Bike Lighting: A Response

cycle lightingBack in September Cyclo published a feature on the often confusing legal situation regarding cycle lighting (read the original article here). In it Alex Bailey, Communications Officer for the CTC – the UK’s National Cyclists’ Organisation – offered this comment: “The long and short of it is that lighting regulations have lagged behind lighting technology. In practice, even entry level lights made by an established cycle lighting manufacturer are far brighter than their historic counterparts, LED technology representing a step change for the industry with its massive efficiency improvements over the tungsten lighting that the BS regulations were written for.” In response, and in many ways proving how divisive an issue this is can be, Chris Juden, the CTC’s Senior Technical Officer, asked us to run the following:


“I disagree with Alex (Bailey). The design-restrictive clauses about tungsten bulbs were deleted from BS6102 almost a decade ago. It is perfectly possible to design a state-of-the-art cycle headlamp that will meet consumers’ needs wonderfully and also get British legal approval. But nobody does.


“Why? Because British approval is slightly different to French approval, which is different to German approval, Swiss approval, Danish approval …  To thrive or even survive in today’s world market a manufacturer must sell his goods to many countries, and since there’s no prohibition on the sale of “additional” lights that do not meet approval but are legal in addition to the approved lights (which unfortunately have become like hens teeth) there’s no problem in designing any which way they like!


“What has really changed since BS6102/3 was fit for purpose is that Britain is no longer the cycle workshop of the world and Britons no longer cycle very much. The only European country that can still call the shots with its European vehicular-style bike lighting regulations is Germany – and only when it comes to dynamos. There being 80 million Germans, who each cycle 5 times as much as the average Brit, spend ten times as much on bikes and bike parts and are required by German law (which they mostly obey) to use only a dynamo of specific voltage and wattage. Other European countries either follow in the wake of the Bismark or de-regulate. Except Britain, which demands adherence to a high standard – that the whole world ignores.


“The cycle trade should be banging on the doors of the transport ministers demanding the de-regulation of cycle lighting, since virtually all of the lamps they are selling do not meet the letter of the law and never will so long are there is not one common European Standard for cycle lights (like there has been for car lights like almost forever). But the trade do not do this. Reason: it draws attention to the fact that the stuff they’re selling already is not approved. A sign that says none of the lamps we sell are approved (or you can’t ride at night on these pedals because they don’t have reflectors) is as welcome in a bike shop as a fart in a spacesuit. It’s much less trouble and more profitable to keep on pretending that everything in the cycling garden smells of roses!”


                              Chris Juden – CTC’s Senior Technical Officer


Here at Cyclo we rather suspect that won’t be the end of it. If you want to get in touch and let us know your thoughts on lighting regulations (or any other subject) please get in touch. You can contact the Editor here.



Featured Features

Let There Be Lighting

Joy RiderLights. Seems simple, doesn’t it? You put lights on your bike for two main reasons: to see and be seen. And, as most cyclists know (or at least should know) they are a legal requirement in the UK in both poor visibility and, naturally, at night. But what exactly is the legislation? And how do you know, when buying new cycling lights, what does and does not conform to those legal requirements.


An obvious first stop could be checking your highway code; however that rather vaguely states: “At night your cycle MUST have white front and red rear lights lit. It MUST also be fitted with a red rear reflector (and amber pedal reflectors, if manufactured after 1/10/85).” However the 1989 Road Vehicles Lighting Regulations (RVLR) – and its numerous amendments – is a little more stringent, stating that reflectors must conform to BS 6102/2 or an equivalent European standard, whilst white front lights (in steady, non-flashing mode) must conform to BS 6102/3 or an equivalent European standard. If you’re looking at flashing lights things become even more complex as, again according to the RVLR it must be capable of flashing at a constant rate of 60-240 flashes per minute and have an intensity of “at least 4 candela.” Got all that? Exactly! Incredibly if you want to actually find out what a BS (British Standard) stipulates, you’ll have to pay the BSI Group for the privilege…


So how do retailers tackle getting the right message across to their consumers? Not that well in many cases.


