The Best Bicycle Taillights of 2013

2013-09-03 by . 41 comments

Post to Twitter

Visit the Bike Light Database for the most recent additions to the bike taillight reviews and for a frequently updated list of the best bike taillights!

I covered a large number of taillights last year, but some new products have come out since then, so I’ve been taking them out for some rides to get a sense for how they stack up. Almost all of the new lights in the past year have been rechargeable – AA(A) powered lights are declining in popularity, and for good reason. It’s easy to spend $15-20 per year on batteries (if not more), so paying a little bit more for a rechargeable makes sense.

The winner of the 2012 tail light review was the Cygolite Hotshot. At the time, it stood out for its brightness, versatility, and for being the only reasonably priced rechargeable on the market. Cygolite hasn’t released a new taillight in the past year, but there’s a lot more competition in this category now – bright, rechargeable lights in the $30-50 range.

Why choose a rechargeable light over a standard light + a set of standard NiMH rechargeable batteries? (If you do go this route, get Sanyo Eneloops – everybody says they’re the best rechargeable AAAs for lights.) First of all, energy density: Li-Ion batteries can hold about 3x more energy in the same space, and also retain their energy capacity over more discharge cycles. Additionally, most rechargeable lights have a built-in voltage regulator to prevent the brightness from dropping off as the battery drains. Most AA(A) lights do not have this, and start dimming almost immediately once you begin to use them. Rechargeable NiMH batteries also start at only 1.2V (vs 1.5V for a standard alkaline AAA battery), which means your light will be dimmer from the get-go. And finally, with so many affordable choices now for rechargeable lights, it’s not even any cheaper to go with rechargeable AAAs, since a charger + batteries will cost more than it would cost to go for a more expensive but rechargeable light.

With that in mind, let’s dive into the review and see what new lights are available:

Table of Contents:

Data Overview

This overview also includes information from the 2012 review, with links to each light’s detailed review.

Manufacturer Model Retail price Online cost1 Max brightness2 Battery life3 Battery type Included mounting Optional mounting Weight4 # flash modes
Light and Motion Vis 180 $100 $90 9000 5:20 (solid) Li-Ion Micro USB seat clip 89 3
Light and Motion Vis 180 Micro $50 $40 5000 4:15 (solid) Li-Ion Micro USB seat clip 61 3
Niterider Solas 2W $45 $38 7000 5:22 (solid) Li-Ion Micro USB seat clip 54 2
Portland Design Works Aether Demon $50 $45 3000 4:15 (solid) Li-Ion Mini USB seat clip 42 3
Serfas Thunderbolt (UTL-6) $45 $41 350 1:20 (solid) Li-Ion Mini USB seat clip 2
Serfas Shield (USL-TL60) $60 $55 35000 2:13 (solid) Li-Ion Mini USB seat clip 2
Lights previously reviewed in 2012 – read the full 2012 Tail Lights Review here!
Cygolite Hotshot $40 $28 23000 4:45 (solid) Li-Ion Mini USB seat clip rack rack rack rack 43 4
Blackburn Mars 4.0 $25 $20 13700 24:00 (flash) 2x AAA rack rack seat clip 54 1
Cateye Rapid 3 $25 $20 12300 20:00 (flash) 1x AA seat seat rack stay stay clip 43 2
Cateye Rapid 5 $30 $30 8150 74:00 (flash) 2x AAA seat seat rack stay stay clip 50 3
Cateye Reflex Auto $25 $22 1060 74:00 (flash) 2x AAA rack stay seat seat clip 62 4
Knog Frog Strobe $15 $10 550 34:00 (flash) 1x CR2032 18 3
Nite Rider Cherry Bomb $32 $20 1640 66:00 (flash) 2x AAA seat clip 59 1
Planet Bike Blinky 5 $20 $15 2120 43:00 (flash) 2x AAA rack stay seat clip 59 1
Planet Bike Blinky 7 $20 $15 1450 43:00 (flash) 2x AAA stay seat clip rack rack rack rack 53 1
Planet Bike Blinky Super Flash $30 $22 2380 52:00 (flash) 2x AAA stay seat clip rack rack rack rack 52 1
Planet Bike Super Flash Turbo $35 $30 12000 24:00 (flash) 2x AAA stay seat clip rack rack rack rack 54 1
Portland Design Works Danger Zone $37 $25 6500 24:00 (flash) 2x AAA stay seat clip rack rack rack rack 56 2
Portland Design Works Radbot 1000 $32 $22 10000 27:00 (flash) 2x AAA rack stay seat clip 61 2
Portland Design Works Red Planet $15 $13 2120 66:00 (flash) 2x AAA rack stay seat clip 53 2
SE 6-Way Flasher $9 $3 800 81:00 (flash) 2x AA seat seat 83 6

