Five of the best cycling front lights for under £50

We pick some of the best LED front lights to get you through the winter without breaking the bank

by David Arthur   December 5, 2013  

Moon Comet front

road.cc reviews

If you want to cycle through the winter, whether you’re commuting or training in the evenings, a good front light is essential.

Front lights come in a vast range of prices and outputs, but you don’t need to spend a fortune as the lights in this roundup demonstrate. Most front lights these days use LEDs which take very little battery power so you can expect decent runtimes, and brightness levels that were unimaginable a couple of decades ago.

If you’re cycling in a built up urban area, you want a light to be seen by rather than one that can light up the road ahead. Many are designed for commuting with a lens and reflector intended to offer a good range of visibility. Been seen from the side as well as the front is an important consideration. If you’re venturing onto poorly lit streets and dark country lanes, then you need to think about a more powerful light to help illuminate the way.

Most of the lights below fall better into the first category of lights to be seen by. At the top of the price range you can start to get powerful lights that will be good for a bit of country lane night riding.

The five LED lights here are priced at under £50, and all of them having been tested by road.cc staff. Click the heading to read the full in-depth review if you want to know more about a particular light.

Moon Meteor front light  £49.99

The Moon Meteor front light punches well above its weight and costs half as much. It's dinky wee but looks purposeful and business-like. According to Moon it will kick out 200 lumens for 1 hour and 50 minutes, which is quite impressive for such a small unit. Buy it here

Knog Blinder 1 front light   £23.99

Knog's Blinder 1 is essentially a slimmed-down single LED version of the Blinder 4, weighing in at a mere 15g and cutting a very low profile. It may be small in size, but it certainly makes a style statement, with the anodised aluminium fascia available in four colours – black, red, white, and the rather fetching blue pictured here.

Moon Comet Front light  £29.99

The Moon Comet front light resembles an office strip light that's been passed through a matter-shrinking device. The result is an extremely powerful and surprisingly tuneable light source capable of 110 lumens in overdrive setting.

Cateye Rapid 3 front light  £19.99

It's the purity of delivery that separates Cateye's Rapid 3 front light from a host of similar blinkys. Sharing identical guts with its rear sibling, there's a central 0.2watt spot flanked by two 5mm LEDs powered by two AAA cells. Their Opti cube technology features a lens and reflectors matched to optimise output and it seems genuinely effective.

Electron Micro 1W Front Light  £24.99

Electron's Micro 1W light is a commuter light with, as the name implies, a single 1W LED. This puts it at the 'being seen' rather than the 'seeing by' end of the bike light spectrum. Even so, it does provide a degree of road illumination, as our light data shows; enough for badly lit urban streets.

There are plenty more front light reviews of various prices in the review archive here. And why not check out the big road.cc lights test 2013 with the useful beam comparison, and if you want to know even more about lights, here's our buyer's guide to them. 

40 user comments

Latest 30 commentsNewest firstBest ratedAll

Cantab wrote:
The eBay Special Cree XM-L lights, on the other hand, seem to be much more highly respected by the community, and perform very very well in the 'the big road.cc lights test 2013', yet even the latest dual LED model only costs £30, slap bang in the middle of this article's price range and, unlike the Blackburn, is surely one "of the best LED front lights to get you through the winter". So why the omission?

because this is lights we've tested, and the cree hasn't been tested yet

Dave Atkinson's picture

posted by Dave Atkinson [7497 posts]
5th December 2013 - 19:31

37 Likes

allez neg wrote:
Do people 'get' the deal with chinese ebay specials? (and are they same people who criticise giants like Starbucks et al for their creative tax practices?)

Buy from ebay, bike shops close, people lose jobs, they claim benefits. Buy products from shops and get warranty and service and bike shops and cycle product distributors stay open and the "employed in bike shops" people pay tax and spend their wages in other shops.

Unlike movies, (Blockbusters closure anyone?) I don't think you can download or stream a bike over your broadband line.

