Christmas Wish List – Bike Lights

My family asks me every year what I want for Christmas and I rarely have a very good answer.  Under duress, usually end up blurting out “a new shirt” or some other lame gift – and that’s exactly what I get!  (Apologies to my family because they have given me many really cool gifts over the years – thank you!).  This year’s going to be different.  I need bike accessories!  Not just any bike accessories, but “bike lights.”  I want to “see” and “be seen,” especially with the frequency of nighttime riding increasing as we roll into the holidays and winter months.

I’m turning to all of you for advice.  I need to be clear about the items I put on my wish list and where to find them, so website links would be very helpful.  Share what you love about your favorite lights – brightness, battery strength, ease of attaching / removing, or suggestions for fun and decorative lights too.  Some of the ideas generated might end up on your own lists, so you may find just what you want under your Christmas Tree.

Headlights and Tailights – From “good enough” to “flat out nuclear powered,” what lighting systems do you recommend to light up the night?  The goal is for others to see you, as well as having the ability to clearly shed enough light on the trail or roadway ahead to navigate your route safely.  What works best and why?

Side lighting – Many people attach small lights to their bike frames, racks or trunk bags for additional illumination.  What “stocking stuffers” do you recommend in this category?

Helmet lights – Another area to brighten up is your helmet.  What options exist for lighting up your “control tower?”

Fun Lights – Keri Caffrey recently installed a “Mini Monkey Light” on her bike.  The lighted images change as she pedals.  Very cool look.  Monkey Electric also offers full wheel lights.  Here’s my “gift” to you – the link to find these lights –   What other options are out there for decorating your bike for the holidays?

I can’t wait to see your comments!  Wishing all of you a very Happy Holidays and plenty of safe and bright nighttime riding!

Oh, and as long as I’m wishing, I could use a bike trailer to give my grandaughter, Lilly, and my pups, Toby and JJ, a ride.  And a new Bianchi road bike, a folding bike (with clown nose) and a Catrike would be cool too!


23 replies
  1. Steve A
    Steve A says:

    I favor the mighty P7 headlight for daily commute use. The beam pattern isn’t optimum for upper cutoff, but it’ll kick the keester of any light costing twice its price – and most automotive lights as well.

    • John Alexander
      John Alexander says:

      Steve – thanks for the suggestion. Do you have a link to a website to purchase the P7 (recommended vendor)?

  2. Jason Buckner
    Jason Buckner says:

    I’m a big fan of the MagicShine. They come in 900 and 1400 lumen flavors and you can’t beat the price: $90 and $135, respectively. These things make it look like a car is coming down a path when you see them. They also offer a really bright tail light that you can power off the same battery using a Y-splitter. Amazon carries them:

    • John Alexander
      John Alexander says:

      Jason, I’ve always been impressed with the incredible amount of light that your headlight throws. Thanks for sharing the link.

  3. Matt
    Matt says:

    Have never used a MagicShine, but for the same amount you could get a light with a cutoff (i.e. – designed for road use) such as the Philips LED bike light. It seems to be the favorite of a fellow in the Netherlands who has done some nice comparisons and offers a well-considered opinion based on trying many alternatives.
    Not offered in the US, to my knowledge, but can be purchased for about 84€.;navigation=1;menu=1000,5,66;product=14244

    Review is here:

  4. fred_dot_u
    fred_dot_u says:

    Another option for “fun” lights is spokePOV, which comes in kit form if you enjoy small electronic components to be assembled. Pretty sophisticated program options for those with creative talent.

    Lady Ada appears to be a real person with very responsive service attitude, based on the forum posts.

  5. Eli Damon
    Eli Damon says:

    For a headlight I use the Busch & Müller IXON IQ, which I bought from Peter White Cycles in Hillsboro, NH (). It is expensive compared to most domestic headlights but it is totally worth it to me. The beam is very bright and is thoughtfully shaped so that all of it is used to illuminate what you want illuminated. It runs on rechargeable AA batteries, so there are many options for replacing and recharging, including a charging adapter that plugs right into the headlight. They are durable and have a good mounting bracket. I swear by it.

    For a taillight, I use the Cateye TL LD-1100. It is very bright runs on AA batteries. I like it for the most part, but I don’t like how the buttons works, I don’t like how difficult it is to remove the batteries, and I don’t like the mounting brackets because they don’t make it easy to mount the light on many racks, and they don’t hold the light securely without secondary fasteners. In fact, I could use a good taillight recommendation myself.

