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Buyer's guide: Daytime riding bike lights

BikesEtc
9 Nov 2017

Add an extra level of security to your riding with these super visibility aids

Despite what some quarters of the mainstream media would like you to believe, cycling is – statistically speaking – an incredibly safe activity.

That said, it’s easy to comprehend that a fast-moving, smaller object on the road isn’t the easiest thing to spot so adding a permanent set of lights makes a lot of sense.

Being seen is good, the trouble is lights add weight and can spoil the clean lines of an otherwise sleek machine. With that in mind, we’ve pulled together a selection of options that cover the more discreet end of the market.

Most are USB-rechargeable and mount to the bike but we’ve added a few alternatives to keep it interesting and show what’s possible.

As such, these are all aids to being seen rather than the sort of light we’d suggest for night riding – they may not offer the kind of lumen-count you need for lighting your way on unlit lanes, but they will, in a pinch, get you out of trouble if the weather starts affecting visibility or you end up riding home that bit later than you’d planned.

Blackburn 2’Fer XL

 

One of the chunkier lights we have is the 2’Fer XL. Its aluminium body gives it a weight of 80g yet it’s loaded with clever stuff.

Blackburn has designed 2’Fer to be used either as a front or a rear mounted bike light via the silicone strap, or alternatively clip it to your person or bag via the metal clip – it has ample options.

Four light settings keep things simple with either solid or flashing in either white or red light, this gives an expected battery life of either two or six hours and four or 12 respectively.

And like several others here, the electronics include a ‘fuel gauge’ to tell you how much battery life you have remaining.

Verdict

A bit chunky but loaded with clever tech, and the ability to swap between front and rear is a bonus - 8/10

Price and buy

£39.99 | zyrofisher.co.uk

Lezyne Zecto Drive

 

If there is one thing Lezyne takes seriously, it’s lights, offering nearly a dozen front options and the same at the rear, plus combination sets of the two making for a whole lot of choice even before you get into coloured cases.

Thinking of the case, that used for the Zecto Drive is a chunky, durable version that adds a few grams to the weight bringing them to a total of 95g for the pair, but giving the option to attach either via a silicone strap or by clipping to a bag. They are listed as drop-resistant to one metre, too.

Front and rear lights have seven and eight lighting modes respectively to give anywhere from 3.5 hours to over 15 hours of burn time and three to 11 hours from a single charge.

Verdict

Compact lights that are easy to fit and use and provide excellent light in all daytime conditions - 9.5/10

Price and buy

£69.99 | upgradebikes.co.uk

Exposure Lights Trace/Tracer Pack

 

A hefty price drop has been applied to the Trace/Tracer duo over the summer, which makes them a seriously good deal for one of the most powerful combos available.

Housed in a robust CNC-machined case, these British-made lights offer multiple brightness levels in either constant or flashing modes – high power constant mode gives a three-hour burn, while flashing and low output takes it to 24 hours, so you have a lot of flexibility available and the same applies to the mounts.

With a combined weight of 92g, you’ll barely notice they are on-board but you can be pretty sure that other road users will notice you when you’re using them.

Verdict

Impressively bright for their size and even more attractive at the new reduced price - 9/10

Price and buy

£74.95 | exposurelights.com

Specialized Stix Sport Combo

 

Sporting quite a different look are the Specialized Stix front and rear pairing. The flat blade-like appearance means that they offer a different set of options for mounting, most obvious of which is across the front of the stem plate or on a seatstay.

With no need for a cable, the novel design has a built-in USB plug so the whole unit plugs into a USB port.

Cycling the power button takes you through the six modes with constant, pulsing and flashing, each decreasing the battery consumption so you can expect the front battery to last from 1.35 to 13.5 hours and the rear from 2.5 to 23 hours. Weight is a paltry 58g for the duo.

Verdict

Compact design with lots of mounting options and a clever integrated USB plug - 8/10

Price and buy

£40 | specialized.com

FWE Dual Helmet light 50/15 Lumen

 

Sometimes when you see a smart idea you just wonder why no one thought of it before and FWE with the Dual Helmet light is one such idea.