1: Cost on Amazon.com as of 09/01/2013, without shipping costs included. Prices subject to change. 2: Maximum brightness measured from ~20cm in lux. Value is relative to experimental setup and should not be used to compare with other reviews. 3: Battery life measured in hours. For new lights, battery life is measured in steady-burn mode; for lights marked with “(flashing)“, measured on standard flashing mode. Non-rechargeable lights were tested with identical fresh AAA batteries from the same package. A few lights used different battery types, in which case fresh batteries were still used. Rechargeable lights were fully charged before testing. 4: Weight in grams, measured with standard batteries installed.

The new lights

Light and Motion

Vis 180 – $100 / $90

Price Brightness
MSRP $100 45° 90° Max
Online $90 9000 4500 1200 9000
View mfc website | Buy on Amazon

The Vis 180 isn’t actually a new product, but this is my first time trying one out. All of Light and Motion’s products are tested against the FL1 standard, an official standardized set of tests for flashlight manufacturers to validate their claims of brightness, battery life, water resistance, and drop rating. So far L&M is the only bike light manufacturer to implement the FL1 standard and post data validating its brightness claims.

Pros:

  • Very bright (up to 50 lumens, but with dimmer options to avoid blinding others at night).
  • Excellent wide-angle visibility. From the raw values measured in our brightness test, the Vis 180 doesn’t appear to be any brighter than the average light tested. However, what’s important to notice is where the light is being put: the Vis 180 is bright across 180 degrees (hence its name), and doesn’t just have a super-intense bright spot with no side visibility. Compare the 45 and 90 degree brightness values to the other lights to see this in the numbers.
  • Amber side LEDs also improve side-visibility.
  • Mounting system is very sturdy – the light locks into place and cannot bounce out. To remove the light you push it back against the post and then slide it out.
  • USB rechargeable.
  • Battery indicator gives ample warning when the light starts to lose power. Because of the regulated output, brightness doesn’t drop even at the end of the battery life. The battery lasted for 5:20 hours in solid-on mode.
  • Very solid aluminum construction – unlike most lights which are made out of cheap plastic.

Cons:

  • Only one brightness level for solid-on mode (although pulse mode has a dimmer setting).
  • Battery on my review unit stopped working after about 6 months, but was very quickly repaired for free under warranty (although I did have to pay shipping costs). I’m told this is an uncommon problem, and I haven’t seen any other reviews that had this same problem.
  • Mount is not easily transferable between bikes, and only works on a seatpost (and only at certain angles). You cannot mount the light upside down, on a rack, or on a rackstay. The rubber strap mounting mechanism does work for any post shape though.
  • Expensive (at $100, you’re probably better off getting 2 or 3 other lights and putting them in different locations on different settings), but you definitely get your money’s worth for the light’s quality!

Vis 180 Micro – $50 / $40

Price Brightness
MSRP $50 45° 90° Max
Online $40 5000 2300 800 5000
View mfc website | Buy on Amazon

Pros:

  • Cheaper than the Vis 180 (but still $50).
  • USB rechargeable.
  • Wide-angle visibility and additional amber side LEDs. Like the Vis 180, the numbers are misleading: while this light isn’t as bright straigt-on, its visibility at all other angles far surpasses any other light in this price range.
  • Mounting mechanism is built into the light, so you can use it on any bike.

Cons:

  • Built with plastic, and feels less sturdy than the aluminum Vis 180 (the build quality was still decent, and no worse than the average light, but definitely was not as good as L&M’s other products).
  • Mount is supported only by a strap built into the light, and it is difficult to take off/put on the light. This is frustrating if you park your bike in a public location where lights could get stolen and like to take your lights with you, and the light also moves around a lot.
  • No battery level indicator to warn you when the battery’s getting low.
  • The button on the first review unit I received was sticky, making it very hard to turn the light on and off. The button finally stopped working altogether, and I had to leave the light turned on until the battery completely died. Light and Motion did replace the entire unit at no cost, and the replacement has not had this problem (so far), but the Vis 180 Micro definitely has lower build quality than the Vis 180. While most of L&M’s products stand out for their superior quality, this light feels a lot more like any other generic bike light in this price range. It’s worth noting though that L&M’s customer support was extremely prompt and helpful.

