Choosing the right bicycle LED light depends on a few factors: will you be using the light for increased visibility, or to avoid an accident at night? Is it for a daily commute where your bike will be locked in public or just for fun rides where you can keep the bike safe from prying eyes? How often are you willing to change the batteries out, and do you need to be street legal? All of these will go into your decision on which light to choose.
For a street legal road bike, you will want a light for both the front and back of your bicycle. A red, flashing LED works well for the rear at almost any brightness level, as it will not be used for your own vision. As long as it is visible from 500 feet, you will be well equipped to handle traffic coming from behind you. The flashing design will allow you to replace batteries much less often, as well as attracting more attention from motorists.
The front light, however, will depend a bit on the roads you are riding upon. If it is mainly for city road use, you probably just want a light to draw attention to your bike as there will be street lights everywhere. In this case, a flashing white bicycle LED light or solid white light at any brightness level can be used.
For more country roads, a solid white LED light, preferably above 30 lumens should be used. This promotes visibility of the road in front of you, ensuring you won’t hit any pot holes or scurrying animals. It can also be used to look into your bag or investigate any dark areas as needed for a long ride.
If you will be mountain biking, a light that mounts on your helmet is often ideal. This allows you to aim the light exactly where you need it, be that directly in front of the bike or a hundred feet away and to the left. This also gives the added convenience of being able to look into your pack immediately without dismounting the light from your handle bars. Headlamps are good on commuting bikes for the same reason – you will never forget your expensive bike light on your bicycle where thieves may take it for their own use.
One of the most important things to consider is battery life and type when looking at bicycle LED lights. Ideally the light will use some sort of rechargeable battery, or at least something simple like AA or AAA. The cost of a bike light can go up extremely quickly when non-standard battery replacements are considered. Try to avoid any bike lights using button batteries or any type not purchasable in the average store. You don’t ever want to be without your bike light, and having standard batteries is a great way to ensure you will always have replacements available, no matter where you are.
The mounting hardware used can also be a huge convenience factor. The best lights have a quick release feature which allows you to mount or dismount the light from your frame in just a second for secure storage. While using screws may not seem like a big hassle, the time and trouble involved quickly add up over the life of the bike light. Worse still, you may be enticed to leave the light on your bike where it can be easily stolen. Thieves carry around tools for just this reason, waiting for an unsuspecting cyclist to lock up while leaving a potentially expensive light exposed.
There are a variety of packages available that will include both the front and back lights, for varying cost. Online and in smaller stores such as Wal-Mart, Target, or K-Mart you should be able to find a set. For a higher price, you will often get a higher quality, brighter LED along with a longer battery life and more features such as different flashing patterns. Figure out what your main uses will be, and purchase accordingly.