Do you 'get' the deal with the LBS? It's just crazy expensive and a lot of us are skint. It's not the fault of the bike shop though, think of a £500 bottom of the range LBS road bike: you go in, talk to the salesman and and try a few bikes, you choose one but don't want the one that's in stock because it's been on display and been ridden (by yourself) so they order one in for you and assemble it, you then come in and want more of the staff's time to setup and fit the bike for you, then you will want a first free service after you have ragged it around a bit. By now you have probably used the time of a salesman for an hour and a half at £7 an hour and an hour of mechanic's time at £9, round that to £21 with NI. Now if the bike shop is lucky they will have 35% margin on the bike, so they will have paid £270. From the £500 sale price £83 goes straight to the taxman, £60 is taken as a fee because you bought the bike on cyclescheme, so after the above costs the bike shop is left with £66, from which it has to pay its rent, rates, bills and other overheads and still try to make a profit.
Meanwhile supplier will have its own costs and pay the manufacturer around £130.
The manufacturer often doesn't actually manufacture the bikes themselves but will place an order with a factory, where the factory gate price is likely to be around £40.

Now nobody I know has £500, so loads of people do the stupid thing and order a bike from SportsDirect.com for £100 and some people do the sensible thing and buy a nice old bike with Reynolds tubing from me, or another of the growing number of independent mechanics for £50 without any formal warranty.

So when it comes down to needing a light because you have no choice but to ride unlit roads at night and only having £20 to spend because your family needs to eat, do you buy the cree or whatever £20 gets you in the LBS and compromise your own safety for sentimental reasons and just perpetuate the bullshit that is the cycle trade?

My LBS has no end of idiots queuing up to pay them £15 to change a headset, which even if you stop for a beer halfway through can't take longer than 15 minutes, that's £60 an hour. They also have hoards of fat old blokes practically throwing money at them for the latest top end bikes and bits, if I turned up with £20 for a light they would sneer at me and probably recommend a cree.

I've been in the trade for a very long time and I know what it's like, it's bollocks, both the consumer and the LBS are being ripped off, hence the local bike shop as I remember it is almost dead already, times change, we have to change too.

posted by drfabulous0 [403 posts]
6th December 2013 - 0:36

6 Likes

drfabulous0 wrote:
My LBS has no end of idiots queuing up to pay them £15 to change a headset, which even if you stop for a beer halfway through can't take longer than 15 minutes, that's £60 an hour.
.

A bike qualified mechanic can be just as skilled as the average car mechanic, perhaps more so these days, given the the complexities of modern bikes. And there's very few garages that charge £60 an hour these days; my local one charges £90.

drfabulous0 wrote:
the local bike shop as I remember it is almost dead already, times change, we have to change too.

It's partly because many LBS proprietors have failed to anticipate the changes. Revenue can be increased quite easily with a little imagination. Letting cyclists bring their bikes into the shop, an acknowledgement upon entering the shop, offering free coffee, free basic maintenance courses for women, an evening delivery service, proper FAQs on the shop's website, some sort of effort to actually answer emails, a range of reasonably priced parts for older and more basic bikes, a "courtesy" bike, even "after hours" pasta parties.

Bike shops have to be imaginative, and see themselves as part of their community, because regulation could affect sportives, and the cycle to work scheme may not last forever.

"Hey..... Let's be visible out there."

Neil753's picture

posted by Neil753 [451 posts]
6th December 2013 - 1:51

28 Likes

Well, some comprehensive and coherent replies, all I know is that the owner of the bike shop that I used to work for seems to do ok in terms of money and lifestyle, has a decent customer base and manages to employ 2 staff fulltime. As such he contributes to the local community and also to ol Gideon Osborne.

One other thing - I'd not fancy trusting any of my bikes to someone who can apparently replace a headset in 15 minutes, with or without the beer break...... Confused

posted by allez neg [4 posts]
6th December 2013 - 5:59

32 Likes

Neil753 wrote:
drfabulous0 wrote:
My LBS has no end of idiots queuing up to pay them £15 to change a headset, which even if you stop for a beer halfway through can't take longer than 15 minutes, that's £60 an hour.
.

