Bicycle lights is a must to ensure safety and comfort when riding in the dark. Missing out on getting a high-quality tail light can lead to accidents and make the whole driving experience much less enjoyable.
If your old tail light doesn’t provide the needed amount of output, has broken glass, or a different issue, consider getting a replacement. If you’re concerned that a replacement is expensive – the good news is, there are so many options on the market that finding a high-quality and affordable fit shouldn’t be overly challenging.
This post is a full buyer’s guide to getting a bike tail light. You will find out what the main characteristics to pay attention to are. Also, there will be a detailed review of some of the most popular models on the market.
Types of Tail Lights You Should Know
When you’re choosing the tail lights for your bike, make sure to explore all possible types and models. As a rule of thumb, tail lights come in three following models:
- LED lights. These tail lights are well-known for durability and energy efficiency. On the flip side, LED taillights don’t have high intensity and might not be as distinctive from afar as other modifications.
- Xenon lights. Instead of using electric arcs, these lights rely on filaments. Brightness and intensity are two distinctive features of this tail light modification. Xenon lights are slightly more expensive than their LED counterparts.
- Halogen lights are the oldest and the most common type of tail lights. It’s a low-cost modification, small in size, and used by most cars, bikes, and bicycles. The low intensity of halogen lights can be inconvenient at times and is generally considered the downside of the modification.
How to Choose Bike Tail Lights
When choosing tail lights, you will have to decide if you want to use the lights to see the surroundings or so that vehicle, bike, and bicycle drivers can see you. The former are usually larger in size and brighter, although the angle of the beam is quite narrow.
The latter lights – the ones that allow other people to recognize your bike – are adapted to peripheral view and designed to be seen from different angles. They have a lower number of lumens, the lights are not as bright, there are fewer batteries.
Another popular misconception is that you only need tail lights when it’s dark – studies and statistics prove otherwise. In fact, one of eight bicycle accidents occur during the daytime – that’s why you should do your best to increase your visibility at any time of the day.
Most tail lights are described with a set of technical characteristics. In case you’re new to the market, these are the things to pay attention to when choosing a tail light replacement.
- Lumen represents the total amount of light the tail light is capable of emitting.
- Lux – the measure of the intensity of the emitted light. Lux determines how far away the beam of light can be dispersed. The rule of thumb is – the higher the lumen is, the higher the lux will be. However, if a beam is narrow and directed to a certain point, the lux value can skyrocket even if the lumen is relatively low.
- Beam angle. This characteristic determines where the light is headed after it’s emitted – there are taillights that send the beam straight ahead or spread it as a bundle.
- Beam setting. There are different types of tail light beams – high, full, standard, flash, regular, pulse, and many more. When looking at models, you can compare different modifications and choose the one that suits your needs the most. Keep in mind that ‘high’ or ‘full’ lights usually consume much more energy than standard modifications – thus, they are able to run for shorter time frames.
- Burn time – the ‘battery life’ of a given tail light model. By this parameter, you will be able to determine how long the tail light will last before turning off.
Other Factors to Consider When Purchasing Tail Lights
Naturally, there’s no one-size-fits-all when it comes to choosing the right model of bike tail lights. Depending on whether you drive on a highway, on a hiking trail, or another type of surface, you might want to adjust the selection of tail lights to fit your specific driving needs.
Other than checking the characteristics of tail lights – lumen, type of beam, burn time, and others, the following points are worth taking into account as you make buying decisions:
Decide where you want to place your tail light. For some, attaching it to the seat stay is the best option since it provides the highest visibility level and will not slip or turn. Make sure you can control how tightly the tail wheel is mounted and adjust the tightness level freely. A solid practice to follow is to look for a model with interchangeable mounting straps – it grants your tail lights higher durability.
Other than that, take into consideration what exactly you’re bounding the tail light to – aluminum or carbon. For the latter, consider opting for a tail light with a rubber strap that stretches freely. It’s a much safer mounting method for carbon frames than a traditional crew-and-bracket.
The majority of tail lights are USB-rechargeable – some models, however, will still require batteries to run. At a first glance, getting a USB-empowered battery seems like a more expensive option – however, in the long run, it’s likely to save you a lot of money since there will be no need to pay extra for battery replacement. Also, such modification is easier to maintain and convenient.
If you found a model that requires a battery pack to be plugged into the light, make sure you can effortlessly mount it onto the bike without worrying about it slipping from the surface. Although it may seem inconvenient, an option with a battery pack is actually one of the better modifications to get out of all options available, all because it balances out the weight of the light preventing it from moving side to side as you drive.
Lumen seems a descriptive characteristic of the brightness level of a tail light. However, the fact is, it doesn’t offer enough conclusive data as to how bright a given light model will be. There’s more to determining brightness than lumen.
There’s a reliable way to test the brightness of a bike tail light, you need to move it down and ensure it doesn’t blind you as you drive. If that’s not the case and you struggle to see the road, the modification is too bright and needs to be replaced for a dimmer option.
In case you are worried that not having a bright tail light will make it harder for everyone on the road to differentiate you from street and city lights, as well as car tail lights, consider setting the light into the ‘Flash’ mode – thus, you will be distinctly different from other traffic sources on the road.
