LED Replacement Bulbs for Headlights?

LEDs have revolutionized generator-powered bicycle lighting. They are bright, use less power, tend to last (almost) forever, and easily can be combined with a standlight. However, many riders prefer the elegant shapes of classic taillights. Combining LEDs with classic taillights offers the best of both worlds. Our LED insert replaces the incandescent bulb in a classic taillight, making this conversion easy and effortless. It even includes a standlight.

After we introduced the red LED taillight bulbs, we also received requests for LED bulbs to replace headlight bulbs. The LED bulbs exist in white as well, but unfortunately, an LED bulb will not work well in a classic headlight body. Here is why:

Incandescent bulbs (this includes halogen bulbs) emit light from their filament, and basically are point sources of light. The reflector behind the incandescent bulb is designed to diffuse the light from the point source to create a headlight beam.

LEDs emit light over a larger area. The reflectors of LED lights are shaped differently to work with this larger light source. Sticking an LED into a body for incandescent bulbs will not work optimally. You may be better off just keeping your old bulb and replacing it when it burns out.

Most taillights do not use reflectors behind the bulb. The lens adequately diffuses the light. Replacing an incandescent bulb with an LED insert does not change the effectiveness of the taillight. (You aren’t trying to see with your taillight, but just present a red glow visible to traffic approaching from behind.)

As much as we like the red LED inserts for taillights, we cannot recommend the white LED inserts for headlights. That said, they may be useful in some situations, such as a bike used mostly in the city, where being seen is more important than seeing, and where the standlight provides an important safety benefit. For those applications, we have a few white LED bulbs in stock. You can order them here.

(Sorry, the LED inserts are available only to replace screw-in bulbs, not the smooth halogen bulbs. If you have a halogen headlight, it’s best to stick with halogen bulbs, which are inexpensive and easily available.)

About Jan Heine, Editor, Bicycle Quarterly

I love cycling and bicycles, especially those that take us off the beaten path. I edit Bicycle Quarterly magazine, and occasionally write for other publications. One of our companies, Bicycle Quarterly Press publishes cycling books, while Compass Bicycles Ltd. makes and distributes high-quality bicycle components for real-world riders.
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2 Responses to LED Replacement Bulbs for Headlights?

  1. Alex says:

    Jan, do the white LED bulbs you sell work with Shimano dynamo hubs? the ones i’ve bought here in Germany don’t: they burn out. The rear ones are fine.

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