Best cycle commuter visibility tips

We have covered the best lights for commuting in our updated bike lights definitive guide, but sometimes being visible on the road isn’t just about one front and rear light, but rather other things to make you visible, and also where and how you cycle.

You don’t have to use brightly coloured reflective clothing that screams cyclist if you don’t want to: you can also have something that is subtle or removable. For example, lights can be removed from your bag when you are at work and some reflective material can be invisible in the day time or just black.

In this guide we have some suggestions for increasing your on road visibility in ways that don’t scream cyclist when you are away from your bike.

Use more than one light

It is often useful to have a flashing one and a stand, or static light. This way you are not only brighter but stand a better chance of being noticed if someone glances in your direction. Stand lights also tend to use batteries and are low enough power that they last a very long time.

Lights at different heights

Having lights at different heights, for example something on your bike and maybe something on your bag increases your size on the road. If you have a light attached to your bag, it will move when you do, making it more eye catching. Unusual lights also work, something that means you stand out and get noticed by others on the road. Of course, then you have to be social and chat with other cyclists who stop and ask about the lights……

Fiber flare

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Having lights at different heights is also particularly helpful on Bromptons and other small wheeled bikes.  The designated mounting points on the bikes tend to be just above the wheel, which puts them quite a lot below the line of sight for many car drivers. There is plenty of space on the seat post, so having a second light up there works, and the Brompton stand light attached to the bike makes a great backup light.

Clothing

Signalling your intention to change lanes or turn into side roads is important. Additionally, you are at increased risk when performing these manoeuvres regardless of the time of day. In the dark, they can be a little trickier. You will be move visible if you also have reflective bands or details on your wrists of hands.

Reflective, light up bands

 

 

 

 

 

 

Clothing with lights can also be an option. The Lumo jacket is one such example, adding lights to an otherwise classy jacket. So, when you are off the bike you can blend in with city folks but while cycling there is a little something more to make you visible. They also have a backpack if you already have a favourite jacket.

lumo jacket lit up

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lights/reflective stuff on the bottom of your trousers are really good for increasing visibility. Your legs obviously move the most out of all the bits of your body on the bike and therefore having something that is highly visible on this area of your body will be eye catching for others around you. You can either use a reflective trouser band or two, or you can get little clip on lights.

Increased side visibility

Traffic doesn’t just come at you from the front and back. Traffic coming out of side roads might miss you cycling past, so something that makes you visible from the sides can be handy also. Happarel bike frame stickers are a great solution to making yourself more visible from the side. The stickers can blend in with your bicycle frame and not impact its appearance too much. However, when caught in a beam of light, they shine quite brightly and make the outline of your whole bike visible. It is pretty eye catching and effective. They also make shaped stickers should you wish to add some whimsy to your frame.

Sticker comparison

Monkey light in action

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lights that can be seen from the side are also a good bet. The Monkey light is a small light circuit board which goes in the wheel and makes large patterns when the wheel spins. You can select the image or pattern it makes – they are pretty awesome and definitely increase side visibility.

Beyond lighting

Being visible is of course not all about adding more and more lights to your bike or wearing neon clothing. Your position on the road also goes a long way towards keeping yourself seen by traffic. It is important to know what is going on around you so that you don’t have to swerve or limit your need to make sudden lane changes. All of the general safety tips apply in the day or night. If you are unused to riding in the dark then here are some good tips and advice on getting comfortable.

 

What are you favourite night time visibility additions? What strategies do you take when riding in the dark to make sure you are seen by other traffic? Let us know!

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38 Responses to Best cycle commuter visibility tips

  1. RH 20/09/2012 at 1:22 pm #

    Sadly, the last time I saw my Moon shield rear light – which was very bright – it was bouncing down the old Kent Road – so I’m not sold on the robustness of the clip catch on our potholed roads…

    • Andreas 20/09/2012 at 2:49 pm #

      Oh dear RH – that’s not good! I’ve been testing out the Moon and the clip feels springy so I don’t think it would snap. However, one of those things that only time will tell (so far I’ve tested for about 12 months).

