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BUYER'S GUIDE

Best front bike lights 2024 — light up the road, trail or path with one of the best front beams for cycling

If you're after a new front bike light, here's everything you need to know about what to put on your bars (or head) to light your way

This article contains links to retailers. Purchases made after clicking on those links may help support road.cc by earning us a commission but all of our reviews are fully independent. Find out more about road.cc buyer's guides.

When the nights draw in, you need to make sure you've got a set of lights on your bike. It's the law in the UK and in many other places to run bike lights after dark, and they're a major safety aid about town as well as letting you see where you're going in the dark lanes. While you'll probably get the most use out of your bike lights in the winter months, it's essential to have a decent working set of lights to deploy year-round whenever the situation calls for them. 


If you're in the market for some of the best bike lights there's a bewildering array to choose from, at prices ranging from a few quid to nearly a grand. So, what's the best bet for your riding? 

A few years ago you had a choice of different bulb options to consider, but LED lights have improved to such an extent – and come down in price too – that there really isn't a choice any more. LEDs tick all the boxes for a bike light. They're tiny, they cost tuppence to make, they last forever, they're rugged, they run fairly cool and they're easy on the juice. 

There's LEDs and there's LEDs though. The bulbs in a cheap flasher that look like the ones out of your old 100-in-1 science set are a long way removed from the high-spec emitters in top-dollar off-road lamps.

Outputs have shot up in the last few years as well, with the brightest lights claiming outputs of several thousand lumens, more than a car headlight. More general purpose lights range from 400 to about 1000 lumens, with basic commuter lights and emergency lights weaker than that; they're mostly to be seen by, though, not to see with. To see where you're going, look for outputs of about 500 lumens and up.

To help you choose, here's our guide to the latest front bike light options available. If you want some extra help choosing the best front bike light for your riding, you can make use of our handy beam test comparison engine which shows you the all-important differences in where the light ends up, showing that total lumens aren't the only measure of a good light.

Also, be sure to check out some of the best rear bike lights and our overall best bike lights guide for more choices... 

The best front bike lights: our top picks

Giant Recon HL 1800

Giant Recon HL 1800

9
Best overall front bike light
Buy now for £89.99 from Cycle Store
Very bright beam
Compact size
GoPro-style fitting included
Improved usability compared to HL1600

The Giant Recon HL 1800 is one of the very best compact front lights out there. It's an improvement over its predecessor, the very good HL 1600, and has even better usability and some improved features that include a 200-lumen power bump, a more compact size and some Garmin head unit integration. It's also decent value at under £100 if you shop around. 

There are five modes, and on the brightest setting our reviewer could get almost two hours out of it; you will get much more on lower beam settings, of course. 

The bracket is secure and simple to use, and you also get a GoPro mount if filming is your thing. Our review concludes: "If you're after a single unit/compact front light that can handle the darkest of conditions and impress in practically every measure that matters, it's hard to see past the Giant Recon HL1800."

Ravemen CR450 USB Rechargeable front light

Ravemen CR450 USB Rechargeable front light

9
Best front bike light under £50
Buy now for £34.99 from Certini
Small and light
Remote switch
Long burn-times on pulse settings
Short burn-time on high
Remote switch weatherproofing is questionable
Remote switch doesn't allow you to switch the light on or off

Ravemen's CR450 is small, light and runs for a long time on the lower lumen setting and flashing/pulsing settings. It has a rather useful remote switch which is very useful to switch between modes on the go, and you can even keep using it while it charges from a battery pack. 

You get six modes with the CR450 with the high beam offering 450 lumens and lasting for around 100 minutes. While it's certainly not the brightest light you can buy, for being seen this light is well worth it for the reasonable price, and is bright enough on high to see by on dark lanes. 

It weighs in at just 105g, and the wired remote switch attaches to your handlebar with a rubber o-ring. 

ETC F1500 Front Bicycle Light

ETC F1500 Front Bicycle Light

8
Best front bike light under £100
Buy now for £49.95 from Ebay
Excellent full-power performance
Easy to switch between modes
USB-C charging
Could have better waterproofing
High mount stack – not very sleek

The ETC F1500 front light kicks out 1,500 lumens on the brightest setting, which is more than you'll ever need for road riding, but does the job superbly,  as well as featuring an effective daytime running mode which lasts around 30 hours.

