The best bike lights for 2020

With our clocks about to fall back, the dark days of outdoor riding are truly upon us. For a significant portion of the year in Canada, whether you’re commuting, enjoying a trail ride or getting in some training kilometres on the road, lights are important. Beyond the benefit of cutting through the dark, lights improve your safety and the visibility of your bike on the road, even during daytime hours.

As a shopper, there are hundreds of bike lights to choose from. In order to help you make a decision on which light will work the best for you, Canadian Cycling staff tested a wide range of lights. These tested products range from 15 lumen “throw them in your bag incase you end up staying late at work” lights, to heavy duty, 3,600 lumen trails lights.

Beryl Burnerbrake (Left) and Beryl Laserlightcore (right)

Beryl Laserlightcore

The concept behind Beryl’s Laserlightcore is nothing short of genius. The light projects a laser-image a couple of feet in front of the bike to act as a warning to cars ahead that a cyclist is approaching. The feature is especially useful at junctions when blind spots can cause some trouble. Unfortunately, the light fell from its bracket so frequently that it made it very difficult to test. For the short period the light remained in place, the 400 lumens were surprisingly subtle and the laser projected had little to no effect, especially in areas that were well lit with street lamps and car headlights. This somewhat defeats the purpose, of course, given that the light is intended for a commuter setting. The battery boasts up to 41hrs run time depending on which of the four modes it is set to and is quick to charge hitting 50 per cent in just one hour and 100 per cent in 4.5 hours.

Price Lumens Battery life Modes
$128 400 41 hours
(2 hours on high)
4

Beryl Burnerbrake

Beryl’s Burnerbrake rear light has five modes in total, Day Flash, Chase, Hadron, Bright Steady, Medium Steady and a run time of 3-17 hours depending on the mode selected. It charges to 50 per cent of its battery life in just 30mins. The 200 Lumens are nice and bright and the display changes to warn those behind when the bike slows. The Burnerbrake light has a tool-free bracket making it quick and easy to mount and remove too.  -LJ

Price Lumens Battery life Modes
$79 200 17 hours
(3 hours on high)
5
Knog Mid Cobber Twinpack

Knog Mid Cobber Twinpack

Offering 330 degrees of light the Knog Cobbers can be seen from all angles and with 320 lumens at the front and 170 in the back. The eight preset modes are bright and fun too. Like many of the bigger Knog lights the Cobbers boast Knog’s modemaker facility allowing you to manage the brightness and add modes to better suit your individual needs. Cable free, the usb charge port is integrated into the light meaning you are less likely to be caught without a light.

With 100 hours of battery life on Eco Flash mode (15 lumens for the rear and 25 lumens for the front) there’s plenty of time between charges. Easy to attach, the Cobbers even come with an aero bar mount; a refreshing option given most light brands appear to have overlooked this. -LJ

Mid Cobber Front

Price Lumens Battery life Modes
$160(for pair) 320 120 hours
(2.5 hours on high)
9

Mid Cobber rear

Price Lumens Battery life Modes
$160(for pair) 170 100 hours
(2 hours on high)
9
Lezyne Femto Drive Pair

Lezyne Femto Drive Pair

Small yet tough, the Femto Drives are ideal just-in-case lights for your commute—stuffed in the bottom of a backpack, forgotten until needed. These lights are great for those times when you are out later than planned and have to ride home in the dark. The lights’ tough aluminum bodies mean there is no worry of it being crushed at the bottom of the bag, while thick rubber straps hold the small lights securely.

The Femto Drive Pair stood up to repeated mounting. At only 15 lumens, the lights are definitely lights to be seen, rather than to see by. You will want something more powerful for more regular use, or any time you can’t rely on street lights to illuminate the road. The one knock against the Femto Drive is they are powered by two CR2032 coin cell batteries—rechargeable USB would be more convenient. -AC

Price Lumens Battery life Modes
$45 (for pair) 15 (7 rear) 60 hours
(30 hours on high)
2
Specialized Flux 1250

Specialized Flux 1250

The Flux 1250 is a straightforward trail light design that easily mounts to bars or a helmet. The beam is quite wide and works as a great compliment to bar or helmet lights. The light is easily removed from the bar or helmet. Although it has seven modes, from full power to low power flashing, the Flux 1250 has just one single button and is simple and easy to use. -SC

Price Lumens Battery life Modes
$125 1,250 20 hours
(1.5 hours on high)
7
Light & Motion Vis 360 Pro

Light & Motion Vis 360 Pro

The Light & Motion Vis 360 Pro is surprisingly bright for such a small device. The 600 lumen light is easy to forget once you have it mounted onto your helmet. Actually attaching it onto the helmet requires managing a number of moving parts but once it’s properly attached the Vis 360 Pro won’t move or rattle at all.

