5 Of the Best Lights to See & Be Seen

We've rounded up the best bike lights for visibility and safety on any ride.


Lights are mandatory on a bike, and not just if you plan to ride at sunrise or sunset. They also keep you safe by making you far more visible to motorists and other road and trail users. Here’s our pick of the best.

Choosing a Light

Start with asking yourself how much light you need. For reference, a typical halogen car headlight puts out around 700 lumens on low beam, and an LED car headlight about 1 000 lumens on low. 

For night or pre-dawn mountain biking or road riding, you’ll want a light that puts out at least 700 lumens; preferably more. If you only ride during daylight hours and you just need a flashing light for safety, you can get away with a smaller, lighter, less powerful (and cheaper) front light. Here are some other factors to consider:

Go bright – but for how long?

What’s advertised by the manufacturer is often slightly less in reality. This isn’t a big deal, because the discrepancy is usually minimal and your eyes won’t be able to tell the difference between 1,000 lumens and 900 lumens anyway. More important is to check how long the battery lasts at max output. If you need all 1,000 lumens but the run time at full power is only 20 minutes, then you have a dud light. That’s why it’s often better to consider a light’s secondary mode, or its medium setting. This is where many lights deliver more consistent output for longer.

Is it tough?

What sets one light apart from the others often has nothing to do with the beam itself, but rather with the way the unit attaches to your bike. A solid, easy-to-use mount is crucial with a bike light. You want the light to remain in place regardless of how bumpy the road or trail gets, and you want to be able to switch it between bikes easily. You also want your light (and mount) to be durable. It must be able to handle rain and mud, plus the odd bump or drop. 

Spot or flood?

This is about how a light projects its lumens. A ‘spot’ pattern is very bright in one area, and has good reach; whereas a ‘flood’ pattern illuminates a wider area, closer to the rider, less brightly. Most lights use lenses to create a hybrid pattern that has good reach and coverage. 

Yo, where did the brightness go?

The brightness of any light decreases as the battery drains. This is called ‘lumen drop-off’; and it happens gradually at first, and then suddenly when the battery is nearly depleted. The decrease is due to the variable nature of electrical circuits, but it’s also a by-product of the manufacturer regulating power delivery to balance brightness, battery life and heat management. But basically, don’t expect your light to run at its advertised output for the entire duration of its advertised battery life.


Extreme Lights Flare


30g / 25 lumens / Run-time: up to 8hr / R195


25 lumens don’t sound like much, but when they’re pumping out of this dinky taillight you can rest assured that you’ll be very visible on the road. 

Unlike other lights in this price category, the Flare is USB-C rechargeable – and it has an IPX4 waterproof rating, which means it will stand up to plenty of abuse. It comes with an integrated rubber strap that fits any seat post, round or aero, and it’s easy to remove for charging or to swop out to another bike.


Ryder Concept 700


140g / 700 lumens / Run-time: 2hr on max / R550

Almost everyone over a certain age who has ridden with a bike light remembers the early days of basically strapping a torch to your handlebar. This is the latest evolution of that design. It has four brightness modes and a flash mode, and it puts out a decent amount of light for such a small package. 

At maximum brightness of 700 lumens, you can see where you’re going on a dark street. Max brightness eats the battery, however; so use it prudently. On flash mode, you’ll easily rack up more than six hours of use.

The mount is a plastic half-moon that you attach to your bar with a rubber strap. It holds the light snugly enough and is fine on smooth tar, but there’s a risk of it shaking loose on singletrack or gravel. Not a problem, if you mostly ride on the road; but consider something with a sturdier mount (such as the Extreme Lights Endurance+) if you plan to ride mountain bikes in the dark. 


Trek Commuter Pro RT / Bontrager Flare RT


257g (combined) / 1 000/90 lumens /
Run-time: up to 12hr / R3,200

The Commuter Pro is a new light from Trek, and it’s magnificent. At max power, it puts out 1 000 lumens for 1.5 hours – bright enough for night-time trail riding – but the lower modes are also great (and longer-lasting) for dawn and dusk rides. It’s also an excellent daytime visibility light. 

The Commuter pairs wirelessly with the Flare RT – you only need to push one button to power up both lights – and it has a clever gauge on the top that shows available battery life for both the main light and the paired light. It also has another nice feature: you can level the beam, so that it doesn’t shine into the eyes of other road or trail users.

You can’t go wrong with the Bontrager Flare RT, either; it’s one of our favourite rear lights. For its incredible power, it’s almost unbelievably lightweight and compact, yet bright enough to alert drivers during the day from up to 2km away.

Both lights are waterproof, with excellent mounts that work across a variety of seatpost and handlebar standards. 


Garmin Varia RTL515


71g / 65 lumens /
Run-time: up to 16 hr / R4,399

The Varia is more than a taillight – it uses radar, and pairs via ANT+ with your Garmin Edge head unit (or another compatible device) to alert you to vehicles approaching from behind.

This isn’t just a gimmick: with enough warning about the distance and speed of the vehicle coming your way, you can make sure you’re where you need to be on the road, and take defensive action if necessary. 

The light itself is bright, and battery life is excellent in flash mode.

There’s also a radar-only Varia for R3 299, and a model that records camera footage (useful in the case of an accident or other incident) for R8 799.



Extreme Lights Endurance+ 


410g / 2 100 lumens / Run-time: 3.5 hr on max / R2,495

This light is the go-to unit for anyone who rides mountain bikes in the dark. It’s been around for a few years now, but still offers the best combination of brightness, durability and value for money. 

Unlike the other lights featured here, it has an external battery pack. This adds to the overall weight of the light, but also allows you to blast 2 100 lumens at the trail in Boost mode for about three hours – long enough for your entire Wednesday pre-dawn ride.

The beam has a noticeable ‘hot spot’ in the centre, but it offers good spread and more than enough brightness to navigate even the techiest trails in the dead of night. The mount is also a highlight – it’s robust and easy to use, and there’s no chance of the light coming loose or sliding on the bar. 

The battery pack is equally robust – it comes in a neoprene holder, with a wide velcro strap that attaches snugly to your frame. 


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