Over the past few years, more bicycle light companies have started recommending their use during the day as a way to increase a rider’s visibility. We all know we should use them when it’s dark, not just to see but also to be seen. So what’s the deal with daytime use? Is it really necessary? Does it really help? Turns out, yes, and quite a bit.

We partnered with Niterider to produce this video showing how different lights, blink patterns and brightness come together to make you more visible to drivers. The good news? You don’t need to spend a lot, we found it wasn’t necessarily the brightest light that stood out the most…

The goal was to see how different blink patterns and lumen outputs affected our ability to spot the rider under adverse lighting conditions. Two of the worst are when the sun is low and beaming at the driver from the side, and when it’s directly in front of the driver and almost blinding them. But we also tested a few different scenarios in broad daylight with the sun directly overhead and clear skies. While our camera doesn’t exactly replicate what our eyes saw, the footage makes the benefits of running daytime lights very clear.

Niterider DVF Lights Tested:

testing niterider lights during the day to see if bicycle lights improve a cyclists safety in sunlight

We wanted to test lights across a wide spectrum of pricing and lumen outputs. Niterider has been pushing daytime use since 2012 and has a massive range of lights rated as DVF, or “Daytime Visible Flash“, which use reflectors and designs meant to optimize visibility as much as illumination. Unless otherwise noted, all models are USB rechargeable and waterproof.

At the low level, we used the Swift 450 headlight paired with the Cherrybomb 35. Since we filmed this, several models have been upgraded, so the Swift 450 is now the Swift 500, specs and notes are:

  • 500 lumen output
  • $34.95
  • Four brightness levels plus flash mode
  • 1:30 run time on brightest setting
  • 82g claimed weight
  • NOTES: This is the only light with a side-marker, and it has the easiest to use mounting strap. For the price, it’s hard to beat and gets the job done.

The Cherry Bomb 35 is the most affordable tail light in our test and the only one in our test that uses standard, replaceable AAA batteries. Specs and notes are:

  • 35 lumens
  • $19.99
  • Two flash modes plus two constant-on modes
  • up to 100hr run time
  • 82g claimed weight
  • NOTES: At just $20, this light is the perfect way to get attention. It has the same IP64 waterproof rating as all the others, has broad side visibility and up to 1 mile of rearward visibility, and the crazy flash pattern grabbed our attention better than the others.

do bicycle lights really make me more visible to drivers during the middle of the day

The Lumina Micro 750 tested has also been upgraded to the Lumina Micro 850, specs and notes are:

  • 850 lumen output
  • $64.99
  • Four brightness levels plus flash mode
  • 1:30 run time on brightest setting
  • 130g claimed weight
  • NOTES: Much improved strap attachment for 2019 gets rid of their convoluted wrap-thru strap system on this and the Lumina 1100. Light clips onto the mount, so you can leave the mount on the bike, or you can bolt it to the K-Edge adapter to put it on the bottom of your computer mount.

should i use bicycle lights during the day

The Sabre 80 is the next step up from the Cherry Bomb. It’s brighter, and adds USB recharge-ability. Specs and notes are:

  • 80 lumens
  • $29.95
  • up to 10:30 hours run time
  • Three solid and three blinking modes
  • 28g claimed weight
  • NOTES: Despite the brighter output, we didn’t find a flash pattern that really stood out compared to the others. Side markers are smaller. Where it stands out is the thin form factor, helping it hide behind the seatpost for a more aerodynamic system.

daytime running lights for bicycles can make you safer and more visible

The brightest of the bunch was the Lumina 1100 Boost, now upgraded to the Lumina 1200 Boost. Specs and notes are:

  • 1200 lumens
  • $99.99
  • 1:00 run time on brightest setting
  • Five brightness levels plus two flash/pulse modes
  • 172g claimed weight
  • NOTES: Also gets new, improved mount. Massive brightness with a standard 1000 lumen  high output that can be boosted to 1200 lumens. It’s big, though, so if you’re just looking to be seen but still want that minimalist front end, go with something smaller.

niterider bike lights used during the day can improve visibility of the cyclist to car drivers

In the video, I mistakenly called this the Solas 100, which they did offer, but we actually tested the brighter Solas 150. And now, it’s become the much brighter Solas 250. Specs and notes are:

  • 250 lumens
  • $39.95
  • Up to 40 hours run time
  • Two flash and two constant light modes
  • 82g claimed weight
  • NOTES: This one’s dim-dim-bright flash pattern was a close second to the Cherry Bomb’s best pattern, and it works because the bright flash that happens every third time calls a lot of attention to itself. Our hunch is this pattern would work best when riding out in the country where cars will have a long line of sight approaching you. Like some of the others, the dim constant-on “group ride” mode lets you keep some visibility without ruining friendships on shop rides, which is a nice feature.

