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.
The Lezyne Micro Drive Pro 800XL is a great front light for the keen cyclist who commutes and enjoys extending their route home via the lanes. It has decent run-times, recharges fairly quickly and is easy to switch from bike to bike.
The Micro Drive Pro 800XL offers be-seen modes as well as a powerful beam that's sufficient for dark night outings on unlit lanes. It will suit most commuters and many keen roadies, a realistic option that will help you avoid the super-powerful, eye-blinding, wallet-emptying elite light category.
In terms of the beam pattern, there's a decent central spot with fading edges. On the road, I had absolutely no issue seeing what was coming up, obstacles, potholes and gutter dwelling objects. The lateral cutouts really help here. I think eight modes is a bit much, but there's sure to be something to meet your needs and cope with every circumstance on the road.
The Exposure Trace Daybright is a small and lightweight option for getting you seen (rather than for illuminating the way ahead), whether that be on a well-lit urban commute or for riding during daylight hours. The tough and durable design means that although you can buy cheaper alternatives, it should last you years.
The Trace is a really neat little option that'll get you noticed both at nighttime and in broad daylight. It's also small and light enough to tuck away in a bag or pocket to get you home in the event of your main light failing.
The Moon Meteor-X Pro is a brilliant light that packs way more punch than its price tag would suggest. It's easily capable of acting as a primary light for night commuting and the day flash is perfect for an anytime blinker.
For the size of the unit, though, we're pretty impressed by the output. Visibility is good when used alone, even on unlit roads under tree cover. The beam is nicely direct, illuminating what you need to see, with very little wasted power out of the sides.
You can of course drop the lumens to 250, giving you 3 hours of run time. I didn't quite get that on one daytime training ride, the light went out after 2 hours 53 minutes, but it was a pretty cold day. This setting is perfect for street-lit rides in the evening.
Our favourite setting is the daytime flash, which puts out 700 lumens in a slow rhythm. We actually used this at night, along with a main light; the setting might be called Day Flash, but we found it really useful for getting that extra bit of attention from drivers on narrower lanes.
The Zecto Drive Front Light from Lezyne is a excellent piece of kit. It's designed to alert drivers of your presence, rather than to help you see the way on unlit roads, although it's good at that as well. It clips easily to your bike, helmet or backpack, and is neat and sturdy. It's also rechargeable, waterproof and fairly priced.
The Zecto Drive Front has six lighting modes, including constant 'economy' (20 lumens, 5 hours), constant 'blast' (40 lumens, 3 hours), and three flash modes (all at 40 lumens, ranging from 3 to 5 hours, depending on how the individual LEDs are employed).
There's also a flashing 'daytime' mode (80 lumens, 6h 45mins); although the light is brighter, it doesn't flash as often, thus extending battery run-time.
For general winter club-run or training duties where you're making the occasional early start (or a late finish) and need lights for just an hour or two – perhaps using 'daytime' mode for the bulk of your ride – the Zecto Drive Front is highly recommended.
The Vel 100 Lumen Front Light is excellent for commuting or road riding. Bright enough for daytime – at least for shorter rides – neatly made and packaged with several easy mounting options, it's a tidy, lightweight safety lamp. It can't quite match its bigger siblings for materials and design, and the charge indicator can be misleading, but otherwise it's great.
Surprisingly, its most power-hungry mode outshone (thangyouverymuch, I'm here all week) the spec sheet considerably, lasting 30-40 minutes beyond the claimed hour. What's more, even the slowest method of charging (via USB from a computer with the supplied lead) only takes an hour, making this very usable for office commuters. The wraparound lens and side cutouts mean visibility is good towards drivers in junctions, too, which is just what you need.
The Vel 100 is a small, lightweight safety light with a good build and a selection of intelligent mounting options. It's weather-resistant and very easy to use: bar the slightly confusing indicator light, it's a very easy light to recommend.
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David has worked on the road.cc tech team since July 2012. Previously he was editor of Bikemagic.com and before that staff writer at RCUK. He's a seasoned cyclist of all disciplines, from road to mountain biking, touring to cyclo-cross, he only wishes he had time to ride them all. He's mildly competitive, though he'll never admit it, and is a frequent road racer but is too lazy to do really well. He currently resides in the Cotswolds.