Solar Bicycle Lights: What To Look For?
Bike lights are the most important cycling accessories besides the helmet and your skills. With a bike light, you're visible to other vehicles and road users.
Plus, you get to see all obstacles as you cycle from home and back.
Even if you don't plan on cycling at dusk, having a solar bike light is better than none at all.
In a National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) study, 21% of pedal cyclist fatalities occur between 6 PM to 9 PM. Between 9 PM to midnight, 17% of fatalities happen.
These numbers do paint a stark picture. If your go-to mode of transportation is a bike, make sure that you buy a solar bike light.
Want to learn more about solar bike lights?
In this post, we've included information on how solar bike lights work, how much they cost, and more.
How Does a Solar Bike Light Work?
A solar bike light is a must-have for any biking enthusiast. This innovative light is durable and rugged yet sleek and refined.
Ready for a spontaneous or daily commute, it's 100% safe and reliable. A standard solar bike light is usually made of several high-quality components.
- Integrated solar panel
- Lithium-ion batteries
- USB cable
- Mounting brackets
- One-touch switch
It has adjustable bands or stainless steel clamps which allow you to securely mount the light.
The light comes with an integrated solar panel that automatically collects sunlight. It then converts the rays of the Sun into electricity charging the Lithium-ion batteries.
Constructed of a layer of silicon cells, a glass casing surrounded by a special film, and wiring, the PV cells collect sunlight. Each solar cell is a thin semiconductor wafer made of two layers of silicon.
One layer is positively charged while the other is negatively charged. This forms an electric field. When photons strike the solar cells, the electrons come loose from atoms and are set in motion by the electric field. This motion creates an electric current.
The solar panel generates a direct current which is then stored in Lithium-ion or polymer batteries. Normally, 6 to 12 hours of direct sunlight will fully charge the battery.
The bike light can have 5 to 10 efficient LEDs capable of up to 300 to 1000 lumens. The wide-angle LEDs can illuminate a path or road effectively. A fully charged battery has a capacity of 30 to 50 hours of continuous illumination in normal mode and 6 hours in boost mode.
Some models have up to 4 modes – low, medium, high, and flashing. A bike light set comes as a headlight and taillight.
The headlight can shine up to 300 to 1000 lumens, while the tail light shines 40 to 100 lumens. The headlight and taillight are usually connected together through an easy-to-use magnetic system.
This system allows the tail light to charge off the headlight's battery. At the flip of a switch, the LED will light up drawing power from batteries.
Most bike lights have a plastic enclosure, but the best models have a thick CNC aluminum metal housing with a powder-coated finish.
How Much Do Solar Bike Lights Cost?
A standard solar bike light with a 300 to 550 lumen LED light goes for between $20 to $40.
This model will have a universal adjustable mount that fits on any handlebars from 0.78 inches to 1.29 inches. It has a 4000mAh rechargeable lithium battery that you can use to charge your smartphone.
The charging time for the batteries is 4.5 to 12 hours and the use time is 4 to 6 hours depending on the light mode selected.
For example, if you choose a low light mode, use time will be 6 hours or more, but high or glare, use time will be 4 hours or less. To ensure safety during night riding, it's water-resistant. As such, the bike light is ideal for other night work such as walking or camping.
If you choose a solar bike light set with a headlight and taillight, the price can range between $25 to $60. This depends on the brand and built quality.
A bike light set with a headlight and taillight will meet all your needs.
The headlight can have 2 to 4 light modes while the rear light, 2 to 3 light modes. Equipped with mounting brackets, you can fix them on your bike. No tools are required.
Some manufacturers equip the headlight with a USB charging port. This allows you to charge the light from your laptop, smartphone, or power bank.
Solar Bike Light Specs
The following are vital specs every solar bike light should have.
The majority of solar bike lights either have a lithium rechargeable battery or polymer battery.
If you choose a model with a lithium battery, we recommend one with a capacity of 2000 to 6000 mAh or more.
The bigger the capacity, the more energy it can store. This means the more use time you will have depending on the selected light mode.
If you choose a solar bike light with a polymer battery, go for a model with a battery capacity of more than 1200 mAh. In strong light mode, a high capacity battery allows for up to 4 hours of use time, while under the low light mode, use time is 6 hours or more.
Since the batteries are rechargeable, you'll never waste money on a battery again. The light will have a charging indicator that will tell you when to recharge the battery. Auto-stop charging after full power is a feature found in certain models.
Solar bike lights use LEDs as they are energy efficient. The majority of bike lights can illuminate between 300 to 1000 lumens. The illumination ability of a solar bike light depends on its battery capacity, number of LEDs, and light mode.