How to choose the best bike light for you

What the video doesn’t show is how much brightness matters. Both in person and on the video, once a certain level of brightness is achieved, we think a more erratic flash pattern provides more visibility than increased lumen output. That said, the Solas 150’s brightest flash does get noticed very well and was a very close second. An argument could be made that a more intermitting but brighter flash might actually catch a driver’s attention more than the near constant sparkle of the Cherry Bomb. The bottom line is both work, and the important thing is to pick one and use it on every ride.

Up front, event the Swift 450 was visible during the day, so we’d suggest considering two factors when choosing the best bicycle headlight for your situation. First, how many other light sources are you competing with? If there’s tons of traffic, retail signage, and other distractions, go brighter to stand out above them. Second, will you need to use the light to see with when riding in the dark? If so, choose the brightest light you can afford as it’ll better illuminate those dark streets, potholes and other surprises that could cause an accident. Then just be sure to use the flashing mode during the day, and steady mode at night.

Huge thanks to Niterider for sponsoring this video and test! Check out their complete collection at the link below.

Niterider.com

26 COMMENTS

  1. I always look for a tail light with a reflector casing. Because batteries can die during a ride and a reflector will still offer a modicum of safety. That’s no comment on the above offerings because it’s hard to tell for certain (although the Cherry Bomb seems to be the only one that might be reflective).

  2. I think one of the big advantages of the blinking light is that it’s become a marker for a cyclist. Road users are getting to a point where when you see a blinking red light ahead your brain immediately goes ‘cyclist’.

    • yea, i agree and the front flash ligth is necesary in a day,
      When I got hit by a taxi driver his excuse was that he did not see me, maybe if I had a blinking front light I would not have run over

      • Maybe you would have also been hit by an asteroid. The contention about what could have been should have it or might have been is simply not germane to the issue at hand. Of course the light company thinks you need a light. Of course they market with scaremongering.

        • So your contention is that using a headlight on a bicycle during the day does not improve a cyclist’s conspicuity? Do you have evidence to back that up? After all, yours is not a logical conclusion at all

            • I think its well proven that an object with lights is more quickly perceived and more noticeable by the human eye than an identical object without in all scenarios.
              That doesn’t mean a light will save you. But I’ve yet to determine what I am leaving on the table by running one. Its not even like a helmet where one could argue its hot or uncomfortable.

              • I agree, however, it is not odd to me that a company who makes lights is pontificating about them as if they are a savior…all with out a single fact to back up any contention on safety.

                Used to say the same thing about bright yellow jerseys….

              • Look up “yehudi” lights and you’ll see that lights are equally useful for camouflaging objects against the sky; Think of a rider with the sun at their back and a daytime front light. The light would blur a portion of the dark silhouette that is created. Not saying daytime lights are a bad idea, but they definitely don’t make all situations better.

                • For any given improvement to virtually anything, there is set of conditions in which there is a downside to that improvement.

                  The point of the improvement is all of the other conditions in which it works. It’s only a small set of conditions in which a cyclist is seen against the sky or the conditions are such that increasing luminance near the cyclist (i.e. having a light on a bike) reduces the cyclist’s conspicuity.

            • The proof would be in the form of car-caused crash rates, but since there’s no way to track how many people ride, how far, where and if they are running lights or not, there’s no way to know.
              I tend to agree though: when a company publishes a ‘test’ that concludes that their product is necessary, I’m skeptical.

              If you looked at every car-on-bike crash; where a car hit a bike, I’ll bet the rent money that at least 12 times out of 10 the driver “didn’t see the bike”
              That excuse doesn’t really mean anything. I’ve never heard of that type of crash ever happening when the driver didn’t say that, even when they made eye contact with the cyclist and obviously did see them.

        • It’s not scaremongering, it’s known human vision and perception. If you’re in your car, in direct sunlight, and a cyclist (or just about anything) is under shade without any lighting, you cannot see them. They might as well be in complete darkness. It is the “ride out of the shadow” scenario that gets many riders hit at intersections.

          This contrast is employed by police in choosing where to set up a speed trap. Hidden in Plano sight.

        • Record, although I can appreciate your skepticism, it is off base here. There’s a century of human interface design that tells us blinking lights (and motion in general) grab people’s attention. It is also common sense. So I don’t see the need to prove that here.