Take Argos for example. Not the most sophisticated of suppliers for cycling kit perhaps, but an undeniable first stop for my new cyclists looking to get basic equipment at a good price. In catalogue you will find the following advice: “It is a legal requirement to use bike lights when riding your bike at night.” No mention, you will notice of also needing lights in poor visibility – which, granted, only applies if lights are already fitted when the weather deteriorates. Further the info panel rather vaguely concludes: “You must show a white light to the front and red light to the rear” – here there is no mention of those lights being either constant or flashing and, if flashing, at what rate. To confuse matters further their website suggests: “LED cycle lights should only be used for extra visibility in conjunction with a BS approved cycle light. Do not use in flashing mode when attached to your cycle, as this is in contravention of the Road Vehicle and Lighting Regulations.” Not only is this misleading but you will also see that they make mention of a BS standard without note either what that standard is or which of their lights do or do not meet it.


Do you think that Halfords, one of the UK’s biggest sellers of bikes and accessories is any clearer? Well the website does include some basic advice, but the sentence “it’s actually the law to use bike lights. Legally you must have lights on your bike as soon as daylight starts to fade” is as similarly vague as Argos and when you dig down in to content, here as an example for the Cat Eye EL130 & LD130 set, you find the user question “Do these lights conform to BS standards in constant mode?” – which elicited two responses, the first (from a customer) an emphatic “Yes”, the second from the Halfords Team “No Unfortunately not.”. The Halfords response goes on to recommend either the HL560BS or LD260BS, neither of which Cyclo could find listed on the site.


But perhaps we are being too harsh or expecting too much. Cyclo spoke to the CTC (the UK’s National Cyclists’ Organisation) and as they pointed out “The long and short of it is that lighting regulations have lagged behind lighting technology.” Alex Bailey, the CTC Communications Officer continues: “In practice, even entry level lights made by an established cycle lighting manufacturer are far brighter than their historic counterparts, LED technology representing a step change for the industry with its massive efficiency improvements over the tungsten lighting that the BS regulations were written for.”


Here, then, are Cyclo’s top tips:


Expensive lights don’t always mean the best, safest or most legally compliant lights – as the site rather helpfully points out: “Strangely some of the very best lights are not legal on their own and should be used with an additional legal backup light.”


If you really want to know if a cycle light conforms to UK legal standards ask the retailer direct – if they won’t, or can’t, tell you shop elsewhere.


Ask around – check online for reviews and questions that have been posted in forums; often the best and most impartial advice will come from your fellow cyclists.


Light up like a Christmas Tree. No one that we are aware of has ever had an accident by having too many lights on their bike. Add additional flashers and reflectives to everything from posts to helmets.


If you don’t have lights permanently fitted to your bike, consider carrying a small set of flashers such as those made by Knog (read the Cyclo review here) If the weather closes in, you’ll be ready.


Add a greater degree of safety with a high-viz jacket. Your body is the biggest reflector you can have on your bike.


Check out the full details of lighting regulations supplied by the CTC at:


Photo courtesy of Moritz Waldemeyer. For more information on the “Joy Rider”, an exercise in pure minimalism that mounts two LEDs on spokes to paint a smiling face, and his other extraordinary light projects visit


Following publication of this feature Chris Juden, the CTC’s Senior Technical Officer, asked us to run his response to some of the points raised, you can read that feature here.



Extras Reviews

Knog Lights

Knog LightsKnog, the Melbourne-originated brand, has been producing highly distinctive panniers, apparel and cycling kit since 2003 and here at Cyclo we were delighted to get our hands on two of their dinky and delightful lighting solutions. Okay, the nights aren’t drawing in to quite that extent yet, but it’s never too early to remember the “be safe, be seen” mantra…


First up the Knog Frog Strobe LED Twinpack a pair of flexible silicone bodied lights with an impressive 80 hour burn time in flashing mode on a single set of CR2032 batteries (reducing to 50 hours in constant mode) and with visibility of up to 600 meters. Whilst not intended to replace the legally required main lights on your bike, the Knog Frogs can clip on just about any major part of the bike from handle bars to seat post with their quick release system and are small and light enough to carry in a pocket or pack for those all-too-annoying “just in case moments” when failing light catches you out. Water resistant, cute, available in three colours – black, white and transparent (more options would be nice) and with three flashing combinations (plus constant) we think that the Frogs are series competition to the NiteRider Lightning Bugs. Expect to pay in the region of £20.00.


