Photo by Karl Hilzinger

Top 150 bike lights 2015


What price your lights? In our tenth annual test of bike lights, we recall the past, look to the future but most importantly put the current crop through their paces. Simon Vincett reports.

Ten years ago Ride On began testing bike lights to provide a comprehensive purchasing guide to the essential gear of bike riding.

The idea remains, as it was from the outset, to find the best value and best performing bike lights out there so that every rider has the capability to ride in low light. With lights on your bike there’s no problem riding home after dark, heading in to work before sun-up or completing the journey as a storm closes in.

The Australian road rules require bike riders to display a front white and rear red light, both visible at 200 metres, when riding in low light. This is because other road users need to be able to see riders, and lights are the most effective visibility tool.

The good news is that most bike lights available in Australia are easily visible at 200 metres. However, this is a minimum and many bike lights can make you stand out a lot more than that. Moreover, for your hard-earned cash you want a light that’s waterproof, easy to use and will last. These are the things Ride On tests for in bike lights.

So what can you reasonably ask of a bike light in 2015? Well, it will be remarkably bright due to continuing advances in light emitting diode (LED) technology. It will also be very compact, due to similar advances in battery technology. You can expect most bike lights to be rechargeable via a USB port or mains wall socket, saving the hassle and waste of replacing batteries. You can expect that you shouldn’t need tools to put the light on your bike, that the mount will be easy to use and secure. These are the standard features of an average-to-high-end bike light these days. Any lights without these features are unlikely to appear among our recommended lights or in the middle or upper rankings of the Top 40 table below.

Smart lights and a strong future

In some lights in this year’s test we see a new future in effective visibility for bike riders—and the future looks bright.

SeeSense-setLights are beginning to include sensors to vary their flash rate and intensity in response to different road situations. For instance, in October 2014 Ride On reviewed a light set from See.Sense. out of Northern Ireland. These very intelligent lights use a motion sensor and a light sensor to automatically vary their output in situations such as when a car approaches, you enter a tunnel, you swerve or brake suddenly or the sensors interpret that you are going around a roundabout. In our on-road testing we found the lights to be very bright but it was the change in intensity itself that was most eye-catching.

Another offering in this new paradigm of visibility for bike riders is the Fyxo B-Con. FYXO_B-ConThis taillight also contains an accelerometer. This senses when you are slowing down and increases the intensity of the light with a solid red display, just like a motor vehicle brake light.

Unfortunately, in some other design and construction aspects these two lights did not stand up to rigorous testing. This is a common failing of many lights coming to the market from small start-ups—often through crowd-funding—rather than from major established companies. While start-ups offer great innovation—and these lights usually satisfy an otherwise unmet need for bike riders—in design, these lights are often found to be lacking.

Dr Scott Mayson, researcher and lecturer in Industrial Design at RMIT University, leads the design testing for the Ride On Lights test. He explains: “The See.Sense. is too complex to use, with the twisting to turn on and off, and its instructions aren’t easy to interpret either. It’s also poorly designed for water resistance and it was damaged in durability testing.”

It was certainly not the only light to break down under rigorous scrutiny. The other smart light in the test, the Fyxo B-Con, also performed poorly for waterproofness and didn’t score strongly for its basic visibility. So it seems today’s smart lights still need to work on their other strengths to rise to the top of the field.

Light years ahead

Believe it or not, when we started testing bike lights in 2005 halogen bulbs were still the leading technology for vehicle headlights. However, LEDs were overtaking the lower-output incandescent bulbs as a much more efficient light source, and this was certainly the case for bike lights.

cateye-el120-sport-opticube-front-light copyThe first lights Ride On recommended were a pair of Cateye LED lights, the EL120 front and LD600 rear. These were high-end lights at the time and Cateye remains a brand with a solid standing in the current market.

Since 2006 we have engaged a panel of judges for an on-street test of visibility. Since 2009 we have relied on an Industrial Design team at RMIT University for assessment of the usability, durability and waterproofness of the lights. cateye ld600 05 copyAlso in 2009, Choice attended the test for the first time ahead of using the test data for their own coverage of bike lights.

In 2011 we published our first top 50 list from results accumulated over the years. In 2012 we also tested the lights with a lux meter but in the process affirmed that people provide the superior assessment of effective visibility in the realistic scenario of a genuine on-road setting.

Since 2012 we’ve been calling for riders to avoid blinding other road users with overly bright lights. This is an issue that continues to be a problem.

And we’ve been telling people about light positioning for a full 10 years, with the old joke about the light mounted on the backpack alerting aircraft but not cars featuring in the first general lights article by Melissa Cranenburgh in 2005.

Cut the razzle dazzle

Bike lights continue to become brighter and brighter, without regulation of their usage to prevent the blinding of other road users.

Standards Australia is due to revise the Australian standard relating to bicycle lighting but it is awaiting the publication of a European Standard, due in 2015. While it will be a voluntary standard, this guide to bicycle lighting best practice is likely to be adopted by industry in the long term.

In Germany and Japan the rules for bicycle lighting are already thoroughly defined. The Germany regulations, in particular, require that a bicycle light does not spread above the ground ten metres in front of the bicycle.

In anticipation of the new Australian standard following this European lead, Ride On has adapted its test method this year to approximate the German regulations. All lights over 200 lumen output were angled down to focus at a point ten metres ahead. In this way the higher powered lights were made a bit more equivalent to those 200 lumens and less.

In the meantime, we can only appeal to riders to similarly angle their powerful lights down for the sake of other people. Otherwise, there’s the simple but effective tip sent to Ride On to cover the top part of lens with blue tack to create your own cap on the light and cut its upward glare.