  6. Geof
    Geof says:

    Well, how much light you need really is a function of where you ride, how fast you ride, and how long you ride. I guess it even depends on how good your vision is …

    My evening/winter commutes in the dark are anywhere from 30-90 minutes long and mostly on well lit streets with a few short sections of dark trails. I’ve found that two decent battery lights are more than adequate while riding at a 15 mph clip.


    I use a Lights and Motion 360. On most nights, this light alone is more than enough for me. One, it charges fast through any USP slot on a computer which makes it convenient for work. Two, it is remarkably light for its power which is important IMO for something resting on your head. Three, the controls are easily manipulated with gloves on making switching from blinky to steady mode pretty easy on the fly.

    For urban riding, I highly recommend a helmet light. Since I always bring my helmet with me, it is more secure than leaving the lighting on the bike. It also lets me focus the beam in particular directions which is useful, IMO when approaching intersections. I think that we also tend to signal things with our head. This allows drivers to pick those signals better at night. I also think that a light mounted high is more visible in more dense traffic.

    Front lighting:

    I have been using Fenix flashlights mounted to handlebars or to a light mount on the recumbent. But jury rigging mounts is a little more difficult on the recumbent and will probably switch to a ~300 lumen light in the near future.

    Rear lights:

    I have not found much of a difference between rear lights over the years. I will say that from self experimentation, I think people over estimate the effectiveness of brightness over surface area.

    Side lights:

    I think that these have little effect outside of moderately heavy traffic. Drivers will sometimes switch lanes a little aggressively in a vain attempt to shave 1-2 minutes off their commute. Being lit could help drivers see you and avoid side swiping you. On the recumbent — I’m also a little lower to the ground which hurts visibility, IMO — I use a Bike Glow safety light. I also use a blinkie ankle strap which shows off the motion of your legs making it easier for drivers to identify you as a cyclist. At best, it’s a small effect.

    • Geof
      Geof says:

      I should add that in certain situations — if a priori I know that there are some left turns in my route — I’ll move the ankle straps to my wrists/forearms such that my hand signals are amplified.

  7. bencott
    bencott says:

    meh, i don’t see the need to spend hundreds of dollars on lights – not on my commute, anyway. my Cat Eye 3 LED head and tail lights are easily visible at the required 200′. the trails do get pretty dark at night, but the headlight projects enough to illuminate any obstacles directly ahead out to about 25′. in practical terms, this means i have to pay more attention and be ready to react, but it seems to me that’s a good frame of mind to be in.

    • Jason Buckner
      Jason Buckner says:

      I used to do a nighttime commute up the Econ Trail with the Cat Eye and the problem I had was it was a very focused beam and didn’t have much spread. I ended up running 2 of them, one pointed down in front of me to see immediate obstacles, then one further up ahead to see obstacles in the distance. This was fortunate for the time someone was sitting smack dab in the middle of the trail.

      Even with two of them, though, I felt like I had to be really careful because there were still large swaths of area that weren’t illuminated. With the MagicShine, the spread covers the entire path and has a long throw so I can see everything very clearly.

    • Diana
      Diana says:

      I like the Cat Eye 3 LED headlights, and have several of them. They are tiny, sleek and elegant, and easy to mount. I thought they were all the light I needed riding around the city. But riding a twisty trail on a dark night when I was tired and outrunning my sweet little headlight, I wiped out, resulting in the mother of all bruises. (Luckily, the bike was fine.) So I bought a BikeRay-I at my LBS (no research, just an impulse buy), and later an even more powerful BikeRay-III. Their website could use some work, but according to my LBS, BikeRay is very consciencious about customer service. I have been pleased with them so far. I usually run them on low beam, which will still light up the night. I keep one with my commuter bike, and keep the other one charged up and ready as a back up, or to mount on another bike.

      For a tail light, I like the Planet Bike Super Flash Stealth, and I usually add an additional tail light in non-flashing mode.

      I have an assortment of lights, blinkies, reflective items, etc. and grab whatever I feel like I need based on the circumstances I anticipate for the ride. I enjoy seeing what other riders are using. Maybe Jason and I can do a MagicShine vs BikeRay comparison sometime. The lights look similar.

