LAST UPDATED: July 15, 2019

The Best Bike Tail Lights (Review) in 2021

Best Choice Garmin Varia RTL510 Bike Tail Light Garmin Varia RTL510 Bike Tail Light
Premium Pick Portland Design Works Danger Zone Rear Bike Light Portland Design Works Danger Zone Tail Light
Best Value Stark Bike Lights Waterproof Rear LED Light Stark Bike Lights Waterproof Rear LED Light

If you’re looking to cover yourself during your rides and increase your safety while sharing the road with other vehicles, investing the best bike tail light should be your first stop. Below, we talk about what to look for in the right rear bike light for your riding requirements and give you the best bike lights to choose from, with the best prices available.

The Best Bike Tail Light

With the Garmin Varia able to boast about a massive visibility of up to one mile in broad daylight, the RTL510 is easily the best rear bike light for daytime riding. If you find yourself commuting regularly or even heading out on day trips very often, then this is the best rear tail light for your needs.

Better yet, this option even provides audio warnings of up to 153 feet, to let you know of any oncoming traffic and warning car users to give you and your bike a wide berth. Unfortunately, however, this option requires a radar display unit or Garmin device to work to it’s full potential.

Key Features
  • 3 main modes to keep you safe day and night
  • Also provides audio alerts
  • Requires a display unit or Garmin
Specification
  • Brand Garmin
  • Model 010-01980-00
  • Weight 0.16 ounces

With five modes ranging from steady to random, and a fantastic battery life of up to 500 hours provided by this LED bike tail light, the Cygolite Hotshot is a fantastic choice for those who want an affordable, convenient option.

This a very popular option thanks, in-part, to the USB rechargeable aspect that makes this rear bike light so much more convenient than many of the others on the market, today. It’s also fantastically flexible thanks to the clothing clip and the ability to mount this almost anywhere on your bike.

Key Features
  • USB rechargeable
  • 5 modes for greater flexibility
  • Powerful 2-watt LED light
Specification
  • Brand Cygolite
  • Model HS-2W-USB
  • Weight 3.2 ounces

A great choice with a great variety of modes for both day and night bike riding, the Canway bike tail light is one of the brightest bike tail light options on the market. The strong LED light is waterproof and shockproof- and comes with a versatility that ideal for regular riders.

Install this as a headlight or tail light, vertically or horizontally and enjoy up to 168 lumens for up to 4 hours- the latter of which is the only real downfall to this option. Luckily though, this bicycle tail light is also USB rechargeable- so you won’t be burning through your batteries, at least.

Key Features
  • Extremely bright bike tail light
  • Can be installed vertically or horizontally
  • 5 light modes that increase visibility
Specification
  • Brand CANWAY
  • Model OT-BT0102
  • Weight 2.4 ounces

Another extremely bright rear bike light that is perfect for daytime riding is the Cyborg bike tail light from Blitzu. Using an extra-wide angle to increase visibility, combined with up to 168 lumens, this option furthers itself even more through its “no tools required” mounting bracket.

This is a great choice for those who want to simply pop it on their bike and get going, as well as being able to quickly hook this bike light onto any cycling or running gear you might have. Just use the hook-and-hole style strap to fit this wherever works best for you.

Key Features
  • Uses a wide angle to improve visibility
  • A no-tools-required option that also fits clothing and gear
  • USB rechargeable
Specification
  • Brand BLITZU
  • Model Blitzu-01
  • Weight 0.32 ounces

With a name like StupidBright, we were surprised that we weren’t able to find the exact levels of lumens this option gives to riders. That said, this is extremely popular, and a large percentage of users claim that this light is, in fact, almost stupidly bright.

Perfect for daytime riding, this strap on light works on three settings that allow you to turn down the brightness a touch to make it more suitable for nighttime riding. Being waterproof and shockproof, as well as coming with a lifetime warranty and being available at a great price, this is a great choice for commuters.