Effective visibility

The Ride On Lights test is all about effective visibility. On-stret-testing-cropTo that end, we test the lights after twilight, on an urban street, with a bunch of real people in the judging panel to rate each light compared to a control.

Judges are typically drawn from VicRoads Road Safety Unit, Victoria Police, Choice, RACV, Bicycle Network, bike shops and cycling clubs. The control is the top light of its type from last year.

The range of lights tested aims to cover all the lights available to Australians riders. It includes lights designed to illuminate the way ahead for riders, but we consider how effectively visible they are rather than their output. We test three aspects of visibility: front-on, angled and flash rate.

Photo by Karl Hilzinger
Photo by Karl Hilzinger

For the front-on test, judges are 200m from the lights, which is the minimum distance the lights must reach, according to the Australian road rules. For the angled test, lights are displayed at 45 degrees to the judges. Judges are 50m away. This simulates visibility at an adequate distance for a car travelling at 50km/h to react and brake before hitting a bike rider. Research shows that the flashing mode of bike lights is the most attention grabbing to the human eye. For this reason, we test the lights in the flash mode that we reckon is most visible of the modes on offer. Usually this is one that’s not too slow or too fast.

But more than the lights you use, there are good practices you can adopt for maximum visible impact. Using a flashing mode for your lights is one of those. Research also shows that handlebar and seat-post mounted lights are the most visible to motor vehicle traffic. So helmet-mounted lights are out on that count—as well as because they are a terrible menace to other road users—as are lights attached to backpacks and clothes. So you should mount your lights on your bike.


Take charge

Check out the runtime of a light you’re considering to buy to see how often you’ll have to charge it. A light with a longer battery life will probably cost more and be heavier but you won’t have to charge it so often or run the risk of running out of light. Alternatively, you might decide you’re happy to plug your lights into your computer after each use to them charged up. Incidentally, charging via a phone charger plugged into a wall socket will fuel your lights much faster than plugging the USB cable into a computer.

Clever lights will have a battery level indicator to tell you when your batteries are getting low. A good idea in any case is to carry a set of back-up lights at all times anyway. Once upon a time you could stop at a convenience store for more batteries if your lights failed mid-ride but that doesn’t work with USB rechargeables.

Urban myths abound (in my geeky world, anyway) of lights starting strong and gradually fading over the life of their battery, and of manufacturers exaggerating the runtime of their lights. For this reason, a new inclusion to the testing regimen this year was a runtime test. We made a selection of likely lights from a variety of brands and set them running at their maximum output. We photographed the lights every minute for 500 minutes to have a record of how they behaved.

Specialized Flux Elite: 74m total run with 10m fade Moon X-Power 600: 129m  total run with 30m fade Serfas True 505: 116m total run with 36m fade
Specialized Flux Elite: 74m total run with 10m fade
Moon X-Power 600: 129m  total run with 30m fade
Serfas True 505: 116m total run with 36m fade

Most were true to the runtime stated by the manufacturer, though there were some interesting variations. The Cygo Expilion 850 ran at maximum output for 1h 25m, which is ten minutes more than the manufacturer promised, but it then remained on at a low output for another 5h 20m. The Fyxo King Bright promised more than 4h and lasted an impressive 7h 39m. The Cateye Volt 700 was the other light in the selection to exceed its declared runtime, going for 2h 16m when 2h was promised.

On the other side of the ledger, the Specialized Flux Elite lasted 1h 14m as opposed to 1h 20m promised and it also took 10m of its total time to fade out. The Moon X-Power 600 modestly surpassed its 2h declared runtime with a 2h 9m performance but it faded for the last 30 minutes. The Serfas True 505 was most disappointing with 1h 56m achieved versus a 2h 15m runtime promised and it faded for the last 36 minutes.

Though there was a fan, the conditions seemed to be too hot for some of the lights. The Full Beam Trail Torch turned itself to Low mode from High in order not to overheat and went on to outlast the camera battery, so we’ll assume it lasted the declared 12h for the low setting. The Lezyne Super Drive seems to have dropped from Overdrive to Economy mode because it got too hot. This happened after 10 minutes of Overdrive but it fell short of the Economy mode declared runtime.

Overheating might also explain the strange behaviour of the Serfas True 1200, which alternated between high and lower modes. It was only ever on high for four minutes at a time, followed by one to three minutes at a lower output. However, it only ran for the declared runtime for High mode. Insufficient airflow probably explains the behaviour of the Magicshine MJ808E as well, which dropped to a very low output for a minute every six or so minutes. Still, it ran for 3h 37m, which surpasses its declared 3h runtime.

Best buys, best performers

Before we present our recommendations, a few further quick explanations of the test are required.

Those familiar with the Ride On lights test might notice that some lights previously listed have a different score this year. This is the case for a couple of reasons. Firstly, we re-tested a number of lights to approximate the German road regulation (as explained above), which we believe is a good practice for powerful lights. Secondly, as we were marking a significant anniversary we thought it necessary to retrieve the raw data for all lights to put it through the same calculations.

A quick look at the final scores of the lights might give you the impression that none are very impressive lights but that’s not the case. The scores are inevitably low because there are so many aspects of the lights tested. The eight different aspects (visibility head on, visibility angled, flash rate, mounting, usability, power management, durability and waterproofness) put together add up to a lot of lost points.

More relevant is to look at the lights ranking against each other. A word of warning about that is that all the lights included meet the legal requirements and are better than lights that have dropped off the end of this list. If it’s on the list at all, it’s not a bad light.

Finally, batteries are so impressive these days that powerful lights are now very compact. So we no longer make a distinction between compact and high-powered front lights—they are all just front lights, with some more expensive and brighter than others.