Niterider

Solas 2W – $45 / $38

Price Brightness
MSRP $45 45° 90° Max
Online $38 7000 1300 130 7000
View mfc website | Buy on Amazon

With a 2W LED and USB rechargeable battery, this light is very similar to the Cygolite Hotshot – last year’s light review winner – in both form and function.

Pros:

  • Diffusing lens makes a broader beam of light, improving off-axis visibility. However, the lens does focus the light on a horizontal plane, so you cannot mount the light sideways and must ensure that it stays aligned for maximum effectiveness.
  • Solid-on has a high and low power mode, but is not incrementally adjustable like the Hotshot.
  • Sturdy mount.
  • USB rechargeable.
  • Best battery life of the rechargeable taillights (5:22 on brightest solid mode).

Cons:

  • No rack mount available.
  • Mount is not easily transferable between bikes.
  • Light does not remember flash mode when turned on.
  • No battery level indicator.

The Solas is very similar in many ways to last year’s winner, the Hotshot. The key difference is with the lens: the Hotshot projects a very intense beam straight back, but has poor off-axis visibility. The Solas has a diffusing lens that spreads the light horizontally, making it not quite so bright directly behind (20,000 vs. only 7,000 lux measured in my tests) but much better at off-angles (1300 at 45° for the Solas compared to only 600 at 45° for the Hotshot).

Although the Hotshot looks more impressive by sheer numbers – 20,000!! – the Solas is probably the more effective light, at least when used alone, since cars don’t always approach from directly behind. One of the recommended setups for 2 taillights is a Hotshot in steady-burn mode and a Solas in flashing mode: this gives you the long-distance visibility and distance tracking advantage of a solid light, while grabbing people’s attention from off angles with the flashing light.

Portland Design Works

Aether Demon - $50 / $45

Price Brightness
MSRP $50 45° 90° Max
Online $45 3000 300 60 3000
View mfc website | Buy on Amazon

Portland Design Works makes two of my favorite non-rechargeable tail lights from last year – the Radbot 1000 and the Danger Zone. They’ve just released their newest light, the Aether Demon. The Demon has a very similar design to PDW’s other lights, with an easy-to-click button and narrow but bright beam with eye-grabbing flash patterns. This light is essentially a USB-rechargeable version of the Radbot 500.

Pros:

  • Light output doesn’t drop as the battery is consumed, which is a problem with PDW’s AAA-powered lights.
  • Uses the same mounts as PDW and Planet Bike’s other lights, which is handy for swapping it between bikes you already have set up.
  • USB rechargeable.
  • Low-power “group ride” mode, which dims the light and sets it to a calmer flash, for when traveling with others.

Cons:

  • Not as bright as the Radbot 1000 is with fresh batteries, but the Demon’s brightness stays constant while the Radbot’s drops as its batteries’ voltages drop.
  • Kind of pricey at $50, but you’ll save more from not buying batteries than you would by buying one of PDW’s other lights.
  • No battery level indicator.
  • Despite relatively low brightness for a rechargeable light, it was the first to die (4:15 hours on solid mode).

The Aether Demon is an exciting entry into the rechargeable market, and I’m looking forward to seeing what other rechargeable products PDW may come out with in the future.

Serfas

Thunderbolt UTL-6 – $45 / $41

Price Brightness
MSRP $45 45° 90° Max
Online $41 350 180 60 350
View mfc website | Buy on Amazon

The Thunderbolt headlight was the top pick for light-weight visibility in the headlights review, and its red counterpart shares an identical design with the same great features. It fits well underneath the seat, on the rack, or on the seat post.

Pros:

  • USB rechargeable
  • Very even, wide-angle visibility
  • Versatile mounting straps allow it to be strapped on anywhere. I also discovered that it can be attached underneath the seat if the seat rails are spaced the right distance apart – pictures coming soon!
  • Easy to put on and remove

Cons:

  • Short battery life – only 1:20 on solid
  • Most effective when mounted horizontally, because of how it spreads light, which limits the otherwise very versatile mounting options.

Shield USL-TL60

Price Brightness
MSRP $60 45° 90° Max
Online $55 35000 500 60 35000
View mfc website | Buy on Amazon

Pros:

  • Obscenely bright.
  • Reasonably priced for this level of output.
  • Simple wrap-around rubber strap mount should work on almost any size or shape of seat post.
  • USB rechargeable.
  • Daylight visible in both steady burn and blinking modes.

