In an ideal world, you’d hop on your bicycle, push a button, and all your lights would be on. Just like when you get in a car, flick one switch for lights and you’re ready to go. Every little step counts to make bike commuting a little bit easier, and locking bike lights can help take another step off your mind! Lock your bike with a U-lock and leave the lights locked in place!
Many e-bikes have lights integrated since they already have an electrical system in place, but there are still a few options if you have a non-electric bicycle.
I’ve compiled a list with some locking lights and other solutions to avoid having to take off your lights every ride! Avoid people stealing your bike lights!
- Bell Radian 850 Anti-Theft Bike Lights ($) – For a very low price you can get these decent anti-theft lights to light your way in a city where it’s not too dark. They mount on your bicycle with very long screws using a non-standard hex key size, and then the light part with the batteries snaps on securely. These are currently the best and easiest anti-theft lights available. They work great and the batteries last a surprisingly long time. I use rechargeable AAA batteries and a charger so the cost stays low.
- I also have the Bell Radian 650 anti-theft bike lights that use AA batteries. I don’t see them sold curently, but they are just as effective if you find them. I’ve found the brightness to feel similar. Likely the Bell Radian 450 also works fine but a little less bright.
- NEW Arclight Pedal Lights! ($$) – PUT LIGHTS ON YOUR PEDALS!! Redshift sent me some of their Arclight pedal lights to test and they are surprisingly slick and convenient. It’s exciting to see some innovation here. The lights are discretely tucked in the pedals so thieves wouldn’t know to remove them and you can leave them on your bicycle! The downside is you have to replace your pedals so the lights can snap into them, but this is an easy task and I’ve been enjoying their pedals and the easy lights. Definitely recommended.
- Small quick release lights ($) – For about the same price as the Bell Radian anti-theft lights, you can get my favorite pair of quick release lights that fit on any bicycle. You do have to take them on and off of your bike, but they do so easily and are USB-C rechargeable. A good option if you have less theft to worry about in your city or to have an extra pair of lights so in case.
- Bike seat with integrated rear light ($) – One solution for the rear light is to get a light integrated into your bike seat! If you have a cruiser or dutch style bike, a lot of the nice, big, cushy seats can come with integrated lights. I’ve used one a dutch bike I had for a while, and was very convenient. Make sure you lock your seat to your bike and you’re all set!
- Helmet lights – If you put your lights on your helmet and take your helmet with you when you leave the bike, you don’t have to worry about any extra step of removing bike lights! Helmet lights are also really nice for lighting the way wherever you look! No need to worry about if the angle of your light is correct.
- Lumos has great smart helmets ($$$) that even has a wireless turn signal controller you can attach to your bike handlebars. They are a few different styles and this would replace your current helmet.
- Light & Motion has a helmet light ($$) with both the front and rear lights to attach to your helmet.
- Brightside has a helmet light ($) that shines both directions with white for forward and red for backward. It’s more affordable and can be removed easily from the helmet if you so desire.
- Don’t forget that you can just use a normal headlamp for just the front light! I have done this often as it’s quite easy and headlamps are useful in many other situations. I usually put the headlamp on under the helmet, but you can fasten a headlamp to stay on your helmet as well.
- Bag lights – If you take normal bike lights and fasten them on to backpacks, rear pannier bags, and other such things, you can usually find a solution for at least your rear light that doesn’t require you to take the light off your bike.
- I recently discovered Double O Lights that fit on your U-lock when not in use. Not as convenient as lights that you simply leave alone, but still looking pretty cool! However, there was a website error when I tried to buy them, so I’m not sure if they are really being sold or still in the prototype phase.
- The (no longer sold) Fortified Locking Bike Lights ($$) – These are my favorite locking lights that are highly secure and bright. However, they are no longer sold. Perhaps you can find them on eBay. I still use mine that I got 6+ years ago. These connect to your bike with proprietary screws, so no one else can take them off!
If you’re a little more handy, you can try to buy your own tamper proof screws and attach your lights to your bike with those screws instead of the screws provided. But this won’t work on a light that has a quick release!
Why you need lights
Now some of you may be thinking “Why do I even need lights?” “There’s plenty of light from the street lights, who needs more than that?” Let’s review…
- Helps other road users see you. For urban commuting, this is most of a light’s purpose, since street lights probably illuminate the road well enough otherwise. While you’re in a brightly lit area, it’s best to use some kind of flashing variant on your light so your lights contrast the many other lights on the road.
- Helps you see what’s in front of you, mostly potholes and road imperfections. On darker roads, it’s best to set your lights to the solid beam so you can see the road better. It’s also better for other road users so you don’t blind them with the flashing. A great place to use the solid beam is on a bike path with only bicycles or pedestrians. A flashing light here is unnecessary. It’s not pleasant to be happily riding along onto only to be blinded into oblivion by an oncoming cyclist with their strobe light.
- Legal reasons. If you get into an accident on the road and you didn’t have the proper bike lights or reflectors required by law, you may be put at fault by default, even if it wasn’t actually your fault.
Most cheaper lights are under 100 lumens. This is generally fine for well-lit, urban roads. If you can, upgrade to a 100-500 lumen light. 500-1000+ lumen is great for seeing the road if you have a commute on any dark path. Those lights may be heavier because of the battery needed to support so much power.
Be aware of your battery life on your lights. As the battery dies, your lights may slowly get dimmer no matter the initial lumen level. I see bike commuters all the time with lights that are too dim to be seen from a proper distance that just need a pair of fresh batteries! Your light may look fine when you turn it on in your living room or garage, but on the street it may be barely noticeable from far away.
Light up the Night
I dream of a world where everyone can ride their bike to everything and not have to worry about their bicycle or bike lights getting stolen. Although I believe in this, bad things still can and do happen, and you should be mentally prepared for the situation where some very dedicated person manages to steal your locked up lights or your bike. Considering the locking lights are quite cheap these days, I like to think the person who wanted it needed it more than me, so I just buy a new one and don’t give it too much thought. Maybe this is something you can try to meditate on…along with proper locking technique and other security gear.
Bicycle Insurance (Buy Lemonade)
For maximum peace of mind when locking your bike outside, you can insure your bicycle on your home/renters insurance policy! I use Lemonade insurance to cover one of my bicycles for about $3.50 a month extra. You’ll want to get “scheduled personal property” coverage, or “extra coverage” as Lemonade calls it. This allows you to claim your bicycle easily with a $0 deductible, and it’s still covered even if your bike is stolen out on the street. Chances are your standard home or renters insurance has a deductible that’s above the value of your bike, and that won’t help you at all.
Happy Worry-free Biking!