Most bike lights seem to be the bar / seatpost mounted variety. Is it worth also having a headlamp for riding?

I go cycle touring, ride in the city and do mountain bike xc trail riding.

I've got a budget enough to buy something decent.

  • This is quite broad. Where you are riding will affect the answer.
    – Batman
    Commented Jan 27, 2016 at 9:54
  • You're going to get a lot of opinion on this question, and some of them will be polar opposites. Best figure out what works for you and then invest in a nicer primary light.
    – Criggie
    Commented Jan 27, 2016 at 11:20
  • Good for trails because you can see around corners, bad for roads because you’ll blind other cyclists and motorists.
    – Michael
    Commented Jan 27, 2016 at 14:14
  • I think I read somewhere that helmet attachment could be illegal as it breaks some standards (country specific). Might be a safety issue in a crash as the helmet could catch something.
    – imel96
    Commented Jan 28, 2016 at 2:14

3 Answers 3


This is always going to be a matter of opinion but here are some reasons why I think the answer is "yes":

Cornering: you don't have to be cornering hard for a bar-mounted light to point the wrong way, and cornering is a time when you really don't want to hit a pothole.

Signaling to others: if a bus starts indicating out while you're alongside, lifting your head to flash their mirror is quite effective.

If you come off in the dark: you don't want someone to swerve round the bike towards your head. (my head torch has a rear light as well, thanks to my modifications).

I also like the fact that when riding with my bar light quite dipped (e.g. on a busy, two-way but unlit bike path), I have hands-free control of how far in front the road is illuminated, and can avoid dazzling people coming the other way while still illuminating the road ahead. I use a head torch with a narrow beam.

  • As @batman says, conditions matter. I'm thinking commuting mainly,but some of it is relevant to bike paths and trails.
    – Chris H
    Commented Jan 27, 2016 at 10:47

My tuppence - ALL THE LIGHTS!

A handlebar lamp is what vehicle drivers "expect" to represent your forward direction. So I have a high-power chinese thing with 4x18650 in a pouch. I only take it in winter or when I expect to be riding in the dark. I'm not sure if it works better on the bar or on the head-tube... with the headtube the light doesn't wiggle as much, but it doesn't light up around corners so well

I also use a blinking pinpoint torch on the helmet which I use to light up reflectors and point out to drivers where I am. Stays on upper rear of helmet all the time

In addition I have blinkies on the front and rear, because winking gets attention at the sides of the driver's vision as opposed to direct-on. Again, always on bike.

Multiple lights works well for me, because I've had the occasional one go flat while riding. If its a rear, then you won't know till you get to your destination.

A super-bright headlight has caused me problems on a night ride - it was dusty, and the head light illuminated the dust right in front of my face, obscuring vision and making me go slower. Another reason for putting the big light on the handlebar.

Some locations have restrictions about what you can have blinking and what must be on solid. Bear that in mind, and do what keeps you safest.

  • 2
    Like it says, all the lights.
    – jqning
    Commented Jan 28, 2016 at 0:40
  • 1
    All the lights :o). Day-time too. A front pointing bright flashing light really helps other traffic to see you. Less cars cut across your path. Especially helpful when in busy traffic.
    – gaoithe
    Commented Jan 28, 2016 at 9:40
  • @gaoithe agreed - there are fewer cars doing it wrong when they can see the bike/rider.
    – Criggie
    Commented Jan 28, 2016 at 10:29

What is your budget? Don't split between two cheap lights.

I would start with a good (like $80+ USD) bar light before spending money on a helmet light. The nicer lights even have a broad low beam and more focused high beam with multiple power settings.

Then you can add a nice helmet light. It is good for riding trails as you can direct the light. Bar light is still good for staying on what is in front of the tire.

For city riding I do not use the head light much. Riding up and relaxed it points to far forward. Riding down in drops and fast it is pointing too close. And I notice the extra weight. Riding country roads where you don't have lights for reference the headlight is very nice.

  • You can get a useful head torch for £5
    – Chris H
    Commented Jan 27, 2016 at 10:48
  • @ChrisH As you stated in you answer will be a matter of opinion. My answer is clearly my opinion. I don't find cheap head lights to be very effective. I would put the money in a nicer bar light.
    – paparazzo
    Commented Jan 27, 2016 at 10:55
  • I don't disagree, I just dropped that in to indicate that options start at the rounding error between buying the same decent bar light from different suppliers (and I agree that a decent bar light should come first).
    – Chris H
    Commented Jan 27, 2016 at 12:12
  • Don't want to edit the question as it bring it to frequent. Head light bright enough for aggressive night trail riding is too bright for the road - you will blind drivers. Bring the light down to a low setting on the road if you get a high output.
    – paparazzo
    Commented Jan 27, 2016 at 14:57
  • 1
    @ChrisH Not important and I don't want to get in a discussion as it might seems like I am arguing with you but I don't follow your comments. I don't know what you mean by rounding error. I comment on head light blind drivers and you comment on bar. I don't have any questions myself regarding lights - I have a set up I am very satisfied with. You have an answer that I think reflects your (valid) advice very effectively.
    – paparazzo
    Commented Jan 27, 2016 at 16:32

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