Cons:

  • Directional beam – it’s bright from all angles because of how much light it’s putting out, but a more diffuse beam would spread the brightness more evenly.
  • No warning that battery is dropping.
  • Lowest brightness setting is still too bright for riding in groups at night.
  • Rack mounting is by a single screw directly into the light, meaning you can’t remove the light easily if it’s rack-mounted. For those of us who park our bikes in high-theft areas, this essentially negates the rack mount option.

This light is truly amazing – it’s by far the brightest light you can find for under $75, and even outshines some more-expensive lights. It lasts 2 hours on maximum brightness at 60 lumens, and should last about 4:30 hours on the misleadingly titled “low” setting of 35 lumens. Riding with a group at night, I actually wished there were a super-low mode – it’s frankly too bright in some situations. I would be hesitant to even use the brightest setting at night unless on a very busy road. This light’s also great for daytime visibility: it looks brighter in broad daylight than many lights look at night.

Planet Bike

Super Flash Turbo update - $34 / $28

Planet Bike recently updated the Super Flash Turbo in conjunction with the release of their new Blaze 2W Micro headlight (review coming out next week!). The new Turbo seems to be almost exactly identical to the old one, with one important difference: the switch. The switch on Planet Bike’s taillights has always been a point of frustration – the plastic would often crack or stick, making it hard to turn the light on and off. The new design has a rubber switch that gives a reassuring “click” when you push it. It seems much less sticky and has better tactile feedback. I’ve only had the new Turbo for a couple months, so it’s too early to evaluate its durability over years of use, but already it’s been a significant improvement over the previous versions of this light. Planet Bike has also informed me that all of their other Blinky series lights with the same design (PB SuperFlash and Blinky 7) have the new switch as well.

The SuperFlash Turbo with the old switch design (left) and the new clicky design (right).

 

Other lights to consider

There are a few other new taillights that have come out since my last review or didn’t make it into the original review, but I wasn’t able to get review samples of all of them.

  • Knog Blinder 4 ($45$38): USB rechargeable light that snaps on with a silicone strap. Knog also makes a front version, which will be in the upcoming headlights review. The front and rear lights are physically identical, so stay tuned for the full review next week.
  • Knog Blinder Road ($60 / $50): Knog’s first “super powerful” light. This is the only light here I haven’t even seen in person yet, so I don’t have much to say. The specs look fairly decent though.
  • Serfas Thunderbolt ($45 / $45): A 3-inch long bar of light with 15 diodes spaced out to make an even, wide-angle light. Uses rubber straps to attach anywhere on the bike. Serfas also makes a front version, which will be reviewed thoroughly in the headlights comparison next week.
  • DiNotte 300R ($189): DiNotte, long recognized as making the brightest (although certainly not the most cost-effective) taillights, now has a version with an integrated battery, unlike their previous versions which required an external battery pack. DiNotte has rejected requests for a review sample on multiple occasions.

Which bike light should I buy? Here’s some recommended setups…

Note: this list is somewhat out of date. We now have a frequently-updated list of the best bike taillights, with choices for various price ranges and use scenarios. 

Safe setup with an affordable cost

A single Cygolite Hotshot is ample light for the casual rider.

The cheapest rechargeable taillight is the Cygolite Hotshot, and it’s still every bit the great light it was in last year’s review. Some of the newer lights offer additional improvements, especially in terms of off-angle visibility, but you still won’t go wrong with the Hotshot. It’s currently $28 on Amazon, and probably about $35 at your local bike shop. For a few bucks more, you could get the NiteRider Solas 2W ($35 on Amazon) which is very similar, but solves the Hotshot’s off-angle visibility problem with its diffusing lens design. Personally, I think that if you’re just going to buy one the NiteRider Solas is the better choice due to its better light spread, but both are great lights.

A balanced setup for safety up close and afar

According to some safety research users on the Bicycles Stack Exchange site found when pondering whether flashing or steady lights are safer, a flashing light catches your attention faster, but a steady-burn light is easier to judge distance by. If you have room in your budget for two lights, it’s a good idea to set up one on steady-burn and another on flashing mode, and physically separate them by at least 1 foot so that they don’t just look like a pulsating steady light from a distance.

I set up my bike with the Vis 180 in steady burn, mounted on my seatpost, and a home-made high-intensity flashing light (which I have a blog post written up about but haven’t gotten pictures for yet) on the rear of the rack. This is an excellent setup but certainly overkill – you don’t really need a $100 light nor a custom made one, and you can achieve the same effect with other lights.

