Advice: Bright battery lights for the dark autumn cycle

Anyone riding a bike in the dark needs a battery-powered light. TechStage shows good and inexpensive battery-operated headlights and taillights for all areas of application.

If you want to be safe on the road in autumn, you have to see and be seen. As the days are getting shorter, good bicycle lighting is essential. A bicycle without a functioning lighting system and reflectors is also not considered roadworthy.

With bright LED lamps like the Lupine SL AF, you don’t even have to do without your usual evening single trail circuit. TechStage shows in this purchase advice on cordless lights, how to find the right headlight for retrofitting or upgrading.

If, on the other hand, you are still looking for the right bike, we recommend our best list of e-folding bikes.

If you are thinking about buying a clip-on light, you should first be clear about the field of application of the lamps for the dark season. Should it be an inexpensive lighting set for the short trip to the subway, a lamp that illuminates the bike path well when working in the wet, or even a floodlight system for the helmet so that you can hunt down the bike trail at night? For the first two options, only StVZO-compliant lamps come into question. Extra bright helmet lamps are the best choice for night biking. However, these light monsters are not permitted in traffic because they can be extremely dazzling.

A small and light compact lamp with an integrated battery and USB charging interface is sufficient for short and occasional journeys. It is quick to connect and disconnect, but often only has a limited light output and burn time. Systems with a separate battery are a little heavier and more difficult to install, but last longer and can provide more light. Ideal for long tours or where maximum illumination is important.

In public road traffic, the light must have an official type approval. Recognizable by the test mark – this consists of a wave symbol, a capital K and a five-digit number.

Wave symbol on the headlight.

Once you have decided on a type of lamp, a night shift is definitely mandatory. The illumination is tested on his home route or in normal bicycle use. Try out assembly and operation in the dark beforehand – even with gloves. The control buttons must be easily accessible and easy to operate so that the lamp can also be operated with one hand while driving. Automatics and twilight sensors are helpful here.

Now adjust the height setting so that the near field is sufficiently illuminated and the cut-off line can still be seen clearly in the distance. The illuminated area in front of the bike must be as homogeneous as possible without dark spots – very important when it is wet, because reflections and light reflections are more noticeable and are a major challenge for the eyes. Especially at higher speeds, the lamp has to illuminate far enough to the front and to the side that obstacles can be recognized in good time and the feeling of flying blind never arises. It is very clear that the faster you want to be on the road, the more powerful the headlights have to be and ideally have a high beam function.

BMate with high illumination. The first three pictures in the gallery show a cheap battery light, in the category up to 30 euros, at full medium and weakest level. For a cheap lamp, that’s okay, because the pictures were taken on a rainy day and the floor was wet, which swallows a lot of light. The lamp manufacturer’s advertising images are often made in a dry and bright environment, which is ideal for the lighting. But if you are out and about at night in the city with a battery light on your bike in the rain, you can quickly see what it really does.

150 lux or 1400 lumens – lamp suppliers like to lure you with large numbers in the information on luminosity. You can rely on reputable lamp suppliers and higher lux or lumen figures also mean more luminosity. If the Supernova M99 Mini Pro 45, a 300 euro e-bike lamp with 1400 lumens, is specified, you have to ask yourself how this should work for offers at tenth of the price and 18000 lumens.

However, the light distribution is more important than the pure light output information. A clearly defined cut-off line in the distance and a homogeneously illuminated area in between up to directly in front of the bike is ideal. If the side lighting is wide and symmetrical, there are no moments of shock because of obstacles suddenly emerging from the darkness. Here the Lupine SL AF 4 StVZO is a clear recommendation. Precise cut-off for low beam and wide, even illumination in high beam mode, which is activated via a remote control on the handlebar.

The battery lighting has become much more reliable thanks to the energy-efficient LED technology and lighter lithium-ion batteries. Battery-operated lights are therefore not only suitable for occasional use, but also make the bike suitable for everyday use, also because regular recharging is no longer necessary. Ultimately, there is more light output with less weight. Lights with an integrated battery are now so light that they remain firmly attached to the handlebars. Systems with compact battery packs in the bottle holder supply high-performance LEDs with juice for hours.

20 years of progress in battery lamps. The old NiteRider with halogen technology and metal batteries weighed over 1.2 kilograms and the burn time was rather short at just under 1.5 hours. Not to mention the heat generated by the halogen bulbs. In comparison, a new, efficient LED headlamp including battery pack weighs around 260 grams. And the performance data are significantly better in terms of light output and burn time. However, these two lights are not compliant with the StVZO. But are well suited as additional off-road lighting.

In the majority of battery lights, the energy stores are now permanently installed. There is nothing wrong with that for now, as the power density and charging cycles are optimized for a long service life. The advantage of a removable rechargeable battery in battery form is obvious. If the battery is empty, you can simply change the replacement battery or batteries. Systems with an external battery are even more flexible, if one battery is empty, a second or larger one can be connected.