It's equipped with USB-C charging and is easy to operate, featuring a smart mode function which automatically adjusts the brightness. Daytime flash mode runs at around 100 lumens but will turn to 500 lumens as it gets darker. 

This light has a simple adjustor mechanism which is a screw-up thread that fits both round and aero handlebars, and no tools are required for the bracket, meaning it can be switched easily between bikes. 

Magicshine Ray 2600

Magicshine Ray 2600 Smart Remote Bike Light

9
Best power for the money front bike light
Buy now for £79.99 from Amazon UK
Good range of modes for most situations
Light sensor system very responsive and genuinely useful
Well made
USB C charger
Wired remote
Can double as a power bank
Mount doesn't feel the most robust

This light is very capable and as the name suggests, pumps out a whopping 2,600 lumens on its max setting using a dual-lens design. 

You get four steady modes – Eco, Low, Mid and High – when using either lens in isolation or together (so 12 in total), plus flashing and pulsing. Our reviewer was able to hit high speeds on descents when riding trails using this light on its full beam setting, while the mid is fine for unlit roads and the low setting is great for urban environments.

There's a memory function so you can pre-set your modes for your next ride to avoid having to scroll through, and charging is via USB-C. If you're after a light for every occasion that won't break the bank, the Ray 2,600 is a solid choice. 

Outbound Lighting Detour Bike Light

Outbound Lighting Detour Bike Light

9
Best front bike light beam shape
Buy now for £154 from Outbound Lighting
Very flat beam shape
Fast USB-C charging
Long run-times
Can be run or charged from external battery pack
Beefy construction
Clever quick-release mount
Tricky angle adjustment
Costly shipping from US

If you love to ride at night, on the road or gravel, and want a front light that reduces dazzle to other road users, the Outbound Lighting Detour is a great light. It uses a pair of LEDs with custom reflectors to cast a wide beam with a distinct cut-off at the top so it doesn't shine straight into the eyes of oncoming riders or drivers.

The Detour has clever features like the mounting system which nicks an idea from the world of photography. It's basically a scaled-down Manfrotto RC2 quick release, as used to fit and remove cameras from tripods. It also features an adaptive mode and has the ability to run off an external battery for longer life which adds to its appeal. 

It also charges quickly via USB-C cables and has six modes that cover pretty much any situation you can imagine.

Giant Recon HL 350

Giant Recon HL 350

9
Best 'be seen' front bike light
Buy now for £29.74 from Cycle Store
Inexpensive
Easy to attach and remove
Lightweight and compact
Good run and charge times
Remote switch weatherproofing is questionable
Remote switch doesn't allow you to switch the light on or off

The Giant Recon HL 350 is a brilliant front commuter light to 'be seen' while also delivering a decent level of brightness on its highest setting. The light really comes into its own in towns and suburbs but the full-power beam is sufficient to see even on dark roads if you end up going the long route on your commute home. 

It has three steady modes and two flashing ones all with good run times. Full power at 350 lumens lasts close to two hours, the lowest steady mode of 100 lumens lasts around 6 hours and flashing mode takes it up to about 12 hours. 

The Recon HL 350 is USB rechargeable, IPX7 waterproof and mounts to the bar with a straightforward strap. Side windows spill light for visibility at junctions too, all in a compact lightweight package. 

Exposure Joystick Mk16

Exposure Joystick Mk16

9
Best helmet/bar front light
Buy now for £124.99 from Tweeks Cycles
Still as good as before
50 more lumens
Repairable
No USB charging cable

If there was ever One Light To Rule Them All, it would be the Exposure Joystick and whilst there are cheaper options, our reviewer thinks that it's well worth the money. 

We've been reviewing Joysticks since at least 2012 when the Mk6 got 4.5/5 stars for its 325 lumens, £165 cost and three-hour run-time and at 98g, the Mk16 is still as light as its older siblings, even though it's packing over 40% more output for the same run-time as seven years ago. This sort of inflation I like.

Overall, the Mk16 Joystick is solid, rugged, beautifully made and performs brilliantly out on the trail or road, day or night.