A bike qualified mechanic can be just as skilled as the average car mechanic, perhaps more so these days, given the the complexities of modern bikes. And there's very few garages that charge £60 an hour these days; my local one charges £90.

Agreed, but the mechanic himself will only see a tiny fraction of that money.

Quote:
drfabulous0 wrote:
the local bike shop as I remember it is almost dead already, times change, we have to change too.

It's partly because many LBS proprietors have failed to anticipate the changes. Revenue can be increased quite easily with a little imagination. Letting cyclists bring their bikes into the shop, an acknowledgement upon entering the shop, offering free coffee, free basic maintenance courses for women, an evening delivery service, proper FAQs on the shop's website, some sort of effort to actually answer emails, a range of reasonably priced parts for older and more basic bikes, a "courtesy" bike, even "after hours" pasta parties.

This is exactly what bike shops need to be doing and those that do will do well for themselves, but it's not how bike shops used to be.

@Allez neg, I was joking about the beer, but how long do you think it takes a professional mechanic with the correct tools to change a headset? Seriously man, the only excuse for these prices is the cost of the tools.

posted by drfabulous0 [403 posts]
6th December 2013 - 10:22

35 Likes

*Rolls up sleeves and wades in*

The Cree eBay ('CreeBay'?) light market over the last few years has been nothing short of a revolution - there is simply no other word for it.

I cannot recall a technology being so rapidly and thoroughly democratised. Only a few years ago the performance delivered by Cree lights was only delivered by lightsets costing many hundreds of quid.

Now top-class lighting can be had for £20-30, which is within the reach of everyone. In the last few months the bog standard Cree X-ML T6 single LED with 4 cells has dropped well below £20, and can now be had for £15-16 including postage.

This has been largely driven by the manufacturing power of China's Shenzhen district, coupled with UK-based resellers cutting out distributors and retailers. The no-quibble Paypal guarantee helps a lot too. There is, of course, nothing stopping a local bikeshop from ordering a few hundred of these lights on Alibaba and selling them with a markup. They could even offer a walk-in warranty replacement, which would remove the last vestiges of fear from purchasers concerned over buying on eBay from overseas.

As a True Story, the Test Valley CC has over the last year been riding at night, 2hrs on a Thursday on pitch-black lanes. This has only been enabled by Cree lights - we are all people with families, and no way would an Exposure or whatever at £200 be justified. But as a result of this increased nocturnal activity the LBS has profited from the sale of new gilets, jackets, reflective overshoes, clear-lensed glasses and of course general bike stuff that comes with increased mileage. So loosing a sale they never would have had has netted them income.

Time for people to stop bemoaning others making purchasing decisions and start suggesting ways their LBS could offer newer, more innovative services. Times change, needs change. If your LBS can't or won't change they are doomed.

I was told there would be Cake. Luckily there's http://TestValleyCC.org.uk

KiwiMike's picture

posted by KiwiMike [618 posts]
6th December 2013 - 12:46

32 Likes

...and every single one of these lights will dazzle oncoming pedestrians, cyclists and motorists. Road.cc should be advocating the use of lights that conform to the German STVZO standard.

Furthermore, lumens is not an accurate identifier of light output, it should be abandoned in favour of lux.

posted by Peowpeowpeowlasers [123 posts]
6th December 2013 - 13:28

31 Likes

Although Moon make a cracking little light, I had the same issue with my Shield rear light. A righteous hack with a couple of bits from a wooden coffee stirrer blagged from Costa and a dab of EvoStik gave it the same integrity as the US version of this product, the Serfas. Though now I never disconnect the light from the mounting, undoing the silicon strap each time.

Anybody got any reviews on the Niterider Lumina Micro 220?

Ride like you're invisible, not invincible!

posted by Big Softy [16 posts]
6th December 2013 - 13:39

25 Likes

on the contrary, lumens *is* an accurate measure of light output.

