Recommended Lights Thread

Kieran_Burns Posts: 9,757
edited August 2009 in Commuting chat
I hate to say this; but Autumn is only 6 weeks away :? and the longer evenings have started.

Given this, I figure we should start a current thread with recommended lights on it, their ideal use (to be seen / to see / primary / secondary) and their pros and cons.

If you are able to include some technical specs and price as well, it would be appreciated.

I personally am looking at a new front light that is brighter than my Cateye Single Shot Plus with a separate battery holder to reduce weight on extender bar.

My lights are:
Front: Cateye singleshot plus - ideal to be seen and good for seeing
Rear: Cateye LD1100 mounted on rack by screws - EXCELLENT for being seen
Secondary rear: cateye LD610 - very good at being seen.

The two rear lights work very well in combination; the ld1100 is on steady and gives excellent rear and SIDE visibility, the LD610 is on strobe / flash for extra attention grabbing.

The big con of the Singleshot is the mount, mine hasn't broken but I've heard too many stories where it has.

Now shamelessly stolen from the weirdos over in the MTB forum:

With the nights drawing in again, the forum can expect to see an increase in 'what light' threads. Below is some basic info on what is available with a more in depth look at the popular torches.


Lights have come a long way in recent years, and the technology advances of LEDs have made them the primary choice for a light system as they offer portability, long run times (efficient) and are reasonably cost effective.

You will often hear lumens and candle power [candela] mentioned: The lumen is the SI unit of luminous flux, a measure of the perceived power of light; the candela is defined as the luminous flux divided by the beam angle. So as can be seen, the narrower the beam angle, the higher the candela rating would be (and would be a brighter beam), but the actual amount of light given off is the same if the lumen rating is the same. Think of a laser bean ie very low lumens but that narrow beam concentrates the light and gives a high candela rating.

Typically 250 lumens and a fairly broad beam spread is adequate for modest night riding, but you may want to think about more powerful lamps for faster riding (600 lumens plus), or combining a flood type lamp on the bars with a narrower beam on the helmet. However be aware that beam pattern can vary too ie centre hot spots or a gradual taper to the edges.

When considering a system take into account run times, how they mount, batteries, weight, power and beam spread.

LED torches and systems

Small compact LED torches have become a very popular choice of bike light. Why? Well they are portable, batteries are cheap and easily available, and the torch is quite robust. Popular bike torches are:

MTE SSC [p7]:

And for your helmet light something like this c1 [r2].

The torch uses what's called a p60 host/drop in module so you can replace leds by dropping in a new one as and when you desire.

As for mounting there are various options, you can use two jubilee clips and a bit of inner tube of you have these, I use the first choice as I find it's tougher and easier to mount. ... mount.html

There are plenty of more expensive light options a good place to start is here:

Also check out BikeRadar for many light reviews and reader recommendations.

Personally I like lumicycle led system 3 and nightlighting quad iblaast as both have a good spread of light and runtimes. Plus look at Exposure for well designed, all in one systems that do not use a separate powerpacks and fan favourites such as Hope and Ay Up.

Halogen systems

Many people still use halogen as an alternative as they prefer the colour temperature (warmth). Led is slowly getting there but many still prefer the halogen units. They are not as efficient as LEDs as a lot of the power is wasted to heat, and the more powerful units often require large external powerpacks.

Lumicycle amongst others still make good lights, and with a good sized pack you can see upwards of 3 hours of runtime plus they have an optional tail light.

Here is a typical beamshot; it is brighter in use than the picture suggests. ... cba89d.jpg

Most units are MR11 in size and use the same size 12v halogen unit, typically 13 degree for flood and 6 degree for spot.

HID/halide/arc lights

Many of you will have heard about these lights but aren't sure how they work; similar in a way to a halogen lamp except there is no filament. They comprise of two metal points inside a ballast [bulb] with a gas mixture (typically argon and mercury), and an electrical charge is passed between these points to create the light the light. The output is similar in temperature to an led, very white and powerful, but at a price; they take several seconds to start and draw a lot of power when switching on so in such situations where you need them off or you need to save power they aren't an ideal system. However they are still easily available but ballasts are expensive to buy.

