Four high-quality front lights that won’t break the bank

By Jeffrey Stern

A couple weeks ago we covered four great options for rear lights while riding late into the day and evening during summer adventures on your favorite backgrounds. Now that we have your tail covered, we want to make sure you can see everything in your path. There’s nothing worse than a flimsy, dim light with a short battery capacity.

In that light (pun intended), we went on the hunt for a few high-quality, USB rechargeable front lights to complete your cycling illumination package.

Featuring panels to emit light visible to motorists and other cyclists from the side, the Blackburn Central 200 front light is a powerful 200 lumen light in a small package. An LED charge indicator has four colors to let you know how much of the three hour (low mode) runtime you have remaining. A swivel mount allows for easy adjustment and the silicon attachment strap fits handlebars from 22-35mm and even doubles as a helmet attachment. The Central 200 comes in four different waterproof colors, weighs only 63 grams and will set you back $40.

BlackburnCentral200FrontLight

NiteRider is known for making powerful lights with wired battery packs allowing you to run a near spotlight beam for hours on end into the night. Their Swift 350 front light is one of actually a few exceptions to that norm, delivering reliable performance in a compact and economical bundle. This light from the night riding specialists boasts 350 lumens with five different flashing modes. In high mode, you can expect 1.5 hours of illumination, but in low mode (70 lumens) the battery is estimated to last 6.5 hours. The body of the light is made of fiberglass reinforced plastic that’s water/dust proof. It also features a unique walk mode with 21 hours of battery life, just in case you find your bike inoperable in the middle of the woods and you have to hoof it home – all for just $35.

NiteRiderSwift350FrontLight

If you’re looking to step your light game up a few notches for not much more of an investment, the Cygolite Dash 460 offers more lumens with 5 LEDs, a maximum 63-hour battery life (in quad LED flash mode) and eight separate beam modes to cover all types of scenarios in the dark or low light settings. The lithium ion-charged, powerful package is a bit heavier at 75 grams, but takes only three hours to fill up completely. Enhanced cycling optics help to widen and lengthen the lights beam ahead creating a bright path. For additional safety, the day lighting mode emits lightning-like flashes for high visibility even during the middle of the afternoon heat. In the low light, night setting mode, the Dash 460 will last an estimated and impressive nine hours at the cool price of $55.

CygoliteDash460FrontLight

Some of the most lumens in the sleekest packages are delivered by the San Luis Obispo, California-based Lezyne. Their Macro Drive 800XL light is the heaviest, but stoutest of the list for good reason. The CNC machined aluminum parts and body create a durable construction for 800 lumens of power from this high performance front cycling light. At max power in the overdrive mode, the ultrahigh LED lights will blast for 1 hour and 40 minutes while in the conservative femto mode the light lasts for a reported 63 hours. A robust silicone strap secures the Macro Drive 800XL easily in place over many types of handlebars. Choose from silver or black, both so stylish they might become your favorite bike accessory for $70.

Once you’re covered from front to rear with the lights of your choice, get out there this summer and ride more miles than you ever have before without fear of losing the sun’s rays!

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Four rear lights for summer nights (and beyond)

By Jeffrey Stern 

Although the longest day of the year has passed, there are plenty of late summer nights in our future. When I think of summer, I think of big bike adventures, often planned to be done around dinner time, but also just as often pushed well past twilight. Only for pure enjoyment sake and because you can never say no to one more new trail or road when there’s still a bit of light left in the sky, right?

Too many times this leads to riding home in the dark, sharing lights with a friend or two. The classic, one of you has a front light, the other a rear and the third has neither so they sit in the middle of the reduced peloton on the midnight express through the city streets and back safely home…

Why not nearly guarantee your visibility with a high-quality, USB rechargeable light that will last you for seasons to come? Trust me, your family and tail-wagging pup will thank you when you walk in the door safely all summer long.

The Lezyne Zecto is a high visibility three-LED, 20 lumen light with a built in motion detecting system featuring six different flashing modes. This light will automatically turn off after three minutes of inactivity. With a machined aluminum faceplate and lightweight, yet durable composite matrix body the Zecto it is as sturdy as functional. At a svelte 47 grams, this micro-USB rechargeable light also has a versatile clip-on system for easy attachment to your seatpost, pannier or backpack and only costs $50.

LezyneZecto

At 65 lumens, Trek’s Bontrager Flare R Tail Light features a CREE LED that can reportedly be seen from over 2km away day or night. With two night and two day modes, the 270-degree visibility offered by the Flare provides the ultimate safety options for all-day riding. A unique battery save mode kicks in at 5% life to get you home safely in that last hour of your ride. The quick connect bracket and 16 degree offset makes attachment and adjustment a breeze for this features loaded $60 USB rechargeable light.

