Best Bike Tail Lights for Your Next Night Ride

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We think that the best bike tail light is Garmin Varia RTL510. It’s the smartest radar-based rear bike light you can buy right now. Battery life and overall visibility are top-notch! If you wish to spend less for a full set of lights check the awesome Bontrager Ion 200.


Human beings are strange creatures. They will expend an enormous amount of money, time, and attention on people and things while dismissing the “small stuff” that can save them from any number of mistakes, errors, and even tragedy. 

Consider the modest bike tail light. As accessories go, it may seem an easily-overlooked feature, but in fact, one little tail light could save your life in unforeseen circumstances over which you likely have no control. 


Garmin Varia RTL510 – Our Pick!


PROS:

  • Easily mounted on the seat post
  • State of the art radar technology
  • Both visual and audio alerts
  • Works as a stand-alone light for those without computers
  • Alerts are not annoying, like competitor brands.

CONS:

  • May not be your best daylight option
  • If your seat post is thick, it could fall off.

At around $195, you may pause-but if you check out this best bike tail lights pick, you’ll be impressed. The Varia RTL510 gets outrageously high ratings from cyclists because it’s loaded with features.

This light is easily spotted day and night, and if you keep it in flashing mode, the charge will last up to 15 hours. Get 6 hours of service if it’s set on solid beam.

Receive both visual and audible alerts informing you that vehicles are approaching from the rear for as far away as 153 yards. Easy-mount instructions help cyclists attach this gem to every style of a bike on the planet. 

If you worry about compatibility, relax. The Varia is compatible with Fenix 5, 5 plus, 5s, 5s plus, 5x, Fenix 5x plus, Chronos, Forerunner 735xt, 935, Tactix charlie, Vision in-sight display, Vívoactive 3, Vívoactive hr, D2 Delta, Delta s, Edge 1000, 1030, 130, 25, 510, 520, 520 plus, 810, 820, explore 1000 and explore 820.

Out of breath from reading that list? That’s the point and helps explain why such a small bike accessory, once interfaced with a dedicated radar display unit or wireless Garmin Technology, is so popular despite the price. 


Bontrager Ion 200


PROS:

  • The rear light is brighter than the front light 
  • Super small and light
  • 30 hours of battery life in flashing mode
  • Has the ability to lock in mode 
  • Shift from bright to dim on the fly.

CONS:

  • May not be the best value
  • The mounting system could disappoint.

The manufacturer describes this $115 bike tail light combo as “small but mighty,” so if you want to stay visible during the day and night rides, consider this two-light product when weighing your options. While you may not care how the front-mounted beacon light performs, the backlight is likely to meet your criteria for power.

Both bike lights in this set are USB-rechargeable and easy to mount.

Get 200 lumens of visibility via Cree LED bulbs and the pulsating flash can be seen from up to 2km away. Interface this unit with Garmin® and Bontrager ANT+ devices for “always-on, battery status, and wireless control.” The Ion 200 comes with quick connect mounts and a charging cable. 

Mount the front light on your handlebar and the rear light on the seatback and hit the road. Set lights on high and expect around 1.5 hours of battery life.

Set it on low and expect around 14.5 hours before the juice runs out. Keep the setting on flashing, and Bontrager insists you will get 30 hours of flashing capacity courtesy of the 420 Li-Poly batteries.

One fan of this set noted that he has noticed “a change in driver behavior” since he installed the Ion 200. Reason enough to give this front and rear duo a look-see, just as long as you hang on to your receipt after purchasing the lights from a retailer with a return policy. 


Serfas Thunderbolt


PROS:

  • Only requires 3.5-inches of space to mount
  • Silicone replacement bands cost only $2.50 per band
  • A micro USB cord is provided 
  • Small enough to fit two for added safety
  • Even potholes won’t shake this light loose.

CONS:

  • Lifetime warranty may not cover defects
  • Battery life may not be as advertised.

If your budget is so tight, buying a proper tail light could compromise your next grocery shopping trip, consider the $35 Serfas Thunderbolt USB tail light. Talk about small but mighty! This modest accessory gets rave reviews from owners who understand that price doesn’t always indicate poor product quality. 

