Portland Design Works City Rover 700 USB Headlight
Bright and affordable, this headlight has good side visibility and a long-lasting battery—better than other lights we tested in its price range. Its quick-release mount is sturdy and easy to use but lacks a functional swivel.
You could, of course, spend a lot more money on a bike light that’s brighter or has a longer run time. But we think Portland Design Works’ City Rover 700 USB Headlight offers everything most commuters need (and nothing they don’t) at an excellent price. When choosing a good bike light, we consider battery life to be a top factor. And though few city commuters may need to use this light at its full, 700-lumen strength, its medium setting has longer-than-average run times (four hours at 350 lumens), as does its low setting (eight full hours at 200 lumens). That medium setting should be bright enough to cut through urban light pollution and to illuminate the occasional dark alleyway. Plus, after the low-battery indicator comes on, the light automatically dims itself to its lowest setting, where it stays for an additional 15 minutes to allow for a last-ditch sprint home. The City Rover 700 also has generously sized sidelights, for visibility at intersections; we found them to be more eye-catching than those on many other models we tested. There are some trade-offs that come with the affordability: The City Rover 700 is water-resistant—not waterproof—but its most vulnerable point (the charging port) is tucked under the light and fitted with a snug rubber cover to keep out water. The body is made of plastic, rather than more-durable machined aluminum (as on our upgrade pick, the Lezyne headlight). Finally, though the City Rover (which uses a quick-release mount) stays put over rough terrain, it can swivel only a few degrees in either direction (limiting your ability to adjust for differences in handlebar angles). And we should note that its beam was not the widest of the beams on the other lights we tested.
Serfas E-Lume 600 Headlight
This light’s mount is more adjustable than that of our top pick, and the battery life is comparable. However, its beam is dimmer, narrower, and yellower, and the side visibility isn’t as good.
With its yellowish-tinted beam and somewhat complicated cam-hook-style mount, the Serfas E-Lume 600 Headlight differed from the rest of the headlights in our test in both functionality and design. We did come to appreciate the mounting system: It incorporates a bracket, thumb lever, cam hook, and rubber strap, and it allowed us to direct the beam where we liked. And the light never budged, even when it was put to the test on a mountain-bike ride. The narrowly focused, yellowish beam was not as bright or as wide as that of the PDW City Rover 700, but its 600-lumen output never wavered for the duration of its promised run time of 2¾ hours. And its low-flash mode runs for 90 hours at a highly respectable 100 lumens, with an easy-to-gauge color-coded battery indicator. The E-Lume 600 is less water-resistant than the City Rover, but it does have a durable, heat-dissipating extruded-aluminum housing. And though its ¼-inch side cutouts are not as attention-grabbing as the City Rover’s ¾-inch cutouts, they are larger than those on our upgrade pick.
NiteRider Swift 300
This plastic light is small and sturdy, with a swiveling strap, and it has decent side visibility too. It’s bright enough for urban riders with short, well-lit commutes, but it’s not suited to longer or darker routes.
If your commute is short or lightly trafficked, the NiteRider Swift 300 may be all you need to see and be seen on the road, and it’s nicely priced. A tiny headlight that’s about the size of a nail polish bottle, it will kick out 300 lumens for up to two hours and flash for 12. The Swift 300 has an all-in-one swiveling rubber mounting strap (rather than a quick release, like on our top and runner-up picks), and it adjusts to fit most sizes and shapes of handlebars. But it’s not quite as easy to remove once you’ve reached your destination. Despite its low price, this plastic light includes many features found on our top and runner-up picks, such as side cutouts for visibility, a low-power indicator, and a lock-out mode that prevents it from accidentally turning on in your bag. Of the five modes, the lowest one (aptly named “walk”) produces only a feeble 20 lumens.
Lezyne Micro Drive Pro 800XL
This well-built, waterproof light is brighter than our top pick and has a wider beam, thanks to side-by-side LEDs (which make it great for unlit roads). This headlight shines in every way, except side visibility and price.
If cost weren’t a concern, Lezyne Micro Drive Pro 800XL would easily trump our top pick, the PDW City Rover 700. Its slightly brighter, 800-lumen beam is created by two side-by-side LEDs, and this wider beam lets you better see the full road ahead of you (without significantly decreasing battery life). Its machined-aluminum body is sturdier and, frankly, more aesthetically pleasing than that of our top pick. We also liked the integrated cooling fins, which help keep the light cool while you’re in motion. Still, the Micro Drive Pro 800XL is normally about $25 more than the City Rover 700 (that savings could almost buy you a top-rated taillight to accompany your headlight), and its side cutouts are merely a nod to lateral visibility. If you’re an all-weather commuter, or you have a partly pitch-black ride, this light’s higher price might be worth it: Its 800-lumen “overdrive” mode will light up the darkest rural route for 1¾ hours, and it has a fully waterproof exterior. Like our other picks, the Micro Drive Pro 800XL has a color-coded battery indicator and a mode memory option (which remembers your last-used setting, so you don’t have to click through all eight modes of operation).
Blackburn Dayblazer 1000
With an excellent price-to-lumens ratio, this light is bright and waterproof, and it may be the best choice for riders with very long commutes.