Top 150 Lights 2015

Table key: OR: Overall (/100) RRP: Recommended retail price W: Weight (grams) V: Visibility (/100) F: Function (/40) Q: Quality (/40) P: Price (/10) A: Appearance (/10)

OR Light RRP W V F Q P A Find retailers
89 Moon Mask front $59.95 36 86 35 37 9 8 Cyclewest Agencies <[email protected]>
89 Cateye Nano Shot $99.95 99 80 33 40 9 7
89 Serfas Raider USL-5 $59.95 40 80 34 39 9 7
88 Knog Blinder Arc 5.5 $129.95 152 65 31 40 8 8.5
87 Ilumenox Shield 200 $39.00 65 78 29 40 9 9
87 NiteRider Lumina 350 $119.90 170 71 32 40 8 6
86 Knog Blinder front $49.95 37 75 33 36 9 9
86 Moon Power 500 front $149.95 174 81 35 36 7 7 Cyclewest Agencies <[email protected]>
86 Knog Blinder Road 3 $99.95 102 59 28 40 9 9
85 Lezyne Macro Drive front $74.95 109 90 29 40 8 8
85 Cateye Nano Shot+ $149.95 179 73 31 40 7 6
84 Tioga Alien front $29.99 67 65 30 39 9 6
84 Giant Numen Plus HL1 $67.95 104 63 28 40 9 7
83 Lezyne Power Drive $99.95 158 71 27 40 8 8.5
83 Light and motion Urban 550 $200.00 113 67 30 40 7 7
83 Moon Comet front $44.95 47 58 28 40 9 7 Cyclewest Agencies <[email protected]>
83 Light and motion Urban 400 $170.00 111 63 29 40 7 7
83 Moon Meteor 100 $49.95 74 69 27 40 8 7 Cyclewest Agencies <[email protected]>
83 Serfas Thunderbolt front $49.99 48 65 27 40 8 7
82 Magicshine MJ808E $89.95 394 73 29 40 9 5
82 Moon x-power 600 $159.95 220 75 29 40 7 6 Cyclewest Agencies <[email protected]>
82 Serfas True 505 $134.99 141 73 28 40 7 7
82 Lezyne Mini Drive $74.95 103 66 26 40 8 8
82 moon x-power 780 $172.95 223 72 29 40 7 6 Cyclewest Agencies <[email protected]>
82 Lezyne Micro Drive front $54.95 66 80 26 40 8 7
81 Serfas True 305 $89.99 120 58 26 40 8 7
81 Knog Gekko $32.95 54 63 28 38 8 6
81 CygoLite Metro 550 $179.00 139 78 30 38 7 6
81 ES Gamma Ray $130.00 143 86 30 37 7 6
81 Fyxo King Bright $89.00 353 70 26 40 8 6
80 Ilumenox Vega 3w $130.00 140 71 31 36 7 6
79 CygoLite Metro 400 $139.00 140 65 28 38 7 6
79 moon x-power 850 $299.95 237 81 27 40 6 6 Cyclewest Agencies <[email protected]>
79 serfas true 1200 $389.99 473 71 27 40 5 7
79 Planet Bike Beamer 5 $39.00 116 75 29 36 8 6
79 CygoLite Expilion 850 $249.00 174 65 29 38 6 6
79 Cygo-Lite Streak $79.00 113 51 25 40 8 6
79 Cateye Volt 700 $149.99 151 58 25 40 7 7
79 Owleye Highlux 30 $52.95 65 59 25 40 8 5
78 Giant Numen+ Spark HL $42.95 30 68 24 40 8 6
78 NiteRider Mi.Newt Pro 750 $329.00 259 79 29 38 5 6
77 Tioga Super Light $39.99 88 62 25 40 8 4
77 gloworm x1 $259.00 203 78 26 40 6 6
77 Giant Numen Plus HL2 $42.95 35 60 22 40 8 7
77 BBB Spark front $44.95 27 66 30 33 8 6
77 cygolite tridenx 1300 $439.00 414 74 26 40 4 7
77 BBB Strike 500 $149.99 131 73 26 38 6 6
77 Moon x-Power 300 $109.95 142 60 24 40 7 6 Cyclewest Agencies <[email protected]>
76 Giant Numen+ HL1.5 $62.95 79 63 21 40 8 7
75 CygoLite Dash 320 $100.00 79 47 23 40 7 6
75 Lezyne KTV drive front $27.95 50 50 23 38 8 7
75 Lezyme Femto Drive Front $16.95 27 49 20 40 7 8
75 Lezyne KTV pro $34.95 57 58 25 36 8 7
75 Knog Boomer USB Front $49.95 46 65 30 30 8 8
75 Ay-Up V Twin Sport $275.00 184 68 27 36 5 7
75 Lezyne Deca Drive $219.95 307 75 28 36 6 5
75 BBB Signal front $54.99 33 41 23 38 8 6
75 Sanguan K20 $160.00 360 69 23 40 6 6
75 Skully K2 $60.00 79 70 24 37 8 6
74 BBB Strike 300 $119.99 131 63 24 38 7 6
74 Owleye Highlux 5 front $39.95 41 76 29 33 8 5
74 gloworm x2 $299.00 339 62 23 40 5 6
74 Knog Blinder Arc 1.7 $69.95 102 64 19 40 7 8
74 Cateye Rapid X2 front $69.99 33 38 21 38 8 7
74 Lezyne Zecto Drive front $44.95 50 63 18 40 7 8
74 Knog Blinder Road 2 $84.95 76 63 18 40 7 8
73 Full Beam Trail Torch $359.00 405 92 25 38 4 6
73 Exposure Lights Joystick $320.00 150 61 28 34 5 7
73 Exposure Lights Diablo $299.00 175 62 27 34 5 7
73 Portland Design Works Dreadnought $59.00 121 81 27 33 7 6
73 Tioga ET front $25.00 46 68 29 31 8 5
72 Lezyne Super Drive $159.95 178 77 29 30 6 7
70 BBB Highpower $279.95 230 63 24 36 5 5
68 NiteRider Mako 200 $59.00 164 77 27 28 7 6
68 BBB EcoBeam $24.99 76 61 18 38 7 5
67 Planet bike Blaze 2W $89.95 142 68 29 26 7 6
67 Sparse front $100.00 128 65 21 32 6 8
67 Cateye Volt 100 $49.99 75 59 24 30 7 6
67 Bontrager Ion 1.5 $39.95 107 55 16 38 7 6
66 Bontrager Ion 2 $49.95 107 54 16 38 7 6
64 Bontrager Ion 1 $34.95 102 47 14 38 6 6
61 Lezyne Hecto Drive Front $54.99 66 71 21 26 6 8
60 Specialized Flux Expert $349.95 221 72 30 20 3 8
58 Bontrager Glo USB $39.95 24 36 11 36 6 6
57 Bontrager Glo $19.95 18 19 6 40 6 6
56 Specialized Flux Elite $279.95 160 43 23 22 3 8
50 Giant Numen Combo front $37.95 (with rear) 78 65 24 16 5 5
49 Bontrager Ion 700 $139.95 141 50 15 24 4 7
45 Magicshine MJ-890 $69.95 80 72 21 14 4 6
44 See Sense Elite front $137.00 58 80 29 4 4 7
37 Ilumenox Vega 500 $79.00 140 44 18 10 4 5
34 Owleye Brillian Street $89.95 131 68 26 0 3 5
OR Light RRP W V F Q P A Find retailers

