Best bike light 2020: ultimate LED front lights for road cycling
Stay safe on the road with these bike lights
Bike lights are vital for safe, confident cycling - so it's essential that you get the best bike light that's right for you and your cycling. Bike lights are not just for night riding, but in bad weather and busy traffic too. However, with literally thousands of different models to choose from, which shine the brightest? Not just literally, but also economically and practically.
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Our experts have been testing scores of options every year for over two decades and the latest lights are better than ever. That means there are several literally brilliant options in our top ten depending what your exact riding requirements. But it’s the PR1200 from newcomer Ravemen that has shone through overall.
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It’s the most user friendly, high value option available. Not just because it gives powerful multi mode illumination with excellent battery life communication, but it even works as a recharge power pack for other devices.
The best light for value we tested was the Blackburn’s Dayblazer 800
Best bike light: Best buys
Ravemen has blindsided more established brands to take our shortlist win with the super smart PR1200. Not just impressively powerful but with excellent, remote controlled on and off road beam options for all types of riding. Battery life display gets you home safe and it’ll even recharge other devices.
Blackburn’s Dayblazer 800 is the best of the cheaper lights we tested. It combines plenty of power for pushing the pace after dark with enough beam spread and side visibility to stay safe in traffic. Metal casing, serious waterproofing and versatile rubber strap and GoPro style mount options make it practically impressive too.
Here's the run-down of the 10 bike lights you'll find in this test.
Best bike light 2020
1. Ravemen PR1200
The Ravemen PR1200 is our best overall choice. It gives an excellent selection of beams for road and off road use, with enough power for fast, uncompromised riding. The remote control makes it safer and easier to use those options. Clearly displayed battery information is great for longer rides and its power pack facet is a very useful lifestyle bonus.
2. Blackburn Dayblazer 800
If you don’t want to spend a fortune but want a really tough, easy to use light, Blackburn’s Dayblazer is the way to go. The alloy casing is bombproof and impressively water resistant, and the mounting options mean it’ll fit almost anywhere on your bike or helmet.
Power is plentiful for ‘proper’ riding too.
3. Knog PWR Road
Knog’s PWR Road is slightly underpowered for price at 600 lumens but it’s a super versatile set up. The twist switch works with the most frozen fingers and the side mount keeps it very neat on the bike as long as you have round bars. Being able to swap heads and batteries for different riding missions is an everyday win too.
4. Hope R2i
If you’re patriotic about your kit and/or need something that’ll last indefinitely the pick Hope’s R2i. Yes it can seem comparatively short on power and battery life for its chunky Lancashire made size and cost, but the light it does give is really eye-friendly. The armoured casing keeps it very reliable too and Hope is legendary for its ‘above and beyond’ factory direct service if anything does go wrong.
5. Bontrager Ion 1300 RT
If you like having your devices synced for easy operation, Bontrager’s ION 1300 is the best option here. Both front and rear lights can be operated via the same Bluetooth remote control or you can link it to your Garmin for in flight power and battery information. The light itself is powerful for the money and the rubber strap and GoPro mount options make set up easy on bike or helmet.
6. Niterider Lumina OLED 1100
Niterider’s Lumina OLED 1100 has excellent run time, recharge and power communication via it’s back panel. Two way switching makes using its 9 different modes easy and its rubber stamp mount fits anywhere. Features do bump up cost though and maximum ‘Boost’ power drains the battery fast without being obviously brighter than more efficient settings.
7. Exposure Strada SB
If you can afford it, this has real appeal as the most powerful light here. Exposure’s twin LED Strada SB gives a great balance of reach and breadth for pushing the pace after dark. Custom mode selection is easy and there’s full battery life information on the back screen. UK made design includes excellent mounting options as well as remote switch and auxiliary battery plug ins to expand functionality and range. There are much brighter lights for the same cash though and the screen is hard to see when riding.
8. Fabric Lumabeam 300
If you’re after front or rear use versatility in a really neat, compact package, the Fabric Lumabeam is the way to go. Simple twist switch operation and a universal mount make using the front white LED or strip of red LED battery indicators easy and it’s light and small enough to stick in your pocket just in case. There are brighter options for less money if you want just a pure front or rear light though.
