While it’s important to be seen on the road, it’s just as important to have a light that helps keep you see and navigate the random obstacles that comes with commuting whether that’s potholes in the road or simply just people on shared bike paths.
One of the great ways to increase your visibility is by using a helmet light which is specifically designed to be strapped to your helmet and helps illuminate whichever direction you look.
Helmet Bike Lights Compared
Things to Consider when Buying a Helmet Light
Before we run through various things to consider when buying a helmet light, we generally recommend these simple things to consider when buying a light:
- How far are you riding will influence how much battery life you will need
- Do you need a helmet light to see or to be seen?
- What type of commute do you have? Is it just road or a mix of road and dark forest?
Helmet lights come suited for all different riding types whether that’s riding downhill mountain bikes in the dark to commuting to work. For this reason, weight up what type of riding you do when buying a helmet light as while a downhill helmet light will have plenty of lumens (see next point), it will also be far more bulkier than a light suited for commuting to work due to the size of the bulb, electronics and battery.
Before we jump in, it’s important to understand how light from a bike light is measured with there being 3 factors which can influence this. The first factor is lumens which indicate how much light is emitted from the source and generally the higher means the more powerful the light. We say generally as the strength of the light can also depend on the guts of the light whether that’s the LED, lens in front of the LED and the beam angle. If a light sounds too good to by being really cheap and capable of outputting lots of light, it’s probably too good to be true.
But how many lumens will you require? It really depends on how you are riding whether that’s down hill mountain biking through dark forest or commuting on a well lit road. We recommend the following lumen levels for the below activities:
- Riding downhill through dark forests at least a 600 lumen rated light
- Commuting on well lit roads at least a 100-200 lumen rated light
- Commuting on dark roads at least a 400-600 lumen rated light
The second way of rating the level of light output coming from a bike helmet like is the lux. This is based on the intensity of light hitting a surface. This is measured in a distance of 5-10 metres and is a good way to understand how effective the throw of the light is from the light itself to the surface it’s hitting (e.g. road). For example say you are buying a light but need it to be able to light up signs that are 10 metres away. This is where lux comes in handy and is a good way to differentiate lights that have a limited throw and may not otherwise light up signs 10 metres away as the power of the light slowly drops off as the distance increases.
And the final factor for judging the output of a bicycle light is the beam angle which is the amount of light emitted from the helmet due to the angle of the light. These come in two options from lights that have a narrow beam which will have a higher lux rating and therefore generally output more light for a smaller area. While there also exists more wider beam angles which will output less lux due to being required to cover a greater area.
With this in mind, we recommend people who are commuting in well lit conditions on the road opt for a light with low lumens but go for a more wider beam angle. By having a wide beam angle, this will help with cars and pedestrians better see you.
While we would recommend those with a poorly lit commute to consider a light with a high lumen count and a narrow beam angle as this will be better suited for looking where you are going and identifying any pot holes or other obstacles.
Luckily bike helmet lights are no different to other bike accessories with the emergence of built-in rechargeable batteries that can be recharged by using a USB port. We think this is great but for those of you that prefer being able to swap in and swap out batteries there are still very much helmet lights available that work with AAA batteries.
You may be wondering, why would you buy a light with interchangeable batteries when you can buy a light that has a built-in battery that conveniently charges from USB? Life span. Generally bikes with a built-in battery are hard to replace especially once the manufacturer stops making that brand of light in the future. For this reason, being able to easily swap in and swap out generic branded AAA batteries is great if you’ve bought an expensive light and don’t want to worry about sourcing a new battery from the manufacturer in the future.
From our experience charging head lights via USB is generally slower than charging a regular AAA battery. Fortunately though most lights come with a battery indicator so depending on how much battery the light can hold, you will get yourself into a routine of knowing how many days you can go without charging the battery.
Different conditions demand different types of light so for this reason, we recommend looking for a light that comes with plenty of different light strength levels and the ability to have the flight continuously flash or strobe.
Being a commuter means you’ll need a light that’s able to cope with a bit of water. When looking for lights, you’ll notice that they will have an IP rating or the Ingress Protection rating. The first number indicates the strength against dust particles whilst the second indicates the strength against water.
For commuters, we recommend lights that come with at least an IP64 rating. Why? Lights rated for IP63 are only able to withstand water spray from a certain angle while IP64 rated lights are able to withstand water from all levels. The higher the number here indicates how much prolonged water exposure the light can withstand before dying. This also includes being submerged in water.
Best All Round Helmet Bike Light
NightRider Lumina Micro 750
The NightRider Lumina is a 700 lumen light capable of putting out enough light for most commutes. The light on the NightRider Lumina is capable of lasting for 90 minutes at full capacity (700 lumens). Weighing 130 grams and made with a small and compact design makes the NightRider ideal for being attached to your helmet.
The NightRider light is built to last thanks to the durable casing which is also weather resistant thanks to the tight weather sealing.
Powered by a rechargeable Li-Ion battery that’s charged by USB, the NightRider Lumina light can be charged within 1 hr 45 with a quick charge cable (1amp) or with a regular cable (500mA), expect the light to take 3 hours 30 to charge. The light also includes a battery level indicator which helps give you an idea of how much battery is remaining before you head out for your commute.
