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Cycling can be a pretty dangerous hobby due to the number of cyclists that get hit by cars when riding on the road. The best way to avoid being hit by cars is to make sure you are seen by them. The best way to be seen is to have the appropriate number of lights on your bike. You can also get reflectors and/or reflective clothes to make yourself even more visible, but in this article, we will primarily cover bicycle lights.
There are multiple types of bike lights and you need multiple types of bike lights on your bike to make sure you are visible. As seen in the picture above, the rear light is typically red and the front light is usually white.
How Many Lights Do I Need On My Bicycle?
The number of lights you need on your bike depends on a couple of different things but I’d say at a minimum you should have 2 lights on your bike.
You need a front light and a rear light.
If you do a lot of night riding, I’d recommend a 3rd or even a 4th light.
The 3rd bicycle light I’d recommend is a safety light that can be seen from the side, there are many different lights that could be used for this. You could use rim lights or get a light that’s specifically made to be seen from all sides.
The 4th light I would recommend is a backup rear light. Most front lights have a way to tell you the battery is low, but most rear lights do not. So, unless you charge your light before every ride that you go on, you have no guarantee that your rear light won’t die while out on a ride.
What Kind of Rear Bike Light Should I Get?
The rear bicycle light should be red and have either a pulsing or flashing mode. Some people believe a pulsing light is actually easier to see and grabs a driver’s attention better than a flashing light but I haven’t seen any evidence to prove one side or the other.
If you ride in groups you could also get one that that has a speed sensor. The rear lights that have speed sensors act as brake lights, when you slow down, the light will get brighter to let the people behind you know you are slowing down. This is very helpful on group rides.
What Kind of Front Light Should I get?
The front bike light falls into 2 categories: a light to see and a light to be seen. If you mainly ride during the day, you need a light that makes you visible. If you ride at night, you need a light that allows you to see. A light that allows you to see will also make you visible, but a light that makes you visible, may not be bright enough to light up the path you’re riding on.
Lights that allow you to see are typically more expensive than lights that are just to be seen. Lights that allow you to see, need to have high lumen output in order to light up the road. You can get “1000” lumen lights on amazon for cheap but I don’t really recommend getting these so-called 1000 lumen lights.
The cheap 1,000-lumen lights on Amazon tend to break or burn out quickly. Also, they usually aren’t actually 1,000 lumens anyway. When I first got into cycling I went the Amazon route and bought cheap lights. I usually had to replace them every month or 2 because it stopped working or the mount broke. These lights quickly added up and I would have been better off getting a good light from a reputable brand rather than the cheap ones off Amazon. I’m not saying you can’t find a good light on Amazon, Amazon has everything, but most of the $20 – $50 1,000 lumen lights are just too good to be true.
Typically a good 1,000-lumen bicycle light is going to cost you around $100+. I currently use a Cateye Amp 1100, it’s been a great light for me and I haven’t had any problems with it. It’s bright, lasts a good amount of time, and has modes for daytime use and nighttime use.
Another great brand that you can check out for a good high-powered bike light is Bontrager. Bontrager is a sub-brand under the Trek Bikes umbrella. Bontrager is an amazing cycling brand and they offer pretty good warranties on their products.
To safely ride your bicycle on the road, you need a minimum of 2 lights. One for the front and one for the back, but realistically the more lights you have the better. If you ride at night or very early morning a lot, I’d recommend 3 to 4 bike lights.
The 3rd would be an omnidirectional light that can be seen from the sides. This light is so that cross traffic can see you easier.
The 4th light I recommend is a backup rear bike light. Rear lights don’t typically give you an indication of a low battery so, it’s easy to forget to charge them and have them die on your ride. However, a rear light is probably the most important because you can’t see the cars approaching from behind you. So, I always recommend having a backup rear bike light just in case yours dies.