Stepping up a gear – not to mention a price bracket at £45.99 – The Knog Boomer LED Twinpack is a “proper” set of lights, with the front component burning for 4 hours (or 36 hours in strobe mode) at an impressive 50 lumens and the rear light managing 12 hours (72 flashing) at 30 lumens – both on a set of two AAA batteries. Although only available in either black or white it’s the stylish looks of the Boomers that are likely to swing a purchase when what you really don’t want is something less design conscious cluttering up your bike.

Knog lighting is available at


Extras Reviews

NiteRider Lightning Bug

NiteRider Lightning BugGreat things, Cyclo are often told, come in small packages. This is certainly a truism that can be applied to the remarkably small and truly great NiteRider Lightning Bug – something of a miracle in micro-lighting for bikes. There was a time, not so long ago, that a bike light was the size and weight of a brick and if you were lucky, under just the right circumstances, you could illuminate the far end of the garage. Now, thanks in large part to LED development (though sometimes to HID systems and battery evolution) things are very different indeed. The Lightning Bug is available in three flavours – the 1.0, 2.0 and 3.0 – meaning, fundamentally, with either 1, 2 or 3 LEDs. Each can also be bought in 6 different colours (including black or white for less exuberant cyclists), they weigh in at between 22g (1.0 and 2.0) and 36g for 3.0, and have a battery life in excess of 100 hours. Crucially they also kick out an incredible amount of light, and although they can’t replace the legally required main front light they are an indispensable and highly recommended bonus aid to safety.


Battery replacement and fitting to the bike couldn’t be quicker or easier and these tiny silicone-bodied beauties are versatile enough to attach to seat-posts, handlebars, forks, seat stays or even, depending on the style of you brain-protector, your helmet. A single button switches thing on and off, or through a variety of brightness or flash-mode which vary with model.


NiteRider Lightning Bugs are widely available – prices vary but expect to pay in the region of  £9.99 for the 1.0, £12.99 for the 2.0 and £14.99 for the 3.0


Extras Reviews

Cateye HL-EL530 LED Front Light

cateye HL-EL530Here at Cyclo we’ve flirted with Cateye lighting on and off for a long time. The manufacturer has a fine reputation for general reliability, innovation and price range but we can’t help thinking that there’s something with the Cateye HL-EL530 LED front light that doesn’t quite add up. There are certainly plenty of plus points to consider with the model: at around £50 it’s a good mid-level price point (downright cheap when you think of something like the NiteRider Pro 700 at ten times the price), it uses the bespoke ‘optiCUBE’ technology resulting in an almost embarrassingly bright shine for a single LED, and reportedly serves up 50% more light than it’s predecessor, the EL-500.


On the downside that spectacular brightness drops off fast (and exponentially) with time – yes, as per manufacturer’s claims you may well get close to 90hours of burn on a set of four AA batteries, but boy will you notice a drop well within the 20hour mark. Additionally the one we’ve had on test over the winter months has developed an intermittent loose connection that has a tendency to plunge us into pitch blackness just when it’s least convenient (actually, when is it convenient to be plunged into the dark?) Maybe we’ve just been unlucky…


A slightly less dramatic complaint is that the gun-metal detailing around the bulb housing that looked pretty cool to begin with has chipped and flaked making it look rather sad and cheap within a pretty small amount of time. There have also been reports of the plastic flanges that hold the bulb housing in place (and mark the point of most stress when unscrewing it to replace batteries) cracking – Cyclo’s is so far holding up well, but it is another worrying sign.


Okay, it’s not all bad news. At sub-£50 it’s robust and bright enough for some general kicking about on your bike – perhaps it’s just that we have come to expect more from Cateye…