With a 10w hid light a 4.4ah 14.8v battery will last for around 5 hours but will be reduced if switched on/off so is usually left on and they are efficient when running.

Here is a beamshot.

Technical notes and modifications

Many torches and DIY solutions can be upgraded or modded. The runtimes vary with each torch ie for a typical single emitter led such as a q5 or r2 xr-e you would be looking at around 3 hours off a single 18650 lithium battery, on the p7 and mc-e torches they are a 4 die emitter (4 led's in one unit) and typically run for 1 hour again on a 18650 battery.

A p7 led runs around 3.6-3.7v and draws around 2.8a at 10w so you will find most are directly driven from the battery with no kind of driver board[regulator]. The q5/r2 however is different, the led again is 3.6-3.7v but because of it's small size most are a p60 drop in unit such as this.

As you can see it can handle greater voltages, that is because a driver board it built inside to regulate the voltage, on some torches you can run two cr123a batteries which doubles the voltage but halves the run times, you get more light for it so it's a popular thing to do.

You MUST make sure that if you do this your torch or host unit is capable of doing so otherwise you risk damaging it.

With these torches most aren't put off by run times as batteries are cheap and you take as many as you need with you.

Both above lights compliment each other very well as you get flood from the p7 and throw from the c1 on the helmet or the bars. Always use protected 1860 li-ion cells in these torches and a good charger for safeties sake: this is what I use:

There are several choices of led the most common being made by cree and seoul semiconductor[ssc]

Cree xr-e [r2] 250 lumen
Cree mc-e [k-wc] 600/700 lumen ... 0stem2.jpg
Ssc p7 [c/d] 600/700 lumen

Those leds are what you see in the majority of lights both bike or torches. The BIN number you see (r2 for instance) are alphabetical and refers to the quality of the led, so the higher the bin number the brighter but more power your led will consume.

I hope this help explain the differences in types of lighting, and the popularity of the torch route.
Chunky Cyclists need your love too! :-)
2009 Specialized Tricross Sport
2011 Trek Madone 4.5
2012 Felt F65X
Proud CX Pervert and quiet roadie. 12 mile commuter


  • If this could be made a sticky (lovely lovely mods) it MIGHT remove the countless 'which lights' threads that plague the forum around winter.

    On the Bowery I use a cr@peye HL-EL520 on the front, and a Smart Superflash on the rear.

    The Maxima has a knog frog on the front and a knog skink on the rear, which are brilliant for city riding.

    For country night-riding oomph I use a Head Fire Power Chip which is insanely bright.
  • stuaff
    stuaff Posts: 1,736
    For FNRttCs (which involve long stretches out in the sticks, proper darkness), I've got a Hope Vision 1 which for £70 or so is frankly brilliant. Four AAs, last all night if you use the right batteries and watch your power settings, and enough light for pretty much any road condition. Unfortunate tendency to switch off immediately when the power starts to fade. Cateye EL320 for urban use.
    Dahon Speed Pro TT; Trek Portland
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  • il_principe
    il_principe Posts: 9,155
    For city riding nothing beats the Knog range. No stupid clippy mounting system either. Great bits of kit.
  • cjcp
    cjcp Posts: 13,345
    I have a Cateye Opti Cube HL-EL130/135 for the front, and a Cateye TL-LD600 for the rear.

    DO NOT BUY EITHER OF THEM. They are worse than useless.

    1. They are prone to malfunction after/during heavy or persistent rain i.e. standard British commuting weather.

    2. I found that they malfunctioned after a period of use with Duracell batteries (they were not supplied with those batteries). I was informed by Zyro that the Duracell batteries are "a few millimetres" longer and adversely affect the contacts.

    I'm going to need new lights for when summer draws to a close, so will watch this thread with interest.
    FCN 2-4.

    "What happens when the hammer goes down, kids?"
    "It stays down, Daddy."
  • mudcovered
    mudcovered Posts: 725
    On the front I use an Exposure Race Maxx One and a Cateye Single Shot as a backup. Overkill maybe but it allows me to blast along a canal towpath in the middle of the countryside at the same speed I would during daylight hours. Its also good for blinding the muppets that think no lights at all is an acceptable solution. :twisted:
    On tarmac I tend to use the Exposure light on its low setting. Offroad its full power unless I see another rider approaching (thats one that has lights ;) ).