9. Cateye Volt 1300 RC
Cateye’s 1300 RC is the latest in a long line of powerful and reliable Volt lights. The double LED set up gives a far reaching beam for fast riding and you can swap the cartridge battery out for a fresh one to double run times. The plastic strap mount fits most bar shapes too, but run time and recharge information are a bit basic.
10. Lezyne Lite Drive 800
Like most Lezyne products, the Lite Drive 800 is a really good looking piece that comes in a range of colours. The menu of modes is comprehensive and it has enough light for riding at a reasonable pace. Battery feedback is basic though and the supplied strap mount doesn’t always keep it in place on rougher surfaces.
The expert's view
Or road-legal front and rear bike sets for
less than half the price of the cheapest lights. Venture past the
street lights on cheap blinker lights, though, and you’ll literally be
left in the dark.
We think it's worth spending a little extra on a quality bike light, as it may well save you from an accident.
How we selected the best bike lights to test
What you’re looking at here are the best lights around, designed to let you ride your bike as far and fast at night as you can in the day. In numbers terms that means a lumen (the standard measurement of illumination) output of at least 500.
Different manufacturers measure lumen output differently though. Some take the time to honestly measure the actual output of the light down the road, others quote the ‘theoretical’ output without allowing for power losses in the battery, circuitry, reflector and lens.
Lens and reflector designs also spread the available power in different ways. Some focus it in a very tight, long-reaching ‘spot’ beam that’s great for fast riding. Others give a wide ‘flood’ beam which is better for slower riding on twisty roads/tracks.
We don’t just judge brilliant bike lights on their brightness and beam pattern, as other features might also be worth digging deeper into your wallet. The most versatile lights give the option of both spot and flood beams to match where you’re riding as well as varying power levels to manage battery life.
Flashing or strobe modes are great for grabbing attention in traffic. Remote control buttons make switching power or beam modes easier and safer. Clear run time communication makes sure you’re not left in the dark with a flat battery. Being able to charge other USB devices from your light can be useful too. Some lights let you plug in an auxiliary booster battery to extend your nocturnal riding range.
However clever the light, you also need a secure mount that works where you want to put it, whether that’s on a weird shaped aero bar or a helmet mount. You’d be surprised by how many brands get this fundamental part wrong.
To make sure we finished up with the best shortlist possible we also tested several alternative lights from each manufacturer to see where the sweet spot of performance and price was for each brand.
While the majority of lights here come from proven specialist light manufacturers we also tried lights from fresh names or brands who produce a whole range of bike accessories. This created a test pool of over 50 different options which we narrowed down to the final ten with extensive, exhaustive testing.
How we tested the best bike lights
With so much tech packed into these lights and potentially big differences between their theoretical and actual performance, the only way to get an accurate set of results was real world testing.
This started with unboxing each light to see what’s included. Some units come with just a simple single mount and expect you to way extra for a helmet mount or more secure clamp set up. Other lights come with several mounting options, and Lezyne offer a ‘Loaded’ option that includes a spare battery at a discounted package price.
Some lights are supplied with just a USB lead for recharging. Others come with dedicated smart chargers that get you ready to go again as soon as possible. That was taken into account when making a call on cost.
Weighing and measuring the lights lets us pick out any which are particularly heavy or bulky for a given weight or battery capacity.
Then it’s the fun part of the testing. We went out on the road and trail, where the pros and cons of each light’s beam pattern become very obvious. Riding rough tracks or down steps proves which mounts are stable and secure or suddenly leave the light pointing at the ground or into your face. You don't want to have to fumble for buttons in the dark in thick winter gloves.
We checked whether you can see battery or mode indicators easily. We made sure to ride in all possible weather conditions too. Not just waterproofing on soaking wet rides, but sub zero winter outings when some batteries can suffer dramatically or warm summer nights when other lights can overheat.
Our team of testers ran the lights regularly right through the year to check reliability and we’ll referenced that against similar units we’ve tested before to add context to our data.