The rear light isn’t the brightest, but used in conjunction with a bike-mounted rear light, it will add to a rider’s visibility. The Vis 360 Pro also comes with an optional strap that can transform it from a commuting or trail riding headlamp into a useful hiking or camping tool. -LHG

Price Lumens Battery life Modes
$160 600 12 hours
(2 hours on high)
5
Knog PWR Mountain 2000 (left) and Knog PWR Road (right)

Knog PWR Road

Set to its maximum output of 600 Lumens the PWR Road will last 2.5hrs, making it a great commuter option for most. Set on low eco mode (65 lumens) the PWR Road will stand up to a whopping 195 hours. The built-in battery indicator helps you to optimise the 6 pre-set modes to make sure you never get caught short. Better still, Knog’s modemaker facility allows you to add modes that are specific to your individual needs.

Easy to mount, the PWR Road can be attached to your bike or helmet depending on individual preference and the wide beam offers greater road coverage. What makes the PWR Road really stand out from the rest is the detachable battery unit which can be used to charge other gadgets; gone are the days of running out of power on your phone, Garmin, Go-Pro, and so on. -LJ

Price Lumens Battery life Modes
$110 600 195 hours
(2.3 hours on high)
6

Knog PWR Mountain 2000

The PWR Mountain 2000 is one of the larger lights in our review and one of the heaviest at 365 grams. While at 2,000 lumens it offers a lot of light, the light beam is quite narrow, which works on well-known trails, but does not flood the area like some other lights.

The light has six pre-programmed modes you can make your own with customizable settings. Although the PWR battery is also a USB charger, it must be disassembled in order to charge other items, rendering it functionally useless while trail riding at night. -SC

Price Lumens Battery life Modes
$233 2,000 200 hours
(2 hours on high)
6

Knog Plus Light Rear (not pictured)

The Plus Light Rear has five pre-set modes, each with only 20 lumens. That said, the surprisingly bright COB LED’s can be seen up to 500m away and will work up to 90 per cent battery. The quick charging battery lasts up to 40hrs on the Eco Flash setting. Super versatile and easy to mount, the Plus Light Rear can be attached to almost anything, including your body. Their versatility makes them perfect for running, camping, and for those who regularly switch between activities. -LJ

Price Lumens Battery life Modes
$25 20 40 hours
(2 hours on high)
5
Kryptonite Incite X6 (left) Incite X8 (US only) and Incite X3 (Right)

Kryptonite Incite X6 and Incite X3

The brightness of both the Incite X6 and Incite X3 is measured in ‘Lux’, a metric Kryptonite says measures the illumination of a surface at a specific distance. The Lux of a light could, for example, be measured by the illumination of the street at 10 meters distance.

The lights have double lenses which focus the beam of the light. The fun, convex shape of the lense seems to magnify the light, and the yellow circle around it adds to the quirky design.

The Incite X3 has LED lights to indicate its charge, though, at 24 hours charge time on ‘Eco’ mode, the light will last for a while. For its size, I was disappointed by the brightness of the Incite X3. The Lux technology sounded promising, but the beam of light was too concentrated and I felt as though it didn’t help with visibility when I was riding on a busy street in the evening.

The Incite X6, which has seven modes and a display to show the battery charge, was definitely brighter than the Incite X3. The light will last up to 30 hours on ‘Eco’ mode, but I preferred to use it on ‘High Steady’ mode, which meant only three hours of charge. -LHG

Incite X3

Price Lumens Battery life Modes
$95 N/A (30 Lux) 24 hours
(4 hours on high)
5

Incite X6

Price Lumens Battery life Modes
$125 N/A (60 Lux) 30 hours
(3 hours on high)
7
Exposure Zenith (left) and Six Pack (right)

Exposure Zenith and Six Pack

10 years ago I was screaming through the woods in the dark with a red hot halogen bulb crudely strapped to my helmet and a 1lb battery bouncing around in my jersey pocket. This was the norm come every fall when the leaves start to cover the trail and daylight is limited. Luckily now if we want to extend our riding season or tackle an endurance event through the night we have significantly better lighting options. I would have given my last energy gel at the end of a 24hr race for the new Zenith head mount light from Exposure lights. Weighing in at 150gm at 2,000 lumen output and fully self contained, it’s really all you would need. Although adding the Exposure Six Pack MK11 ensures you can still ride at mach 1 through the woods and not be worried about outpacing your lights.

Both lights come with several modes to help burn time and light brightness. The Zenith even comes with a tap feature for adjusting output on the fly. Both lights have a wide beam that offers great trail coverage, even in the peripherals. Charge times are reasonable and both lights use a simple one button on/off. With no external battery, and a whopping combined 5600 lumen output at 536gm weight, the future is now. -MS

Exposure Zenith

Price Lumens Battery life Modes
$375 2,000 24 hours
(1 hour on high)
3

Exposure Six Pack

Price Lumens Battery life Modes
$616 3,600 36 hours
(2 hours on high)
7
Specialized Flashback Taillight (left) and Flash 300 (right)

Specialized Flash 300 and  Flashback Taillight

The blocky yet compact form factor of the Flash 300 and Flashback tail light appealed to me with its vaguely Apple-esque design, and won me over with it’s solid function. They mount with simple yet secure rubber bands, I especially like the front light, which does not flop down, unlike many others of this type of design. Despite their relatively diminutive size—the rear light in particular is very small—both are decently bright, though a bit underpowered to be daytime running light.