    • Crispin Read 20/09/2012 at 5:03 pm #

      Seconded – I borrowed my mates moon lights the day and I also had to borrow his hairband to put them on the bike as the clip had failed

  2. Nick 20/09/2012 at 1:26 pm #

    What about if you’ve got thick handlebars. Lights never attach on – as the mounts are too small.. are the knog ones big enough?

    • Andreas 20/09/2012 at 2:48 pm #

      Nick: I’ve been able to fit the Knogs and Moons on my single speed, hybrid and my mountain bike without issue.

  3. rjc 20/09/2012 at 1:43 pm #

    Useful article.

    I can highly recommend the very bright led Exposure flash/flare set (about £80 for front/rear lights) with rechargeable batteries which are used mainly for my commute as my 10mile route between home/work takes me through about 1.5miles of unlit country lanes.

    I originally bought the lezyne micro drive usb led rechargeable set which had an impressive light but on my first trip the back light decided to eject itself from its mount and onto the road after going over what was a regular sized pothole.

    Luckily I heard it hit the ground and was able to find it but needless to say that experience didn’t give me any confidence that I’d be able to rely on it during my commute so returned them and replace with the exposure set which are excellent.

    Nick – the exposure set (or any with silicon bands for mounts) might be suitable as they’re pretty flexible.

    • Kie 13/02/2016 at 6:02 pm #

      I hate you and every other fool who sticks ultra-bright flashing lights on the back of their bike, blinding every poor sod who gets stuck behind you.

      • Ojc 13/02/2016 at 7:15 pm #

        So you would really consider cycling on unlit country lanes with a £5 Smart led rear light? More fool you if that’s the case.

      • Mark 16/02/2016 at 9:50 am #

        Actually, when the Xposure Flare is mounted correctly, it won’t blind anyone. it is actually angled downwards, and is a great light to use in cities and on darker roads.

        M

  4. KarlPoe 20/09/2012 at 1:51 pm #

    The battery life of those Raleigh lights is phenomenal! It’s my second season of using it (20+ miles daily commute) and I didn’t have to change the batteries yet.

  5. Liz 20/09/2012 at 5:04 pm #

    I really liked the Knog lights, they were easy to put on and off, and I didn’t worry about them coming off if I hit a pothole, unlike the CatEyes. However, now I’ve put a pannier rack on my bike the seatpost mounted rear light isn’t very visible. I’ve gone for a permanent pannier-mounted light, but I’d really like a backup light that I can fix to some other part of my bike/myself to make me extra visible. Any tips?

    • Andreas 20/09/2012 at 5:59 pm #

      Either the Knog Wearable Boomer or the Fibre Flare?

  6. Huw 20/09/2012 at 5:24 pm #

    I have just bought a pair of Femto Lezyne lights. Only had them two weeks or so, but very happy with them so far. They’re easy to take on and off and are small and light so can comfortably fit in a pocket. You have to hold down the lens for 2 secs before they switch on, so they shouldn’t accidentally come on in a bag. Nice and bright too (I commute on reasonably well-lit streets, so I don’t need anything to show the way in front of me though).

    would definitely recommend them.

  7. Mark Pownall 20/09/2012 at 6:09 pm #

    For riding on country roads recently I bought a £20 powerful LED torch (100 lumens, I think) from Maplin, and made a not particularly pretty, but effective mount from gaffer tape and velcro, which worked really well.

    http://www.maplin.co.uk/flare-led-torch-with-cree-technology-507167

    • cL0h 23/04/2014 at 2:49 pm #

      I use a regular light too. Specifically I us a fenix l1d and instead of gaffer tape I use a twofish lock block.

  8. Adrian 21/09/2012 at 1:11 am #

    My current set up consists of a moon x-power 500 as a main with Knog blinder circle on back and front, all three are working great and the blinder on the front just about fits the 35mm handlebars.
    I’ve used the moon shield which snapped off and the gem3 above which i thought wasn’t quite bright enough for my journey.
    Also had a magicshine MJ-836 that was wonderfull til it rained, the battery is (not very) water resistant and couldn’t handle a heavy downpour. There are a few companies that sell them with a waterproof battery but thought i would give the 500 a try first due to a bunch of good reviews.
    If fibre flares started to come with rechargeable batteries i would definitly go for them after seeing one last week.