Once each light was put through enough road and trail testing to come up with reliable, comparative field results, we took them all back into the workshop to test battery life. If you’re wondering why we don’t do this when they’re box fresh it’s because batteries sometimes take a few charge and discharge cycles to reach full capacity so we need to level the playing field.
We also prevented the lights from overheating by using powerful fans to simulate the airflow of riding a bike. Otherwise excess heat can reduce efficiency or trigger the thermal throttles built into most lights to drop power if they’re in danger of getting too hot.
It’s not just a case of switching them on and coming back to check them occasionally either. While the best lights have circuitry designed to keep output constant as the battery drains, others gradually fade as the charge reduces. That means we need to test output regularly through the run tests* to check the lights are still producing a useable beam.
*We run the battery tests several times for each light to be totally sure of the results too.
While in the workshop we also tested the actual output of each light in different modes using a Lux meter to give an idea of peak brightness. It also tells us if the various modes actually produce a significantly different result or whether a ‘Boost’ mode is actually just an inefficient waste of time.
Our last workshop test involved a contact thermometer placed on various parts of the light to check whether it has any dangerously hot spots in use. Thankfully none of the lights in this test is a burn hazard, but some lights we’ve tested in the past have definitely been dangerous.
Once all the data is in, we rated all the lights according to performance, practicality and price to give our final results and ratings. Then we start all over again in readiness for next year, using the current and previous crops to harvest the long term feedback that’s vital for reliability ratings as well as providing fresh context for any new lights as soon as they appear.
Best bike light reviews: The test results
While the Ravemen brand is new on the scene the PR1200 impressed our whole test team in enough ways to take the win. The twin LED beam is one of the brightest here and can be switched between road modes and off road modes. It even includes a ‘dip’ setting so you don’t blind oncoming traffic.
All of this is controlled by a plug in remote switch so you don’t have to take your hands off the bars to change settings. Battery run time is good considering the size and it’s communicated by a very easy to see screen on top of the light. You can even recharge other devices from its built in USB slot.
The mount is secure as long as you have traditional round bars on your bike and it’s a very good price for its power and features.
To put that into context the only light to offer the same array of features is the Exposure Strada SB. It costs three times as much. That extra investment does get you a higher output beam for riding flat out on the darkest back roads and the powerful flash option is awesome in traffic. The various metal mount options are really neat too and overall UK build quality is excellent if you want the ultimate road riding light.
The toughest light here is also made in the UK by Hope. The R2i uses a bombproof alloy casing with a spring loaded, multi adjustable metal mount. A deliberately ‘warm’ output colour also makes it easy on the eyes in damp conditions. Hope are also renowned for their above and beyond customer service, so while it’s not cheap or light for its 1200 lumen output you are investing in a light for life.
Kong’s PWR Roadis also expensive if you just look at the 600 lumen power output, but the beam is really well shaped to make the most of the power. The slide-on side mount centralises it over the stem.
You twist the head to change modes, a great idea for when you’re wearing thick gloves. The modular construction lets you upgrade to more powerful head units or batteries and you can even use it as a USB power pack.
Bontrager’s Ion 1300RT also scores for its control options as you can sync it - and other Bontrager lights - to a wireless bluetooth switch. You can also link it to a Garmin bike computer to display battery and mode data.
It’s an impressively powerful light with a really good beam pattern and its slimline design will appeal to nocturnal speed fiends. Add a universal rubber strap mount and a GoPro style adaptor and it gives the Ravemen a real run for the money.
Blackburn’s Dayblazer 800 is similarly slim and easy to mount on a variety of handlebars. The single LED gives a great balance of long distance problem spotting and broader vision close in for context. The flashing ‘Blitz’ mode gives great traffic awareness. The alloy casing keeps it tough and it’s got a very high IP-67 waterproofing rating. It does all this for a cracking price as well making it our clear value award
Best bike light tested:
Ravemen PR1200 £100
Ravemen might only have just appeared on our test radar but the PR1200 wins our shortlist shootout by simply being the best at almost everything.