          As someone who rides with the Bontrager daytime lights, I can tell you that this approach works and is highly effective. Drivers who aren’t even looking my way snap their heads to my attention as the flashing light catches the corner of their eyes. This is especially important when the car is approaching from the side.

          I would feel safer riding without a helmet than without my daytime lights, my experience is that they make that much difference.

  3. What no one mentions about the Solas lights is that the mounting system is pretty horrible. Too much weight is cantilevered off the mount so it can (and will) fall off over rough pavement/gravel. Additionally the 3 that I’ve had (Niterider replaced 1 b/c it fell off) all pulled to the NDS side while riding on normal (not rough) pavement over the course of my commute (6 miles each way). Its bright AF but I definitely wouldn’t buy another one until Niterider makes a better mounting bracket.

  4. This was really interesting to see. Having being hit by a car ( more than once) It was informative to see things from a drivers point of view. Particularly from the partial sun in the eyes scenario. I’d like to see the same visual tests with different color clothing as well, to see the comparison. Thanks guys.

    • My eyes aren’t too sensitive to glare, but I am constantly amazed by motorist culture that thinks overdriving their visibility (due to sun, night vision, etc) is okay. I’ve always commuted east in the morning and west in the evening. I’ve never remotely come close to not identifying road hazards due to the sun.
      I think the “I was blinded” is an excuse. Same as “they were over a hill”. If you are looking at the proper distance in front of your car, and driving the appropriate speed for your ability/conditions, you should basically never hit anything in the road by surprise sans someone cutting out or running out in front of you (even then, you should be scanning for those hazards). This is a basic tenant of driving school like Smith System Driver Training.
      Those people that hit you were simply not paying attention to the degree they should have, and a combination of conditions/events pushed their negligence to an actual “accident” (assuming you just didn’t veer into traffic at the last minute)

  5. I’m still looking for a good blinky dynamo light. I appreciate the German road rules limit their widespread adoption.

  6. I’ve been riding with lights in the day for 10+ years. I’m surprised how long it took for it to catch on. I teach smart cycling classes and suggest to students to never ride without lights, front and back. I also suggest to mount at least a front light on their helmet since the bike mounted ones only point forward. If someone is coming from a side street for instance, you can point the helmet light directly at them so they are aware you are there.

  7. Blinking lights do help a lot in the daytime! Especially late in the day like when this video was shot. Also not wearing a black kit and black helmet goes a long way. A light colored helmet does wonders for visibility. Also glad to see Niterider has gone to a more standard flash instead of that death strobe they once had. Cheers!

    • Same here. I think Bontrager really nailed it with the flash pattern. Their lights flash in a way that makes it more difficult for people to judge your speed. This may sound like a bad thing, but it’s actually good because motorists usually confidently misjudge your speed anyways and hit you. Now they know they can’t judge your speed and are more likely to wait until you are clear. I was shocked by the clear difference in driver behavior on my first few rides.

      Also, as stated there may be multiple things competing for drivers attention, including other stay flashing lights. The more of ball the patten, the more you stand out and the faster you are noticed. That can make all the difference in avoiding being hit.

      I am glad to see more recognition of the importance of daytime lights, but the flash pattern on the Nite Rider lights fall short.

  8. Niterider lights not only get the job done… But they last and last…. worth every penny!

    Great customer service too!

    I have 7 years on my Lumina 550

    Looking forward to buying another one for use on my helmet.

  9. I like the 450 front, and I have one currently, but the NR rear lights they make are butt ugly. I’m running a magic shine on the back – rechargeable, several good and bright blink patterns, easy strap mount, no ugly branding or bulbous shaping. I think the NR products work well, just wishing they had more nice looking rear light options.

  10. Good presentation on the usefulness of DRLights.
    Using Biomotion and NOT being dressed like a ninja are additional great ideas.

  11. I’m all for safety and not being killed by cars, but what about the effect these flashing bright headlights have on other cyclists. I ride on a somewhat narrow bike path, during both day and night, and when a cyclist is approaching from the opposite direction I encounter about 1-2 seconds of compromised visibility due to bight light in my eyes. This wouldn’t be a problem on a normal wide street, but being in such close quarters with an approaching cyclist does require both parties to be fully aware to avoid disaster.

  12. I disagree with the skepticism of Roadcarbon11. I drive a car and can tell you that I notice cyclists with daytime strobes from a greater distance and it also identifies them as cyclists and not pedestrians or other objects. This is an expeience based fact. I can better anticpate their speed, and what moves they’re likely to make based on this information. But I do believe in evolution, and survival of the fittest. So if Roadcarbon11 wants to ride without a light I encourage him to do so. His experience based facts will probaly be quite different than mine.

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