Front light comparison: battery vs accumulator

Usually the front light is attached to the handlebar or fork. This is logical, as the light cone always precisely detects the path that the driver is heading for. Depending on the version, the bike lights are either attached to an adapter screwed on beforehand or directly to the bike via the lamp housing. The majority of the front lights can be attached and removed quickly. This is important, after all, the expensive lamp should not be left unattended on the bike when it is switched off.

The standard sets have a very similar structure. The mostly tool-free assembly takes place by means of firmly integrated rubber straps or extra plastic screw clamps. The lamps with rubber straps, be it front or rear lights, are quickly attached and universally fit on different handlebars or seat post diameters. If the lighting is not installed during the day, as permitted, there are no unsightly holders on the bike – a real selling point for purists and aesthetes. The lights have to be realigned every time after installation. This is where the new rule comes in, that nobody should be blinded.

For systems with a separate holder, these are adapted to the handlebar or seat post with a clamp, toggle screw and rubber pads of different thicknesses. This is often very fiddly, and if there is not enough space, an exact horizontal alignment of the lamp is not possible. The advantage – once positioned, the lamps are quickly connected and disconnected and immediately aligned correctly. It is essential to pay attention to the clamping width of the clamp. Standard handlebars have a diameter of 25.4 millimeters and oversized handlebars of 31.8 or even 35.0 millimeters, so measure the handlebar diameter at the thickest point beforehand. The same applies to seat posts, here there are diameters from 25.0 to 35.0 millimeters. With aero bars and oval seat posts, the usual clamp fastenings fail, the systems with rubber tabs are most likely to work.

Holders fixed to the handlebar with a bayonet lock are a bit more complex to assemble during initial assembly, as they often have to be adapted to different handlebar or seat post diameters using rubber pieces.

Battery or rechargeable battery lights should have a charge level indicator that warns the user in good time before the energy source is running out. In the case of higher quality lamps, this is done via multi-stage displays or even minute-specific information on the remaining burn time. Twilight sensors automatically switch the front or rear lights on and off or dim the brightness according to the ambient light. That saves electricity and you don’t forget to turn on the light. Manual luminosity regulation also allows the luminosity to be individually adjusted to the respective situation, so you can turn up the lighting on a poorly lit stretch of road. A high beam with a switch on the handlebar is perfect for frequent drivers and allows significantly higher driving speeds in the dark. Time display and power bank connection are additional convenience functions.

Simple lighting sets with a battery compartment are suitable for occasional use in the city. The illumination is decent, but they quickly reach their limits when wet. With a burn time of between 4 and 8 hours, they are not long-lasting, but the batteries can be replaced quickly. Once caught by the police without lights is more expensive.

Sigma Sport Aura 25 + Cubic lighting set: Inexpensive complete set for beginners with 25 lux for occasional use in the city. The lamp requires 2 x AA batteries that can be exchanged without tools. The rear light is operated with 2 x AAA batteries. Attachment with integrated silicone holder.

AXA Niteline T1 lighting set: Like the Sigma Sport Aura, the Axa Niteline Set is attached directly to the handlebar or seat post with integrated silicone loops. The lamp set is particularly light because it is operated with CR2032 button cells.

Cube RFR Tour 15 6V + Tour lighting set: The front lamp of the RFR set is specified with 15 lux and is attached to the handlebar by means of a holder and bayonet lock. The lamp has the shape of a flashlight and can also be used as such. The rear light holder is attached to the seat post with a rubber strap.

The big advantage of lights with an integrated battery is their low weight and more compact design. Universal USB charging.

VDO ECO Light M30 set: The VDO ECO Light M30 Set with StVZO approval consists of a 30 LUX front light and a bright rear light, which thanks to lateral radiation offers very good visibility. The set can be easily charged via USB, is light and super compact – just the thing for town and country.

AXA Greenline 15 lighting set: The AXA Greenline is particularly compact and quickly installed with rubber straps. The lighting duration is specified as four hours and the charging time as two hours. With more than 1000 charging cycles, it is more environmentally friendly than battery lights when used frequently.

In addition to their low weight and compact design, the cordless lights in the price range up to 100 euros offer significantly more light output and burn time. The lighting of the road surpasses that of the cheap category by far and makes it interesting for cyclists who have to drive in the dark.

CatEye HL-EL552G GVolt70.1 front light: The special thing about the CatEye GVolt is the hanging installation. This is ideal for racing bike handlebars, so the lamp sits inconspicuously and protected under the handlebars and the shift or brake cables do not run through the headlight cone. With 70 lux and up to 25 hours of lighting time in economy mode, the low weight and performance data fit.

Lezyne Power STVZO Pro 115+ front light: The Lezyne Pro 115+ is made for rough use. Aluminum housing and waterproof according to IPX7 standard makes it unrestrictedly rainproof and tough. The 200 gram lamp is attached with a firmly attached elastic band.

Busch & Müller Ixon Core + IXXI lighting set: Busch + Müller headlights are characterized by a sophisticated reflector technology that illuminates the road very homogeneously. The 112 gram lamp is attached with a clamp holder with bayonet that sits on a rubber spacer, which means that the lamp can also be aligned horizontally.