Lux is the amount of light falling onto a surface which varies with the light fixture mounting position Nerd

At the risk of sounding a bit too geeky, what should be clarified as more and more lights use LED is the difference between the lumens from the LED chip itself versus actual the 'luminaire lumens'. Mounting the same Cree chip inside a different housing (with different reflector or spacing from the lens etc) will give a different output and so manufacturers should give us Luminaire Lumen values for an accurate view of the light output.

posted by gthornton101 [69 posts]
6th December 2013 - 13:57

28 Likes

When you're cycling, your light is invariably illuminating the ground in front of you. I see no point in buying a 1,000 lumen light which spends 50% of it's time illuminating the sky, when you need 100% of it on the road.

posted by Peowpeowpeowlasers [123 posts]
6th December 2013 - 17:35

21 Likes

As a halfway house between Creebay(!) and ye olde LBS I use a torch from Maplin (A76JX since you ask) and a handlebar clamp I bought off of um.. ebay. £30, 3W, 2 chargers, a spare 18650 and even a little black condommy thing to put it in. Rainproof and faultless.

posted by sidesaddle [70 posts]
6th December 2013 - 18:03

26 Likes

Id add the Cateye Volt 300 to that list selected after the Road.cc big light review and it hasn't disappointed on the brightness front. http://road.cc/content/news/97193-big-roadcc-lights-test-2013
Its RRP is £49.99 but it can be got for around £40

Howl Like a Bianchi

HLaB's picture

posted by HLaB [55 posts]
6th December 2013 - 18:12

24 Likes

Peowpeowpeowlasers wrote:
When you're cycling, your light is invariably illuminating the ground in front of you. I see no point in buying a 1,000 lumen light which spends 50% of it's time illuminating the sky, when you need 100% of it on the road.

The Standard CreeBay light can have an aftermarket 'wide angle' lense added that directs the light into a horizontal band, greatly enhancing the brightness where you need it. £5: http://item.mobileweb.ebay.co.uk/viewitem?itemId=261339511889

Must-do upgrade IMHO.

I was told there would be Cake. Luckily there's http://TestValleyCC.org.uk

KiwiMike's picture

posted by KiwiMike [618 posts]
6th December 2013 - 18:58

26 Likes

Moon XP300 is widely available for <£40 right now but listed at £100+. I'd suggest it spanks any of the lights here if you;re interested in lighting your way, and is well within the sub £50 category in reality.

posted by Bigpikle [66 posts]
6th December 2013 - 19:03

22 Likes

Just to respond to some of the points raised. There are some truly great lights being made by UK manufacturers, Hope is the highest profile and 4Fourth another, but they're desperately expensive… especially if you're unsure whether night-training is going to work for you. We ordered a Cree SolarStorm from China at the start of October, it was £20 and if it proved the theory that getting home and then heading out on a bike was practical, then it meant we could consider an upgrade to the Hope-or-similar lights. Unfortunately the SolarStorm didn't arrive as expected, so we bought the T-6 from a UK supplier, only for the SolarStorm to arrive a few days later… so we have an unexpected comparison.
Between our Cree lights and the Hope-standard (apologies for using them as the benchmark), there are a growing band of UK businesses offering Cree-type lights at intermediate prices… this is throwing the entire market into confusion… I absolutely don't advocate the 'cheap option' (and no longer use Amazon for anything), but equally I feel that the UK has lost it's ability to manufacture, so why should I pay a surcharge to a UK company to import something manufactured in China, when I can arrange that import myself?
I have no doubt that we will upgrade to UK lights next season and put our money where the proverbial mouth is, but at the moment these Cree lights are proving stunning.

www.mombee.com - Muddy bikes, Road bikes and Family rides in Malmesbury and the South West

posted by Mombee [57 posts]
6th December 2013 - 19:25

21 Likes

drfabulous0 wrote:

snipping.....They also have hoards of fat old blokes practically throwing money at them for the latest top end bikes and bits, if I turned up with £20 for a light they would sneer at me and probably recommend a cree......snipped.

Hey you! We can't help getting old and fat - it just kinda happens.