I set up my friend’s bike with the Cygolite Hotshot on the rack and the NiteRider Solas on the seatpost. The Solas has better side-visibility, so I mounted it on the seat post where it would be seen by side traffic. The Solas flashes as the attention-grabber and the Hotshot – which has better straight-on, long-distance brightness – is on steady burn. This setup is also handy because the Hotshot’s brightness can be finely adjusted, so you can dim it at night or when riding in a group. The Solas + Hotshot combo would run you about $65, and is probably the best two-light deal you’ll find, but any of the other rechargeable lights would work well in this application, too.

The recommended balanced setup: NiteRider Solas 2W on top in flashing mode, and Cygolite Hotshot on the rack on steady-burn mode.

My bike’s setup with the Vis 180 on top and the high-intensity custom-built LED on the bottom

Recommended setup from the side. Note that the NiteRider Solas 2W (top) has better off-axis visibility than the Cygolite Hotshot (bottom).

The ideal all-out setup

If you really want to make a statement with your lights, take the “balanced setup” and add a second steady-burn light. Having two steady burn lights at the same height, separated by as much distance as you can put between them, makes it much easier to judge how far away your bike is. The closer your bike is, the farther apart the lights appear in drivers’ vision. You could mount a Hotshot on each side of your bike (either on the sides of the rack or on the seat stays) in steady burn, and then mount a third light (an Aether Demon or Niterider Solas would work well here) on the seat post in flashing mode.

If you already have a non-rechargeable light that works ok but you’re looking to upgrade, you could also buy 2 new lights, stick one on each side of your bike as recommended above, and then put the old light on the seat post in flashing mode. You’ll want to have the rechargeable light for the steady burn, since steady burn runs through batteries faster.

Money to burn

If you just feel like spending some money on lights, there’s no denying that the DiNotte is brighter than any of the other ones here. That being said, for $190 you could get six Cygolite Hotshots or a Vis 180 and two Aether Demons or any other combination of more than enough lights for the same cost. It’s always a good idea to have 2 lights (even if one of them is a cheap AAA light) just in case one goes out or falls off, which makes it feel silly to spend so much on a single light. It is worth considering that both the DiNotte 300R and the Light and Motion Vis180 are manufactured in the USA, so if you can afford the extra cost, it’s nice to support the (more) local economy. But for most users whose bikes might cost less than a front and back set of DiNotte lights, these products are just too expensive to justify.

Conclusions

The taillight market has expanded a lot in the past year. The Cygolite Hotshot still stands out as a high-performance light with a reasonable price tag, but some of the new players bring exciting advancements to the field – in particular the NiteRider Solas impressed me with its wide-angle visibility and superior battery life, and the improvements with the Planet Bike SuperFlash Turbo renews the appeal of the classic SuperFlash series. With so many high-quality and affordable lights available, every cyclist should be investing in their safety.

Headlights

If you’re also looking for a good headlight, check out my recent bike headlights review and the beamshot comparison tool!

 

If you’re interested in bike lights – or anything else bike related – check out some of the top questions on the main Stack Exchange Bicycles Q&A site, or ask your own question today!

 

 

 

Filed under Commuting Lights

41 Comments

Subscribe to comments with RSS.

  • Craig says:

    If you’re interested, I can loan you my DiNotte 140R for your review. You can turn it on and watch it burn right through batteries.

    • nhinkle says:

      If you live in the Portland, OR area then I’d love to borrow it, but if not then shipping it around would likely be more trouble than it’s worth. Thanks for the offer though!

  • nhinkle! You are a saint for continuing to expand this! And the external URL is brilliant and easy to remember! And you’re planning on doing one for the front lights available! I loved last years. One of my certainly most favorite parts of your review is the 45/90 ratings for lux ratings.

    Oh, and one last thing, thank you for not counting “Off” as a mode. I understand and technically it makes sense, but many of the UK based reviews I’ve seen of bike lights aren’t enhanced by considering off as a mode. Mb, it’s cultural, and I don’t mind it in a one off review, but when you’re looking at a table/database, I wouldn’t find it fun.

    It’s like asking how a car performs when turned off and being pushed around by people… actually that’s a lot more relevant now with stuff like steering locks and electronic power steering, as you don’t know what’s going to happen necessarily in what mode of “off,” since arguably there are multiple “off modes” on most cars…

    back to lights, I would be very interested to know if a light did NOT have an off position however. Talk about chewing through batteries!

  • […] You can go through batteries quickly, especially if you have a LCD screen, so be sure that you have fresh batteries in it before you head out for a day of photography. You will want to carry extra camera batteries […]

  • Matthew Weymar says:

    People over at Amazon seem pretty worked up about the USB connector, in particular, but also, to some extent, the mounting system. Any thoughts on that / problems of your own?