Sigma Sport Aura 60 USB + Nugget II lighting set: The Sigma is a solid lamp set. In the far range it has a bright light cone, the close range and the edge illumination are somewhat weaker – but overall still good. The light duration of the headlight is positive. The rear light is easy to use and charges quickly.

In the relatively young segment of StVZO-compliant bike lamps with separate battery packs, there is not yet a large range. The strengths are the legal use in road traffic with a lot of security through good road illumination and enormous power for trail use.

Anyone who seriously wants to be out in the country at night with their MTB cannot avoid a bright helmet lamp. These lights can be mounted either on the handlebars or on the helmet, but they cannot be used on public roads under any circumstances. The extreme luminosity and endurance have their price, however.

The importance of the taillights is often underestimated. They have to be bright and durable because they protect the cyclist against approaching cars from behind. Their beam angle must be at least 220 degrees and thus also protect the cyclist to the side. The most common variant is for mounting on the seat post. Other types are permanently attached to the luggage rack, seat stays or mudguard.

Models with a twilight switch, which automatically switches on the light when the lighting conditions are right, are practical. Frequent drivers should consider whether a lamp with an integrated rechargeable battery and USB charging connection is more economical for them than a battery variant. Again, please only use models with StVZO, i.e. K identification.

The Garmin Varia RTL516 rear light with radar and Bluetooth is a high-tech rear light with built-in radar and Bluetooth connectivity. The rear light permanently mounted on the luggage rack with USB charging connection Busch & Müller Toplight Flat S Senso rear light has a lighting duration of up to 50 hours, an integrated Z-reflector and an automatic twilight function.

Energy source: Bicycles must be equipped with an alternator, a battery or a rechargeable energy storage device or a combination thereof as an energy source to operate the headlight and the tail light.

Headlights: Bicycles must have one or two front-facing white dipped beam headlights. The headlights must be adjusted so that they do not dazzle other road users and they may also be equipped with daytime running lights and high beam functions for white light. Flashing headlights are not permitted.

Taillight: Bicycles must be equipped with at least one rear light for red light on the back and may have a brake light function. Flashing tail lights are not permitted.

Front radiator

Attachment: The lighting equipment must be properly and securely attached during its operation, secured against unintentional adjustment under normal operating conditions, and always ready for use. The lighting equipment must not be covered.

Headlights, taillights and their energy source may also be removable, but must be attached during twilight, in the dark or when the visibility conditions otherwise require it.

Reflectors: For a bicycle that complies with the Road Traffic Licensing Regulations (STVZO), at least ten fixed reflectors are required: a large white front reflector and a large red reflector, category “Z”, at the rear. The obligation to have a second red reflector mounted at the rear has since been canceled. Both reflectors can also be integrated in the headlight or the rear light, but this only makes sense in the case of clip-on lights if the lights are permanently installed in traffic.

The pedals must have yellow reflectors that work both forwards and backwards, so a total of four. With the two long sides of the bike you have a choice: Either you use tires with a continuous reflective strip on the flank or you use the classic, at least two yellow spoke reflectors in each wheel, offset by 180 °. The versions that have a metal clip in a plastic housing sit particularly securely. Retroreflective spoke sleeves that are attached to each spoke are also possible.

Spoke sleeves

The StVZO regulates what lighting is attached to the bike. But there is still more that can be done for protection in the dark. Reflective clothing or safety vests for bikers are worth their weight in gold in the dark season. If you don’t want to be out and about with neon-colored clothes, you can also get on your bike with subtle clothing with integrated, flashing LEDs. Because in contrast to the bicycle, you have a lot more freedom with the lighting that you wear on your body. It must just not dazzle or endanger others. Anyone who gets involved in traffic with flashing LEDs is not easily overlooked.

Tips for night biking:

Biking off-road with friends when the moon is full is really cool. Fixed appointments also help to overcome your inner weakness and to swing on the bike in spite of the darkness.

  • Charge the batteries fully beforehand.
  • Take a spare battery and a second lamp with you for longer tours.
  • In addition, wear a safety vest, flashing lights or retroreflective elements on your body.
  • Only drive off-road routes that you know, but remember – habit can be dangerous.
  • It is best to drive off in daylight beforehand, because obstacles such as low-hanging branches can be fatal in the dark, but do not trust that the route will remain as it was last seen.
  • Do not drive at maximum speed.
  • The most dangerous obstacles in the forest are obstacles at head height, they are not detected by the headlight and the eye follows its bright light cone. It is best to also use a headlamp.
  • Make frequent stops and arrange a meeting point in case you get lost.
  • Don’t forget warm clothes and a thermos for après-biking.

Battery lights are no longer an emergency solution. Equipped with the latest LED and battery technology, they are fully practical. Even simple lamp sets for 30 euros offer good illumination and bright rear lights. From 50 euros and up, the front lights with integrated rechargeable batteries are also suitable for longer tours and safe training in the dark.

Lamp systems with a separate battery pack, from 150 euros, offer a high fun factor for night biking off-road, even away from the paved roads. The good thing is that all lamps are there with the blessing of the legislature. Equipped in this way, the MTB and the road racer can also be used extensively and legally in the dark season.