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. This can be done with locking bike lights! 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 650 Anti-Theft Bike Lights ($) – For a very low price you can get these decent anti-theft lights to light your way in a city where it’s not too dark. I was surprised that the 36 lumen front light did light my way plenty. Unfortunately, with the low price comes low quality, so one of my lights broke after a while and the batteries were prone to pop out sometimes if I didn’t add a rubber band, but they are currently the best anti-theft light available. I’ve gotten a second pair after the first one eventually failed and it has been working flawlessly for months now.
- Small quick release lights ($) – 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 rechargeable. A good option if you have less theft to worry about in your city or just 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. This one I’ve used on 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 a great smart helmet ($$$) that even has a wireless turn signal controller you can attach to your bike handlebars. This would replace your current helmet.
- Light & Motion has a helmet light ($$) with both the front and rear lights, but this new model seems like the rear light isn’t bright enough, so I wouldn’t recommend it.
- 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 great lights. However, they are no longer sold. Perhaps you can find them on eBay. I still use mine that I got 5+ years ago. These connect to your bike with proprietary screws, so no one can take them off except you!
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!
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?”
Why you need lights
- 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 small, 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 will 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 bedroom, but on the street it may be barely noticeable from far away.
Troubleshooting Fortified Lights
You mentioned a guarantee for stolen Fortified lights?
A friend of mine in fact did get his Fortified front light stolen. He filed a police report, sent it over to Fortified with a proof of purchase, and they sent him a new light! Our hunch is that if you don’t screw the screws very tight, a thief can sometimes get at them with pliers or something. Make sure you screw in the light as tight as you can!
How do I charge the Fortified lights?
The lights can secretly be opened up to reveal the rechargeable battery. The battery has a microUSB on it, so can be taken inside and charged. Yes, if a thief knows how to open it they can steal your battery, but it’s a proprietary battery that wouldn’t be of much use.
My handlebars are very narrow, will the front Fortified light fit there?
I admit that is a caveat of that front light. It needs a lot of space to properly fit. I’ve fit it on my narrow handlebars by moving one of my brakes over slightly to accommodate the required space.
Light up the Night
I hope that 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 bike.