In terms of installation, the NightRider Lumina helmet light is a breeze to install and relies on an easy to use helmet strap that straps through one of your helmet vents. Connecting the light to the mount on your helmet is also easy with the quick release tab making it conveinent to take the light on and off the helmet mount.
Best Front and Rear Helmet Light Combo
Light & Motion Vis Pro
The Light & Motion Vis Pro is a front and rear light combination that's been made specifically for attaching to helmets. Using CREE led to illuminuate, the Light & Motion puts out 600 lumens from the front light whilst the rear provides 25 lumens of light.
In terms of rune time, the Light & Motion Vis Pro helmet light is capable of running for 2 hours at maximum battery while can be extended out to 12 hours when running at lower levels. If you're simply looking to run the light during the day on pulse mode, the light will run for 16 hours before needing to be re-charged.
In terms of charging, the Light & Motion bike helmet light is capable of being charged by USB and takes 6 hours to charge.
Similar to other bike helmet lights we reviewed, the Light & Motion Vis Pro has been designed to last thanks to its durable and waterproof housing that is bound to withstand the most grueling commutes.
One downside of the Light & Motion Vis Pro is the rear light using a slow pulse rather than flashing and is only 25 lumens. We found this to not provide much visibility from the back. For this reason, we'd recommend considering just buying a strong front headlight and purchasing a separate rear light which is brighter and gives you more flashing options.
Best Affordable Front and Rear Light
Topside Bike Helmet Light
The Topside Bike Helmet light was another front and rear light combo but much cheaper than the previous Light & Motion Viz Pro we reviewed (almost half the price...). This is a great option for anyone looking for a great entry level front and rear bike helmet light without breaking the bank.
Coming in with 100 lumens powered by CREE led lights, the Topside Bike Helmet Light wasn't the brightest light we reviewed. With that said however, the light is capable of running for 43 hours which is great for most peoples commutes. In addition to the lower light, the Topside Bike Helmet light relies on a more wider light rather than narrow beam which you may find with other helmet lights. This means the Topside light is more suitable for people that are looking to be seen rather than see.
Like other lights we reviewed, the Topside Helmet Light is built in a durable housing that's also waterproof.
One thing we really liked about the Topside light was the quick charge mode via USB. While not quite as quick as the Nightrider Lumina light we previously reviewed that's capable of being charged in 1 hr 45, the Topside helmet light is capable of being fully charged in 3 hours which we thought was still pretty impressive.
CECO-USA Bike Light
The CECO-USA bike light was one of the more brighter lights we reviewed coming in at 1000 lumens and also with a range of night and day different light modes. While easily being charged by USB cable and only taking 5 hrs.
In terms of battery capacity, the CECO-USA bike light is capable of running at full capacity for 1.15 hrs and up to 5.30 hrs at a lower capacity. If you're someone that likes to run your light during the day flashing, you'll be pleased to know that the CECO-USA bike light is capable of running for 13 hrs when flashing.
The light also comes with a lock mode so you can keep the light locked from turning on which is super useful if you're like us and leave your light in your bag and don't want it accidentally turning on.
Like other lights we reviewed, the CECO-USA helmet like is housed in both a durable and waterproof housing.
One thing we really liked about the light was the inclusion of a low battery warning which as the name suggests means your light will flash every 25 seconds to indicate that you only have 10-20 minutes of light remaining. We think this is a great idea especially for a helmet light where you're unable to see the battery reading on the light itself.
Cycle Torch Shark 500 Bike Light
The Cycle Torch 500 Bike Light was one of the more dimmer lights we reviewed coming in at 500 lumens. That's not to say it's a bad light as it will no doubt suit some people who have more urban commutes where there's a lot of street lights. But for people who commute o country roads like me, the Cycle Torch isn't really suitable and I'd be looking for something with a bit more grunt.
But what about running time? The Cycle Torch Shark 500 fairs well and capable of running for 2 hrs at high, 15 hrs at low and 30 hrs while on flashing mode. The Cycle Torch relies on a flat beam light which includes a mix of options for day time and night use.
In terms of battery, the Cycle Torch Shark 500 is charged by USB cable and capable of being charged to 80% in 2 hours. One of the more faster chargers we saw.
As we've seen with all other bike helmet lights, the Cycle Torch also comes with a waterproof and durable housing. A word of warning with some people noting that the rubber seals can come loose over time and may allow water to get in...
BrightRoad Rechargeable 800
Closing out this post on the best bike helmet lights is the BrightRoad Rechargeable 800. As the name suggests, the BrightRoad is a 800 lumens light that's visible to 650 ft.
In terms of charging and run time, the BrightRoad Rechargeable 800 is capable of being charged via USB to full charge in 3 hours. Impressive! While the light comes with 5 modes of lighting and capable of running for 1.25 hrs at high, 4.25 hrs at low and 18 hrs while flashing.
We must be sounding like a broken record when we say this but the BrightRoad Rechargeable also comes with a waterproof and durable housing that's bound to keep your light safe over time.
One thing we noticed from other owners is that the battery life of the BrightRoad may deteriorate over time and you may not get the run times marketed. Just something to be wary of