As the name suggests you get a maximum theoretical output of 1200 lumens from its two LEDs. It doesn’t look far off that mark in practical terms either, with only the much more expensive lights from Exposure and Hope obviously outshining it.
Ravemen beat both those lights - and all the others here - in terms of versatility by using two different mode menus.
Road mode uses the left LED, which has a diffuser lens to create a ‘dipped’ beam with a broad, low down rectangular shape. This won’t get in the eyes of oncoming drivers and provoke them into going full beam but still lets you see the road ahead of your wheels.
You can choose 3 different constant power levels from 600 down to 100 lumens to extend run times from 3.5 to 20 hours on a full battery. There’s a pulsing mode for using in traffic where a constant output light can get lost.
Hit MTB mode button at any point and you also light up the right hand LED behind a focused spot lens. This gives a far reaching view of the track for spotting corners or rough sections with plenty of warning and detail while still keeping the broad illumination of the flood beam.
Three power modes stretch run time up to 8.5 hours from a 1.5 hour minimum and at full power you can properly ride hard on technical mountain bike terrain.
Ravemen couldn’t make this versatility any easier to use either. A plug in remote control button can be positioned wherever you want on your bars so you don’t need to let go to change modes. Both the remote button and the two buttons on the light itself are luminously backlit so you’re not left fumbling in the dark, and they work fine with fat winter gloves.
A simple LED screen on the top of the light also displays the remaining run time depending what mode you’re using. It can take a second to respond when you shift outputs, but that’s such a tiny quibble it’s barely worth mentioning. Especially as the claimed run times are really accurate, which is far more important.
The Ravemen PR1200 doesn’t just look after its own lifespan well. The split rubber ‘doors’ on the back hide a USB port that can be used to recharge other devices. You can revive a phone or GPS computer with surprisingly little affect on run time too, so it’s genuinely useful not just a gimmick.
While it’s a relatively new light to us, we’ve worked both our test samples very hard to prove their worth and they haven’t faltered once whatever weather and temperatures we’ve inflicted on them.
The anodised alloy casing makes them highly drop and scuff proof and the rubber doors on the rear keep water at bay really well if you don’t use the remote switch.
The only downside is that the supplied bracket only fits round handlebars and there’s no helmet mount option. Once it’s clamped on with a thumbscrew you can slide the light on and off without disturbing your preferred angle. At just under £100 it’s brilliantly priced for its impressive power and exceptional list of genuinely useful features too.
Best bike light for value:
Blackburn Dayblazer 800 £54.99
Blackburn’s slimline Dayblazer can’t compete with the feature lists of the fanciest lights here but what it does it does really well, at an excellent value price.
The simple thick rubber strap and double over hook mount keeps the Dayblazer stable enough not to be distractingly wobbly on rough tracks. It can be stretched around flat aero bars or even rotated 90 degrees to mount round stems for central positioning.
Blackburn also includes a GoPro style tabbed mount in the box. This can be bolted on instead of the strap to work with any GoPro helmet or accessory mount. Despite a tough anodised metal case it’s not so heavy it’ll give you neck ache if you do helmet-mount the light.
The single LED is enhanced with a really well designed TIR (Total Internal Reflection) optics to surround a long reaching central spot beam with a gradually fading surround of light. That means no sharp edges or transitions to confuse and tire your eyes more if you’re trying to decipher technical terrain after dark.
The 800 lumen maximum output can be toggled back to 500 or 300 lumen levels to extend run times from 1.5 to 7 hours. ANd a basic battery life indicator warns when you’re running low.
Side cut outs in the lens give good visibility from the side and there are pulsing and strobes mode to make you stand out in traffic day or night. There is room for improvement though as the stiff mode button can be hard to press with cold fingers or without disturbing the light angle.
Back on the plus side recharging is really quick (4 hours from flat to full with a high powered USB plug) so you’re not going to be stranded going home if you forget to plug it in straight away after a morning commute.
The rubber plug over the charging port is really snug and secure too, helping to give the Dayblazer an IP-67 waterproof rating. That’s enough to drop it a metre deep puddle for half an hour and still fish it out alive. It certainly never faltered in foul weather during testing.