Table key: OR: Overall (/100) RRP: Recommended retail price W: Weight (grams) V: Visibility (/100) F: Function (/40) Q: Quality (/40) P: Price (/10) A: Appearance (/10)

OR Light RRP W V F Q P A Find retailers
89 Knog Blinder 1 rear $29.95 16 69 31 40 9 9
87 ES Beacon $50.00 53 81 33 37 9 8
86 Moon Shield rear $59.95 57 83 33 36 9 8 Cyclewest Agencies <[email protected]>
86 Knog Blinder rear $49.95 40 72 32 36 9 9
85 NiteFlux RedZone8 $149.00 87 63 29 40 9 7
84 ES Flare $30.00 34 81 29 38 8 9
83 CygoLite Hotshot Micro $70.00 43 58 28 40 9 7
83 Serfas Raider rear USL-5R $59.95 38 69 31 36 8 8
83 Lezyne Micro Drive rear $54.95 73 69 28 39 8 8
83 Serfas Seat Stay Taillight $29.95 37 73 29 39 8 7
83 Moon Comet rear $44.95 47 58 27 40 9 7 Cyclewest Agencies <[email protected]>
83 Tioga Alien rear $29.99 67 66 30 39 9 5
83 Fibre flare Long Red $34.95 84 60 27 38 8 9
82 Cateye Rapid X2 rear $69.99 33 45 26 38 8 9
81 Tioga Dual Eyes USB $39.99 81 85 34 34 8 5
80 BBB BLS-Highlaser $34.95 64 84 32 34 8 6
80 Blackburn Super Flea rear $59.95 33 68 25 40 8 7
80 NiteRider Solas 2W $69.00 73 68 27 39 8 6
80 Skully 1W Rear $25.00 12 81 29 34 8 9
79 Giant Numen+ Spark TL $42.95 29 48 25 40 8 6
79 Knog Beetle $34.99 21 66 24 40 8 7
79 Serfas Thunderbolt taillight $54.99 49 59 28 36 8 7
79 Cateye Rapid Mini rear $39.99 26 38 22 40 8 8
78 Moon LX70 $76.95 62 55 28 34 8 8 Cyclewest Agencies <[email protected]>
78 S-Sun Eaglefly $25.00 73 88 33 30 8 7
78 Cygo-lite Hotshot USB $69.95 60 58 27 36 8 6
77 BBB Signal rear $54.99 33 35 25 38 8 6
77 Giant Numen+ Spark Mini TL $32.95 24 47 23 40 8 6
77 Lezyme Femto Drive rear $16.95 28 53 21 40 8 9
77 Lezyne KTV drive rear $27.95 52 36 21 40 8 8
77 Knog Blinder 4V rear $49.95 44 65 28 33 8 9
77 BBB Spark rear $44.95 27 70 31 32 8 6
77 Planet bike Blinky Superflash $34.95 70 65 27 36 8 6
76 Serfas True 80 $89.99 81 69 20 40 7 8
76 Ilumenox Crocolight $29.00 32 67 24 36 7 8
75 Smart Two Eyes $45.00 73 68 28 34 8 5
73 Exposure Lights Flare $39.95 44 53 21 36 7 9
73 Infini Amuse Rear $14.95 13 67 26 32 7 8
72 Nite Rider Cherry Bomb 1w $39.95 79 69 25 34 7 6
72 Giant Numen+ TL2 $42.95 43 31 19 38 7 7
71 Moon Gem 3.0 rear $34.95 33 66 29 28 7 7 Cyclewest Agencies <[email protected]>
71 Owleye HighLux 5 rear $39.95 48 64 26 33 7 5
71 Portland Design Works Danger Zone $39.95 74 69 27 31 7 6
71 Lezyne Zecto Drive Rear $44.95 52 55 16 40 7 8
70 Knog Blinder Road $64.95 44 49 15 40 7 9
69 Cycliq Fly6 $275.00 142 37 22 34 7 6
63 Light and motion Vis 180 $39.95 61 49 14 35 6 8
60 Bontrager Flare 2 $29.95 73 49 15 34 6 6
60 Bontrager Flare 1 $19.95 70 47 14 34 6 6
58 Bontrager Ember $39.00 17 21 6 40 6 6
56 Bontrager Flare 3 $19.95 76 37 11 34 5 6
56 Giant Numen Combo rear 37.95 (with front) 58 42 21 24 6 5
56 Bontrager Ember USB $17.99 25 22 7 36 5 8
55 Fyxo B-Con $45.00 62 36 22 20 5 7
54 Lezyne Hecto Drive Rear $54.99 68 51 15 26 5 8
52 Specialized Flux Expert Taillight $99.95 70 52 22 16 5 9
44 See Sense 125 Intense rear $94.00 58 71 29 4 4 7
44 Cygo-Lite Hotshot SL $140.00 65 47 14 20 4 6
39 Sparse rear $90.00 169 56 20 8 3 8
34 BBB Rearlaser $19.00 55 51 15 10 3 6
OR Light RRP W V F Q P A Find retailers