    • Matthew Weymar says:

      Sorry. Speaking of the NiteRider Solas 2W….

    • nhinkle says:

      I haven’t had any issues with either, although the USB connector does feel a bit weak, it hasn’t broken. The mount seems fine though.

  • j campbell says:

    n hinkle

    The photo you showed of an led tail light is very intriguing. Is it home made is it make-able by an amateur? The yellow color and intensity is perfect for day light riding.

    Thanks, John

    • nhinkle says:

      Hi John,

      Yes, I did make it and it is totally doable my an amateur. I do have a blog post explaining it partially written but I need to finish taking some pictures explaining how it works. Long story short, you can get an LED designed for towtrucks, snowplows, etc. like this and a battery pack like this and hook them up to each other with a connector like this and then strap everything on with zip ties.

  • mike says:

    i think it’s a disservice to so readily discount the dinotte 300r. i’ve had a slew of rear taillights and this is by far the best. you could slap 4 of your preferred cheaper lights on your bike, and still not be as visible as you would be with the 300r in wet, dreary weather (seattle, etc).

    i personally supplemented it with the hotshot, but that’s only b/c it came in a combo kit with a 400 lumen cygolight headlight. together, i think it’s unbeatable. spendy, sure, but so are medical bills from a hit and run accident.

    • nhinkle says:

      I would probably have a more informed opinion on Dinotte’s lights if I had a chance to use one in person, but Dinotte has repeatedly rejected any requests to even borrow a light to review. I’ve seen them on other people’s bikes from a distance and they’re definitely bright. If you can afford one, it’s probably a great choice. But the reality is, it’s an expensive niche product from a company that hasn’t been particularly friendly, and I’m not included to spend hundreds of dollars of my own money to get one to review. If I get a chance to include one in a future review I gladly will – all they need to do is ask!

  • Dean says:

    Thanks much for these excellent reviews. The 2012 version improved my setup immensely by adding the SOLAS 2w, and this one lets me know that I have the option to improve it further if I wish. In particular, I appreciate that you mix hard specs with meaningful personal experience – so many reviewers just take things out of the box, give specs from the press release, and try it out for half an hour before writing the review.

    While that approach also has value, the specifics of living with the product for a couple/few months are immensely valuable to me, since that’s what I’m going to be doing once I’ve bought it.

    My only additional thought is that as I look at other riders on the road, I’m increasingly convinced that helmet mounted lights are a critical part of a complete setup – the most-visible riders in my busy urban mixed-lighting area are those with helmet mounted front and rear lights, by a fair margin. I’d love to see more on helmet-mountable lights either as part of these reviews or as a separate article, if possible.

    • nhinkle says:

      Thanks for the kind comments; I’m glad you found the posts helpful.

      With helmet lights: I’ve been experimenting with some helmet mounted lights in the past few weeks actually, and will probably be adding that as a section or review criteria when I do my next review. Very few lights are specifically designed to be mounted on the helmet – the only ones that come to mind are the Planet Bike Blinky 3H and the Light and Motion Vis 360+, plus a handful of not-so-bright lights that clip on. I’ve found some nifty ways to jerry-rig other lights onto a helmet though, so keep an eye out for a section on that in a future review!

  • […] Here’s a great article to read to help you choose:  The Best Bicycle Taillights of 2013 […]

  • Jack says:

    I like the Princeton Tec “Swerve” a lot. I think it’s comparable in brightness to the Planet Bike Superflash Turbo. I mount one to each seat stay, extremely easy to take on and off. It’s also easy to use on the seat post. You might want to review it if you haven’t already.

  • Andrew Boone says:

    Thanks! Excellent update. After reading your 2012 taillight review last year, I purchased the Cygolite Hotshot, and love it. Now I ride with one on the back of my helmet and TWO on my seatpost.

    I’d like to write some blog posts for this blog, but couldn’t figure out how to sign up. The main blog page says “post to this meta thread”, and links to http://meta.bicycles.stackexchange.com/questions/349/we-have-a-blog-who-wants-to-write-a-post/, but on that page there is no place to post a comment. At the bottom of the page it says “You must have at least 5 reputation on Bicycles Stack Exchange to answer a question.” I just signed up for a Stack Exchange account. Please help.

    • nhinkle says:

      Hey Andrew – sorry the sign-up process is a bit confusing for new users. I put in a request to get your account enabled for writing blog posts. In the meantime, you can ask and answer questions on the main site to gain reputation points. If you haven’t read the About page, it explains how the site works in better details.