    On the rear I use a Blackburn Mars 3 or 4 (depending on bike) as the brackets don't catch my legs like the cateye ones do when mounted on the seatpost. Only have a problem with them when the batteries are going as the output tends to fade. I know its time to change them when all the cars a passing to close rather than the occasional one.

  • I also have cat-eye front and back. It is the opti-cube on the front and whatever the standard one that comes with it in the set on the back. I bought them, when I got the bike.

    The front light is in my opinion a good light, very bright. It is also useful as an extra torch, which was used extensively in Africa when there was no electricity. The only problem with it is its hard to get the case on and off - which I suspect makes it pretty waterproof (I have the latest model, it has been updated recently as when I got mine they had the old ones on sale).

    The back one is pants. After the biblical downpour last week it stopped working for a few days. Then I realised it was full of water, so I tried to take the red casing off (as the water was in with the LEDs). This was impossible, but with some vigorous shaking I was able to get it out. It now works in fits and starts, I think it will be fine when it fully dries out (if that is before the next deluge).

    I recently replaced the batteries with Duracell, and haven't noticed any issues yet, but will keep a close eye on it.
  • irideredthebike
    irideredthebike Posts: 21
    edited August 2009
    On both bikes I have:

    a Basta one watt, a Basta super flash and a Cateye rear light to be seen.

    an Ay-up light to see. Excellent light. 80 per cent of commuters in Canberra seem to have one of these.

    Looks very similar to the lumicycle lights.
  • Kieran_Burns
    Kieran_Burns Posts: 9,757

    Did you just make my thread redundant on the first post :shock: :wink:

    LiT - I figured it was about the right time to start this thread before the inevitable flood began. :P

    Another point worth adding is the run time (thanks for those mentioning it) I find I have to recharge my singleshot every night to be safe in Winter but the LD1100 is still on the original batteries that carried me through the whole of Winter!
    Chunky Cyclists need your love too! :-)
    2009 Specialized Tricross Sport
    2011 Trek Madone 4.5
    2012 Felt F65X
    Proud CX Pervert and quiet roadie. 12 mile commuter
  • spen666
    spen666 Posts: 17,709
    I use Ay-up lights on the front and a couple of Smart 1/2 Watt lights on rear- supplemented by at least 1 Cat eye LD600 - can never have too manyy lights
    Want to know the Spen666 behind the posts?
    Then read MY BLOG @

    Twittering @spen_666
  • Aidy
    Aidy Posts: 2,015
    I've gone through a fair few variations of lights...

    Front lights:

    Exposure Enduro for the front - awesome, but I wouldn't buy one just for commuting.

    Cateye EL-500 - bright enough for road riding, batteries last forever, decently sealed. Mine one broke recently though (after about 5 years). I'm wondering if it's cjcp's issue.

    Tesco 2AA Cree/lockblock combination - doesn't seem to be cut out for prolonged use, I think there's some overheating issue going on somewhere, but it routinely dies after about 30 minutes.

    Fenix 2AA Luxeon Rebel/lockblock - this works a lot better.

    There's a load more too, but they're the ones which are likely to have most relevance.

    Rear lights:

    Favorite one has been the Cateye one with the reflector built in, I'm not sure what I've done with it though (and I've forgotten the model number).

    Electron backupz style - these are awesome emergency lights, keep one on my keyring at all times (although a knightlight copy, at the moment - lost the backupz one). Great for not being caught out with dead batteries, or for rides which go on longer than expected.

