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Bicycle Light - How to Be Safe on the Road

When it comes to bicycle accessories and equipment, lighting is one of the most important aspects to consider. On public roads, this is primarily to ensure that other road users see you in good time. Particularly when riding at night in areas without street lights, you’ll need bicycle lights that can be seen from a distance. But even when you ride your bike in well-lit city centres, bike lights are still important to make you clearly stand out from the background. This way, you’ll prevent car drivers or pedestrians from overlooking you if rain or dazzling street lights lead to poor visibility. Read more

And of course, bicycle lights are intended to help you see better when riding in the dark. When your bike light clearly illuminates the way in front of you, you’ll notice obstacles like potholes, puddles and rough surfaces early enough to react to them in time.

As you’ll see, once the visibility conditions deteriorate, a bicycle light will help you ride safe wherever you are and protect you better from accidents. For this reason, bike lights are usually required by road traffic law in many countries.

Legal regulations on bicycle lights

Regulations on bike lighting are typically included in road traffic law. As a rule, a bicycle is only considered road-safe in twilight, darkness or poor visibility conditions when it is equipped with suitable lights and reflectors. This includes:

  • Front lights: white lights with reflectors and continuous flux (individual or combined)
  • Rear lights: red tail lamps with reflectors and continuous flux (individual or combined)
  • Pedals: yellow reflectors, facing both forwards and backwards
  • Spokes and tyres: reflective strips on the tyres or at least two spoke reflectors on the front and rear wheel

If you ride your bike on the road without (adequate) lighting, you may receive a warning or fine in the event of a traffic check. Here, it’s important to note that the lighting needs to be ready to use at any time of day. So, even if you use a flexible mounting or toolless quick-assembly system, you will always have to bring your bike lights with you and install them when it starts to get dark or weather conditions change.

Which lighting is best for your bike?

In the list above, you can see that road-safe bike lighting comprises active and passive light sources. Active elements like front and rear lights are powered by batteries or a dynamo and emit light independently, while passive elements like the front, rear and spoke reflectors merely reflect any light that hits them (indeed, that’s why they are called “reflectors”). In the BIKE24 online shop you'll find them and other products that help to improve your saftey futher.

Many city bikes are already equipped with prescribed lighting elements as standard, allowing them to be used on the road straight away. This is not the case for road bikes and mountain bikes. Here, you will usually have to buy the bike lights yourself. However, this has the advantage that you can choose the lamps that best suit your riding habits. On the other hand, it can be difficult to make the right decision from the vast range of models available. But don't worry! BIKE24 offers you an overview of the main criteria in the sections below. Most importantly, the light you choose should be approved by the road traffic authority.

Power supply: battery or dynamo?

For a long time, there was no alternative to dynamos. Despite modern batteries, this type of power supply continues to offer a range of advantages for bike lights:

  • The dynamo (and usually the connected lights, too) is firmly installed on the bike. This means you can rule out any chances that you might accidentally leave your bike lights at home in crucial moments. For short interruptions to your journey, you also don’t always have to remove the lamps since they can’t be stolen that easily.
  • You don’t need to worry about charging the bicycle lights, because the dynamo obtains the power from the energy generated when moving the bike. You can therefore count on your bike always having light whenever you need it.

By the way, modern hub dynamos have little in common with the previous sidewall dynamos that were attached to the side of the front or rear wheel – apart from the general principle of how they produce power. These older dynamos made pedalling considerably harder when used, due to the friction with the tyre. Nowadays, the dynamo is integrated into the front wheel hub and therefore it generates less resistance, while also protecting it from dirt and splashes. With the right adaptor, you can even use hub dynamos to recharge your smartphone. This is especially useful if you use your smartphone for navigating during long tours.

If you ride your bike more for sports or perhaps even on rough terrain, you’ll probably prefer bike lights powered by batteries. That’s because even modern dynamos have an effect on the bike’s weight; although this may not be noticeable on normal roads, the extra weight will certainly make itself felt in handling while of off-road riding. Moreover, battery-powered lamps have the following advantages:

  • Most small lights can be conveniently stowed away in a bag when not in use, allowing you to keep them with you at all times. It’s usually possible to attach and detach the lights without any tools. For some models, a special light bracket is firmly installed on the bike which enables the light to be attached and removed in no time.

  • If you want the look of your bike to remain as uncluttered as possible, you can use bike lamps that are attached, using flexible clamps on the handlebar or seatpost. This way, it won’t be necessary to install a permanent mounting bracket on the bike.

  • If you opt for a USB bike light, you’ll also be able to recharge it on the go using a power bank or your smartphone’s charging device, if necessary.

  • You are not bound to a certain lamp model; you can swap the bike lights to any variants you prefer. Particularly for front bicycle lights, you could have a range of different requirements for example, depending on whether you’re riding in a built-up area or on an unlit trail.

Which bike lighting is best for you therefore comes down to where and how often you use your bike. A hub dynamo is a good choice for short trips in the city or the daily commute, while battery-powered lights provide more flexibility for bike sports.

What luminosity should your bike lights have?

The second key aspect when choosing bike lighting is the light output and type of light. Depending on where you are, the law may stipulate a luminosity of at least 10 lux. This is relatively low and will barely help you see the road ahead of you better; it simply makes you more visible to other road users. For this reason, the more often you ride on poorly lit routes, the brighter your bike light should be.

After conventional light bulbs were used for a long time, LED bike lights have meanwhile caught on. A light with LEDs is not only more durable, it’s also much brighter compared to bulb lamps, produces a larger beam of light and is even more compact, too. Moreover, the energy consumption of LEDs is very low, which greatly extends the useful life of a bike light with a USB port or battery.

Regardless of the lux or lumen values, the correct light settings will prevent you from dazzling other road users. The models approved for road use are therefore equipped with anti-glare protection that creates a cut-off to the light beam. Lamps with a luminosity greater than 150 lux are in any case better suited to off-road applications. They are much more useful there, since they perfectly illuminate rough terrain and enable the rider to see obstacles early enough.

The last aspect is the size of the light field produced by the bike light. Here, you’ll simply have to compare models. A wide light field with a cut-off is road-safe and allowed for use on roads and cycle lanes.

Find the right bike lighting at BIKE24

n the BIKE24 online shop, you’ll find a wide range of bike lights for any application – from individual lamps and reflectors to light sets that include bike lights for the front and rear.