Winter is coming and bike lights are an essential part of your cycling kit to keep you riding throughout the darker days. It is important to have the right lights for the right purpose and accordingly adapts your bike light output to the situation. On an early morning ride or on a night time commute back home from work, your top priority will not only be to see where you’re going but make sure you get noticed. Fitting a combination of lights with different lighting modes will make you more visible and increase your safety on the road. Depending on where you venture, you will want to pay attention to the lumen rating of the lights to find which lights are most suitable for your needs.
What Are Lumens?
Most bike lights are now rated in Lumens (Lm). It is a measure of how much light is emitted from a light source. The higher the lumen rating the brighter the light while fewer lumens means a dimmer light. When shopping for a bike light, compare lumens to make sure you’re getting the level of brightness best suited for the situation.
How many Lumens do I need?
Below we’ve created a graphic to help you choose the right light output depending on your specific use case and conditions. Remember that you will want a brighter front light than rear light.
What type of bike lights to use on the road?
The type of light you need will depend on the kind of riding you do, as well as the kind of conditions you will ride in. The main focus of road bike light is to make you visible so you can be seen by motorists – without blinding them – and of course, allow you to see.
To “be seen” lights
In an urban environment, cyclist’s priority should be to be seen. According to the UK’s Road Vehicles Lighting Regulations, it is a legal requirement to have lights on your bike if you’re cycling between sunset and sunrise but you might want to ensure that you remain visible to the other road users at any time of day. Daytime lights will allow you to stand out and give you that extra visibility on the road.
Whilst being a great addition to your main light, wearing a light on your helmet can increase your visibility by lighting up where you’re looking. It will also help other road users to notice you more easily as you move your head around.
Daylights are not legally required to be fitted to your bicycle unlike new cars but they are ideal to give you extra visibility when cycling in the daytime and ensure you are noticed from a distance on rural roads or in the midst of the traffic. Using the flashing mode of the light will help attract other road users’ attention.
For an extra layer of distinctness on the road at night, you can add a laser light as a rear tail light which will project your own personal bike lane onto the road. This “safety corridor” will encourage motorists to allow for more space when overtaking.
“Seeing” lights will allow you to ride in unlit roads or country lanes at night time. Contrary to “being seen” lights which are bright enough to make other road users aware of your presence on the road, you will need to upgrade your lumen output for stronger front light which is bright enough to light up your surroundings and see further where you are going. You might want to look for a light that features a road specific beam pattern, which is designed to illuminate the whole width of the road.
Sidelights are designed to allow cyclists being seen from the side in urban settings. Attached to the frame they provide additional safety by increasing lateral visibility.
UK Bike Light Law
The law for bike lights in the UK states that it is illegal to cycle on a public road between sunset and sunrise without lights. The lights must also be fitted to your bike and not your helmet.
Your bike must also be equipped with the following:
- A front lamp white front light
- A red rear light
- Red rear reflector
- Amber pedal reflectors – front and rear on each pedal
Features to consider when purchasing a light
- The light output (lumens)
- The different light modes
- Battery life and how easy it is to recharge/change
- Mounting option
Other accessories to be seen at night
These other options are very quick and easy ways to increase your visibility to supplement your set of lights on your bike:
Reflective knee and ankle stripes – A great way to be seen in less than optimal lighting conditions as they reflect back the light that hits them.
Reflective bike wheel tape – Easy to stick onto your wheels, it is another good way to remain visible while in motion.
Reflective spokes – They will make you stand out at night and allow for near 360° reflection.
Clip-on lights – Compact and easy to clip they are designed to be attached on your garments and make a great impact when paired with other reflective accessories.