There’s little denying the benefits of riding with bike lights at night, but with a reported eight out of ten cycling accidents occurring during the day, the use of lights during the day is the number one thing cyclists can do to make themselves safer according to a Denmark-based study.
This may be a foreign concept to some, but morning road cycling groups have been taking to daytime lights in droves over the past twelve months. Any additional awareness given to other road users can only be a good thing.
Given it is such a new concept, so many lighting brands are yet to catch on and so the choices for lights designed for use in both day and night-time are still currently limited. According to Bontrager’s white paper on the matter, to classify a light as one suited to daytime use, it needs focused optics, an interruptive flash pattern, and a visible distance during the day of at least 400 meters. That’s a lot of light!
Lights that lack power at night will be drowned out in the daylight. Due to this, the best daytime lights have reduced ‘night time’ settings so as not to blind other road users once the sun goes down.
With daytime-specific lights in use, Bontrager claims – “Using a flashing tail light in the day makes you 2.4x more noticeable than with no lights at all and 1.4x than in steady mode.”
In addition to flashing lights, Bontrager’s collection of external studies has suggested that highlighting moving limbs and wearing contrasting colours are the other (albeit less effective) elements to staying safe on the road.
Below we round up a few, small and relatively cost-effective front and rear light options that are well suited to keeping you safe, day and night. Due to the greater power demands, you’ll see all selected models feature LED technology and USB-rechargeable batteries. And if you want a comprehensive run down of all bicycle lights, check out our Ultimate Bicycle Light Buyer's Guide.
Daytime front Lights
All front lights selected here include handlebar mounts.
Bontrager Ion 700 R
As the brand making the most noise about daytime lights, it’s a safe bet to assume that Bontrager’s Ion 700 is up to the task of ensuring you’re seen.
Getting its name from a 700 lumens output, this torch-shaped model offers enough punch for up to 1.5km visibility in the daytime and lets you see where you’re riding once the sun goes down. The battery lasts for 22 hours on its brightest flash mode, with a still respectable one hour 45 minutes when running constantly at 700 lumens.
The simple silicon rubber mount means the light is a breeze to install and remove, and our sample has held tight over pothole-riddled roads. If you’re not needing to see where you’re going at night, the Bontrager Ion 350 R is likely to keep you just as safe at a lower AU$90 price.
Exposure is one of the market leaders for premium sports lights and was perhaps the first to promote the idea of daytime-running cycle lights. With light housings made in the UK of machined aluminium, Exposure lights typically demand a higher price but still provide great value.
New for 2017, the 77gram Switch is built specifically for road and urban users. It offers a peak output of 375 lumens and its pulse mode is just the ticket for keeping you safe in bright daylight. The three-hour burn-time on its brightest setting is a testament to the quality of these lights.
If budget is no issue, also be sure to check out other Exposure models such as the Strada 1200.
All new for 2017, Fabric will be offering a small range of safety lights. The FL300 headlines the range and offers a number of unique features. One example is the dimmer dial that switches between modes instead of having to toggle through with a button.
Another unique feature is that this light features both a direct forward beam and a row of ‘visibility’ LEDs. While you can’t use both at once, the idea is that the white direct beam offers the full 300 lumens of light, but in case of emergency, you can flip the light on its side, pick between white or red lighting and get substantially more range out of it. This makes the aluminium-encased Fabric FL300 the perfect back-up light for either the front or rear of your bike.
While we’ve only had a play with trade-show samples to date, the FL300 claims a six-hour burn in its 300-lumen strobe function.
CatEye Volt 800
CatEye once ruled the lighting market and the Japanese brand’s latest lights are helping them regain that name. The Volt 800 offers an 800 lumens peak output in a surprisingly slim package.
The ‘Hyper Constant’ mode is great for visibility, pulsing between 800 and 200 lumens for a total of seven hours between charging. With a burn-time of two hours, the constant 800 output is great for seeing where you’re going after dark.
The plastic strap is a little cumbersome to move between bikes, but removing the light from the bracket is extremely easy.
Daytime rear lights
All rear lights selected are designed to fit to a seat post. Some lights also offer alternative mounting methods such as to the saddle, seatstay, saddlebag or backpack.