If you want more power there’s a Dayblazer 1100 for £84.99, while the Dayblazer 400 is a more compact but otherwise similar spec option for round town riding. In terms of cost effective performance the 800 is definitely the sweet spot model in Blackburn’s range and richly deserves our best value award.
Best bike light: The rest compared
Hope’s R2i is ideal if you want a light that’s powerful enough to ride without compromise on the darkest nights but tend to be clumsy with your kit. The 1200 lumen output is an actual measured figure, rather than theoretical so it looks as bright as the 1500 lumen Exposure in real life.
That also means you can run it in one of the two lower power settings to extend the battery life well beyond the 1 hr 25 minute minimum. The deliberately soft ‘colour temperature’ of the twin LEDs reduces glare and eye strain too.
The rugged metal casing, spring loaded metal mount and handbuilt in Lancashire make it bombproof although that does make it the heaviest light here at 295g.
If you want the most tech in a UK-built light then Exposure’s latest Strada SB (Super Bright) is literally brilliant. Two LEDs producing 1500 lumens are stacked vertically with different lenses to give excellent distance and breadth vision. It can be preset in 7 different modes and run times are displayed on a small OLED back screen. That can be hard to see when riding and tends to overestimate run times slightly.
A remote switch and USB device charger can be plugged into the back of the light and a new charger cures previous slow recharge gripes. The optional front of stem mount is really neat if you use an aero bar profile too. This all makes it an awesome light if you can afford it but you are paying a big premium for all this tech .
Bontrager’s ION RT packs in impressive communication/control tech at a much more reasonable price. You can link it to one of Botranger's Transmitr bluetooth remote controls, which also control Bontrager’s rear lights or another ION if you want to helmet mount a second one.
You can even connect it to your Garmin computer for beam and battery information. The light itself is good too with a punchy but peripherally rich 1300 lumen output and universal strap mount. Basic but serviceable battery life information helps you eke out the 1.5hr run time too.
Knog’s PWR Road light runs Ravemen very close in terms of everyday practicality, with some really neat design features that really make sense when riding. The offset bracket sits the light centrally over the stem, but only works with round bars.
The light releases easily and slides off if you don’t want it being pinched when you’re parked up. On/off and mode setting are switched by twisting the whole front section which is easy even in the thickest gloves.
While the beam is well shaped the 600 lumen Knog PWR Road can’t compete with the more expensive Ravemen. The Trail version puts out 1000 lumen for £109.95 if you want more light. You can also mix and match different powered heads in the PWR range with different batteries. The batteries also work as USB power packs which is a nice lifestyle touch.
Any bike lights to avoid?
In picking our shortlist ten from a big pool of contenders we’ve inevitably ended up with a ‘best of each brand’ selection. Some of these lights still have some specific issues that will affect certain riders and situations.
The Lezyne Lite Drive is a good looking light in a range of anodised alloy casings. It has several different strobe/flash/pulse modes alongside the steady settings to boost visibility in traffic too. The rubber strap and shaped shoe mount has a tendency slip on rougher tracks and trails though so we’d definitely recommend the optional solid bar mount if you’re going off road with it.
Niterider’s Lumina OLED 1100 offers a lot of really neat features. Not least a very clear top of lamp OLED screen that displays run time and power settings. You can also toggle backwards and forwards through the settings menu rather than having to go all the way round a fixed procession of modes.
The rubber strap mount fits round or aero bars and also twists round to sit on a stem. The single LED gives a clear, long reaching beam with enough side spread visibility and peripheral context for traffic safety. The ‘Boost’ function isn’t noticeably brighter than the ‘High’ setting that gives much longer battery life, so maxing out doesn’t make much sense.
Fabric’s Lumabeam Is another cunning, feature filled cylinder complete with twist switch to select different modes. It’s very light and the multi adjustable mount means you can fix it anywhere.
You can even light up the strip of top LEDs to use it as a rear light. It’s also the cheapest light here at £49.99 but if you’re looking for ‘see where you’re going’ rather than ‘be seen’ performance then you can get a lot brighter than its dim 300-lumen output for the same money.