Over the winter period I’ve been using bike lights from Poundland. They sell front and back lights at £1 each, along with big packs of batteries. That means you can easily kit out a bike for £3 and have several batteries left over for other devices.
It’s been a constant puzzle for me why bike lights are so expensive. The components are individually quite cheap: super-bright LEDs can be bought for pennies each, then you just need a battery connector, a switch and some plastic housing to keep it together. The electronics are extremely basic, you’d find more complicated circuits in free toys. But the lights we’ve featured on this site have come in at £20 to £35 apiece.
Lights are legally required safety equipment, and some organisations try to minimise the cost. My old school used to subsidise a discount at local bike shops, and some Oxford colleges give out free lights to students. Nevertheless, every year I have to order new lights because every year they get lost or broken or stolen. I can personally absorb the cost, but families with 4 bikes (2 lights each) are facing a hefty bill.
In this case it’s definitely true that you get what you pay for. The ‘my Cycle’ lights are cheap, they feel cheap, they smell of cheap plastic put together in a cheap way, and they’re sold to you by shopkeepers who aren’t paid a fair wage. The bracket for the back light fell apart after about two weeks, it was getting loose and the nut holding it in place eventually just came off. The bracket for the front light has too wide a circumference to properly strap in place, so instead I leave it hanging under my handlebars. They’re just not well made.
Heavy shocks can knock the battery contacts and cut power to the light, this doesn’t happen often and I know that it happens so I sometimes check after riding over bumps or straddling pot holes. I’m also suspicious that the clip holding the back light to my saddle is going to snap at some point. Having said that, they still work, and if they break I don’t mind replacing them, they were only a pound after all.