      Years ago, I loved riding alone late at night without lights or helmet. That heightened sense of awareness that Bencott referred to is something I miss. Sigh.

  8. Dan
    Dan says:

    How about some revolights:

    Just kidding, but they do look really cool. I recently bought the front and back Blackburn Flea set. It’s usb rechargeable, which is really nice for me, because I usually can’t find any of the right batteries when needed and I can charge it at work before I take off for home. I don’t like the mounting system that they come with though. The straps all seem way too long for typical places that you mount them and it’s not very easy to just shorten them. I talked to Blackburn about it and they pretty much said that I was wrong. Regardless, they are bright compared to the typical $20 price range lights and I’ve noticed that they don’t fade out when the battery starts dying. I think this very good, b/c I never notice the gradual fade out of my other lights and it was dangerous. These also have a three level battery indicator system so that you know when it’s time to charge. Over all I really like them. We’ll see about the longevity of the battery, I’ve only had them for about 2mo.

  9. Beth
    Beth says:

    We find that the rear red light Cateye LD1100 is great. It has rearward and side lighting, and has 5 options of solid or blighting light. I use he flashing light on my rear bike rack. (hoping to let motorists know I’m a slow moving vehicle.

    I also have two sigma red/rear lights on the rear of my helmet. They are amazing lights for the size and weight nothing. I run these as a solid red.

    I have ridden behind my partner with the same set-up and can state from experience, that you can be seen from a long distance with this setup.

    As far as headlights go.
    We reccomend the DiNotte 400L headlight. The dual beams are so much better than the one beam from the NR (discribed below). This light can go on the handlebars, or the helmet. I like it on the helmet, and the battery pack rides in a pocket and does not add much weight. I like being able to direct my headlight toward a driver on the right or left at intersections, so to make sure they know I’m there. This a bit more pricy than NR but I think worth the extra cash.

    I ride on pitch dark roads for part of my ride home, and this lights up the road so I can see what is in front of me on the ground. I think the beam is as bright or brighter than a headlight. (the light has 3 choices for brightness, and runs on the brights for just over 2 hours, and longer if used on the dimmer light setting when city riding.

    THe Night Rider MiNewt 600 lumens light is a good price for the product, but if you want a light to mount on your helmet, beware that this one is a lot heavier. To heavy for me as it hurts my neck to much to carry that weight. ( the battery pack is small but part of the light, thus the extra weight.) THis light also does a good job on a dark road, but when compared to the Dinotte light, you can really see the difference in beam and brightness. If you are always riding in a “lit” urban area, this will do a fine job.

    Oh, and U-tube of course has a bunch of videos that show brightness of various lights, some are really interesting, and some are great music, riding, and lighting.

  10. Frank Krygowski
    Frank Krygowski says:

    Headlight: Busch & Muller IQ Cyo, powered by a generator. Unlike most bike lights, this (and other German-standard headlights) puts the light where you need it. The optics are excellent, the road is luxuriously illuminated, and the bike is extremely visible to other road users. And generator power – whether a hub generator or a standard one – means you never worry about batteries at all.

    A bike headlight should be like a car headlight or motorcycle headlight: Always present (no attach-detach routine), always ready (no battery replacing or recharging), enough light to properly illuminate the road at riding speed, good optics (like your car’s headlights, not like a flashlight), and no blinding of other road users. The Cyo does all that.

    Finally, TEST your bike lights by observing your bike in your night riding conditions when it’s being ridden by a friend. Do the same favor for your friend – let him drive by his bike as you ride it, from all angles. You’ll find you don’t have to melt the asphalt to be more visible at night than in daylight. Don’t let unrealistic fear force you into overkill mode.

  11. Jer Henry
    Jer Henry says:

    Was looking for some bike light reviews and came across this page. I’ve been looking for a good bike light since I got rid of my car for commuting. I saw BikeRayUSA’s review from Diana, and it looks like they offer a good commuter light with their SPEED bike light. It looks like they are from Port Orange, Florida – Looks like I’m going to pull the trigger on them – because I like to support local small companies. Thanks for the link Diana.

    • David Erne
      David Erne says:

      I’ve had my BikeRay since October and have been very pleased with it. I also like how they sell all the spare parts a la carte in the event you drop it (or worse happens). The metal housing gets very hot to the touch after my 20 minute commute – I’m assuming most lights this bright do as well.

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