    Smart rear led light - I really like these, mainly because I can clip them onto bags and things, which is simpler than moving brackets around if I'm on different bikes.
  • Kieran_Burns
    Kieran_Burns Posts: 9,757
    spen666 wrote:
    I use Ay-up lights on the front and a couple of Smart 1/2 Watt lights on rear- supplemented by at least 1 Cat eye LD600 - can never have too manyy lights

    I'm a little confused about the ayups in that they appear to be one for the bars and one for the head only. Is this right?
    Chunky Cyclists need your love too! :-)
    2009 Specialized Tricross Sport
    2011 Trek Madone 4.5
    2012 Felt F65X
    Proud CX Pervert and quiet roadie. 12 mile commuter
  • camerone
    camerone Posts: 1,232
    I go for the overkill on the rear option, 2x Blakburn Mars3 which are waterproof and stupid bright, with an old Smart LED clipped to the ankle of overshoe which really catches the eye.
    on the front I go with NiteRider attached to helmet, 120 lumens and the advantage is when you eyeball drivers they notice you! for back up i use a tesco 3 cree torch with rechargables on the bars, this torch was 8 quid and is really powerful, might just use that this winter as it avoids the faff of a battery in the backpack the helmet light requires. I cannot stree how good value the tesco torches are,
  • camerone
    camerone Posts: 1,232
    by the way, anyone used this?
  • rhext
    rhext Posts: 1,639
    Selection of Smart Superflashes on the rear.

    Did last winter with a CatEye Doubleshot on the front (the one with the heavy NiMH batteries, unfortunately). Bright enough to see by on unlit country lanes, but a bit of a side-visibility issue. I've just got a Hope Vision-2 to stick on my helmet to solve that and for the occasional off-road sortie, and am looking forward to lighting up Derbyshire with that come autumn.
  • R_T_A
    R_T_A Posts: 488
    I went completely to town last winter on lights. There is absolutely no ambient light whatsoever on most of my country trip, so I've got the Niteflux Visionstick Commuter (£60ish)

    It's fantastic, has a Li-ion rechargeable battery which can be attached to the frame with a cable (not standard kit - it can also be converted to a head torch with this).

    However, it is complete overkill for city riding:
    - 4 watt, 270 lumen (2 hour run time)
    - 1 watt, 70 lumen (8 hour run time)

    I've got a Blackburn Mars 3 LED on my rucksack

    I'm going to be upgrading to the Knog Toad (front 5 LED) and Gekko (rear) for the "look at me" flashing part.

    Oh, and I also put a Tesco Cree LED torch (£10) on the helmet for figuring out what all the rustling in the bushes was :oops:
    Giant Escape R1
    FCN 8
    "Build a man a fire, and he'll be warm for a day. Set a man on fire, and he'll be warm for the rest of his life."
    - Terry Pratchett.
  • Kieran_Burns
    Kieran_Burns Posts: 9,757
    I found a good link for a light comparison: ... /index.htm
    Chunky Cyclists need your love too! :-)
    2009 Specialized Tricross Sport
    2011 Trek Madone 4.5
    2012 Felt F65X
    Proud CX Pervert and quiet roadie. 12 mile commuter
  • GraemeT
    GraemeT Posts: 155
    I'm a little confused about the ayups in that they appear to be one for the bars and one for the head only. Is this right?

    Depends which kit you buy. Each unit consists of two lamps which are inseperable. In the roadie kit you just get one (double) lamp and a battery. In the MTB kit you get two (double) lamps and 3 batteries. That's the one I got. I'm very happy with it. I've got one mounted on the bars and one on the helmet, but to be honest either one would be enough on its own. It's nice to have one pointing ahead and one pointing where you're looking though. You can always buy spare mounts and mount both on the bars though.
    Just Keep Pedalling
  • camerone
    camerone Posts: 1,232
    for off roading i use these - double headlamp. 1650 lumens i deem too much for the road.....
  • Headhuunter
    Headhuunter Posts: 6,494
    I find Cat Eye lights generally pretty crap too. I have front and rear Cat Eyes at the moment but they are quite irritating. I use rechargeables in both and the casing of the front light doesn't seem large enough to hold them perfectly. Also whenever I try to open the battery compartment, the LED bit opens instead and it takes me ages to get the batt compartment open. Also the brackets they fix to the bike with are pretty rubbish IME. After a winter or 2 of taking the lights on and off the bracket, it starts to get worn down and loose and I have lost a couple of expensive lights when they have bounced out of the bracket, onto the road and been run over by cars behind me. I have taken to moulding a lump of Blu Tack round the bracket to stop the light coming out. They are pretty bright admittedly but that's their only saving grace.