Serfas isn’t immodest when it calls the Thunderbolt “industry’s most technologically advanced safety lights.” What’s lacking in bells and whistles shows up on the road, the result of consistent in-house testing to make sure the Thunderbolt is ROBS compliant.

High-quality lenses deliver increased brightness and clarity, no matter the outdoor conditions. 

That stated, the Thunderbolt produces only 35 lumens of pure red light for the duration of your ride, so consider this number if you want more power. Use the USB cord to recharge, and it will stay vibrant and bright for up to 3.5 hours courtesy of 30 tiny LED lights hidden beneath the red encasement.

Expect 1.75 hours of run time on high, 3 hours on low, 7 hours on the high blink, and 9.5 hours on the low blink. Since the unit is made of water-resistant silicone, inclement weather won’t impact the illumination you need to travel safely.

You also get unique mounting options thanks to smart fasteners that come bundled with this tail light. 


CYGOLITE Hotshot Pro


PROS:

  • Flexible mount, aggressive design and 200 lumens make this a standout
  • One button controls brightness output
  • Hard mounts attach to seat posts and seat stays
  • Enhanced Cycling Optics produces an extra-wide, long-range beam
  • Compact, durable, and IP64 water-resistant for rides in the rain. 

CONS:

  • Rubber band mounting attachment is prone to breakage.
  • Don’t take the “rainproof” assurance too seriously.

What if we told you that the 35 lumens of light emitted by the Thunderbolt above could be increased to 200 lumens for the same price? That’s the deal with the Cygolite Hotshot Pro tail light that allows you to access six-night and daytime modes for $35.

This product offers an equally compact design, it’s waterproof and comes with a USB rechargeable cord. Perhaps you will wind up on the fence because both products are so similar if you remove the huge lumen differential from the equation. We wouldn’t blame you if you bought both, kept the receipts, and returned the one that disappointed.

The Hotshot Pro offers 2-button control, and equally, flexible mount engineered to fit standard seat posts and while the flash mode is referred to as a “one-of-a-kind,” the feature delivering the ultimate in safety for daytime performance is having six modes from which to choose. That number doubles the Thunderbolt’s three modes. 

Set the light on steady, zoom, triple flash, daylight flash, steady pulse or random flash and anticipate from 2 to 210 hours of illumination depending upon the tempo you choose.

Further, the product’s Steady Pulse mode is a patent-pending feature that helps motorists assess your distance courtesy of the steady beam and overlapping pulses. Worry the battery could die in mid-ride? Not if you keep an eye on the low-battery indicator light.


Light & Motion Vya Taillight


PROS:

  • Affordable, elegant design
  • Bright light is enormously visible when activated
  • Aids rider in judging distances between bike and vehicles 
  • Motion and movement turn the beam on and off
  • USB key offers direct charging.

CONS:

  • May require charging more frequently than stated
  • Not the sturdiest tail light in this review.

The Vya competes with both the Thunderbolt and the Hotshot at $40, but once again, you’ll be cheated on the lumen front if you pick this product over the others because you’ll only get 50-lumen output.

If that’s okay with you and you like the brand, there’s plenty to recommend choosing the Light & Motion tail light. 

The variable SafePlus beam pattern has been optimized for day and night visibility and has been proven to enhance the depth perception of motorists and cyclists. Smart sensor technology recognizes motion and automatically activates and deactivates the light from start-up to the moment you park the bike.

You get direct, cable-free USB charging, so if you tend to lose cables, this alone could motivate you to pick the Vya. 

Get a full charge in around 2 hours and a brand pedigree that’s been around since 1989 when Light & Motion introduced the company’s first personal lighting system. Thus it is considered a pioneer in the field.

Having won plenty of awards, patents, and acknowledgment from a variety of industry authorities, the Vya tail light was thoroughly tested and modified at the adjacent factory and remains competitive despite the number of new bike light manufacturers currently “vying” for market position.


LEZYNE Femto Drive LED Rear Light


PROS:

  • You can afford to buy several to ensure your visibility
  • 2 Lithium Metal batteries come with light
  • Mounting straps can be replaced for just $2.99 each
  • This light is tiny and discreet
  • Easy to install and remove.