On max setting (300 lumens), the Flash 300 is powerful enough to illuminate potholes and other road hazards, at the expense of reducing battery life to 1.5 hrs. It’s enough during the fall when morning rides start in the dark, but one can switch to more economical flash mode (which can last 12hrs on full charge) once the sun comes up. If you regularly head out the door well before 6am, you will want something more powerful, with a bigger battery. For most people, whether commuting, doing early training rides or both, the Specialized Flash 300 and Flashback tail light hit the sweet spot of size, power and price. -AC

Specialized Flash 300

Price Lumens Battery life Modes
$60 300 12 hours
(1.5 hours on high)
4

Specialized Flashback Taillight

Price Lumens Battery life Modes
$30 20 20 hours
(2 hours on high)
4
Cateye Volt 1700 (left) AMPP 800 (centre) and Rapid X2 Kinetic (centre)

Cateye AMPP 800 and Rapid X2 Kinetic

If you are frequently on the road in the dark, this pair of lights from Cateye deserves a serious look. The rear light, the Rapid X2 Kinetic, has the usual flashing and constant modes, and is bright enough to work as daytime lights. It has an added trick up its sleeve: An accelerometer, which detects anytime you slow or brake. When this happens, the Rapid X2 Kinetic flares brightly, like the brake lights on your car. Whether this is noticeable by drivers is debatable, but I am in favour of any features that might grab drivers’ attention. As a bonus for owners of aero bikes, the Rapid X2 Kinetic is aero seatpost friendly.

The AMPP 800, as the name suggests, puts out 800 lumens on its highest setting. I found the light’s medium (400 lumens) setting bright enough for pre-dawn rides, while stretching the battery life to last the entirety of my usual morning loops, which is around 1.5 hours, with juice to spare. It’s metal body construction gives the AMPP 800 a nice heft that portends good durability. Its mount, which seemed overly complicated on first glance, was actually simple to install and held securely. The AMPP 800 doesn’t fit on aero shape bars, which is a miss given the consideration the rear light makes for aero posts. -AC

Cateye AMPP 800

Price Lumens Battery life Modes
$150 (for pair) 800 30 hours
(1.5 hours on high)
5

Cateye Rapid X2 Kinetic

Price Lumens Battery life Modes
$150(for pair) 150 30 hours
(1 hour on high)
6
Giant Recon HL 350 (left) and Recon HL 1800 (right)

Giant Recon HL 1800

The Giant Recon HL 1800 is a powerful light with a sleek efficient design. The smooth rectangular body features just one button for ease of use.

Attaching the Recon HL 1800 wasn’t a quick process, the mount must be screwed on and is more of a permanent fixture on your handlebars than that of some lighter lamps.

There are a few cool technological features hidden in the body of the light. It pairs with Garmin series computers via ANT+ to see battery information and light mode on screen. The lamp also monitors ambient light to change output accordingly and will dim in brighter conditions. On trials, the Recon HL 1800 easily illuminated everything in front of me with clean white light.

Price Lumens Battery life Modes
$160 1,800 65 hours
(1.5 hours on high)
6

Giant Recon HL 350

The Giant Recon HL 350 is the little sibling of the Recon HL 1800. Smaller and more compact, the light is best for evening road rides or commutes. Though it has fewer lumens, the Recon HL 350 still packs a punch in terms of brightness and visibility. It also has a motion sensor which automatically turns the light on or off to save battery power if you aren’t moving. -LHG

Price Lumens Battery life Modes
$50 350 12 hours
(1.7 hours on high)
5
Exposure TraceR MK2 (left) and Exposure Strada MK10 SB (right)

Exposure Strada MK10 SB

Inspired by the technology used for car headlights and packing a punchy 1500 lumens and up to 36hr battery life, Exposure’s ‘Super Bright’ Strada MK10 SB provides you with all the confidence you need. The dual lenses; a spot beam to the road ahead and a flat beam to light the periphery, leaves no room for second-guessing.

The display at the rear of the light allows you to manage the 4 pre-set modes to ensure the light lasts as long as you need it to. Better still, you can tailor the lumen output and corresponding battery life to suit each ride, whether you are taking to the road for a few hours, heading home on a commute, or racing through the night. The remote switch means you can dip the brightness for oncoming traffic or change between modes without taking your hands off the handlebars, giving you full control of the bike and light at all times.

Price Lumens Battery life Modes
$411(USD) 1,500 36 hours
(2 hours on high)
4+

Exposure TraceR MK2

At just 35g and 120 Lumens (with ReAKT technology activated or 75 lumens without), Exposure’s TraceR MK2 is small but mighty. The quick-to-charge battery will last up to 24 hours depending on which of the two pre-set modes are selected. More than bright enough to be seen by other road users, the TraceR MK2 has a built in Peloton function, so you wont blind those behind you on group rides.

The ReAKT technology links to the accelerometer to illuminate the light further when braking and help avoid collisions. It also responds to ambient lighting to maintain a constant contrast in every situation. -LJ

Price Lumens Battery life Modes
$90(USD) 120 24 hours
(3 hours on high)
2

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Credits : cyclingmagazine.ca

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