Ride in safety by illuminating the road ahead and alerting drivers to your presence
1: EXPOSURE STRADA MK6, £269.95
It takes a while to work through all the options on the new version of the Strada, but it’s time well spent. Not only does this light have a rear minute-by-minute power gauge, but it also lets you choose between three different settings in each of five different programmes, each offering a longer burntime. Estimate the length of your ride, leave a slight margin for error, and the Strada will calculate the brightest it can shine to see you home. There are potentially 1,000 lumens on tap, and although it didn’t seem like the brightest on test, the width of its beam, the certainty of its runtime, the precision of its mount and the opportunity to use a remote switch so you can change the beam while on the drops, make it an amazing piece of kit.
2: LIGHT & MOTION URBAN 850 TRAIL FC, £139.99
Delivering astonishing levels of brightness for a torch no bigger than half a decent cigar, this neat lamp casts an enticing stream of bright, white light. While it’s designed for road use, it’s the light we’d turn to first for off-road sorties, due to the width and brightness of its 850 lumens beam. It can manage 1.5 hours in its highest mode, and six hours in its lowest setting (although that would be too dim to ride on unlit roads or trails). It also recharges impressively quickly via USB.
3: CATEYE VOLT 800, £99.99
Slender, neat and simple, the Volt casts a clear beam of white light for night riding. It will blaze away for 2 hours on its brightest setting, or 3.5 hours in medium brightness, which is fine for illuminating the road ahead. We also like the feature that allows you, regardless of the mode you are in, to go straight back to the brightest setting with a double click, rather than having to scroll through all of them. Our only concern is with the longevity of the plastic clamp, whose small release lever feels pretty insubstantial for regular use. Overall though, it’s a very competitive price for a light this good.
4: CYGOLITE METRO 550 USB, £86.99
There’s much to like about the Metro, from its price to its bright, white beam and robust clamp. As the first light we tested, it set an admirable benchmark for the clear view it created of the road ahead, and in daylight its pulse mode has proved particularly effective on dull, damp days. But when night falls, it understandably lags behind its more powerful rivals in this test. Good as the Metro is, we’d save up a few more pounds
for the Cateye.
1: EXPOSURE TRACER, £49.95
This compact, beautifully engineered light packs a mighty punch, with a dazzling 75 lumens. You wouldn’t want to be behind it on a club night ride, but for signalling your presence to traffic it’s exceptional when running in its brightest mode, which it can sustain for 3 hours per charge. There are three modes in all, each with the option of constant or pulse, and the weakest setting should be good for 24 hours. When you turn the light off it flashes green, amber or red to signal the state of charge in the battery. Recharging is via USB.
2: ELECTRON R100, £34.99
As its name suggests, the R100 pumps out a retina-challenging 100 lumens on its highest setting. If brightness is your sole criterion, look no further,
especially at this price. However, it’s not so visible from the side as the Cateye Rapid X3. It’s a bulky, awkward shape, although its pivoting mount lets you set the angle of the beam whatever the geometry of your bike. The clamp seems designed to fit a bike with an aero-shaped seat post, and didn’t grip my cylindrical post as securely as other lights. It’s USB rechargeable, and I timed it at slightly over 3.5 hours on full power, which is significantly longer than the Cateye.
3: CATEYE RAPID X3, £54.99
Two banks of LEDs deliver a dazzling 100 lumens with the Rapid X3, although the USB-rechargeable battery can only keep it up for an hour. Having one row on full power and the other in pulse mode significantly increases the run time, and in flash mode the Rapid X3 should last 30 hours between recharges. You have to make recharging a habit though, because there’s no battery status on the Rapid until it switches automatically to flash mode as a signal that it’s running low on power. Its long, narrow design gives it far greater all-round visibility than its closest rivals from Exposure and Electron, and it’s neat and easy to fit.
4: CYGOLITE HOTSHOT MICRO 2W, £36.99
Not so long ago I’d have been thrilled to ride at night with a light this bright, especially with a run time of up to 100 hours in its lowest setting. Now, however, it’s outshone by its rivals on test, despite its five settings and super compact size. An adjustable mount lets you tweak the angle of the beam depending on the angle of your seat post or seat stays, and it offers better visibility from the side than most, and a clever (dimmer) group riding mode, but at this price we’d choose the Electron R100.
5: LIFELINE REAR STRIP, £12
Eye-catchingly bright even with just one-tenth of the lumens of its most powerful rivals means the 10 lumen LifeLine still stands out on dark roads. At this price it’s very good value, its metal casing feels robust, and there’s the option of attaching it to the bike or clipping it to a rucksack. A short 1.5-hour charge time delivers 2 hours on full power or eight hours on flash. A decent, budget buy.