How to install bike lights

It is important to install the bike lights correctly if you are traveling after dark. A properly installed light should be securely screwed into place, so that it cannot rotate or slip. It should also be parallel to the ground – if your light is installed at an angle and pointing towards the road, you will be much less visible to other vehicles.

You also need to make sure you get the best bike lights For the job. Lights that attach with screw clamp mechanisms are much more secure than those that come with a strap. And models that can be charged by USB are easier to power than old-school battery models.

We’ve put together a step-by-step guide on installation for you, which includes a guide to placing the lights and how to tighten them properly. For more cycling tips and advice, read our roundup of best bike helmets and our guide for cycling at night.

First, get the right lights

White front bike light

(Image credit: Getty)

To comply with UK traffic laws you will need a forward facing white light and a rear facing red light. In the US you also need a white front light, but you can use a red rear reflector instead of a light (we still recommend using a red light, as it improves visibility.)

You can add flashing lights to your setup if you want to be even more visible. Just make sure you are within the legal limits. In the UK it is legal to use flashing lights, as long as they flash between 60 and 240 times per minute and give off at least 48 lumens of light (check the packaging for the number of lumens). In the United States, the law on flashing lights varies from state to state. check local rules before buying it.

Most lights come with a simple clamp or strap that you attach to your handlebars; the clamps can be tightened with a screw mechanism and the straps wrap around the bars and secure to themselves. In our experience, screw-in clamp lights are much safer than those with a strap-on mechanism and less likely to fly off if you go over a pothole.

Choose where to place your lights

The white bike light goes forward, forward, and the red bike light goes back, backward. Normally you install the white light on the handlebars and the red light on the seatpost, but the red light can also be attached to a bike rack if you have one on the rear wheel.

Don’t be tempted to put your rear light on your fender as it is too low and will not be seen by drivers. It’s also best to position the lights as centrally as possible, as this will give the clearest indication of where you are in the lane.

Identify the gripping mechanism

Bike lights come with all sorts of mechanisms, but you’ll usually need to attach something to your handlebars or seat clamp that will “hold” the light in place. Your light should come with instructions on how to do it, but if you’ve misplaced them, here’s what you usually need to do:

Clamp and strap mechanisms for bicycle lights

Clamp lights, like the one on the left, tend to have a better grip than strap lights, like the model on the right. (Image credit: Getty)

screw clamp

  1. Make sure the area where you want to install the light is clean and dry.
  2. Loosely attach the clamp to your bike where you intend to position it. The lamp itself should be parallel to the ground, so that the beam points forward.
  3. Once your clamp is in the correct position, start tightening the screw on the clamp. If your clamp slips while you do this, rotate it into the correct position before tightening further.

Webbing

  1. Make sure the area where you want to install the light is clean and dry.
  2. Hold the strap in the correct position, so that the light beam is parallel to the ground.
  3. Wrap the strap around the bars or saddle clamp and pull it to the tightest position possible, hooking the strap notch through the hole.
  4. Make sure your light is secure before attempting to ride a bike at night.

Maintain your lights

Maintaining your fixtures is just as important as installing them correctly. You should check they are secure before you leave at night – and make sure the lights themselves are clean and fully charged. Mucky lights with low battery will be dimmer and less effective.

Most modern lamps are charged via USB cable. Get in the habit of recharging regularly so you’re never caught out on a dark night. If you have an old battery-operated light, keep spare batteries in your bike kit.

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