Thinking

Apart from that - good post!

cheers m'dears

2011 Rose Pro-SL 3000 Road
2006 Lemond Alpe d'Huez Broken
1997 Marin Sausaulito Urban bimbling/shopper
1980 Orbea project

daviddb's picture

posted by daviddb [123 posts]
6th December 2013 - 20:55

28 Likes

I'm pretty sure there run by the same group of people.
Both based in bath, review the same products virtually a few weeks apart from one s d another.
I think these are useful guides for those not in the know still.

posted by Cookie91 [17 posts]
7th December 2013 - 9:50

24 Likes

Bigpikle wrote:
Moon XP300 is widely available for <£40 right now but listed at £100+. I'd suggest it spanks any of the lights here if you;re interested in lighting your way, and is well within the sub £50 category in reality.

Agree with that. i have one on my helmet and one on my bars, both got from wiggle in the sale.
super light

posted by mpt68 [101 posts]
7th December 2013 - 19:44

21 Likes

Unfortunately, the original comparisons of watts against Lumens was about as useful as comparing chalk with cheese. I just wish that they would all use the same system, then after a while we could relate it to what we have.

rog

posted by rogie40 [28 posts]
8th December 2013 - 19:38

18 Likes

agreed. Watts is irrelevant tool for comparison of light output as it is the power consumption. Although it could give you an estimate on older lights, it is largely irrelevant when it comes to LED for judging output.

Lux can be used, but a benchmark should be established of where the lux level is measured and in relation to the mounting position of the light.
e.g. output gives 100lx on the ground, 3m in front of the light fixture when mounted at 1m height (or something along those lines).

Until then Lumens, or for more accuracy use Luminaire Lumens, is the only real comparable unit of light output for these.

posted by gthornton101 [69 posts]
9th December 2013 - 9:29

19 Likes

Wot no Lezyn units? Just invested in a pair of Lezyn units that are USB rechargeable and don't require carrying a USB cable around with me... I did have a previous pair of rechargeables, but the charging adapter was never in the right place when it needed recharging. The rear lamp could not do my 45 minute commute each way without going dead...

posted by Paul_C [257 posts]
8th January 2014 - 18:08

14 Likes

Peowpeowpeowlasers wrote:
When you're cycling, your light is invariably illuminating the ground in front of you. I see no point in buying a 1,000 lumen light which spends 50% of it's time illuminating the sky, when you need 100% of it on the road.

it's about time we had dipped beams to prevent dazzle... they're so bright now, everybody else is being dazzled...

posted by Paul_C [257 posts]
9th January 2014 - 5:18

22 Likes

Paul_C wrote:
Peowpeowpeowlasers wrote:
When you're cycling, your light is invariably illuminating the ground in front of you. I see no point in buying a 1,000 lumen light which spends 50% of it's time illuminating the sky, when you need 100% of it on the road.

it's about time we had dipped beams to prevent dazzle... they're so bright now, everybody else is being dazzled...

Have a look at B&M, Philips et al, Lights designed as bike lights not modified torches. I would like to see some more real lights being developed for road use by the likes of hope, exposure etc.

mrmo's picture

posted by mrmo [1353 posts]
9th January 2014 - 8:43

20 Likes

allez neg wrote:
Unlike movies, (Blockbusters closure anyone?) I don't think you can download or stream a bike over your broadband line.

Just wait until 3D Printing takes off!

posted by Initialised [191 posts]
9th January 2014 - 21:26

16 Likes

mrmo wrote:
Paul_C wrote:
Peowpeowpeowlasers wrote:
When you're cycling, your light is invariably illuminating the ground in front of you. I see no point in buying a 1,000 lumen light which spends 50% of it's time illuminating the sky, when you need 100% of it on the road.

it's about time we had dipped beams to prevent dazzle... they're so bright now, everybody else is being dazzled...

Have a look at B&M, Philips et al, Lights designed as bike lights not modified torches. I would like to see some more real lights being developed for road use by the likes of hope, exposure etc.

N+1 and all that. Of course none of these lights tested are even road legal. They all have rubbish beam patterns and I'am fed up with being dazzled by them.