      Thanks for your interest, and welcome to stack exchange!

    • Andrew Boone says:

      nhinkle,

      Any word on whether or not my account will be enabled for writing blog posts? Looking forward to it.

    • nhinkle says:

      Andrew, you should be able to log in and write post drafts. I sent a message to your stack exchange account – try logging in on the main site (http://bicycles.stackexchange.com/) and checking the info I sent you there.

  • Harvey says:

    Would you mind doing a slightly different review: “Best Secondary, Be-Seen, Low-Profile Taillight”? I have a Planet Bike Super Turbo on my seat post, but I like to have a small light as supplemental and as a backup. I prefer to have the small one on the back of my helmet in a steady or slow pulse mode. I’m thinking of products such as the Lezyne Femto, the Serfas Guppy, the NiteRider Stinger, and other similar lights. The goal is a light that doesn’t have to be as bright, should have a long battery life (in use and out of use), be small and inconspicuous. Rechargeables are probably out of the question since they can’t be relied upon to be a backup light since they usually last less than 10-20 hours and if it has to be recharged, you could forget to do it. I was thinking of getting the Femto, but a youtube video of the beam shows it has zero side visibility. I have a white guppy that has so far outlasted every other light I’ve ever owned.

    • nhinkle says:

      Thanks for the suggestion, Harvey. I’ll keep that in mind for the next round of reviews, and try to get some more of the backup type lights in there.

  • TJ says:

    Hanks for the comprehensive reviews!

  • qlantisw says:

    Any comment – new SERFAS Shield USL-TL80 ???

    • nhinkle says:

      I haven’t gotten a chance to check out the new USL-TL80, but I’m told it’s effectively the same design as the USL-TL60 reviewed above, just with a brighter LED. I’ll post an update once I get to try one out in person though.

  • qlantisw says:

    Bikeradar test:

    http://m.bikeradar.com/road/news/article/serfas-tsl-750-and-usb-tl80-lights-just-in-38287/?CPN=RSS&SOURCE=BRGENHOME#next

    Design is complete new – 2 led vs. 1 led. full 180 visibly, better montage, warning that battery is dropping, etc, etc…

  • youko says:

    I was thinking about possibly getting a niteflux red zone 4 in the future, but I’m not really sure how it compares to other taillights. It would be great if someone lent you one to right a review.

  • Roland Provost says:

    Problem with rechargeables is run time … if you are touring they only last half a day

    • nhinkle says:

      Many rechargeables will last quite a long time in flashing mode. We measure lights’ battery life in steady mode for consistency, but for example, the Cygolite Hotshot lasted over 120 hours (that’s 5 days) on flashing mode. Almost every light listed here claims at least 10 hours in flashing mode, and many of them last quite a bit longer than that.

      If you need to use the light in steady burn mode while touring, it might be worth looking into dynamo systems. I haven’t had a chance to test any out yet, but you wouldn’t have to worry about batteries at all. The downside is that those systems are typically less bright, which diminishes daytime usefulness.

  • AdamJackson says:

    “Light and Motion was the best new bike light of the year 2012 and has now bagged a well-deserved award of the Best Bicycle Taillight of 2013! One of the best products from the manufacturer what I like the most is Vis 180!

    As a biker, my own experience with this bike light has been simply outstanding. I have always found this light the brightest available in the market. The wide-range visibility it offers is matchless and amber side LEDs are also there to enhance side visibility. Another light that I have used earlier and still like so much is the Solas 2W from Niterider. What I’ve always admired about this light is its diffusing lens that produces the broadest light beam to improve off-axis visibility! “

  • Larry in SC says:

    Thanks for the good review!

    I use a Knog Frog in blinking mode for a tail light and a Knog Beetle for my front flasher. I’ve been very happy with the qualiity and performance of both. The Frog attaches easily, has about 5 modes, runs on AAAs which last about 130 hours on flash mode, attaches easily and it’s tough (he whole thing is encased in silicone rubber). The Beetle white front flasher is tiny, visible from wide angles and lasts about 50-75 hours in flash mode. I buy the coin-shaped batteries on ebay for 50 cents apiece.

    • Larry in SC says:

      regarding my previous post: My tail light is a Knog Gekko, not Frog…don’t know what I was thinking…maybe the excitement of groundhog day!

  • Mark Kulp says:

    A great article, and I’m glad you mentioned DiNotte lights. I do have to take exception to your statement about DiNotte: “these products are just too expensive to justify.” Well, what is your life worth? $190 bucks? Mine is worth way more than $1000 bucks!

