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Are bike lights too bright nowadays? Different beams and power settings tested

Are some bike lights just too dazzling for oncoming traffic to deal with? We've lined up a selection of bike lights and a dark lane to find out what's too bright and what's okay

Some riders use bike lights throughout the year, but as we move into winter, you’re going to need them if you’re intent on continuing to ride outside after work. How bright do you need to go? It can be tempting to go for the biggest lumen count that you can afford, but doing so might result in you dazzling road users that are coming the other way, endangering everyone.

> 2021/22 road.cc Front Light Beam Comparison Engine

Dave and Liam set out to do some very unscientific science to give a representation of different front lights from a cyclist’s point of view and a driver’s too, finding out that the brightness of the light isn’t necessarily the defining factor in how well a front light helps you to see the road ahead, or how blinding it can be for other road users. There are lots of other factors to consider: how well it’s made, what the mount is like, how long the battery lasts etc. 

> Looking for a front light? We've got a great buyer's guide right here

Another thing we looked at was beam shape, and how that affects things. So as well as a range of brightness, we used lights that use different sorts of lenses. Anyway, let’s have a look at the lights we used in the video.

2021 Cateye AMPP 200 Front Light.jpg

First up, the Cateye AMPP 200. This is one of two lights that are at the bottom end of the power range for this video, putting out 200 lumens. It’s a pretty standard torch-style light, and it’s nice and light at just 62g. It’s easy to fit too, with a simple silicone band. The light uses Cateye’s OptiCube lens which is a pretty standard round beam.

2021 Sigma Aura 80 Headlight.jpg

Moving on, we have the Sigma Aura 80. The 80 stands for 80 lux, which is another way of measuring output. This is what you’ll often hear called a ‘German beam’ light because it complies with the German regulations for bike lights. What that means is it’s a cutoff beam where 95% of the light has to land on the road and not in another road user’s eyes. Lux and Lumens aren’t directly comparable, but these two lights have a similar output.

> Review: Sigma Aura 80

2021 Moon Rigel Pro Rechargeable Front Light.jpg

Turning it up a notch, the Moon Rigel Lite with 500 lumens of power is a mid-range light, and there’s a refractive bit on the top of the lens here that’s designed to point a bit more of the light down towards the road.

Again, it’s usefully small and light, and Moon uses a Garmin-style quarter-turn mount which makes it easy to mount. You can even use your out-front mount if you want.

2021 Ravemen CR450 USB Rechargeable front light.jpg

The Ravemen CR450 has a similar output at 450 lumens. The main difference between this and the Moon is that the Ravemen uses a much more complicated refractive lens to make the beam shape wider and flatter. The idea is that it isn’t as dazzling to oncoming traffic and more light goes on the road. It’s not as stark as the cut-off on the Sigma though.

2021 Sigma Buster 700 Headlight - front.jpg

Up a lighting notch to the Sigma Buster 700, with - you’ve guessed it - 700 lumens of power. That’s fairly bright for a single-LED torch-style light such as this, and this kind of power is where you’d start if some of your riding was on gravel or trails.

> Review: Sigma Buster 700

2020 Lezyne Super Drive 1600XXL 1.jpg

Lezyne’s 1600XXL has not one but three LEDs up front and is about twice as powerful as the Sigma Buster. This is a light that’s designed to be fully capable of keeping you upright off-road, at speed. It also has a useful race mode where it’s just full power and low power on the button, a bit like a full and dipped beam on a car.

> Review: Lezyne 1600XL

2021 Ravemen PR2400 USB Rechargeable DuaLens Front Light with Remote 2.jpg

And lastly, Ravemen’s PR2400. Almost half as powerful again, and if the numbers are to believed, twelve times more powerful than the little Cateye. We were expecting this one to be pretty antisocial on full beam if we’re honest, although like the smaller Ravemen light it has a dipped beam too.

> Review: Ravemen PR2400

Which one did Liam and Dave pick as their favourite? Watch the video to find out. And do you think some bicycle lights are too bright? Give us your dazzling stories in the comments below. 

Son of a Marathon runner, Nephew of a National 24hr Champion, the racing genetics have completely passed him by. After joining the road.cc staff in 2016 as a reviewer, Liam quickly started writing feature articles and news pieces. After a little time living in Canada, where he spent most of his time eating poutine, Liam returned with the launch of DealClincher, taking over the Editor role at the start of 2018. At the weekend, Liam can be found racing on the road both in the UK and abroad, though he prefers the muddy fields of cyclocross. To date, his biggest race win is to the front of the cafe queue.

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