The Lezyne Micro Drive 450XL front light is absolutely perfect for short commutes and riding round town. There is a good selection of constant and flashing lighting modes, and an overdrive mode which kicks out 450 lumens. To be honest I found it difficult switching between the modes I wanted and overdrive, but the 300 lumen blast mode was still enough to light up unlit alleyways and paths. The strap is easy to use, and I like the fact it doesn't leave a mount on your bars when you're not using it.
The Lezyne Strip Drive rear light is another great piece of kit. With 3 constant lighting modes and no less than 6 flashing modes, you can easily find one that works for you; then with the memory function, it will always be on your favourite mode whenever you switch it back on. Again, the rubber strap mount is really easy to use, and it has plenty of stretch in it to fit virtually any size post.
The Lezyne Femto Duo helmet light is my favourite light out of the three. I have never been keen on using helmet lights on the road - for fear of blinding other road users; but the Femto is more of a safety light, than a full blown spot light. With 15 lumens at the front and 7 at the rear, it's just enough to make you visible, without upsetting car drivers or fellow cyclists.
Overall I've been really impressed with the whole Lezyne lights set. The quality is great and I never worry about chucking them in my bag and them getting broken. I also love the cable free charging - it means I can charge them pretty much anywhere I go - perfect for any commuter or urban cyclist.
For the 'Serious Road Cyclist' Exposure Strada 1200
Review by Neil Towns
For road riding this is a top light! There's no getting away from that.
It has all the build quality and design cues you would expect from Exposure, with the added elements that really set it apart from its competition.
As a road specific product, this light has all road users in mind! For the rider, it gives a great light - a big bold block of light that shows you the way; projected far enough out to give you complete confidence at full speed, but coupled with a broader light that casts a wider beam, giving context to the road. For the other road users, there is also a clever distribution of light - the road is well lit, but the beam is 'dipped' - ensuring the bright light hits the road and the oncoming traffic is not blinded. It is a smart design, which keeps you safer and car drivers happier at the same time!
The run time on full beam is impressive at 3 hours, and it lasts the distance. If you're out for longer, then Medium setting will still light your way safely, and for 10 hours at a go! even if you ride in the arctic summer (where you need a 'to be seen' light), then this will keep you safe for a whole 24 hour day! You can also select 4 other modes that lengthen run times in favour of lower light output, and you can have a flashing mode too. The light switches on with an easy to operate button, which also toggles you from mode to mode. There is also a clear digital display that tells you battery life remaining in current mode. Charging, via USB, is an hour long affair for the most part.
The light comes with a strong hex bolt mount that's very secure and holds the light well enough to prevent any rattling, and can usefully be mounted under or over the bars.
It's the top of the tree in the range, so it's not the cheapest - but could well be the safest and most reliable!
View the Exposure Strada 1200 Front Light at Wiggle
For the 'Ride Everything Road Cyclist' Cateye Volt 400XC and Rapid Mini Lightset
Review by Rob Jarman
I've been using the Cateye Volt 400XC and Rapid Mini light set for my commute this season; my commute mixes up unlit roads at 5.30am when it's dar; and street-light lit roads, too.
I've long been a fan of Cateye lights, owning the Volt 1200 for my road night rides, and numerous models before over the last 20 years - they're an established brand, who know what they're doing!
With the Volt 400XC front light and Rapid Mini, they've created another reliable light set. The buttons are really simple to access and press, even when wearing gloves; and they are robust, too. The trade-off is that they're not the most visually exciting lights; but don't let that put you off.
The beam on the Volt 400XC feels beefier than the 400 lumen suggests; it's a great profile for highlighting the road, with enough width to illuminate further. Side visibility is provided through a neat window, and the USB charging port is secure, robust and easily accessible. If I was going to niggle about anything it'd be the silicone mounting strap; once on the bike it's secure and very neat, but the clip fastening is a bit of a fiddle and a real stretch, which is not easy to achieve on regular road bars with gloves on; so if you need to remove/attach a few times daily, you may get frustrated from time to time! Burn time was good - nearly 8 hours on main beam; although I have mainly been using the pulse mode, and I've not needed to recharge in the past month!
The rear light is really neat, I really can't fault it. The Rapid Mini is indeed mini. It's tiny and very lightweight too. I've been running it on the pulse mode also, and the animation notably draws attention from other road users. It's a great light, and it's not been recharged yet either, despite many hours of riding!
At just £69.99 I'd recommend the Cateye combo as a great commute light set.