A solar light with a 2000 mAh lithium-ion battery has maximum illumination of 350 lumens, while a 4000 mAh battery illuminates 550 lumens or more.
This is for the headlight, and it's effective for 600 feet. For the tail light, the maximum lumens is 150, which is visible for 700 feet.
Solar lights have an integrated solar panel that automatically charges in direct sunlight. Environmentally – friendly and convenient, you don't have to charge the batteries every day. The integrated solar panel works like a standard PV panel.
Solar power is usually harnessed using PV technology. Basically, solar cells convert solar radiation into electricity. When sunlight hits the solar cells, photons free the electrons, and bus bars collect the free electrons.
This results in an electric current that gets stored in lithium batteries or polymer batteries.
The more solar cells, the more power the solar panel can generate. This takes less time to fully charge your battery.
A 1200 mAh polymer battery takes 12 hours to charge via solar and 6 hours to charge via USB. As you charge the headlight, the indicator beside the USB port will show a red color. Once it's fully charged, the color will show green.
If your solar bike light has a 4000 mAh battery, it will take 4.5 hours to charge using solar.
When fully charged, the use time is 6 to 8 hours if illuminating up to 200 lumens and 4 to 6 hours if illuminating 550 lumens.
The built-in 4000 mAh lithium battery allows you to charge your smartphone in emergencies. Using a smartphone mount, you can start charging your phone without removing the whole mounting bracket.
With a 2.16 inch to 3.45-inch wide clamp, you can fit a smartphone with up to 6.3 inches display.
The size of the solar bike light depends on its design, the number of batteries, and LEDs. If the solar bike light has a 4000 mAh lithium battery, product dimensions can be 6.77 by 4.02 by 2.32 inches.
Bike light models with a 1200 mAh polymer battery may have the following dimensions – 5.5 by 5.24 by 2.2 inches.
For the tail light, the dimensions are smaller than those of a headlight. Despite the size, it will meet all your needs.
Like size, weight also depends on the number of batteries, number of LEDs, type of material, and accessories. The majority of solar bike lights usually have a plastic body.
Such models weigh slightly less than those with stainless steel or aluminum machined bodies. Those with plastic bodies weigh between 5.5 to 7 ounces. Bike light models with a metal body weigh between 7.5 to 10 ounces or more.
Some solar bike lights have an integrated bike horn with 5 sound modes. The more than 100dB bike horn is very loud. To change sound mode, all you need to do is long-press the bell switch.
Thanks to this feature, you don't need to mount an independent bell on your handlebar. This saves you money.
The USB port is a useful feature for emergency charging for your headlight, taillight, and smartphone. It also comes in handy when traveling or when maintaining a bike tire.
A bike phone mount will securely fit any smartphone between 4 to 6.3 inches wide. It also fits on most handlebars such as motorcycles, mountain bikes, folding bikes, e-bike, or scooters.
What’s the Lifespan of Solar Bike Lights?
A solar bike's light durability generally depends on usage and care. But specific components have a certain lifespan.
For example, lithium rechargeable batteries have a lifespan of 2 to 4 years before you need to replace them.
The LEDs have a lifespan of 10,000 to 50,000 hours. Basically, they can last for ten years or more.
When the LEDs cannot illuminate during the night or the batteries cannot maintain a charge, replace these components. Alternatively, buy a new set of headlights and tail lights for your bike.
Do Solar Bike Lights Work on Cloudy, and Rainy Days?
Solar panels benefit more when exposed to direct sunlight. This is because the solar cells collect sunlight generating electricity.
In most places, the weather varies. The question is will solar bike lights work on cloudy and rainy days?
It's a common belief that you only need to charge solar-powered objects in direct sunlight.
Well, solar panels will still charge on cloudy and rainy days. While the clouds block the Sun on rainy and cloudy days, the clouds will diffuse the Sun's strength.
Basically, the clouds will not take away the rays of the Sun completely. As such, the solar bike light's panel will still charge the batteries.
Solar bike lights are water-resistant and waterproof with a rating of IP4 or more. This means you can leave your bike with the solar light attached in the rain. Water will not short circuit the battery, and the light should maintain its functionality.
Manufacturers integrate USB charging ports in their solar bike lights. Using a USB charging cable, you can charge the batteries using your laptop, power bank, or smartphone. This comes in handy during cloudy days, rainy days, and nights.
What To Look For Choosing a Good Solar Bike Light?
Safety while riding your bike means more than having skills and a helmet. You also need a good solar bike light to illuminate your path and caution other road users.
Here are factors to consider before buying a solar bike light.
Solar bike lights have a polymer battery or a lithium rechargeable battery. Different models have different battery capacities.
You can find a light with a 2000 mAh or a 4000 mAh lithium battery. Another model could have a 1200 mAh polymer battery.