Top 7 Bike Tail Lights Review — Make the Right Choice
In order to help you navigate the waters of local bike shops and online stores, we decided to review the most popular models, describing their pros and cons, and give you a better understanding of how to choose tail lights for a bike the right way.
We have personally tested all the options described above and have an informed opinion about their performance. Let’s get started.
Cygolite is an LED-based tail light. There’s a 2-watt lamp that empowers it. The model is USB rechargeable – you won’t have to replace the battery when the old one is worn out. The unit offers five modes that drivers can benefit from – steady, zoon, triple, single, and zoom.
The running time for Cygolite Hotshot is 4.5 hours – not too impressive but will do for a hiking trip. The seller claims to use on-site programmable smart technology for mounting adjustment – that’s a convenient feature as it allows to adjust the speed of light emission.
|• Bright and makes the bike easily |
• Easy to mount to the seat stay
• USB-based charging
|• Quickly drains the battery|
• Challenging controls – figuring out how to turn
it off and on will take a while
This unit wins its counterparts over with long-lasting battery life – as a matter of fact, it can run for up to 15 hours straight. All the other characteristics are solid – you have the lumen of 20, the 29 night flash, and 65 day flash. The model fits most bikes and bicycles and is easy to mount.
Garmin Varia RTL is one of the few tail lights that offer a solid level of daylight visibility. Drivers will be able to notice the bike from a mile away from the angle up to 220 degrees. One of the inconveniences the model makes drivers face is having to purchase a dedicated radar display to use the tail light freely. You can hook the unit up to any radar other than the seller’s own device, sold separately and not included in the cost of the tail light.
|• Bright light|
• Flashing mode
• 15 hours of battery life
• Daytime visibility
|• Uncomfortable mounting|
• Is incompatible with a wide range of off-road bikes
• Has no hook for saddle-bag mounting
It’s a durable unit that offers three modes of tail light. The model comes with two spare AAA batteries. The overall runtime of the Portland Design tail lights is impressive – they can last for 50 consecutive hours.
The seller includes a range of nice-to-have bonuses to the package – a backpack clip, spare batteries, and a seat post mount. There’s a lifetime guarantee as well which will give you more confidence when using the tail light.
The bad news is replacing the batteries regularly since it’s not too convenient and quite expensive in the long run.
|• 50 hours of battery life|
• Lifetime warranty
|• Having to change the batteries regularly|
• Switching between modes is challenging
These tail lights are not as popular as the modifications we reviewed previously. Having said that, they have a lot to show for themselves – 180-degree nighttime and daytime visibility, high-powered light output, and a comfortable mounting system.
StupidBright SBR-1 is compatible with almost every bike out there and fits most seat posts and frames like a glove. You can go as far as to strap it on the helmet, stroller, a pet’s collar, or a bike rack. The model claims to come with water and shock protection aluminum layer that will significantly increase the durability of the tail light. Thanks to its tight protection, StupidBright SBR-1 is a new favorite for many off-road hikers.
|• Sufficiently bright;|
• Come with an insulator that detects residual battery drain;
• Easy to mount
|• Complicated controls;|
• Light beams are too dispersed;
• Customer support issues
This model comes with a thought-out design that prevents light from dispersing and not being noticeable from afar. Instead, you can be quite confident other drivers will not fail to notice your bike from the radius of up to two miles away. The light is empowered by the COB lamp which increases the brightness of the model.
Canway Bike Tail Light has a 4-hour battery life – a little lower than average. Having said that, it’s hassle-free in maintenance, waterproof, and easy to mount to a seat post. The battery is USB rechargeable as well – you will not have to carry a spare around at all costs.
|• USB-rechargeable battery|
• Horizontal and vertical mounting options are available
• A full package with a rubber strap,
a USB cable, and a user manual
|• Short battery life|
• Light slips down when being used for a while – you will have to reattach it
This tail light stands out compared to others as it is well-designed and one of the most comfortable models to use. There’s a switch that enables changing light models that you can easily access with one hand, while still being able to maintain driving concentration.
The Ascher model is a multi-purpose one – you can try it out on many terrains, use it for camping, and hiking. The light is bright and disperses well enough to offer drivers a full view of the road next to them without blinding their eyes.
|• 4 light modes|
• USB rechargeable battery
• Can be loosened and tightened
|• Short battery life|
• The surface of the tail lights is scratchable
BV Rear Bike Taillight is super bright which makes it easily recognizable during nighttime. There are three modes to choose from – you can switch between blinking, flashing, and steady. The visibility radius of the model is up to 1500 feet.
The good news is, the model is weather-resistant. You will be able to ride a bike in winter and rainy autumn weather. The bad news is, the model is not USB rechargeable so you will have to change batteries every once in a while.
|• 1-year replacement warranty|
• Many mounting options
• Not USB-rechargeable
• Scratches easily
Choosing bike tail lights is not easy since there are many different models and modifications to consider. The good news is, there’s a wide range of characteristics that help you make the right decision. The tail light options we reviewed above are quite reliable and durable – however, take your time to run some independent research and find the model that fits your budget.