Table key: OR: Overall (/100) RRP: Recommended retail price W: Weight (grams) V: Visibility (/100) F: Function (/40) Q: Quality (/40) P: Price (/10) A: Appearance (/10)

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One thought on “64”

  1. I think it’s a mistake to run these tests and not include dynamo lights, which many regular cyclists find are a much better option than battery-powered lights. I’d encourage you to include dynamo lights in next year’s tests.

    1. Chris it is 2015 – dynamo lights are a redundant technology due to advances in battery design and the development of LED’s. Dynamos can’t compete in this market and not many people are prepared to sacrifice weight and drag that come with dynamos. Sorry.

      1. I disagree. There are some companies that are producing very good dynamo systems, German company Supernova is one that springs to mind.

      2. Modern dynamos are built into the hub of the wheel, and work really well.

        Those old flywheel style dynamos that rub against the wall of the tyre aren’t what we’re talking about here.

        Supernova is one worth looking at.

      3. I believe that dynamo lights are required to ride in Audax events which involve riding upwards of 200km in a constrained time so some riding must be done at night.

        The dynamo is contained in the wheel hub, rather than the old-fashioned wheel on the sidewall.

      4. Scott, to put it politely mate, your judgements about dynamo lighting are completely misinformed. Far from being ‘redundant technology’, dynamo hubs and associated front and rear lighting are becoming the dominant technology in the cycling cultures of Europe which mandate bike lighting. Dynamos are the only form of lighting that can meet the requirements of safety standards for new bikes in such markets. They are also the only ‘foolproof’ form of lighting. All of my bikes have dynamo lighting and I wouldn’t be without them.

        1. I agree with Scott about dyno lights nothing being worth to consider. If slowing you down is not a consideration then dyno lights might have its benefits, but at the end the additional weight with additional drag which is needed to power the light can not make up for the huge amount of power today’s batteries can carry. Read the in depth article about dyno visit battery power lights here.

          1. Hannes,
            That web site you link to offers up a number of factual errors which anyone with the most minimal understanding of power generation would have understood. The article talks about the supposed constant drag of a dynamo hub. Wrong – a hub generator capable of outputting 3 watts (or more) will only do so when it is under load – when the light is switched on. When it is off, there will be virtually no ‘drag’ on the bike’s forward progress. And once you get the bike going above about 18kmh wind resistance becomes far more of a hindrance than the additional drag of a hub generator. There are excellent articles online that illustrate this – the CTC’s Chris Juden at and one from Bike Quarterly at .

            As BQ say, “Lights powered by generator hubs offer reliable light under most conditions. The added resistance is measurable (Fig. 6), but its importance is easily overstated. It is greatest (in percent of overall power output) at low speed. At high speeds and on uphills, the added resistance becomes negligible compared to the overall power required to propel the bike.”

      5. My Schmidt front Dynamo coupled to front and rear B&M lights are not redundant. Over 20,000 km with no issues. A good 100m of light and no dazzling to oncoming traffic. Integrated to the design of my bike – not some add-on to a fair-weather toy of a bike. As for so-called drag, the Dynamo generates three watts of noiseless power – a sacrifice I am willing to make for certainty, performance and reliability.

      6. Yes, totally redundant. My Schmidt dynohub has powered my front and rear B&B lights for about 20,000km in the past two years with no fuss, just performance, totally integrated into the bike and not some afterthought. It shines about 100 metres with strong illumination and does not dazzle oncoming cyclists because it was made to a standard. Drag? That is measurable. It produces three watts of current. Three watts.

    2. Really, I have not seen a dynamo light used by anyone for 20 years. I would be surprised if anyone even makes them anymore

      1. Look if the cyclist’s lights are situated on the fork crown – tell tale sign of a dynamo user.

        Also most dynamo head lights are better suited for road riding – focused beams with a sharp cut off and plenty of non-blinding spill light to get noticed.,d.dGY&psig=AFQjCNGfUO3yih4tIOwNVw1xNMQWEd0-VQ&ust=1432243896257205

        I’m a convert who uses B & M’s Luxos U

      2. Different lights for different needs. While for commuting and training on my roadie I use a 360 lumen USB rechargeable light on my helmet for “spotlighting”, and a 200 lumen USB front bar light, and I wouldn’t use anything else for the purpose, my touring bike (a Vivente Anatolia) comes equipped with a superb hub-dynamo powered front and rear system. I can detect NO drag when the unit is switched on. The LED is bright, has a central focus spot and a diffused wider lit “spill” area. It is a trouble-free system which goes on and on with no down-side that I can see. Modern dynamos (and there are several being made, including by big names such as Shimano, and they are especially popular in Europe and Britain both for touring and commuting) are, pardon the pun, light years away from the units of decades ago. They are effective, efficient and suit the uses for which they are designed. Also, some modern units have a charging output to allow the GPS unit or mobile phone to be charged while riding and they are in use. Given that my Garmin GPS battery lasts only about 10 hours or so, this can be very handy.