The more the capacity, the more power it can store. But if your LEDs have more lumens and you set the light to the brightest setting, your battery will drain faster. To conserve power and still illuminate the road, use the bright setting only when you really need it.
Keep checking the light's battery indicator to know when it's time to recharge. This ensures that you are not left in the dark.
Lumens are a measure of how many light streams from an LED to an area per second. The more lumens your solar bike light has, the brighter it will illuminate the night. Brightness is usually impacted by the light's beam pattern, battery capacity, and charge.
Most solar bike lights (headlights) have a range of 300 to 1000 lumens, while taillights have a range of 100 to 200 lumens. If biking on a well-lit path or street, you only need a headlight with 100 to 200 lumens, but you can always go for more.
When cycling, it may start raining. To protect your solar bike light, look for a model that's water-resistant and waterproof. Manufacturers usually rate the bike lights on the Ingress Protection scale.
If you regularly cycle in a region that rains a lot, look for a solar bike light with an IPX rating of five or higher.
Any rating lower than that indicates water resistant but not fully waterproof. Manufacturers usually evaluate their products thoroughly, but it's advisable to read reviews online.
Ease of Use
A solar bike light that's difficult to turn on, hard to install, or switch between light modes is not a great choice. But if the light is easy to use, install and change settings, it will be thrilling to use it over and over again.
To ensure easy install, look for a model that comes with an adjustable or universal mount that can fit on most handlebars.
For the tail light, it should also be easy to attach to your seat post or clip it directly to your clothing. Just don't forget to remove it once you arrive home or work.
The sticker price of a solar bike light differs depending on the build, brand, type of materials, and other features.
There are plenty of valuable solar bike lights in the market, and they range in price from $10 to $50. Remember, expensive is not equivalent to better quality and build. Before buying a solar bike light, read reviews online.
How to Maintain a Solar Bike Light?
Nothing good lasts forever, and solar bike lights are no exception. However, with a little care and maintenance, you can get the most out of your solar bike lights.
Keep the Solar Bike Light Squeaky Clean
If you want to get the most out of your solar light, keep it clean. Dirt blocks the panels from Sun rays. If sunlight cannot find its way to the panels, your batteries will not charge.
As you continue using the light, the batteries will drain faster. This is because the panels did not collect enough sunlight. Wipe the solar panel at least twice or thrice a week.
Choose the Correct Setting
Solar bike lights have two to four light settings. The wrong light setting can damage your solar lights. This is because the wrong setting will cause your batteries to drain faster due to excessive consumption.
If you select the high mode and you cycle along a well-lit path every day, you'll be illuminating the area brightly unnecessarily.
If the path or road is well lit, you only need 100 to 200 lumens. Set the solar bike light to low or medium.
The light will consume less power preventing damage to your batteries. For tail lights, they should only produce 40 to 100 lumens. Remember, anything above 300 lumens for your headlights could potentially blind oncoming traffic.
Are Solar Bike Lights Better Than Battery-Powered Bike Lights?
Modern rechargeable battery-powered bike lights feature lithium-ion batteries just like solar bike lights. You can charge the batteries more than a hundred times making them environmentally friendly.
This is unlike battery-powered bike lights using disposable batteries. Alkaline batteries dim slowly over the battery's life. Rechargeable and solar bike lights deliver consistent light until the battery gets drained.
Solar bike lights and rechargeable battery-powered bike lights have a battery indicator. It indicates how much power is available. It also indicates when to recharge the battery and when it's fully charged.
Lithium-ion and polymer batteries offer excellent power for their weight. In fact, manufacturers prefer using them over alkaline batteries because they have longer run times. They are easy to keep charged since they do not suffer any memory effects from discharging.
One difference between solar bike lights and battery-powered bike lights is the integrated solar panel. It collects solar radiation and generates electricity which is usually stored in the batteries.
Both solar bike lights and battery-powered bike lights have USB charging ports. These allow you to charge the bike lights using a laptop, smartphone, or power bank. If using smart chargers, they will automatically stop when the batteries are fully charged. This prevents overcharging.
Benefits & Drawbacks of Solar Bike Lights?
- Environmentally friendly
- Easy to use
- Easy to install and uninstall
- Multiple mounting options
- Numerous light settings
- Weather dependent
- Maintenance of batteries is critical
When choosing a solar bike light, look at the number of lumens, battery capacity, waterproof rating, and ease of use. Many models come with additional features such as a loud horn, battery indicator, and a smartphone mount.
For headlights, we recommend at least 1000 lumens for riding trails and up to 200 lumens for urban roads with street lights. Do be careful with the light settings.
Extremely bright flashing headlights will disorient drivers. This makes it harder for them to see you.