Nothing's scarier than being invisible on a bike, and that can happen too often with the sun still setting before 6 p.m. That's why there's no excuse not to carry bike lights along, especially when some of the new ones are so convenient and compact that they'll stow in the smallest fanny pack, pocket or tool bag.
Serfas Thunderbolt UTL-6 Headlight and Taillight: Tiny, powerful lights weigh 2 ounces each, measure about 31/2-by-3/4-by-1-inch, are chargeable via USB cords and can be attached to almost any part of the bike in a few seconds with two dedicated rubber stretch bands.
Likes: Super bright and super convenient. Cars will see one mile away in each direction, the company claims. The headlight has a high beam (1.5-hour run time), low beam (6.5-hour run time) and two blinking modes (3.5 and 9 hours). The red taillight has a steady beam and a blinker. They're fully charged by a USB cord (included) in three to four hours. The small size and endless mounting options make it a must-carry accessory.
Dislikes: None, although you are out of luck if you run out of juice, given that it is only USB chargeable. Also, you can easily lose the rubber bands and the USB cords, which are not attached to the units, as they are with the Knog lights.
Price: $45 each. http://www.serfas.com
All in wonders
Knog Blinder 4 Front Bike Light and Blinder 4v Rear Bike Light: White headlights and red taillights include a built-in, flip-out USB-charger and locking buckle-strap.
Likes: A functional, tool-free, all-in-one design with integrated lights/charger, strap. No cords to lose. Bright at 44 lumens; the company rates it at 800 yards of visibility. Although the headlight is not quite as bright as the Thunderbolt, it lasts longer (2.5 to three hours) in beam mode and up to 50 in eco-mode, one of four flash modes. The stylish, waterproof, aluminum-shell lights clamp securely to round handlebars, seat post, and seat- and chainstays.
Dislikes: The 4-LED headlight model doesn't have a low-beam setting — only a high-beam and blinkers. And the lights may not clamp well to non-round aero tubing shapes.
Simple tail light
Nite Ize BikeLit LED: The silicone-rubber-encased, 1-ounce, 1.25-inch-diameter red rear light has built-in hooks that snap in place on the rails of your bike seat with no tools.
Likes: Good visibility. Simple to use: It's one big button — you squeeze it between your thumb and forefinger to turn it on and off and toggle between a solid beam and a flashing light. At 3/4 inch deep and 2 by 21/4 inches wide and long, it stows anywhere or can just be left in place on your bike. It's water resistant and uses two replaceable 3V lithium batteries (included). Claimed battery life is 20 hours for the solid glow and 25 in flashing mode.
Dislikes: There is no room for the BikeLit if you already have a tool bag hanging from your seat rails, and it doesn't have anywhere else to go. Although one of the hooks will snap onto the brake cable (as well as on shifter cables), it does not angle toward rear traffic well.
Price: $8.29. http://www.niteize.com
All head, no tail
Light & Motion Solite 250 Velo: Multipurpose, high-output headlight and separate USB-rechargeable battery (total weight, 4 ounces) for hiking and biking can be used as a helmet light, headlamp, handlebar light or flashlight. It includes the headlight, battery pack and head strap.
Likes: Powerful 100-lumen beam that gives you 100 hours of use on the low setting, 21/2 hours on the highest setting and up to 60 in flash mode. Small red LEDs on the side add visibility. A four-stage light indicates battery life. Battery fully recharges from any standard USB port in five hours (cable included). Bike mounts for light and battery are an extra $15.
Dislikes: It'd be nice to have a small taillight (like the Nite Ize BikeLit) attached to the battery case to make it an all-inclusive system when strapped over a bike helmet. A less-sophisticated light, the 75-lumen Black Diamond Sprinter ($69.99; reviewed in this column in February 2012), combined a head- and taillight to fine functional effect.
Price: $149. http://www.lightandmotion.com
Wallack is coauthor of "Bike for Life: How to Ride to 100" and "Barefoot Running Step by Step."Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times