When we first started testing bike lights, in 2013, the brightest light we tested was just 500 lumens. Ten years later, you can buy a light that boasts up to 2,500 lumens. But brighter is (often) not better for the urban commuter, who shares the road with others who also need to see the road in front of them. We capped the maximum output of the lights we tested for this guide at 1,500 lumens, and we ultimately decided that anything over 800 lumens was overkill for most riders—and a danger to other users’ eyes. However, some riders may benefit from stronger lights, including those with very long commutes, which often start or end in the dark. These riders need a very bright light that can switch into lower modes once the sun has risen and they’ve reached busier streets. And they likely also need fully waterproof lights, since longer commutes bring more chances of being caught in inclement weather. The Blackburn Dayblazer 1000 can run for 90 minutes at 1,000 lumens, a very respectable three hours at 500 lumens, and 5½ hours at 350 lumens. That last level provides enough time—and light—for riders commuting long distances to get safely to work or school and home again. Any longer than that, and you’re looking at an externally powered headlight (which we didn’t test for this guide) or a dynamo setup. Like the Lezyne Micro Drive Pro 800XL, the Dayblazer 1000 has a machined-aluminum body with integrated cooling fins to disperse the (substantial) heat the light generates. And it has an attached rubber strap that swivels to accommodate handlebars of various shapes and sizes. Its beam, however, is narrower than that of the Micro Drive Pro 800XL (which would be our choice for emptier rural routes).
Cygolite Hotrod 120 USB
Small and easy to mount, this taillight is extremely eye-catching, thanks to a cluster of 20 extra-bright LEDs housed in a transparent, domed enclosure. This means the LEDs are visible from the side as well as the rear.
The Cygolite Hotrod 50 was our top taillight pick in the previous iteration of this guide. And we’re still impressed by this small taillight’s ability to stand out on the road as well as from its competitors. The 120, the latest version of the Hotrod, goes from 50 lumens to 120 lumens, and it has an extra mode with extremely fast pulses that Cygolite refers to as the Bzzz Flash. Although we prefer the SteadyPulse mode (a steady beam overlapped by pulses that help other road users gauge your distance from them), all of the seven modes on this taillight are truly arresting from a wide variety of angles. That’s largely due to the light’s construction. Instead of one large LED, the Hotrod 50 and 120 both feature a cluster of 20 tightly packed chip-on-board (COB) LEDs—all protected by a clear domed enclosure—that emit impossible-to-ignore light. (It’s kind of how pavé diamonds catch the light better than one big solitaire diamond.) In fact, even though we could tell the difference in brightness between the 50 and the 120 when looking at them head to head, we’d say if you already own a Hotrod 50, there’s little reason to upgrade it. The detachable (and versatile) silicone mounting strap we’ve praised in the past remains the same, and the battery run times are roughly comparable (they’re slightly lower on the 120’s brighter settings). The Hotrod 120 is water-resistant, with a well-fitting USB charge port cover on the back that snugs up against your seat post (for extra protection from the elements).
Knog Blinder V Rear Bike Light (Bolt)
An attention-grabbing light with a fun flash pattern, the 100-lumen Blinder V is waterproof, unlike our top taillight pick. But it’s not as bright, and its mount feels less sturdy.
The most important job of a taillight is to help you be seen, but if a light is also fun to use, that’s a bonus. The Knog Blinder V taillight’s “Bolt” version (the one we tested) has eight modes, six of which feature a lightning-bolt pattern that cuts through urban light pollution simply because it’s different. (The other version of the Blinder, the Traffic, has a less whimsical, bar-shaped pattern.) While the Knog Blinder V is not as bright as our top-pick taillight, it too features a mass of COB LEDs (189, in this case) that grab attention in the same way. We preferred this light’s Low Flash mode, which flashes that lightning-bolt pattern on top of a steadily lit background. This mode is just 50 lumens, but the combination of the flashing bolt and the always-on background helps with depth perception while simultaneously catching other road users’ attention—and it lasts for 16 hours. Unlike the majority of the other taillights we tested, the Blinder V is waterproof—a compelling feature for diehard commuters or those who frequently ride through puddles. Yet Knog taillights still fall short when it comes to mounting hardware. The Blinder V attaches via a single silicone band (you can get different sizes to match the diameter of your seat post). And though this mount design is sturdier than that of its sibling, the Knog Cobber, it still feels flimsy compared with the Hotrod 120’s wider, stiffer rubber mounting strap. It also uses an integrated USB fin, which can be hard to plug into a crowded bank of USB ports.
Blackburn Grid 2’Fer
Although it’s not as eye-catching or bright as our other taillight picks, this nicely priced light has good lateral visibility and includes a belt-clip option.
A true workhorse for the price, the Blackburn Grid 2’Fer toggles between red and white lights with a double-click of the power button. That means you can run it as a modestly bright (175 lumens) headlight or a quite bright (55 lumens) taillight. While the headlight option wasn’t strong enough for us to include it in our standalone headlight test, we were impressed with the decent battery life, color-coded battery warning button, and visibility of its taillight mode. Like the Cygolite Hotrod 120 and the Knog Blinder V, the Grid 2’Fer features COB LEDs that make it stand out in traffic. And it has an “eco mode,” which kicks on automatically if you’re in pulse or strobe mode and nearing the end of the battery’s charge, giving you an extra two hours of run time at a dimmer setting. The Grid 2’Fer doesn’t offer a dizzying array of mode options; there are four for red and four for white, and we nearly always ran it on pulse mode, which has the always-on background we prefer. But it does have an amber ring that boosts lateral visibility. With its chunky construction and plastic housing, this light doesn’t look as sleek as our other two picks. However, it features a belt-clip attachment, which can be used in tandem with the wide silicone strap mount or removed for a slimmer profile (if, say, you use this light only on your seat post). It’s also more water-resistant than the Hotrod 120, and it has a USB-C port, which is still a rarity in bike lights.