Ravemen PR2400 USB Rechargeable DuaLens Front Light

Ravemen PR2400 USB Rechargeable DuaLens Front Light with Remote

9
Best front bike light under £200
Buy now for £149 from Merlin Cycles
Awesome beam shape
Good burn times
Easy to navigate modes
Excellent build quality
Having to scroll through flash mode on the road

The Ravemen PR2400 front light is one of the best front bike lights for lighting the darkest of lanes and it delivers for both on and off-roading thanks to high outputs. 

The Ravemen uses five LEDs, offering the flexibility to switch between a road-friendly lens and the powerful 2,400 lumen, five-LED option. There's a central diffuse one for road use, while off-road mode adds in the four around the outside. 

It's a single unit – as in there is no external battery pack – which is impressive, considering its small size and ability to kick out 2,400 lumens for 1.5hrs. The PR2400 doesn't leave you guessing either. You get a full OLED runtime display showing burn time and which mode you are in. Battery life is as claimed, and it's USB-C charging.

Exposure Strada Mk11 SB AKTIV

Exposure Strada Mk11 SB with AKTiv

8
Best money-no-object front bike light
Buy now for £275 from Ebay
Impressive run-times
Exceptional build quality
Digital readout gives loads of information
AKTiv mode is great for high traffic routes
It's a big investment

Exposure's Strada Mk11 SB with AKTiv is a lot of cash, but worth it for the light output, build quality and tech. Offering 1,600 lumens, you'll always have enough light on offer, and there are seven modes which is larger than almost any other range of lights on the market.

The battery life is impressive for an all-in-one unit too, lasting around two hours at full power to around 36 hours on the lowest setting.  

The AKTiv technology enables the Strada to respond to oncoming light sources and lower its output accordingly. This function works well and the AKTiv mode smoothly dims the output as cars get closer to you and then returns to full brightness quickly after they pass. 

Cycliq Fly12 Sport front bike light

Cycliq Fly12 Sport

8
Best front light with a camera
Buy now for £299 from Cycliq
Quality footage
Easy to use
Decent daytime light
Not too bulky
Run-times not outstanding, particularly in cold weather
Non-replaceable battery

The Fly12 Sport from Aussie brand Cycliq was the Fly12 HD when we last reviewed it in 2018, and now it's got even better features such as an OLED display screen, 4K playback and up to seven hours of battery life. It's also quite a lot lighter than the previous version, shedding almost 25% of its weight to come in at just 148g.

A 64gb microSD card is supplied, which should capture many hours of footage before you need to buy another, and we've found the footage from Cycliq cameras to be good enough for projects with higher production values, as well as just recording the commute for reporting near misses. 

The beam itself has a max brightness of 400 lumens with solid, pulse and flash modes, and is ideal for road cycling in all environments and brief forays onto unlit paths. 

Knog Bilby Headlamp

Knog Bilby Headlamp

9
Best headlamp-style front bike light
Buy now for £39.99 from Amazon UK
Fun design
Lightweight
Bright
Long run-times
Huge range of options
Overcomplicated
Recharging tab position

This head torch from Knog is feature-loaded, rechargeable and has plenty of features and functions.

Weighing just 88g, the Bilby is super comfortable to wear and easy to adjust. Our reviewer found he could sneak it on his forehead just below a helmet, although it's important not to compromise your helmet's position here if you're a helmet wearer. On the max 400 lumens output it should last you over five hours, although we found it could run for as long as nine hours. 

The 'world's most powerful silicone headlamp' according to Knog definitely impressed us. It's light, bright and typically Knog-ish in that it comes in various bright colours (or grey or black if you'd prefer) and is a bit different to the norm. The sheer range of lighting options can make it bewildering, but once you get to grips with it, it's impressive. 

Lezyne Strip Drive Front

Lezyne Strip Drive Front

8
Best front bike light for aero handlebars
Buy now for £27.99 from Tredz
Day flash is very noticeable
Loads of modes
Well built and waterproof
Easy to use
Decent run time
Could be a bit lighter

Lezyne's Strip Drive has loads of modes, is bright enough for any type of road riding in the day or night and has a simple mounting system via an integrated rubber mount that works across a range of tube sizes. Because it's narrow it's also aero bar friendly, so a good option if your bars aren't round. 

The latest version has a bright and really eye-catching day time flash, decent battery life and fast charging. The waterproofing is also really good, with our reviewer using the light in horrendous weather and even running it under a cold tap without encountering any issues.  

