Our pick of front lights
CW lights up your local lanes with these essential winter items
f you’re planning to ride unlit roads, a ‘seeing’ front light is essential — one that allows you to see the road in front as well as to be seen by other road users. Over the next four pages we look at five lights that are powerful enough to light your way for a maximum budget of £100.
Lumens are used by the bike industry to measure the power of a light: a lumen is a unit of visible light. For comparison’s
How we score
10 - Superb, best in its class and we couldn’t fault it 9 - Excellent, a slight change and it would be perfect 8 - Brilliant, we’d happily buy it 7 - Solid, but there’s better out there 6 - Pretty good, but not quite hitting the mark 5 - Okay, nothing wrong with it, but nothing special 4 - A few niggles let this down 3 - Disappointing 2 - Poor, approach with caution 1 - Terrible, do not buy this product sake, a 100W incandescent bulb emits 1,600 lumens.
The more you pay, the more lumens you get, but lumens burn up charge; if you want to run a high-lumen light for a long time it will need a big battery. Anything between 200 and 1,000 lumens can be worked into a compact light weighing under 200g and less than 10cm long.
Most lights offer different modes so that you can lower the lumen count to extend the battery life — or indeed switch to a flashing mode to make yourself more visible in an urban environment. Generally modes are variations on constant and flashing, with pulsing also an option in most cases. Again, the more you spend the more modes you get. Most lights also have battery-life indicators, most often an LED light that changes colour.
Most lights are charged via the USB port in your computer — all of those in this test are of this type. More powerful ones will often have a mains connector and sometimes even a separate power pack. USB charging is the simplest and most convenient. The lifespan of a Li-ion battery — the type most modern lights use — is between 300-500 charge/ discharge cycles.
You probably won’t have the manual with you when you’re night-riding so a light’s functions ought to be intuitive and easy to memorise.
Smaller lights can get away with a simple strap mount whereas heavier ones will use a bolt bracket to support their extra weight. It’s important your light is held firmly: you don’t want it to nosedive when you’re riding down an unlit descent at speed: if it does, you do. Even if you’re using a fixed mount, the light has to be easily removable for charging or if you’re locking your bike up outside.