  9. Joff 21/09/2012 at 7:57 am #

    A well timed blog post as I’m currently researching commuter lights for my wife’s bike.

    Of course everyone’s situation is different, but for me personally the ability to recharge a light via USB is the key feature. I’ve bought cheap (and some not so cheap) AA/AAA powered lights in the past and yes I know I could use rechargeable cells but it’s far more convenient for me to just plug the light into a USB socket and let it trickle charge throughout the day.

    Next down the list of must-haves is a front light that as well as being noticeable to other road users, also illuminates at least some of the path as I’m riding through a pitch black country park, avoiding joggers, dog-walkers and the occasional nocturnal swan.
    Similarly the rear light should be bright enough that drivers really cannot miss me. If they’re complaining that it’s too bright then they’ve noticed me and it ticks the box (of course they never find the brake lights of a car in front too bright, oh no…).

    So with those criteria in mind, I ended up at my current set up – a Lezyne Super Drive up front and the Moon Shield at the back. I don’t (yet) have an additional set on the helmet but may invest in those this season.

    I’m so happy with my set up I’m considering the same for the wife’s bike, or at least something very similar. I don’t think I’ve found a rear light better than the Moon Shield (open to suggestions) and whilst I had one of the brittle clips go on my unit, Raleigh were quick to send a replacement.

    For a front light, I’m considering a Lezyne Mini Drive XL (2012 model) which has an increased output over the 2011 model. The idea being that with a shared mount we can swap lights around should I not be riding one day and should the winter commute prove too much for my wife, I can use the Mini Drive on my head.

    Incidentally, I’d also like to fit a light to my rear pannier somehow and looking for suggestions. Topeak offer a mount, but I’m not sure what lights would be compatible? http://www.topeak.com/products/Racks/TailLightMount

  10. Malcis 21/09/2012 at 10:43 am #

    Just a reminder to be considerate to pedestrians if you share space with them at any point on your ride – calling a light ‘blinder’ can be all too accurate for passers-by. Dip your front light on shared footpaths if you can.

  11. George 21/09/2012 at 10:53 am #

    Moon Mask 5.0 USB – the very best.

  12. Gaz 21/09/2012 at 11:10 am #

    I’ve recently upgraded to the Dinotte 1200L+ and Dinotte 400R for my main lights.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6Rijf8tZWoY

    They don’t come much better than that, well, the designshine is probably the only lights which will be better for road use.

  13. Barry Norsworthy 21/09/2012 at 11:14 am #

    The best lights you can get are niteflux. http://www.niteflux.com.au.
    Extremely bright rear lights, even in bright sunshine.

  14. Joff 21/09/2012 at 11:21 am #

    There’s no such thing as “the best” light full stop, you need to give a reason why. The best light for light output might not be the most portable or suitable for commuting – factors such as cost to buy, cost to run, potential for wet weather, being removable, easy to stow away, burn time, etc are all critical when it comes to choosing commuter lights.

    I could say the “best” light is one of the gazillion-watt lamps from a DIY store, strapped to my handlebars 🙂

    • Barry Norsworthy 26/09/2012 at 10:26 am #

      Quite right Joff, my post was a bit short, but I have tried quite a few lights including knogs etc and found niteflux much, much better. They are on the expensive side, but far superior ( in my opinion) in all other departments you mentioned.
      Assumed you would have checked the website and seen theYouTube trials.

  15. barton 21/09/2012 at 2:05 pm #

    The search for the perfect bike light is a lot like the search for the perfect red lipstick or pair of shoes – illusive and never achieved.

    I am currently using the MiNewt 150 on my handlebars (purchased from Wiggle during last year’s fall sales). It is a HEAVY, heavy thing. Since my bike is parked in a public place while at work, I cannot leave anything on my handlebars (left a knog once – it blended in with the bike frame – remembered 10 minutes later, went back down and it was already gone – before 7am). So making sure that the MiNewt is securely attached (with three rubber shims, btw) and ratcheted as tight as it can is a morning chore to say the least. This week they are re-paving three cross streets on my commute: I had to readjust the light each time I took a bump.