If you need a versatile 'be-seen' light for your race bike, or any bike, the Strip Drive is worthy of your consideration. 

Supernova E3 Pro 2 dynamo front light

Supernova E3 Pro 2 dynamo front light

9
Best road.cc-recommended dynamo front bike light
Buy now for £129 from Merlin Cycles
Near-perfect beam pattern
Fit and forget
Easy to fit
Remote switch doesn't allow you to switch the light on or off

This light has been around for over ten years, and it's still our top recommendation if you want a high quality, fit-and-forget light that you don't have to charge. If you're into long-distance riding like bikepacking or audax, it should definitely be high up your wishlist. 

The beam is German road-legal, directing 95% of the light downwards to avoid blinding oncoming traffic, and once you're over about 5mph the beam holds steady. Our reviewer said the beam pattern was pretty much perfect for riding on the road, with the majority of the light concentrated directly ahead of you but still enough throw for picking out turns and suicidal rodents in the verges.

If you don't want to worry about whether your light is charged or not, the Supernova is a great option. 

How to choose from the best front bike lights

faq-icon
Do bikes need front lights?

To get the easy one out the way first and to answer the first question on the 'people often ask this' bit on Google (sorry, it's considered best practice)... yes! In most countries it's the law - or at least highly recommended - to run front and rear bike lights after sunset and before sunrise. Here in the UK, it's a legal requirement for your bike to be fitted with a white front light and red rear light when cycling at night. 

faq-icon
What else does the law say about bike lights? Are flashing lights legal?

In the UK, technically all bike lights must be fitted to comply with the Road Vehicle Lighting Regulations (RVLR). For the record, here's what those regs say:

Front Lamp
One is required, showing a white light, positioned centrally or offside, up to 1500mm from the ground, aligned towards and visible from the front. If capable of emitting a steady light it must be marked as conforming to BS6102/3 or an equivalent EC standard. If capable of emitting only a flashing light, it must emit at least 4 candela.

Rear Lamp
One is required, to show a red light, positioned centrally or offside, between 350mm and 1500mm from the ground, at or near the rear, aligned towards and visible from behind. If capable of emitting a steady light it must be marked as conforming to BS3648, or BS6102/3, or an equivalent EC standard. If capable of emitting only a flashing light, it must emit at least 4 candela.

You also need a rear reflector and four pedal reflectors to fully comply with the RVLR.

In practice, not all bike lights are kitemarked. The specification for lights dates back to 1986 and is designed to apply to lights with filament bulbs. That doesn't mean that LED lights can't meet the requirements – many do – but lots of them aren't specifically tested for the ageing British Standard, especially those that are for the worldwide market. Since the RVLR were amended to allow cyclists to fit flashing LEDs, we've heard very little about cyclists being stopped for having non-compliant lights. 

While in a lot of places the general rule is that front and rear bike lights are mandatory, the regulations can differ in other territories. In Germany, for example, the front beam needs to be StVZO-compliant, which means they have a beam that is cut off to avoid dazzling other road users. These beams are often square rather than round, and the rules also state that the light must be constant and not flashing. This is because flashing or pulsing lights are distracting, according to the StVZO rules. 

If flashing front beams are road-legal where you live, like here in the UK, then you might feel like you're more noticeable with this setting compared to a steady light - ultimately it's up to you. Cyclists who use daytime bike lights often use flashing settings, but at night where you also need your beam to light the road/trail ahead of you as well as catch the attention of drivers, we'd usually recommend a constant beam setting. 

faq-icon
What is the best headlight for a bike?

As you might have guessed, there's no right answer here and it will depend on where and when you ride, but there will be wrong answers if you're currently running a light that's largely unsuitable. 

To avoid this, consider how much light you need, and where you need it to be put. Brighter is often better, but look for lights with good side visibility if you're riding a lot in town: side visibility is very important when coming out of a junction.

If you're solely riding on the road, look for a light with a beam pattern that's not going to dazzle oncoming traffic. Narrow beams and German-style cutoff beams (designed to comply with German road lighting regulations, where 95% of the available light must be directed downwards) are ones to look out for, although the German-style lights are still quite rare in the UK. If you're mixing up your road riding with paths and singletrack, a light with a wide beam that has lower-power modes for use in traffic may be the one to go for.