        1. I agree that it is a hassle free system. You might not feel the drag but it is there. 5% drag will slow you down and add 30min to a 10h ride. But as you say the best light will be determined by its design intent.

  2. I have purchased a couple of these products on reputation. Only to find in practice the light is good, but battery life pathetic (Lezyne Zecto rear) or the rubber mount prone to failure (Knog Blinder). You can measure the light output all you like but perhaps some feedback from users might be a great addition to the report.

    1. Yep I’ve just had a Knog Blinder Road 2 fail on me too. Not because the band snapped but because of the poor fastener design meant that it would fall off my bike unexpectedly. The last (5th) fall broke it. Terrible design, which is surprising from a company like Knog who usually excel at good, functional design.

  3. Please leave a reply if you know where the ilumenox shield 200 can be purchased. None of the suppliers listed on the diggari website seem to stock it and I can’t even find it internationally. A pity given it was the top pick of them all under $50.

  4. I am experiencing more over bright lights with the mornings getting darker. If you have very bright lights please consider other cyclists coming the other way on cycle paths, some lights are so blinding that I can’t see where I’m going and might collide with the rider of the over bright light.
    In most cities the main purpose is to be seen not light up the whole place.

    1. I agree with Peter. I think it’s entirely appropriate to have really bright lights in terribly dark conditions especially on roads where there aren’t many other bikes or people. But when you’re blinding other cyclists/pedestrians/motorists it’s just rude. If you must use these lights please angle them downwards and not into the eyeline of other people.

    2. Completely agree with Peter. Blinding lights on top of helmet + at regular height = recipe for disaster… Let’s be considerate between ourselves!

    3. I completely agree. Helmet lights are totall inappropriate in a busy urban environment, as this review justifiably makes mention of too.

    4. Most of my riding is done pre-dawn in urban and semi rural areas where native fauna pose a greater risk than motorists. I run handle bar and helmet mounted lights but am judicious with the helmet light use and only turn them on out of town. Being able to pan from left to right and illuminate the road verge has prevented collisions with Skippy and Bugs on occasions too numerous to recall. I think there is merit in their use, but one must be considerate of other road users.

  5. Peter – I know the problem you refer to, but you need to understand that a lot of the bike paths (eg. Moonee Ponds Creek Trail) are pitch black even 15 minutes before dawn.

    Suggest that rather than look ‘at’ the light, you look towards the ground to the right (your left as they come towards you) of the cyclist coming at you. You’ll find that you can see better, and you can see how far over on the pathetic. they are, so you can adjust your line accordingly.

  6. As a regular long distance night rider I have tried many lights and the Ay-Up lights outperform in all conditions. Expensive for good reason!

    1. Yes agree with you Gordo. have been using my Ay Ups for approx 5 plus years,original battery still in excess of 6 hours run time.

  7. Can you PLEASE not lump all the front lights together. There are two distinct functions of front lights, and most only achieve one of the two.

    Visibility lights (so others can see you), and Headlights (so you can see the road/trail).

    Comparisons that put them all together are the reasons why so many commuters have hugely powerful headlights pointed straight ahead thinking it makes them more visible, not realising it (a) blinds oncoming drivers/cyclists/pedestrians, which is incredibly dangerous on two-way bike lanes and (b) isn’t visible from the side anyway.

    The Knog Blinder Arc 5.5 is a perfect example of this, and sits near the top of your list, but makes no sense as a visibility light. It’s 550 lumens are almost all going in a narrow beam. It’s amazing for seeing the road/trail, but someone looking at you will either be blinded if they’re in the beam, or not see you if they’re not (it works somewhat for visibility if you’ve got it pointed at the ground in front of you, but that’s not what you’re testing, and most people point their bike headlights straight in the eyes of oncoming traffic anyway, because they don’t know any better).

    Headlights should be a separate category, and rated on how well they light up a road or trail (how far ahead can you see the pothole or stick on the road/path). This way commuters wanting to be visible won’t be fooled into buying overpowered high-beams and fitting them dangerously.

    1. I also think the two requirements need to be treated differently. Riding trails like the Yarra trail after dark, you need a good light to see where you’re going. To see where I’m going, I use a helmet light pointed downwards to see that path in front of me. I tilt my head further down and to the side when an oncoming rider approaches. When rounding a bend, I angle my head sideways to see the path ahead. I also use a less bright, bar mounted flasher, angled straighter with intent for me to be seen rather than to see where I’m going.

  8. Didn’t the comments by Victorian Magistrate Wilson in the Angel and Jasper case require a bike’s headlight to be set so that it would “project 200m in front” in order for a car driver to reasonably be said to observe the cyclist?

    How does that fit with the proposed requirements of standards Australia?

  9. A part of my commute is on an unlit bike path so a light that lets me see is essential. I have tried many lights and at the moment I am using the Bontrager Ion 700. I think it is a fantastic light. It is bright, compact, easily removed and charges via USB. I was surprised to see that it was almost last in the tests. Why did it rate so poorly?

  10. I agree with Peter, with the offering of 1000 lumen plus lights for under $50 through dhgate or eBay, users really need to tilt their light when either cyclist or car approaches.

  11. I’ve been using my Dinotte Lights for over 5 years now (still on the same battery packs even – although they are now just starting to not last as long), and they are by far the best lights I’ve ever used.