    I tried using the Tesco CREE torches that people raved about on this site 6 months or so ago. They seemed perfect - strong aluminium body, take 2xAA rechargeables. I bought expensive bracket things to fit them to the bike and initially they were great, very, very bright. However very quickly they seemed to develop bad contacts inside, possibly due to the jarring of the roads which resulted in them flickering constantly and then flicking off completely and would only come back on if bashed hard. I found myself constantly having to worry about whether or not they were still illuminated. So I gave up with them completely.

    I must admit the bike light market is very poorly provided for IME, unless you want to spend £2-300 on a super bright halogen set up, then there's still the question of the rear light.
    Do not write below this line. Office use only.
  • Kieran_Burns
    Kieran_Burns Posts: 9,757
    I have to agree about the Cateye LD1100 clip. It's crap.

    However, I bought it specifically because the rack I have has a mounting point for the LD1100 and you can screw the thing onto the rack. It works perfectly, but then buying a rack just to mount a rear light is slightly overkill!
    Chunky Cyclists need your love too! :-)
    2009 Specialized Tricross Sport
    2011 Trek Madone 4.5
    2012 Felt F65X
    Proud CX Pervert and quiet roadie. 12 mile commuter
  • rhext
    rhext Posts: 1,639
    Oh, I forgot, the OP asked for recommendations, so here goes:

    1) Smart Superflash.

    Excellent. Extremely bright and pretty reliable in general, although they don't like being filled with water. If you're going to mount one on the seatpost and you don't have mudguards, then beware of it cutting out in the rain. Since I put mudguards on, I've not had any further problem, so they're OK for just general tipping down with rain type weather.

    2) Cateye doubleshot.

    I can't really recommend this. Although it's bright and reliable, the beam spread is not great, and it's expensive. I think there are better lights out there. Customer service is terrible. The battery bag is not particularly robust, and on first contact I was told I needed to pay £100 for a new battery pack when all I needed was a new case. After querying this, I was then informed £20 for a new case (still outrageous for a bit of neoprene IMO - I could almost get a whole wetsuit for that!). So Duck tape is now keeping the batteries waterproof. And £100 for a set of replacement NiMH batteries is terrible value. I suppose they want you to buy a new light but, guess what, it won't be a Cateye one!!!

    3) Hope Vision 2.

    Only had one outing with this, and had to lend it to a mate who'd forgotton to charge his (!) Looks fantastic, was competitively priced on Wiggle, and converts to head torch if you're interested in that sort of thing. Hope have good rep for spares etc, and the light is much better spread and brighter than the Cateye, which cost a bit more. The battery is small, lightweight and hard plastic shell. Different brightness settings (including a flash setting) allow you to stretch battery life considerably, and it's easy to switch on the fly. Have high hopes, but I already know that if I lost it I'd buy another! Only slightly peculiar aspect of it is that you can't actually switch it off once you've switched it on. You have to unplug it from the battery pack.
  • bobbygloss
    bobbygloss Posts: 317
    I've had mostly good experiences with Cateye.
    This is for dark country lanes with commuter traffic:
    I use a Single Shot Plus on the front, lasts for 6 x 45min rides between charges, mostly on high beam. Backups are a Petzl Tikka XP headtorch for spotting the verge on corners, and a Halfords Hyperbright 5 LED flasher.
    I've also used a Cateye EL530 which has been fine for years, but gives a very narrow beam of light. Lasts for 10x45min rides before charging (4xAA).

    On the back, a Cateye LD1100, which has lived on the bike winter and summer for a couple of years and still going strong. Backup is another Halfords Hyperbright flasher. These things last for years too, and cheap to replace if / when the lens falls off.

    I've had Cateye flashers too, LD150. I don't recommend them. The back one jumped off and the front one switch failed after a couple of months.
  • spen666
    spen666 Posts: 17,709
    spen666 wrote:
    I use Ay-up lights on the front and a couple of Smart 1/2 Watt lights on rear- supplemented by at least 1 Cat eye LD600 - can never have too manyy lights

    I'm a little confused about the ayups in that they appear to be one for the bars and one for the head only. Is this right?