CONS:

  • Won’t work if you remove the paper battery separators
  • May not always turn on and off when needed.

In the “You get what you pay for” category, the Femto Drive may look sexy, come with a price tag of just $13.50 and give you a choice of colors (silver, red and black), so if you don’t mind output of only 7 lumens when you hit the streets or trails, there’s not much more to recommend this product.

Marketed as the ultimate in compact, bright, safety lights, Lenzyne relies upon its decision to make the product of high-grade optical material as a major selling point, so if being lightweight thanks to CNC machined aluminum is important to you, you can afford to buy 3 of these for the price of one of the aforementioned tail lights. 

The composite matrix backplate must be removed in order to change out the 2 CR2032 disposable batteries that power this tail light. Once juiced up and activated, cyclists can choose from 4 flash and one solid light operation options.

Sold as a weather-resistant rear light, it’s secured by silicon rubber straps made to slip over the backplate adjacent to the seat tube. In “light” of the limited lumen output and the necessity for continually replacing batteries to keep you and your bike safe in all manner of environments, you may wish to situate this product at the bottom of your shortlist. 


LEZYNE Strip Drive Pro 


PROS:

  • Outstanding illumination and visibility
  • Excellent selection of blinker patterns 
  • Gets the attention of motorists and cyclists big time
  • The power button is totally sealed to prevent malfunctions
  • The waterproof charging port is reliable and easily accessed.

CONS:

  • You may not be satisfied with the stretchy mounting system.
  • It could cost more than your budget allows. 

Lest you think Lezyne only produces insanely cheap rear tail lights for bikes, consider the elder big brother of the Femto Drive model just described that comes with a $50 price tag and a design that blows competitors out of the water.

In return for your investment, you get lots of muscle: a whopping 300 lumens, extremely high ratings from cyclists who wouldn’t own another tail light, and who needs color options when black will do?

Eager to see what it’s like to own a tail light that offers 53 hours of run time? This is it. The wide-angle beam offers you 270-degrees of visibility; the unit is USB rechargeable and thanks to aero and round seat-post compatibility, attachment is a breeze.

If the price is right, the lumens are excellent, that much run time makes your heart beat faster and 270-degrees of visibility makes this product seem perfection, owners agree that it comes close, but you are going to have to count on the opinions of very few people because cyclists opting for this tail light seem to be so happy with the product, they rarely say good or bad things about the Strip Drive Pro.


KNOG Blinder Road R70


PROS:

  • This product is dust- and waterproof
  • Made in Australia to outback standards
  • Get 150 miles between charges; green light indicates a full charge
  • Rechargeable lithium polymer battery included 
  • This light rules with Brits who know a thing or two about cycling!

CONS:

  • Knog customer service may disappoint
  • The strap may not keep light from falling off.

Since we’ve started off each review with the price so you can fast forward to the next tail light if it’s either too cheap or too pricey, you can keep on reading about the Knog Blinder because it, too, has a $40 price tag and hundreds of happy cyclists eager to share their thoughts about this sleek tail light. 

Yes, the shape looks like a traffic light, but once you start to review all of the features and benefits Knog delivers in the Blinder Road R70, you probably won’t care. This tail light is engineered to take extreme beatings on the road.

Knog suggests you ride through a tsunami or Dust Bowl to see how admirably it survives the journey and comes out shining brightly on the other side. 

Both aerodynamic and lightweight, the Blinder Road R70 is crafted to be positioned in line with handlebars and posts, weighs just 75 grams, and if you’ve ever had to worry about drag in the past, rest assured, those days are over.

The powerful lithium-ion battery promises superior peak run time capabilities, and you’ll get even more life out of a charge by keeping it in storage mode when you’re not out riding. 

Just in case you are absent-minded about recharging, the low battery indicator will admonish you. With the USB connection built-in, you can forget about losing cords.

Taillights in the Blinder collection come with multiple attachment straps, and whether you want one or not, you’ll get a free helmet mounting kit, too. That said, good luck figuring out where this product fits on the lumens scale since Knog doesn’t reveal it when describing the product.