If you're going to be doing a lot of swapping between bikes, consider how easy that's going to be. Are the mounts quick-release? Are there lots of wires to deal with?

faq-icon
What are the different types of front bike lights?

Here's a mini-guide to the different types of front bike light out there...

Emergency lights
2022 Knog Frog V3 Light Twinpack - front.jpg

Small enough to leave in your bag for when you need them, emergency lights normally attach with a stretchy band to the bars or frame and are powered by CR2032 button cells. They don't put out a great deal of light but as an get-you-home solution if you get caught out or your main lights fail, they're a lot better than nothing.

USB-rechargeable lights have dropped in price over the last couple of years, so if you don't fancy paying for a pair of CR2032s every now and then, you can get tiny lights that'll plug into your office computer to charge, like Cateye's Orb.

Small torches
2022 Cateye AMPP 200.jpg

The next step up is a more powerful bar-mounted lamp. These are still lights to be seen by rather than for seeing, though most put out enough light that you can still make slow progress along unlit, well-surfaced trails and towpaths. There's almost always a flashing mode on offer too, though we'd advise discretion in its use. The pulse from even a low-power light can be bright enough to be aggravating to other cyclists, so best stick to steady mode on two-way bike paths and trails.

Almost all front lights in this category are now USB-rechargeable. That means the running cost is effectively zero, but it does mean that if you run out of juice you can't just nip into a service station and grab replacement AAAs.

Torches
2022 Magicshine RAY 1600 - side.jpg

There's lots and lots of choice when it comes to larger torch-style cycling front lights. Powered either by either built-in rechargeable batteries or a swappable battery pack, they put out a bit more light. If your riding takes you anywhere you need to see – rather than just be seen – you'll need at least one of these.

Often manufacturers will bundle a torch-style front light with a rear flasher, seeing to both ends of your bike and scoring you a bit of a discount in the process. Rechargeable units sometimes come with a mains adaptor but USB chargers are the majority, allowing you to juice up your light at your desk or just use another of your collection of wall-warts.

The brightest torch-style lights now kick out over 1,000 lumens, which is more than you'll ever need for road riding, but on lower settings the best ones will run all night.

Battery pack systems
2021 Magicshine MJ 906S front light 2.jpg

The most powerful cycling front lights tend to be characterised by a separate battery pack attached to a smaller head unit that's a lot more powerful than a standard torch. They start at around £20 for a CREE-powered eBay light, but you can pay the best part of a grand for the really high end stuff. The big advantage of these systems is that you can swap the battery pack if you're doing a very long ride, and some manufacturers offer a range of battery packs. If you want to go out regularly and train after dark on the lanes, or venture off-road, then a battery pack system may be your best bet.

Dynamo lights
Supernova E3 Pro 2 dynamo front light

If you want your lights to be a permanent fixture and never worry about batteries, then a dynamo is your best option. Hub dynamos are the pick for low maintenance and decent output; most will supply 2.4-3W which is plenty for a bright light front and rear. Pick a system that stores some of the energy from the dynamo so you don't go dark when you're stopped at the traffic lights. Many riders leave their dynamo lights on for daylight running too, as they draw very little energy from the bike.

Head torches
2021 Magicshine MOH 35 Giro  3.jpg

Fitting a light to your helmet means you can point the beam where you want it, making the light a lot more useful. Some of the smaller rechargeable systems come with a helmet mount, or you could go for a more general use headband-type light and ziptie it on. Bear in mind that you should also have a fixed light on your bike if you want to comply with the law in the UK. 

faq-icon
How many lumens do I need for a front bike light?

Front bike lights come in two categories: those designed to help you be seen, and those intended for illuminating your path.

If you're using your front light at night to see where you're going, look for outputs of about 500 lumens and up. We've found that for riding on unlit off-road paths, somewhere around 800 lumens depending on the shape of the beam is ideal - but of course, if you encounter other cyclists or pedestrians coming towards you, then make sure you're able to dip your beam or change to a much lower setting to avoid dazzling them. 

The same goes for riding on the road at night. A ridiculously bright front beam doesn't necessarily mean safer, because it could dazzle other road users. If in doubt, get friends or family to take a look at your light from a distance. We all have different tolerlances to bright lights and visual acuity, but it doesn't hurt to get some consensus. 