    The ay ups come with 2 lights attached together and can be either bar or helmet mounted. Mine are bar mounted.

    They are very bright and are effective to see with and be seen by.

    The battery life is good as well and the lights including batteries are not heavy
    Want to know the Spen666 behind the posts?
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  • andy83
    andy83 Posts: 1,558
    As i dont finish work til 9 the need for me to be having lights is now lol

    My commute home only has one stretch of unlit road which is about 1/4 mile and the rest is quite well lit.

    I cant recommend knog lights enough, they are very bright and for money and convinience they cant be beat. I have a beetle and gekko on the front (gekko still and beetle flashing) and a skink on the back. The great thing is not having brackets all over your bike and easy to just take off and put in bag if your stopping and locking bike up.

    luckily my commute in the morning is longer and more picturesque (sp) as its mainly down country lanes but luckily i have an alternative route for coming home which is a lot safer cos at night people seem to drive even more stupid down the lanes. The knog lights are fantastic for city riding and as long as you dont have to go through too much completely unlit roads although they do the job

    great thread kieran
  • Kieran_Burns
    Kieran_Burns Posts: 9,757
    supersonic wrote:
    You might find our MTB sticky a good read: ... sc&start=0

    Get out of here you heathen! :wink:

    Oh God. I clicked the link! I clicked the link!!! I'm dirty.... God someone shoot me now :P

    Actually - being serious, do you mind if I copy the intro section into my first post? I know it's duplicating the info, but people on this forum don't tend to throw themselves at insane speeds down hills for no readily apparent reason.

    Oh, wait... :shock:
    Chunky Cyclists need your love too! :-)
    2009 Specialized Tricross Sport
    2011 Trek Madone 4.5
    2012 Felt F65X
    Proud CX Pervert and quiet roadie. 12 mile commuter
  • I just bought one of these.

    £50(ish) gets light, mount, powerpack, charger and adapter so it works in 'proper' sockets.

    It only arrived this morning so I intend on charging it later and having a quick go tonight.

    I'm pretty sure it would be overkill for you big smoke commuters. But not sure if it may be a little too bright for out-of-town road use, even on low power setting. I'll find out soon enough though.

    Even if it is too bright for commuting, as one of those people who throw themselves at insane speeds down hills for no readily apparent reason, I should still get some good use out of it. :wink: [/url]
  • whyamihere
    whyamihere Posts: 7,708
    Commuting setup:

    Smart 1/2 Watt, flashing
    Fenix L2D, orange peel reflector, constant high beam

    Smart Superflash attached to rack, constant
    Smart Superflash clipped to right hand pannier, flashing
    Smart 1/2 Watt (the Superflash replacement) on seatpost, flashing

    Leisure riding setup:

    Hope Vision 2 bar mounted, power as needed
    Fenix L2D, orange peel reflector, constant high beam
    Fenix L2D, helmet mounted, smooth reflector, constant high beam

    Flashing Superflashes on each seat stay
    Smart 1/2 Watt on seatpost, constant

    Any driver who tries a SMIDSY when I'm lit up like this can die in a fire. I'm also looking at wiring up some orange LEDs along the main frame tubes of the commuter bike for extra side visibility.
  • Roastie
    Roastie Posts: 1,968
    I've had only good experience with several Cateyes.

    At the moment I use:

    Rear: TL-LD1100 mounted to my rack

    Front: HL-EL320 on the front. When out on lanes or if I need more light I double up with an HL-EL530. I prefer the beam pattern on the 320 to the 530, and I find the 530 is more sensitive to low on battery charge.

    I use Sony rechargeables in all, and I've had no issues with opening the covers or anything - it all fits very nicely and is easy to work. They have also coped very well with some terrible weather.

    That said, I have previously had a TL-LD600 and had the same battery size problem as CJCP, only with both Energizer and Sony rechargeables. No issues with water ingress though, though I must admit that I hadn't been caught in terrible weather with that light. I should add that it met its end under the wheels of a car (using that rubbish bag clippy thing on my saddle bag). Although the light was mangled and the lens completely broken, it still worked.