CAT EYE Rapid X3


PROS:

  • Recharge by computer via the USB port
  • The split, the independent light configuration is unique 
  • Non-synchronized blinking modes are extra attention-getting
  • Excellent reflective dispersion lens
  • The brightness factor is off the charts.

CONS:

  • Be sure to order the red rear model, not the white front one
  • The price tag could send your heart into flashing mode!

At around $60, the red, rear Cat Eye Rapid X3 makes big promises and based on cyclist ratings; those promises are being met. The company’s all-weather protection could get your attention if you’ve bought other bike lights that promised rain protection that failed, but once you learn that this tail light offers 150 lumens of brightness, your decision could be made. 

The Cat Eye Rapid X3 provides day and night benefits that include, high, low, flashing, rapid, pulse and vibration modes, but if you’ve had battery issues in the past, what may win your heart and dollars is the fact that the X3 can give you 30 hours of battery life on a single charge. 

The rubber band security mounting accessory is specifically designed for those who like to adjust their bike lights in mid-ride. You fasten the light to the bike, and if it needs adjustments on the go, reposition the unit by hand in seconds, and you’re good to go.

Impressed by a company that is constantly striving to improve its product line? The Rapid X series represents the best in technological advancement, and according to Cat Eye, it “integrates thoughtful features to ensure that you’re always seen and never left in the dark.”


CANWAY Bike Tail Light


PROS:

  • Blue light gets extreme attention because motorists think “police.”
  • At just 3-inches, this tail light has a thin footprint
  • Short rubber clasp mount is tenacious
  • Absolute value for little money
  • The brightness factor is off the charts.

CONS:

  • The blue strobe isn’t technically street legal
  • Not likely to meet your waterproof expectations. 

Talk about value for your money: This Canway tail bike light may come with a $15 price tag, but features and benefits far surpass costlier units. For starters, this is the only product on this list that gives you both red and blue light for safety.

It gets rave reviews from cyclists who can afford to spend more but find this product a solid performer, and while Canway also keeps lumen numbers under wraps, the tail light’s 260-degree wide-angle spreads out to throw an impressive amount of illumination.

Behind the lens, COB lamp beads are responsible for the intense light output, and depending upon the mode you select, you could get from 2-to-4 hours of ride time on a single charge. 

Never again buy batteries. This inexpensive tail light recharges via the USB interface with your computer or any other compatible electronic device you own. The battery’s charge time is around 2 hours so that you won’t be inconvenienced.

Install the Canway easily and without tools: mount it vertically or horizontally to suit your preference, and because you can fasten it wherever you like and then adjust it on the go, you will find this tail light mount gives you 360-degrees of flexibility and awesome illumination when you need it most.


Five questions you need answered before you buy

 1) Suppose I commute to work in low light conditions? 

According to RideFar.com’s article, flashing tail lights may be called for during low-light conditions. Rear flashing lights are recommended in rain and fog, at dawn, dusk, and night. Solid rear lights are deemed optional unless riding in areas where there are no street lights.

Photo by Kenny Luo on Unsplash

 2) How can I adjust my ride in various traffic situations? 

Staying safe in traffic requires all of your attention, writes pro Alex Stieda for Bicycling.com. Pick smart routes, he says. A longer course may be safer than a shorter one. Stay steady and make your presence known via hand signals and eye contact.

 3) What should I know about other cyclist’s visibility?

Assume that other cyclists aren’t as cautious or well-equipped as you are to handle changing traffic patterns, light fluctuations, weather, and distractions. It may be up to you to be the adult on the road. Keep long distances between yourself and other cyclists and motorists as a precaution.

 4) Is there a difference between summer and winter cycling? 

Yes, say experts writing for GoPedal.org. Winter weather requires you to pay more attention to clothing designed for warmth and ventilation, but not so constrained you to overheat or can’t operate your bike. Sweat-wicking garments are ideal first layers followed by insulated outerwear, wool socks, gloves, and cap. Reduce your tire pressure for increased traction and activate lighting for improved visibility.