Key Features
  • Can fit a wide range of frames
  • Waterproof and Shockproof
  • Lifetime warranty included
Specification
  • Brand Stupidbright
  • Weight 1.44 ounces

A very basic, bright and affordable option that comes with the simplest interface out there, the Superflash rear bike light from Planet Bike is a handy option for those who are looking for a small but mighty choice for their bike.

With 180 degrees of visibility and up to 100 hours of battery life, you might not even be fussed about having to change the AAA batteries every few weeks. While this option might not be winning any awards for a breath-taking design, it’s still a powerful choice that will keep you visible on the roads and last a long time.

Key Features
  • Simple and effective design
  • Uses AAA batteries
  • Water-resistant
Specification
  • Brand Planet Bike
  • Model 3034
  • Weight 1.6 ounces

Another option that runs on AAA batteries but comes with a much shorter battery life is the Danger Zone tail light by Portland Design. This option works with two, fairly powerful LEDs that ensure you’re seen via the flashing or steady modes, depending on your choice.

The biggest benefit to this option is that it is both guaranteed against manufacturer defects and also weatherproof. You’ll need an allen key to fit this to your bike but overall, mounting the rear bike light is easy and quick. All-in-all, this is a simple but effective option that is bright enough to handle regular night time use.

Key Features
  • Uses 2, 0.5-watt LEDs
  • Up to 50 hours run time
  • Guaranteed against manufacturer defects
Specification
  • Brand Portland Design Works
  • Model 410
  • Weight 1.6 ounces

This very small but very visible option might just make you look twice- especially when you consider the 240-degree viewing angle and 26-hour lifespan. The USB rechargeable tail light from WasaFire is a great choice for those looking for a quick and easy fitting, that doesn’t take up a great deal of space on your bike.

This option comes in packs of two, so you can place one under your seat, while the other can easily be attached to any other area on your bike or clothing for additional visibility. An added bonus with this choice is that you won’t require any tools to fit these lights.

Key Features
  • Very wide viewing angle
  • USB Rechargeable
  • No tools required for installation
Specification
  • Brand WasaFire
  • Weight 3.2 ounces

With 6 different modes to meet almost any environmental need and up to 168 lumens, this USB rechargeable rear bike light is one of the best daytime rear bike lights for commuters. The only major downfall here is the shorter lifespan of around 4 hours, although this can be negated somewhat if you use the 50% flashing or flashing modes.

Again, this choice can be fitted in a variety of ways, wherever you feel it would be best suited and doesn’t require any tools to fit this to your bike or clothing.

Key Features
  • 6 different modes for ideal visibility
  • Wide viewing angle
  • USB rechargeable
Specification
  • Brand Aduro
  • Model S-BKL-01
  • Weight 3.52 ounces

Coming in as the most affordable option on our list, this 100% waterproof option from Stark Bike Lights is a great choice if you’re looking for a simple light that will help warn drivers of your presence in the night.

With a mid-range luminosity of up to 50 lumens, don’t expect miracles from this bicycle tail light- and this definitely isn’t the best option for daytime riders. That said, if you find yourself in need of a simple LED light that will get you through the winter nights and mornings, this is probably the perfect choice for you.

Key Features
  • 100% waterproof
  • Comes with a one-year guarantee
  • Very affordable bike tail light
Specification
  • Brand Stark Bike Lights
  • Weight 0.8 ounces

Best Bike Tail Light Buying Guide & FAQ

What to Consider When Buying a Bike Tail Light

  • Brightness/Lumens

Arguable one of the biggest considerations for those who regularly cycle is the level of brightness that your bike tail light produces. Measured in Lumens (or lm), the brightness of your light improves your chances of being seen, whether that’s in the dark or during daylight hours.

However, it’s not always a case of simple getting the brightest bike tail light- in fact, experts argue that having a tail light with 300 or more lumens is more likely to cause an accident, by blinding the vehicle driver behind you. Instead, check out our explanation (below) of how many lumens are ideal for your bike light.

