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Bike Lights 101: What You Need to Know About Bike Lights

While the days are getting shorter, don't let the lack of natural light keep you from having fun on the roads and trails! Within the following, we will outline in brief everything you need to know about bike lights followed by some recommendations to help keep you rolling day or night.  

Everything You Need to Know About Bike Lights

What Is A "Lumen"?

According to Merriam-Webster, a lumen represents "a unit of luminous flux equal to the light emitted in a unit solid angle by a uniform point course of one candle intensity"— simply, it indicates how bright a light is. 

How Many Lumens Do I Need?

i) Front light: When determining how many lumens is optimal for your riding needs, a useful question to ask yourself is "do I want to see or be seen". For example, if the purpose of the light is to be seen by other motorists and traffic around dusk or dawn within well illuminated streets, any light around or under 250 lumens is ideal. If you anticipate riding into the night where the roads and pathways may not be well illuminated, a light between 500-1000 lumens is ideal. A light around 500-1000 lumens is ideal is you wish to not only be seen, but also clearly see the roadway or pathway in front of you. If you are looking at going trail riding into the night, a light around 1200-2000 lumens is ideal. Please note that it is not recommended to use lights above 1200 lumens around well-lit areas of the city as it can be blinding to on-coming traffic, thus it's use should be reserved to the trails. 

ii) Rear light: Similarly, if you intend on riding along dark roads or pathways wanting to be clearly seen at a distance by motorists, having a brighter rear light is preferable —  a rear light between 45-100+ lumens is ideal for this. If you intend on enhancing your visibility while getting around town during daylight hours or during dusk/ dawn, a rear light between 15-40 lumens is preferable 

Additional considerations:

  • When selecting a light, another important factor is considering the light's beam pattern and distance. Most lights will offer a centralized or wide beam options (some offer both). The benefit of having a centralized light beam is that the illumination in front of you is more focused, thus making it easier to see the road or pathway and potential obstructions. A wide beam option is ideal for seeing around you, especially in a non-technical area, easier. Moreover, a mix of both is preferable for trail riding at night as it offers not only a focused beam in front of you, making it easier to maneuver around obstacles immediately in front of you, but the wider beam will allow you to see around and further own the trail. 

USB Rechargeable Versus Removable Battery Cell Lights 

There are two main types of charging options that are available with the lights widely available: USB rechargeable and removable battery cell — both have their strengths and minor drawbacks.
i) USB rechargeable

  • Pro's: easy, convenient to re-charge, and reduces overall waste in the long-run if desired to use often.
  • Con's: depending on the battery life and settings the light is being run at will require re-charging more frequently.

ii) Removable battery cell

  • Pro's: you don't have to wait for the light to recharge as you just need to pop in new batteries. 
  • Con's: if intending to use the light on a frequent basis, having to constantly worry about finding new batteries can be a hassle and creates more waste in the long-run in comparison to USB rechargeable lights.

Other Considerations 

Many front lights will come with two possible mounting styles which mount to either the bike's handlebar or to the rider's helmet. For many commuters and road cyclists who use a front light, mounting it via the handlebar is preferable as is provides a consistent and steady illumination forward. In contrast, some trail riders prefer mounting their front light to their helmets as it provides greater versatility to illuminate the trail depending on the conditions. 

Our Front Light Recommendations 

Intended UseMax Lumens  Run Time Battery Type Recharge Time

Commuting within the city during the day or dusk/ dawn
352.4 hours on high, 100 hours on lowNon-rechargeable 1 AA alkaline battery (included) N/A
Riding during the day or dusk/ dawn
3-16 hours, depending on mode

USB-rechargeable 2.5 hours 
Riding along poorly-illuminated streets/ pathways. It has settings which are optimized for both running it in the day time and/or at night.
6001-16 hours, depending on modeUSB-rechargeable 2.5 hours 
Gemini Lights "Duo 2200 Multisport" Trail riding at night. 2200 lumens 2-22 hours, depending on modeUSB-rechargeable not specified 

Our Rear Light Recommendations 

LightsIntended UseMax LumensRun Time Battery TypeRecharge Time 
Commuting, road, or trail riding 10 lumens 
There are 5 output/ flash settings with a max run time of 20 hours.
USB-rechargeable 3 hours 
Serfas' "Apollo Tailight" Commuting 15 lumens 
Solid light with a 50 hour run time and flash setting with a 150 hour run time.
Powered by 2 replaceable CR2032 batteries (included)N/A
Commuting, road, or trail riding 80 lumens 
There are 8-modes total including the long-lasting Economy Mode for up to 24 hours of run time.
USB-rechargeable 4 hours 
Any kind of riding, although it is optimized for road riding.65 lumens 
Up to 16 hours in daytime flash mode and up to 6 hours in solid mode (there are 2 other modes offered as well).
USB-rechargeable 5 hours using a computer or 3 hours using an AC power source.