Photo by Paolo Chiabrando on Unsplash

5) Do I need both front and rear lights? 

You do, says cyclist Marc Lindsey, though laws from state-to-state may not be the same. “Most have laws that require bike lights between sunset and sunrise or during limited-visibility conditions,” he notes, and “all brand new bikes must be equipped with a white reflector on the front of the bike and a red reflector on the rear.” Wonder where your state stands?


Four things to consider when choosing between best bike tail lights

1. Consider your needs and travel patterns

Will your commute takes place during daylight hours, or do you intend to bicycle at all hours? Today’s bike tail lights come in multiple modes. The flash and burst mode is ideal on urban roads; at night, pulsation can be distracting and suck up your battery juice. 

High powered constant beams will drain your battery fast, but it’s the safest way to travel at night. Experts recommend pairing a high beam light with a flashing light on both front and back, especially in urban areas. Early morning and evening hours call for a constant, medium/low beam.

Photo by Sapir Giladi goveri on Unsplash

2. Consider overall visibility 

Here’s your “right light” primer: high output lights offer maximum illumination, cost more, but can’t be beaten on streets with no street lights. Front and rear safety lights are designed to make you as visible as possible, which is why they aren’t as powerful or expensive. 

Off-road lights are costly and made for helmet or front mounting, and run time is limited. Can you have too many safety lights on your bike? Not according to experts. “The more lit up like a Christmas tree you are – the safer you are,” say experts at Bicycles-and-Bikes.com.

3. Consider functions you require

Bicycle safety lights do two critical jobs: Illuminate terrain at night and serve as safety measures. They make you visible, announce your presence, improve your odds of not getting hit, and provide additional safeguards in lousy weather. 

While mandatory red rear and bright front lights can be steady or flashing, they must be visible from a minimum of 200 meters and 50 meters on the side. While flashing lights are helpful, if the flash is too slow, others may misjudge your distance, and if too fast, the strobe effect can distort perspective. 

4. Consider optimal battery life

If it seems half of your life is spent charging electronics, you won’t be surprised to learn that bike tail light batteries need charging, too. The best way to decide which tail light will give you the longest charge is to assess the lengths of your ride and carry back-up batteries for extended expeditions. 

As long as you are local about recharging your bike light batteries, so they’re ready to go when you are, and you maintain the health of your charger, whether the battery needs replacements or takes a USB charger, you’ll always be prepared to ride.


Do you need a bike tail light?

According to the Outside.com website, “You Have No Excuse Not to Bike with a Light, Day or Night.” Safety statistics prove it. Manufacturers do too – which is why so many novels, updated bike lights have flooded the market.

This is not complicated, experts note. Lights on bikes not only decrease a biker’s visibility by night and day, but all 50 U.S. state governments have passed laws mandating them for dusk and nighttime biking.

While U.S. laws are impressive, the United Kingdom has amassed more statistics on this phenomenon: “Around 80 percent of cycling accidents occur during daylight hours – similarly high numbers are reported in research across Europe.” 

Given so much evidence, these statistics can be counted on for accuracy according to the League of American Bicyclists who have done their own groundbreaking research to find that 40-percent of U.S. bikers are killed after being struck from behind. “One 2005 Danish study of 2,000 cyclists claimed that all-day lights reduced crashes by between 30- and 50-percent,” an undeniably impressive statistic. 

Need more reasons? Here’s one you can’t refuse: If you’re in an accident and can prove that you ride with a bike tail light, you have legal recourse, should your accident case go to court. For more legal insights, visit the website of Golden, Colorado attorney Megan Hottman who specializes in cyclists’ rights.


How to mount a bike tail light 

Once you finish reading the following descriptions of our best bike tail light picks, you’ll understand that there is no single way to mount a bike tail light because these products are being made in too many configurations. 

Today’s big trend is rubber mounts that act like rubber bands, so no tools are needed to mount a tail light; you just wind the fastener around a post, and it’s in place in seconds. 

Has the “old” method of drilling holes and using screws and bolts to attach bike tail lights disappeared? It appears so. Always consult your product’s instruction sheet or manual for the best attachment result. 

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