    I use a 240+ lumen front and rear taillight and have noticed a big difference in how other cars treat you on the road. They definitely notice me a lot sooner. I turn them down when riding in a bunch, as otherwise people wouldn’t be able to see, but when I’m by myself on the road, they have proven invaluable.

    They can be a little on the pricey side, but the build quality is outstanding, and with the external battery pack, they last for about 12 hours on their flash modes, which is fantastic. Couldn’t recommend them highly enough.

    Thankfully I’ve also noticed that lots more riders seem to have brighter lights these days, which is great, but I am still shocked how many ride without lights (or without them on). Visibility is key to cycling safely, and there are so many available with battery packs now (either internal or external), which saves on having to buy hundreds of AA or AAA.

  12. I’m a little confused at the purpose behind this review.
    Your highest scoring front light – Moon Mask front – puts out a mere 70 lumens.
    This kind of output does nothing at 35kph
    I need to see grooves in the road, separated bitumen and drain lid depressions, branches, sticks, you name it.
    Maybe you need to rate these according to their intended use, as this light would not cut it for nighttime and early morning road use.

  13. Durability is also a very important factor that needs to be taken into account. One of the brands that you have reviewed here by all accounts is very good, but, after the third one that I owned had the rubber mounting straps break (3 in less than 3 months) I gave up on the brand as a joke.

  14. If you need high beam to see where you are going on dark paths, it is basic courtesy, as well as safety, to have a means of dipping the light for oncoming traffic. That is mandatory on all motor vehicles but regulatory authorities have failed to keep up with the enormous increase in the output of low-powered lights for the mass market.
    In earlier times, a decade or two ago, high-powered lights commonly came with high and low beams and a thumbswitch to swap between them. The low beam would approximate (or even meet) bicycle lighting regulations while the high beam was for outside built-up areas.
    In their rush to have the brightest lights in the lower market segments, many manufacturers have been ignoring this aspect of safety.

    1. Well stated John. There is clearly a need to differentiate between visibility and illumination. On my daily or nightly commutes I angled my lights down to avoid dazzling anyone, but at the same time, the light is inadequate for poorly illuminated side streets and dark laneways (not seeing potholes early enough for example). I am thinking that I will need two types of lights – a high beam version and a lower beam for street/ road riding.

    2. Mandatory dipped headlights on cars doesn’t even come close to stopping them from being blindingly bright. On side roads an approaching car will make anything else completely invisible. Car headlights have got brighter just as cycle lights have, for similar reasons, but legislation appears to have been left behind. So let’s not single out cyclists as the sole issue here.

  15. I bought the following based on last years recommendations – Rear -Moon Shield, and the front Moon Mask.
    The rear Shield has just one means of fixing, a stretch rubber, and it is awful, particularly when trying to remove the light for recharging. Secondly, the low battery indication is futile, it only works when the battery is very low, so when you start your trip it seems fine, but unbeknown to the rider it stops, often just a few minutes into a ride, even on flashing; it doesn’t have an automatic low battery operation level, eg, reduced number of LEDs operating.
    The front Mask, is better as it on the bars and easy to see what is happening around you.
    If the front fails, you can at least make judgements based on what is happening, using your own vision. But when the rear fails, you are at high risk, unaware that you are no longer visible.
    I suspect there are battery rather than rechargeable lights with better battery fail safe options, but haven’t figured out how to find these from this years tests.

  16. I was surprised by the lack of any Fenix lights here. Maybe next year? My BT20 has worked very well for me and addresses many of the headlamp visibility / glare concerns.

  17. With the headlights it is generally a good thing to have them brighter during the day as the surrounding visible light eliminates their effectiveness. Just last year I had my 1100Lm headlight on flash mode and was still hit by a car pulling out of a side street in front of me. I do generally aim my lights so that the bottom edge cuts through the top of my front tyre so that they are aiming below the drivers eyeline and lights up the road enough for me to avoid pot holes etc.
    I understand that the Moon Mask is a winner for the weight weenies but for sheer output it wouldn’t cut it.
    I also have Exposre Trace and TraceR which I find provide great light in the rear @ 75Lm which is supposed to emulate a cars rear light intensity and the front @ 100lm helps to be seen as well. Despite their relatively high cost, the best thing is that they are tiny yet last 3hrs on Max and up to 24hrs on low. They are also solid, rechargeable and very weather proof so am surprised not to find them anywhere on the list. Anyway, I think the brighter the better especially during the day or on a dark trail. Common sense of course rules, don’t shine a light at others the way you wouldn’t like it shining at you. Thanks for the effort guys and well done on a mammoth task.

  18. Thanks for doing such a comprehensive review of light visibility and battery life. It would be great to have a comparison of your top performers’ use as actual headlights too. On dark rural back roads or suburban bike paths, rider visibility is not the main purpose – seeing the path ahead is!

    1. Agreed Anthony – suburban bike paths can be very dark and the bends tricky if not a familiar path. Lighting on the path is also unpredictable, even if installed. Pedestrians/runners often wear all black (and sometimes have black dogs!) which also makes it important to see ahead.

    2. Anthony is spot on! an awesome review of lights but as a country cyclist who commutes at night on country roads with NO street lights or other lighting, Brightness and distance along with reliability is important, Try hitting a roo or two… :-(

  19. Such lists will always gather comment both positive and negative. What Ride On needs to do is draw upon the experiences of thousands of cyclists who use lights on a regular basis. I am aware of the problems of controlling test methods etc. but to ignore such a body of knowledge is folly.Perhaps an aggregated 5 star system under your existing heading might work.

  20. I’m really interested in the convenience of battery-free lights.

    They never go flat, and that makes them safer.

