Autumn is definitely here now and the nights are really beginning to draw in. Being seen in the poor light is absolutely essential and some would say you can’t put a price on safety; but sadly not all of us are made of money, so here’s The Folding Bike Club’s guide to buying lights and the sort of money you can expect to spend.
As a foldie fan, choice of lights is quite important as we need them to be as small and portable as our bikes. It’s no use having a huge projector light if you then can’t fold your bike with it in place. All the lights here are my own personal ones and every one of these lights can remain in place with the bike folded.
Entry Level – Under a tenner
These silicon gel lights are a common sight in many shops, and to be perfectly honest they’re far better than their low price actually makes you think they’d be. Around £8 will get you a set of these so at under £4 each you’re making yourself visible.
These particular ones come from Argos and cost around £8.99 for a pair. Their light output comes from two LED’s and the all around visibility is pretty good. They also have a couple of flashing modes, so for those of you just looking for a flashing light to add to your existing lighting they are a good bet.
Don’t expect recharging at this price point, but each one contains CR2032 button cell batteries to provide the power.
These aren’t the kind of lights to see with though, so don’t expect them to light up a dark country lane; but when you’re cycling on street-lit roads you will find them more than adequate.
Up a bit – £10 to £30
As already reviewed by myself a few months ago, these little dot lights are more intended as ancillary lights. Again you won’t be lighting up a dark lane, but you’ll be seen from a fair distance away; and they have both steady and flashing modes so they make great additions.
Available from Decathlon in this form and branded as BTwin, these are great little multi purpose lights which can show either white or red depending on how you choose to press them – and they come with a whole plethora of anchor methods, from the standard silicon bungee brackets for seat posts to self adhesive plates for trailers and hard luggage. My preferred anchor method though is to use the belt clips and clip these to the back of the panniers on my Raleigh.
They charge using micro USB with a socket hidden on the back of each one. Each pack of two (£14.99 on offer, usually £19.99) comes with a single splitter charging cable for charging a pair of lights at once.
They’re pretty good lights to be honest, and their real bonus is the number of ways you can fit them.
Also in the similar price bracket come the Cateye Orb lights. These are a well loved, tried and tested light and you will see these a lot. At about £10 each they’re a little dearer than the BTwin, but they’re good solid lights. Sadly, though, the cheaper version are a battery version and to upgrade to USB rechargable you will need to cough up an extra tenner taking you up to around £30 a pair.
A pair of these sit on my Dahon III pretty much permanently and they’re also in a similar ilk to the lights shown above – cheap, bright enough to be seen by, but you aren’t going to be lighting up the sky with them. Again though they are good to have for a flashing light to complement your steady front/back light.
What elevates the Cat-Eye above the rest though, is that these are some of the cheapest lights you’ll get with a CNC machined metal housing. All the others are plastic, so if you’re wanting something a bit tougher then they might be your next choice up.
Brighter, but safer – the £30 and up category
Once we hit the magic £30 we find that the lights ramp up very steeply both in brightness, and in number of features. Here are a couple of my personal choices – both these type of lights are used by myself.
Moon Nebula come in at around £45 – £50 a pair. These adorn my Raleigh usually, and even though they are technically not lights to see by, the front light in overdrive mode does cast enough light to make your way on a dark night. The real bonus of these lights is their daylight flash mode though, which is a permanent low lighting level, but then emits a maximum brightness flash every second or so.
Kicking out 240 lumens on the front and 200 on the rear they’re very bright, and the light spread is good and wide too.
The Nebula also come with multiple mounting options including the usual bungee brackets and under saddle brackets (both of these are rather well thought out) but unlike most other lights in this price bracket they have quick release allowing you to remove them from your bike and take them with you.
They also have mode memory which means you don’t have to cycle through all the modes to get the one you need as they’ll remember the last one when you turned them off.
The Moon Nebula feel well made, and with their metal housings they’re substantial enough to survive being knocked and dropped. They’re also VERY waterproof (tested by myself in a hell of a downpour!), Declared IP4X
Micro USB charging is the standard method, and unlike a lot of other lights these are actually water resistant whilst being charged thanks to the clever USB port and cable design, so you can run them from an on bike power supply if you wish (great for e-bikes with USB sockets).
My Gold Standard, or just too fancy?
When I bought the Fiido D2S I noticed it comes with a front light; however, from riding I can tell you this is about as much use as a chocolate teapot! The light throws a tiny spot which gives very poor illumination – so I decided to buy a set of lights for it.
What more could I do to go with such a fancy set as the Lezyne Micro Drive 600 front light paired with a Lezyne Strip 300 on the back. These are two very fancy lights, costing around £80 for the pair; but with a mind blowing 300 lumens at the back and 600 lumens at the front you’re guaranteed to be seen from a long way off.
Again both lights have a daytime mode which flashes an intense pulse which can be seen from a very long way away; and in always on mode the front light throws a great bright light to illuminate your way even in the worst weather whilst making sure you can be seen.
The rear light is quite a fancy affair, with multiple modes which whilst of dubious actual usefulness are good to show off your fancy lights.
If you really want your foldie to be seen then these are a great investment, and most importantly – they are small enough to fit easily into a pocket.
All the above solutions will help you to be seen, and combining lighting is a huge help – I tend to go for one fixed light and one or two flashing lights at each end of the bike.
Then again Christmas is coming… You could always trim up your bike!
Before buying lights, please make sure you check the local laws in your country as not all the lights above are legal in all areas. It is an offence to show colours other than white at the front and red at the rear of a bike in the UK.