  • Installation

There wouldn’t be much point getting a bike light that you aren’t able to affix to your bike, so check how easy your new purchase will be to fit before buying. If you know you’re not great with tools, or if you’re after changing your bike light regularly from one area or bike to another, you might be better off choosing a bike light that doesn’t require any tools to fit.

  • Battery Life

There’s nothing worse than finding out, after your ride, that your bike tail light died at some point during your trip and not knowing. While it’s always important to check your batteries or recharge state, it can also be a pain to have to constantly run through batteries or remember to bring in your bicycle light to charge.

Instead, it’s much better to grab a tail light for your bike that has a very long battery life. AA and AAA batteries tend to have a shorter lifespan than those that run on C batteries will have a greater longevity but be harder to replace once they’ve run out. Of course, if you don’t want to change your batteries all the time, having a rechargeable bike light is the best choice of all.

  • Modes

These are great for those who ride in all environments, as you can change the mode to match where and when you’re riding. For example, you could change your tail light to a flashing mode while riding in busier areas with lots of vehicles around. You can also now get lights that can change the level of lumens they provide, in order to best meet the time of day you’re riding in.

  • Features

With so much competition out there, it’s often the additional features that provide the biggest factors in making a new purchase. This is very true when it comes to purchasing safety gear such as bicycle tail lights. For example, you might notice that many of our Top Picks come with an extra-wide viewing angle, which allows for a great reach when it comes to providing visibility to calls all around you- not just those who are directly behind.

Similarly, many newer models now come with audible warnings, as well as the basic light itself. This is perfect for cars who get too close while trying to overtake you on the road and can be a fantastic way to make other road users more aware of their driving, as well as being able to warn you to avoid the incoming vehicle as well.

You might also notice some great features in terms of the physical design of the bike tail lights. In particular, an increasingly popular option is to have removable lights that can be clipped elsewhere on your bike or body. These are usually tied in with items that require no tools, in order to be fitted- a great choice for riders who don’t want to spend half an hour adjusting and mounting their new bike lights, or those who like to bring their light onto different bikes with them.

bicycle tail light

Benefits of Bicycle Tail Lights

  • Safety

Easily the most obvious and important aspect of having a bicycle tail light is the health and safety improvements that having a bike light attached to your bicycle brings. This doesn’t only count for you, either- you can avoid any potential accidents that can harm other road users, simply by adding a bike light either to the rear or front of your bike (or both).

  • Law

In some states, making yourself visible to other road users is the law. In all states, it’s a legal requirement of cyclists to use both “active” and “passive” lighting in conditions that are considered to be of “limited visibility”.

In this context, the active lighting means having a light that is powered by electric or kinetic energy that works consistently. Passive lighting refers to reflectors or reflective material (the “passive” part being that the light provided by these is generated from other cars or streetlamps).

At this point, you might be wondering why you would need reflectors at all, if you have passive lighting but – as discussed above – the battery life of some active lighting isn’t always as reliable as we’d like. In these cases, you can consider the passive lighting as a failsafe mechanism that will get you buy in emergencies.

You should never rely on passive lighting alone, as often these are only lit up once the impending vehicle is very close to you. At this point, there are often only emergency avoidance techniques available to stop a collision, which can land the driver of the vehicle in a dangerous situation of their own.

While you do not, legally, have to equip or use lights in daytime conditions, you should be aware that “limited visibility conditions” also covers fog, heavy rain and so on. Thus, it’s a good idea to have bike tail lights available to you at all times, to ensure you are visible no matter what the weather or environment.

  • Guidance

As well as being an important safety feature in warning other road users of your presence, lights are also a great way to keep you safe when used in poor conditions as they can help light up the way. Grabbing a bike tail light that is easily removed and placed elsewhere means you can utilize your new your bike light where you need it most.