    After seeing a cyclist while I was driving, because he had a BRIGHT DiNotte tail light (and I was fooling around with the radio; yeah, I know – stoopid!). I flagged him down and inquired where he got such a bright light (I didn’t say I almost killed him because I was stoopid). So I bought my wife and I a DiNotte pkg of front and back lights ($800) and have had several motorists THANK ME because they SAW me and did NOT KILL ME!

    The other lights are cute and cool, and fine if riding on paved trails, but if you’re going to ride on a road with dumbass drivers, get THE BRIGHTEST you can get!

    BTW, I do NOT work for DiNotte, have no stock (I think they’re a small private company). But when (in the few instances) I find a product that outshines the rest (sorry for the pun), I will recommend them to everyone!

  • Tom Perkins says:

    Thank you VERY MUCH for such comprehensive help research for a novice cyclist like me.

  • Dave Mansfield says:

    On the Thunderbolt you said that you discovered that it can be attached underneath the seat if the seat rails are spaced the right distance apart – pictures coming soon! Do you have the picture yet? I have a Thunderbolt and I’m very interested in this mounting option.

    Also I have a DiNotte 140R-AA and it’s very bright even in the sun. I’ve never seen anything close to a DiNotte. I also like the o-ring mounting I can move it from bike to bike in seconds without any cost for additional mounts.

  • Frank says:

    Having currently owned several of the lights tested I have to say I disagree with the results. I own the Light & Motion Vis180 (not the Micro), Blackburn Mars 4, and Planet Bike Super Flash Turbo. According to the test results the brightest of the 3 they tested that I have should be the Blackburn Mars 4 with 13,700 followed by the PB SF Turbo at 12,000 and the least is the L & M Vis180 at 9,000, I did not see that as being the case whatsoever. When I turn all three to max settings and shine on a wall 5 feet away the VIS 180 completely overpowers the other two, and when I do it outside against my garage wall at 75 feet it’s the same result with a very visible beam coming from the L & M but not so much from the others, and again shining them across the street to my neighbors house at about 200 feet away the only one that shows a red cast is the L & M! Another test I did was having all 3 lights mounted to my bike and had my wife come at me in the car from 4 blocks away, even she said the L & M was stunningly bright compared to the other two. So once I saw those results I kept the L & M instead of returning it if it had failed any of those tests.

    • nhinkle says:

      Thanks for the comments Frank. I’ve since stopped using the hand-held light meter for measurements because it’s difficult to get accurate, repeatable results, and the hand-held meter only measures at one point, not the total output.

      If you check out my bike lights site that’s superceded these blog posts, it has some more details. I’m currently arranging a collaboration with Light & Motion actually to use their integrating sphere to accurately measure the output of various lights. The data isn’t up yet on the site, but hopefully will be by the end of the summer.

  • titanmanus says:

    I had the Mars 4 and also bought one for my wife. The problem that mine is broken after 7 months. Bad design because the switch is on a PCB but this quadrant to another PCB. Every time you turn off or on is a tiny breaking mechanism. Lifetime guarantee? They refused to repair. My wife didn’t use it too much but after 14 months it also broken. No more blackburn. :) Bye

  • SombraCycle says:

    Very in depth article, there are a lot of lights out there to choose from :) My favourites are the Lezyne Femto Drive lights. I had these nifty lights for two years now and they’ve been great. I know they’re only 7 lumen but that leads me to another thing, blinding other cyclists and drivers can be dangerous as well, especially in terms of figuring out your location and speed. I’ve been working on a product that would mitigate that and wonder what you think about it. I will be crowdfunding for it soon and you can see it on my website in the meanwhile: http://WWW.sombracycle.com.

    Cheers and happy rides :)

  • CyclingFool says:

    Issues with the old Planet Bike Superflash are quite annoying. The switch cover on the back of mine had cracked and part of the plastic was missing. I spent half an hour trying to jury rig some sort of DIY solution/fix. Then I remembered that Planet Bike is good about selling small replacement parts. I just ordered a new back cover complete with rubberized switch for $5 w/ free shipping. Hooray for giving new life to an old and trusted light. I do love that about Planet Bike.

    That said, for a few months I’ve had a PDW Radbot 500 I managed to pick up for cheap. I prefer it to the Superflash, though both are decent lights. I like the Radbot’s reflector and flashing patterns more, plus with the screw that’s incorporated into the design, I don’t have to worry about losing the business half of a PB Superflash, something that did happen with my first Superflash – sadly.

  • Leave a comment

    Log in
    with Stack Exchange
    or