Just goes to show how much of a "slut" to the cycle (rip off) industry that "Road CC" is that they do not even mention whether they are actually certified road legal.

posted by Giles Pargiter [43 posts]
7th February 2014 - 0:35

12 Likes

Giles Pargiter wrote:
none of these lights tested are even road legal. They all have rubbish beam patterns and I'am fed up with being dazzled by them.

Just goes to show how much of a "slut" to the cycle (rip off) industry that "Road CC" is that they do not even mention whether they are actually certified road legal.

Road.cc has extraordinary good quality reviews of bicycle lights. They're one of the reasons I started reading road.cc. It's probable that the only reason you're aware of the beam patterns is because road.cc testers spent hours making up the great graphs and photos.

Honestly, some people just don't know how to say "thank you".

posted by Ush [432 posts]
7th February 2014 - 1:52

13 Likes

Ush wrote:
Giles Pargiter wrote:
none of these lights tested are even road legal. They all have rubbish beam patterns and I'am fed up with being dazzled by them.

Just goes to show how much of a "slut" to the cycle (rip off) industry that "Road CC" is that they do not even mention whether they are actually certified road legal.

Road.cc has extraordinary good quality reviews of bicycle lights. They're one of the reasons I started reading road.cc. It's probable that the only reason you're aware of the beam patterns is because road.cc testers spent hours making up the great graphs and photos.

Honestly, some people just don't know how to say "thank you".

Main reason why I become aware of the beam patterns is because most of the beam is into my eyes.

IMO they are not "Cycle" lights unless they are type approved for road use - which Road cc do not even indicate.

If you did use a "type approved" light you would find nearly all of them are very nearly as bright as ordinary dip beam head lights which are measured in Lux at specific distances and points. These do not shine light into others eyes, when correctly aligned, but do light your way. This is far more meaningfull than using a measure of lumens.

posted by Giles Pargiter [43 posts]
7th February 2014 - 2:12

13 Likes

What Creed are doing is showing up all the other manufactures as being over priced, yes there are some issues with Creed such as the lens and reflectors, but they are getting better all the time.

As for the comment about the idiot who says that a "A bike qualified mechanic can be just as skilled as the average car mechanic"... what world are you living in ! I am not for one second trying to put down the excellent bike mechanics of this world or suggesting that they could not be car mechanics, but lets strip down an engine or gearbox, compare that to stripping a rear hub ! you cannot compare these 2 very different jobs.

posted by mikeprytherch [219 posts]
7th February 2014 - 9:21

12 Likes

Rohloff 14 speed internal hub?

posted by allez neg [4 posts]
7th February 2014 - 9:32

10 Likes

Giles Pargiter wrote:
Ush wrote:
Giles Pargiter wrote:
none of these lights tested are even road legal. They all have rubbish beam patterns and I'am fed up with being dazzled by them.

Just goes to show how much of a "slut" to the cycle (rip off) industry that "Road CC" is that they do not even mention whether they are actually certified road legal.

Road.cc has extraordinary good quality reviews of bicycle lights. They're one of the reasons I started reading road.cc. It's probable that the only reason you're aware of the beam patterns is because road.cc testers spent hours making up the great graphs and photos.

Honestly, some people just don't know how to say "thank you".

Main reason why I become aware of the beam patterns is because most of the beam is into my eyes.

IMO they are not "Cycle" lights unless they are type approved for road use - which Road cc do not even indicate.

If you did use a "type approved" light you would find nearly all of them are very nearly as bright as ordinary dip beam head lights which are measured in Lux at specific distances and points. These do not shine light into others eyes, when correctly aligned, but do light your way. This is far more meaningfull than using a measure of lumens.

I do use a "road approved" light (b&m dynamo), and it's undoubtedly good at lighting the road. It does, though, need to be supplemented by a torch, for two reasons. First, part of my commute is offroad, for which all that light "shining into the sky" is useful for seeing tree branches, deer and so on. Second, some people coming out of driveways are not really looking, so don't always notice my nice polite legal lights. Dazzling them may upset them, but at least they notice and stop.

posted by oldstrath [198 posts]
7th February 2014 - 9:42

14 Likes