With a threaded body on each light it can be screwed onto the bar or seatpost mount. This version though also has a helmet mount for the lights to screw into, meaning you can choose whether you want them on the bike or lid – in fact, at this price, why not buy two sets and have them in both places?

Lithium Ion rechargeable batteries provide the go and claim to last up to 13 hours in flash mode seven in pulse, 2.5 in constant, the output varies with each setting, they have a combined weight of 67g.

Verdict

Compact and versatile lights with clever multiple mounting options a standout feature - 9/10

Price and buy

£29.99 | evanscycles.com

Infini Sword Super bright 30 COB Lightset

 

COB or Chip On Board lights have been around for several years. With multiple light sources – in this case 30 – all acting as one unit, they provide the look of a lighting panel rather than a specific point of light.

They are also slimmer so sit more inline with seatpost or bars, giving a cleaner line to the bike. Both Sword lights provide five modes of operation with two constant modes lasting two or six hours, two low output flashing options that apparently give 200 hours of use and four-hour pulsating mode.

Again the silicone strap provides three optional holes for various tube sizes, and the pair weigh 70g.

Verdict

The COB-style lighting comes in a slimline package that makes these a good match for aero seatposts - 8/10

Price and buy

£64.99 | madison.co.uk

Cateye Orb

 

You won’t find many lights smaller than these latest editions to the vast Cateye range. Weighing in at 53g for the pairing they’re about as lightweight as you’ll find too.

Non-rechargeable, each Orb runs on two CR2032 watch batteries – the same as most power meters – and measure just 22mm by 26mm for the main body.

Switched on by depressing the lens, everything is trimmed down yet they still manage to run for up to 50hrs in constant mode and 100hrs in either of the two flashing options, making them a great option to fit to your bike and forget about until the light output reduces.

The low price makes them ideal as a secondary set of lights to back up your main lights.

Verdict

The impressively small design, low price and long battery life makes these a great fit-and-forget option - 7.5/10

Price and buy

£17.99 | zyrofisher.co.uk

Bontrager Ion 100R / Flare R City

Trek produces its own components under the Bontrager banner and through it offers the Ion range of lights, with the 100R pairing sitting at the bottom of the stack.

Designed specifically for daytime use or as a secondary/back-up at night, these CREE LED-powered lights pack quite a punch.

As with other Ion lights, these offer differing levels of output and flash sequences as well as constant output, so the front battery will run for 1.5hrs on max to 16 on the most economical setting, and the rear from three hours up to 20.

A simple silicone strap mounts the 53g Ions to the bike, allowing multiple positions depending on your needs.

Verdict

Small and easy to use, these are an excellent choice of back-up or daytime lighting - 7/10

Price and buy

£59.99 | trekbikes.com

Topeak Headlux

 

Another light that offers a helmet mount to help you be seen on busy streets, with front and rear lighting combined into a single unit.

Lightweight and fairly basic, the Headlux relies on two lithium watch batteries to give an expected run time of 50hrs in the constant mode, 70hrs in constant front with flashing rear, and 100hrs with both in the flash mode.

As you’d expect, the weight is minimal and adds just 31g with a simple Velcro strap that loops through helmet vents to keep it in place – the only down side is that the fitting method means it won’t work with all helmet styles.

Alternatively you could mount it on the drops of your handlebars to help show other road users your width.

Verdict

A simple but effective idea for adding front and rear-facing lights to your helmet - 7/10

Price and buy

£16.99 | extrauk.co.uk

 

The high-tech option: Garmin Varia Rear View Radar RTL500

 

With the Varia light, Garmin has added another level of technology to your riding possibilities. As you might guess from the name, the Varia uses a small radar transmitter that detects moving vehicles as they get within 140 metres of your bike.

It can either alert you via your compatible Garmin computer or the RDU unit (which comes as part of a bundle for £269.99).

In standard mode the central four LEDs flash constantly at a steady rate, but as soon as the device detects a vehicle approaching, they start to flash more rapidly, with the full eight LEDs active, ensuring you are noticed by anyone coming up behind you.

The head unit also shows an alert, gives a speed indication of the vehicle and even shows if there are a number of them. It’s terribly smart.

Price and buy

£169.99 | buy.garmin.com

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