    That’s especially true if you’ve got kids who never charge up their lights in advance, and therefore may as well not have them.

    relight is one I like. I have the SL200 set, and they’ve lasted for years. In fact, they’ve outlasted the bike I bought them for.

    I’m sure there are others.

    (no, this is not an ad. I have no connection to them at all.)

  21. There are several things that really annoy me about many lights; mounts that slip, requiring constant readjustment, mounts that break, lights that slip or bounce out of the mounting clip. Lots of great lights but very few good mounts. So, I’d like more info on this aspects next time please. Great review, must be an awsome amount of work to do this, so I may be asking too much here.

  22. I ride both a road bike and a tri bike with aero bars.

    Finding a decent light that mounts to aero bars is very difficult even thought the lighting technology has improved immensely. In your next review perhaps an additional column with mount capability. e.g R for road A for aero.

  23. To follow up on Dynamo lights: there’re many excellent hub dynamos and lights readily available overseas, thru EBay, and, increasingly, in Australia. Hub dynamos & lights are common in Europe, Japan, in Audax rides & long distance mountain biking. Dynamo lights are typically more sophisticated than most blaring, too bright battery lights. Most conform to German regulations for glare and focus. I’ve used Shimano (they have many models) and SP hubs dynamos with Philips lights. They’re excellent. Convenient, low drag, reliable, and strong lighting. Most Dynamo lights have stand lights for when you’re stopped. If you ride a lot in the dark or on gloomy days, or long distances, Dynamo lights are the way to go. I always have back up battery lights, but then, for safety, you should really always have two separately powered lights front and rear in case of damage.

  24. There are some things I find lacking /pointless in this test.
    +Appearance category. (Not really important.)
    +Quality category. (see below) This should be a Durability rating and the test should have been over a period of time.
    +No beam pattern info./side visibility score. (should be more specific, not just visibility score)
    +Burn times at various settings.

    There should be some information on which manufacturers have spares/ replaceable parts.

    What good is quality if it is in the form of thin silicone straps that break?

    Run-times should be factored in to the test.
    2 of the separates contenders loose points for Appearance.
    Also, how did the Bontrager ION 700 score so badly when it rated very well elsewhere?

    Ay-up V Twin Sport is very well designed and usable with long run-times. Yes, they cost more, but this should be taken into account.
    Was the Cateye Volt 300 available at the time of the test? If so, it should have been in the test.

  25. What I’d like to see is an honest discussion about idiots with million candle power lights dazzling all oncomers. Many times I’ve nearly run off the path so hooded and dimmable lights are an important consideration. Didn’t see that was taken into account for the review!

    1. Steve, you’ll find this subject covered in the Aug-Sept issue of the magazine. It’s available on newsstands now.

  26. From a regular bike commuter’s p.p.v, experience tells me that a hub dynamo combined with permanently mounted, constantly-on front and rear LED lights are really the way to go. I have used several high quality front and rear battery lights – Ay-Ups, Cat Eye, Planet Bike etc – and they all have their strengths. Unfortunately their key downside is the need to ensure the batteries are charged! LED dynamo lights are available at anytime, are very(!) bright and generally very well designed, are bullet proof and super efficient with virtually no drag. I use SON and Shimano dynamos and Philips, Dosun, SON and several home-made front and rear lights. The commercially made ones are fantastic. Even my cheap home-made jobs work well. Dynamo lighting, from my p.o.v, is the only way to go for everyday utility bike use. It’s laughable that none are discussed or reviewed in these tests!

  27. I was collected by a tow truck coming through a stop sign last week in broad daylight. I thought I made eye contact with the guy but obviously not, his extensive set of mirrors blocking his vision. It occurred to me that is someone designed a light that flashed extremely brightly (perhaps accompanied by a sound of some type) which had a control at your fingertips, it may enable riders to signal their presence when approaching intersections. Maybe this already exists. If it does I would buy one today.

  28. This is a disappointing review, while the lights tested may meet the criteria of being seen there is no real information on how effective the light is. I commute between country and city and need a light that provides range and spread. I have had near misses not only with other cars, cyclists but also other in illuminated objects ie pedestrians and kangaroos. While it’s nice to be seen which appears to be the intent here I believe it’s more important to see. In addition while the 10m rule is a reasonable it is difficult to regulate in the real world. I personally find I adjust my light according to my needs. Overall a lot of effort for not much real world feedback. How about beam spread and distance

  29. Great round up. I like seeing some of the less expensive ones here. I can’t believe people are paying $800 for a light. I got this one on Amazon, it was only $26.

    Works great, super bright, lightweight, doesn’t even get that hot. I got the spare battery which is about 1/3 larger and lasts well over 3 hours! Get 2, they’re cheap! If you lose one or it’s broken, so what, you’re not out much.

  30. I just found this light with 2 beam spectrum’s. One for near and one for far.

    I’m curious to know what you all think of that? For the price, I think I would just get 2 cheaper ones. Put one on my helmet and one on my bars. I’m really not a fan of buying $500 lights.

  31. Just saw this review interesting,
    You don’t really have 150 real lights here you really have only 26 suppliers supplying multiple lights (95%) at least. Most are regular add purchasers for your magazine. Would wonder of the actual misleading information you are giving here.
    What really surprised me was one person I suspect a staffer did not know anything about new tech such as the dynamo lights.
    Credibility is lacking in this review pity could of been a stand out.
    Seems lots of people are interested but your have devalued your brand a little here.

  32. No lights from B&M tested? Odd considering that they are one of the largest producers of lights an all meet German road standards.
    List needs splitting into “see” and “be seen”.
    No mention of hub Dynamo lights, which have to the best thing for commuters , fit and forget with virtually no drag.

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