For mountain bike/trail riding, you'll probably want an even brighter beam with thousands of lumens, because there's a lot more potental hazards that you need to pick out on technical trails compared to cycle paths, shared use paths or unlit roads. 

faq-icon
What's the difference between lumens and lux?

In short, lumens is the total amount of light emitted from the source in all directions, while lux measures the total amount of light that falls on a surface, taking area into account. To give a brief example, if you shine a beam that has a total of 1,000 lumens at the wall, at its max brightness but on a setting where the beam spreads 80 degrees wide, there will be far less lux on the wall than if you had the same brightness but with a beam that spreads 40 degrees wide. It's because of this that we use lux in our Beam Comparison Engine, measuring the lux value of the beam at two metres distance, in 10cm increments from the centre of the beam to 1m from the centre, which gives a total of eleven readings.

To clarify: most brands will advertise how bright their lights are using lumens and this is a decent indicator of how bright they can be, but it doesn't tell the full story.

faq-icon
What is the best mounting system for front bike lights? What if I have aero handlebars?

This will depend on your bike and personal preference of course, but there are a few things to consider. Firstly, will your bike light live permanently on one bike? If so, then you can use a light with a secure bracket and remove the light when you need to charge it. Most road handlebars are 31.8mm in diameter, but there are still smaller and larger clamp sizes out there. Some light brackets cater for multiple diameters with inserts, but it's worth checking in the product description that the bracket is compatible with the size of your handlebars.

It's also worth thinking about what else you plan to put on your bars. If you plan on running a light, computer and a camera, things could become cluttered or not fit at all, so you could consider an all-in-one solution to mount them together. There are a number of aftermarket solutions for mounting lights, cameras and computers - or a combination of the three - to accommodate products from numerous different brands. You can check out our reviews of computer mounts for some examples. 

2020 Lezyne Strip Drive 400.jpg
With a flexible rubber mounting system, Lezyne's Strip Drive lights can fit around most non-standard handlebars

If your handlebars aren't a standard shape or you want to move your light between bikes regularly then your options are more limited, but there are options out there. In both scenarios you'll probably want to steer clear of lights that slot into separate mounts that are fixed onto your bars. Brands such as Knog and Lezyne offer lights with very flexible rubber mounts (front and rear), with Lezyne's Strip Drive able to mount onto most aero-shaped/non-standard handlebars. If you run Exposure lights, the brand offers a silicone band to attach its lights to most aero-shaped handlebars. 

Emily is our track and road racing specialist, having represented Great Britain at the World and European Track Championships. With a National Title up her sleeve, Emily has just completed her Master’s in Sports Psychology at Loughborough University where she raced for Elite Development Team, Loughborough Lightning.

Emily is our go-to for all things training and when not riding or racing bikes, you can find her online shopping or booking flights…the rest of the office is now considering painting their nails to see if that’s the secret to going fast…

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3 comments

Avatar
Oldfatgit | 7 months ago
1 like

Can we have a definition of 'replaceable battery' please?

Traditionally, and the way I understand it to be ...

If the case has to be opened, and the battery removed by physically having to unsolder the battery, then I'd suggest that that would be non-replaceable.

A replaceable battery would be located under a flap that can be accessed by the user (it may have a locking screw), and the battery be disconnected by easy removal without tools such as soldering irons.

I'd hazard a guess that the vast majority of the lamps listed above fall in to the 'non-replacable' category, and yet only the Fly12 gets this mentioned.

Why is that?

Avatar
hawkinspeter replied to Oldfatgit | 7 months ago
2 likes

If you have to unsolder a battery, then that's typically not user replaceable - lithium cells tend to get a bit angry when exposed to heat.

Avatar
OnYerBike replied to Oldfatgit | 6 months ago
0 likes

The proximate answer would appear to be that the pros/cons are pulled from the original reviews for each item, where it is mentioned for the Fly12. 

Why that particular reviewer noted it for that particular item is less clear. Perhaps the particular reviewer is simply particularly conscious of that sort of things, for environmental and/or economic reasons. Perhaps because it was being reviewed primarily as a camera, and most action cameras (e.g. GoPros) do have easily replaceable batteries.