Headlights vs. Taillights

While headlights are an equally important bike accessory, lights situated at the head of your bike are usually placed for the benefit of the rider. In these cases, the light is able to shine on the area directly in front of the bike, so that the rider can see what might be in the road of where they’re going.

This is especially important for off-road biking and rural cycling, where you are more likely to come across lumps and bumps in the road that can damage your bike and cause you to lose your balance and come to harm.

However, in terms of making yourself visible to other road users and keeping yourself – and others – safe, a headlight is limited by how quickly you are seen by traffic. Having a rear headlight not only makes your presence known on the road, but they’re also a great way of “watching your back”- since riders naturally face forward during riding and are more likely to lose their balance if continually looking behind them, having a light signaling your presence means you are less likely to need to look behind you, constantly.

Best Bike Tail Light FAQ:

Q: How do I mount the tail light on my road bike?

A: While each item will be different in terms of how the mounting bracket is attached to the bike, there are a few rules which seem to be consistent across all bicycle tail lights. First, you should mount the tail light just below the seat of the bicycle (although many bike lights give you the option to try out multiple areas- perfect if you have multiple lights). This is where you should be able to gain most visibility to other vehicles on the road.

Secondly, you should always ensure that nothing gets in the way of this light. Longer coats, bags and so on may cover the light and negate the entire point of having one- which is to let your presence be known on the road.

Finally, make sure that any new light is secure enough to handle lumps and bumps in the road without becoming loose and/or detaching from your bike. Feel free to give your bike a quick run-around in the daylight to reassure yourself that the light has been fitted correctly, if required.

In terms of fixing the light to your bike, some of the newer varieties require no tools to mount your new purchase- this is perfect for those who might have multiple bikes or simply aren’t great with tools. In these cases, you are usually provided with a latch and strap combination, in order to fit the light correctly.

Q: Should I use a tail light during the day?

A: While there is no legal requirement to use your bike light during the day, there are a few exceptions to this rule. Riding a bike in “limited visibility conditions” without a light is considered to be an offence, as well as being very dangerous to yourself. Hence why it’s a good idea to keep your tail light to hand at all times, should you find yourself in this situation. Weather that constitutes “limited visibility” includes heavy rain, fog, smog and so on, so if you know this is likely to happen, definitely bring your bicycle tail light along.

As well as being a legal requirement, it’s always a good idea to have a bike light with enough lumens to be visible during the day. Whether you cycle along busy roads and are working your way through rush hour traffic every day, or find yourself along a quiet road, it’s always worth making yourself a little more visible to other vehicle users.

rear bike light

Q: How many lumens should a good bike light have?

A: The right level of lumens depends almost entirely on where and when you will be riding. Night riding requires less lumens to be visible, as you’re not competing with other light sources for attention- and so, you can probably get away with around 40-50 lumens (perhaps less if using a flashing mode, which is a great way of saving battery life and catching the attention of nearby road users).

Riding during the commute, in broad daylight requires considerably more as you’ll be competing with a number of other sources of light. Anything around 150 lumens is going to be considered the brightest bike tail light in these conditions- again, with less required for flashing modes.

Remember that your front bike light will need to be lighter than your tail light, as these are usually required for your own guidance, as well as to warn other drivers of your presence. These will usually go up to 600 lumens and above, in order to provide you with a decent field of vision from the light source.

Our Top Pick

With audio and visual aids for bike riders, as well as multiple different modes to give you a much greater flexibility in caring for yourself, during your ride, the Garmin Varia RTL510 hits our top spot of our Top Picks.

This is a very expensive option- however, for serious bike riders, you’ll find that there really is no comparison on the current market in terms of keeping you and your bike safe and sound on the road.

Sources:

  1. Are Bicycle Lights Required? – Bikelaw
  2. Importance Of Bike Lights And How To Choose Them Wisely – Thexfire