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 year or two. After all, any additional awareness given to other road users can only be a good thing.
The “be seen” category of lights is now definitely up and running with many of the big lighting brands offering a flexible solution that caters to both day and night time use. 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, a collection of external studies has suggested that highlighting moving limbs and wearing contrasting colours are the other (albeit less effective) elements to being seen on the road.
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 rundown of all bicycle lights, including commonly used terminology, check out our Ultimate Bicycle Light Buyer's Guide.
See below for our picks of the best small and relatively cost-effective front and rear light options that are well suited to keeping you both seen and safe, day and night.
Daytime Front Lights
All front lights selected here include handlebar mounts.
Bontrager Ion Pro RT
As the brand making the most noise about daytime lights, it’s a safe bet to assume that Bontrager’s new Ion Pro RT is up to the task of ensuring you’re seen.
With an output of 1300 lumens, the Ion Pro RT offers enough punch for up to 2km 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, or a respectable three hours when running constantly at 800 lumens.
The simple handlebar mount means the light is a breeze to install and remove. If you’re not needing to see where you’re going at night, the Bontrager Ion 200 RT is likely to keep you just as safe at a lower AU$79.95 price.
Exposure Joystick MK13
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.
Weighing in at 93 grams, the Joystick caters to the road, urban and mountain bike markets alike. It offers a peak output of 1,000 lumens, its pulse mode is just the ticket for keeping you safe in bright daylight. The one and a half hour burn-time at full output and 24-hour battery life on flash mode are 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.
Garmin Varia UT800
The latest smart light to come from GPS wizards Garmin automatically adjusts to ambient light conditions, a riders speed and ride profile to making sure you’re seen regardless of the conditions.
The light itself offers a peak of 800 lumens and has a battery life of up to four hours when running in ambient mode and paired to a compatible EDGE cycling computer. At full power, the light is visible from up to 1.6km away, with battery life seeing a significant increase in excess of six hours at medium, low, day flash and night flash settings.
BBB Strike 1000
True to its name, the Strike 1000 from Dutch cycling brand BBB, offers a 1000-lumen peak output in a surprisingly slim package.
The regulated output of the unit is great for ensuring a consistent and constant amount of light between charging. With a burn-time of up to sixty hours in it’s lowest flash setting, the constant 400 output is great for seeing where you’re going after dark and should suit most riders with a burn time of around six hours.
Knog PWR Road
Based in Melbourne, Australian design brand Knog have been creating sleek and stylish tech for road, trail and outdoor use for over 15 years.
Part of the PWR range released in late 2017, The PWR Road is a feature-packed multi-function light. As well as pumping out up to 400 lumens, the Road gives users the option to program brightness and runtime through a companion app, then use your remaining battery to charge your USB devices. The light outputs in an elliptical beam for broader, brighter road coverage; has a two-hour runtime at its maximum 600 lumens and four smart battery indicator LEDs to let the rider know how much charge is left.
Lezyne Power Drive 1100i
Best known for its range of high-quality cycling accessories, Lezyne have been developing its range of quality LED cycling lights for eight years. Catering for everything from “be seen” flashers to lights capable of lighting up the brightest of spaces, the product line-up features a range of lights to suit all situations.
With a capable 1100 lumen output and a robust anodized aluminium body, the Power Drive 1100i features seven different output settings. With a burn time ranging from one hour at 1100 lumens, all the way up to 80 hours on it’s lowest output flash setting, the Power Drive is a great option for commuters transitioning between daylight and darkness. It’s worth noting that the Power Drive is also compatible with a power pack, boosting run times by an additional 300%.
Daytime Rear Lights
All rear lights selected are designed to fit to a seatpost. Some lights also offer alternative mounting methods such as to the saddle, seatstay, saddlebag or backpack.
Bontrager Flare RT
With 90 lumens of output and weighing just 33grams with its rubber mount, the Flare RT is the latest iteration of Bontragers incredibly popular line of Flare rear lights. Shrinking in size by 36%, the Flare RT is not only a solid, lightweight option, it’s also not greedy with its battery usage, offering a 20% increase in battery life, good for six hours of use on its daytime-specific high-powered flash mode. A less aggressive night mode boosts battery to an impressive 15 hours between charging.
While it may look similar to many other lights on the market, we can attest to the fact that it certainly offers more impact. Bontrager claims the Flare RT offers daytime visibility of two kilometres and five kilometres at night.
Light and Motion ViS 180
American outfit, Light and Motion makes some bold claims with its ViS 180, stating on its website that is the world’s most visible tail light. With 180 degrees of dedicated lighting and side lights built in as standard, there appears to be some merit to the claims.
With an output of 150 lumens, the ViS 180 has a claimed run time of six hours on its highest setting, increasing out to an impressive 12 hours when run in its lowest output setting of 75-lumens.
Knog Blinder Road R70
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 Road R70 that gets our vote for 2019. This rear-specific, waterproof light offers 70 lumens at peak output from its 4 CREE LEDs making is visible from up to 1.2km away. At its brightest strobe setting, the battery will last for around and a half hours and up to an astonishing 20 hours on eco flash.
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, including aero seatposts!
Lezyne Micro Drive Rear
Often sold as a set with the front Micro Drive unit, with 180 lumens of bright red light, the rear-specific Micro Drive packs a serious punch to ensure you are safe and seen when out riding.
The Micro Drive tips the scales at just 53 grams, has an IPX5 waterproof rating and offers up a claimed battery life of four hours on its 180-lumen day flash mode, and up to 26 hours on a more modest eco flash setting. The lens of the Micro Drive Pro is claimed to increase side visibility whilst the included rubber mounting strap is also aero seatpost friendly.
Built with a solid waterproof plastic housing, the Guardian has a peak output of 100 lumens coming from its single LED bulb in day flash mode. Weighing in at a claimed 38 grams, the Guardian is amongst the lightest on this list and includes a range of silicone mounting straps compatible with a wide range of seatpost shapes.
Serfas claim a battery life of between two and a half hours on a high steady high (60 lumens output), and 14 hours on a low (35 lumens) output flash setting. In addition to a solid battery life, the Guardian also features an audible alarm system when the battery level reaches under 10 minutes of runtime remaining.
The latest offering from budget light manufacturer Moon, the Cerberus taillight features an impressive claimed output of 150 lumens and 270º of visibility from its 3 COB LED chips.
With five different modes on offer, expect battery life to range from two hours on the 50 lumens steady setting through to 19 hours on the day flash setting. The seatpost mount is as aesthetically clean as the light itself, however, the optional saddle mount looks to provide a particularly neat mounting solution for those wanting to keep their seatposts uncluttered.
Confused by lux, lumens and what to look for in a bike light? Check out our ultimate guide for all you need to know about lighting up your ride.