BontragerFlare

If you have a little more to spend and are looking for the increased safety of a built in camera, look no further than the Cycliq Fly 6 bike camera. The Fly 6 is a waterproof rear light with 720p HD camera in case of an on-road accident. At just over 100 grams with a 100-degree view, this light/camera combo watches your back by recording in 10 minute intervals so you can ride stress free. Run time is rated at six-plus hours and the Fly 6 comes with an 8GB Class 10 MicroSD card as well as USB cable. Substantially more than most rear lights at $140, it’s well worth the investment if your rides take you on the narrow shoulders of busy roads frequently, for increased peace of mind for you and your family.

CycliqFly6

The Cygolight Hotshot 50 delivers a lot of power, to the tune of 50 lumens, in a small and affordable package. It’s lithium-ion battery is charged lightning quick via USB and the six different light speeds are user-adjustable. With 500 hours of use available on a single charge and costing a cool $30, this might be the best bang-for-your-buck rear light option on the market.

CygolightHotshot50

Check back next week for our picks for the best front lights for your summer riding and ride safety!

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Review: Lezyne Macro Drive Duo and Zecto Drive Auto

Lezyne released a host of new lights this year from the 1,400-Lumen Mega Drive headlight to the 7-lumen KTV taillight. Sitting in the middle of that lineup are the 400 lumen Macro Drive Duo and 20 Lumen Zecto Drive Auto.

Macro Drive Duo – $85

Lezyne Macro Drive Duo and Zecto Drive Lights V2—WEB (1 of 3)

The Macro Drive Duo’s helmet mount makes it one of just a few lights that offer both headlight and taillight functionality in one package. This video does a better job of showing the Duo’s many the features and specs than I could in couple thousand words:

While many of us around the office were a bit skeptical of this idea at first, the Macro Drive Duo has grown on me during the test period. Though I’m not a huge fan of helmet mount lights in general, it was quite convenient to mount on my helmet and know I had a decent amount of light spilling out front and rear.

The single rear LED is far brighter than its diminutive size suggests, and it broadcasts a wide swatch of light regardless of the angle of the light on your helmet. That said, in terms of being seen from the rear, I wouldn’t be comfortable without additional rear lighting. Best to think about this as supplementary.

Lezyne Macro Drive Duo and Zecto Drive Lights V2—WEB (2 of 3)

Out front, the 400-lumen “Blast” mode offers more than ample light to be seen in the city, but just a touch less than I’d like for true night riding on dark country roads. Some of that perception might be due to the light’s concentrated center beam, which provides decent illumination in the center of the beam, but not as much ambient spill as I would like in the foreground. Of course, it’s easy to be spoiled by light output these days due to the industry’s equivalent of a lumens arms race.

From my experience, most riders have a preference for handlebar or helmet mounted lights. If you’re in the helmet-mounted camp and find 400 lumens sufficient for your needs, the Macro Drive Duo is certainly worth considering as the $85 asking price is quite reasonable. And, if you like to swap between helmet and handlebar mounting, Lezyne offers an accessory handlebar mount for $4. Just turn off the rear LED and clip it to on. If you’d solidly in the handlebar-mount crowd, Lezyne offers the Macro Drive for $70, which is essentially the same light without the rear LED.


 

Zecto Drive Auto – $50

Lezyne Macro Drive Duo and Zecto Drive Lights V2—WEB (3 of 3)

Lezyne’s Zecto Drive Auto rechargeable rear light incorporates motion sensing technology to turn itself on and off automatically after being stationary for three minutes. Check out this video for all the specifics.

From the get-go I’ve been very impressed with Zecto Drive Auto. It’s small, light, well constructed and puts out a lot of light. The LED battery level indicators on the side of the light are a very nice touch for knowing when you need to recharge. Event the shortest burn time of 2:45 is ample for most applications. I also liked the broad range of output offerings from the 5-lumen “Economy” mode, which is great for group rides where you don’t want to blind your buddies, to the 20-lumen “Daytime” mode that’s great for being seen on foggy or dreary days.

Also awesome is the super quick, simple and reliable strap or clip style mounting system. There’s a fringe benefit for the mountain bikers in the crowd too. This light works great on long-travel suspension bikes due to it’s small size. Since it protrudes out very little from the seatpost, you don’t have to worry about the rear tire smashing into your taillight on full compression.

Due mostly to force of habit, I didn’t often take advantage of the light’s automatic on/off feature as I’m pretty good about remembering to turn off my lights. Though it is nice to know you light will conserve energy if you leave it on and turn itself back on should you forget.

Overall, the Zecto Drive Auto is a slick little light that’s well worth the asking price.

 

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