Bontrager Flare R
A few of our staff have been using the Bontrager Flare R for nearly a year and it remains a top pick for an affordable, extremely bright light with settings for both day and night riding.
Weighing just 58grams with its rubber mount, the Flare R isn’t greedy with its battery usage either, offering just over four hours on its daytime-specific high-powered flash mode. A less aggressive night mode boosts battery to an impressive 23 hours between charging.
While it may look similar to many other lights on the market, we can attest that it certainly offers more impact. Bontrager claims the Flare R offers daytime visibility of two kilometres and five kilometres at night.
Like the front Ion 700, the simple silicon rubber band makes moving it between bikes a synch – something we do plenty.
While it may be priced at a premium, See.Sense effectively created the market for smart rear lights. The new Icon+ model is 30% brighter than the original with an astonishing 250 lumens peak output.
A built-in accelerometer means the light powers on when you move, and powers itself off after three minutes of inactivity. Additionally, coming to stop, riding through roundabouts or car headlights approaching all trigger a brighter output too. And if that weren’t enough, it can be paired with a smartphone for bike theft and emergency-response crash alerts.
Built in Northern Ireland, this light is water sealed, weighs just 64grams and offers a battery run-time of over 16 hours. If money is no object, this is likely the rear light we’d pick.
Knog Blinder Mob V Kid Grid
Known globally as ‘that Aussie cycling company’, Knog got its start in LED safety cycling lights. These days the brand's quirky designs are perhaps copied more than any other.
With an extensive range, it was a struggle for us to pick a favourite from the brand, but it’s the Blinder Mob V Kid Grid (say that three times) that gets the vote. This rear-specific, waterproof light offers 44 lumens at peak output from its 16 surface-mounted LEDs. At its brightest strobe setting the battery will last for over seven hours.
The charging plug for this light is built directly into the back of it, with no wires required. However, the snap-fit mounting straps are our favourite part. Here three different sizes are given to ensure fitment to all seatpost shapes and sizes.
Released alongside the FL300 for 2017, the FLR30 packs a heap of features into a small rear light. With 30 lumens of bright red light, this rear-specific model hides a built-in accelerometer that increases the light’s brightness as you brake.
Made by a ‘diving light specialist manufacturer’, the FLR30 is IPX5 waterproof and will strobe for a claimed nine hours straight. We also quite like the simple rubber mount that offers multiple positions.
Looking like a miniature lantern, the UK-made Blaze was one of the first truly high-powered rear cycling lights.
Built with a solid aluminium housing, the Blaze has a peak output of 80 lumens and an extremely long lasting battery. Its solid construction means it’s a little heavier than some of the plastic competition, weighing in at a claimed 77grams. Additionally, the unique aesthetic won’t be for everyone.
Cycliq Fly6 (v)
This is the only product here that isn’t just a light. The Australian-designed Fly6 combines a HD camera and rear light into one, keeping a safety camera running on what’s happening behind you making sure you’re seen.
The light itself offers a peak of 30 lumens, while the video records at a maximum of 720p, which is plenty to read number plates and reveal offenders. Most importantly though is that the camera offers automated looping so that it never runs out of recording memory, and there’s an incident save mode to ensure any important footage is kept safe.
A new version of this popular device was recently released, with the most notable change being the new Velcro seatpost mount.
Sitting in a similar league to the See.Sense, the German lighting specialist Lupine often set the benchmark for ultimate brightness. Traditionally this brand is better known for their mountain bike headlamps, but the Rotlicht (German for ‘Red Light’) proves they know how to keep customers safe too.
This model offers a number of once-unique features, which are now found in other lights listed here. These include the accelerometer-based brake light and ambient light sensor which both work with the impressive 160 lumens output to ensure you’re always seen. Still, over two years on from its introduction, the Rotlicht remains one of the best out there.
With the price as an indication of the quality, the aluminium and polycarbonate construction is certainly built to last.
Specialized Flux Expert Tail
Sharing a similar aesthetic to the Exposure Blaze, Specialized’s Flux Expert taillight raises the claimed output to an impressive 110 lumens for up to one kilometre of daytime visibility.
A built-in ambient light sensor boosts the output by up to 50% for increased visibility when the sun is at its highest. The seatpost mount is aesthetically clean, but just beware that its fitment is not as universal as most other lights.