    As much as I complain about the weight of the MiNewt (has an optional helmet mount – who wants that much weight on their head?), it has a fabulous output. Most of my morning riding is completed on bike trails with no lights. I am able to position the MiNewt so that it doesn’t blind others, makes me visible, AND allows me to perfectly see what is coming in the 20-30 ft in front of me.

    Rear lighting: Well, I’m still not satisfied here. I use a pannier and have one light (Planet Bike) on the back of the rack, and then a Blackburn Flea on my seatpost, AND a knog on the back of my helmet. If you are coming at me from the right (pannier on left side) or from straight behind me, you can definitely see me. Coming from the left? Much dicier.

  16. kie7077 21/09/2012 at 6:01 pm #

    I wouldn’t recommend the Knog Boomer if you don’t want the flashing setting as it will change to this setting everytime you got over a bump.

    I also have a pair of mini-knogs as emergency spares, can’t remember the name but they have a problem of getting accidentally turned on in the bag which is a pain as I have to buy 4 new batteries even though I’ve only used them on one occasion.

    I don’t think I’ll be buying any more knogs until they sort the design issues out.

    Hope-One and A Smart Lunar R1 are my current lights, I think the Smart Lunar R1 is a bargain at £12 as it’s very bright.

  17. Tom 21/09/2012 at 6:29 pm #

    Fibre flares are great, really visible to other road users and very long battery life, used them every day last winter and quite a lot since and only changed the battery once.

  18. AT 21/09/2012 at 10:44 pm #

    Anyone else have experience with Reelight lights?
    I figured they’d be a good alternative to USB lights, especially for touring, and they’ve worked great so far.
    However they weren’t the easiest things to fit, and I’m not sure the set I have are visible enough in traffic as they’re mounted at wheel height.
    You rarely see them in the shops here (first spotted them in Velorution…), but they seem to have released ones that are mounted higher on the frame now.

  19. Owen 23/09/2012 at 9:05 am #

    Totally agree on the Boomer – clearly some huge manufacturing flaw as I and a friend have had the same issue. I can recommend the Knog Gekko, though, pretty decent light and good battery life. And don’t put them in your bag – if you’re going to remove them, all Knogs can be looped around a cable or d-lock when you’re locking your bike.

    Rechargeable AAAs are the way forward, Andreas! Just pop them in when you get home and they’re done by morning.

  20. KristianGregory 23/09/2012 at 8:30 pm #

    Not much discussion about battery size and weight, some of those rechargables look a bit bulky. Can you get some details about this added into the post?

    Another problem with rechargables is that they won’t get you through an all-night ride like the Dunwich Dynamo if ever you fancied such a thing

  21. Richard Elliott 24/09/2012 at 8:15 am #

    My best combination of front and rear lights are the Hope Vision 4 and Fibre Flare. However, since buying the Hope, there have been a glut of “1000 lumen” lights coming over from the far east that seem to do a similar job. The Hope is very expensive.
    I wrote a blog about these two lights over at http://www.thegamingcyclist.blogspot.co.uk/2011/12/hope-vision-4-and-fibre-flare-combo.html

  22. barton 24/09/2012 at 1:12 pm #

    Have to add (after this morning’s full dark commute to work) that you NEED TO MAKE SURE your lights can actually be seen!

    I caught up with a man who had his lights on his helmet (both front and rear) and none on his bike. His rear light was completely blocked by his super tall Ortlieb backpack. I only saw the light as he turned his head left/right. When I passed him, I told him the backpack was blocking his rear light (honestly, very politely, as in, “did you know that….?”). He told me to Eff off. Good Monday morning to you too, sir.

  23. Gareth 25/09/2012 at 10:25 am #

    I can also recommend the American based- Dinotte front LED’s – I had one (a 200L) for about 7 years bought from Condor, and it also fitted my Brompton fold (being short and stubby).
    However the wired connection to the light failed recently.
    Gaz- do you know if Dinotte still have any UK dealers?

    • MOB 02/11/2013 at 4:48 pm #

      No UK dealers but there after sales service is excellent: I once had a problem with a battery, e-mailed them, returned it to the states, and they sent a new 4 cell battery. I have the Dinotte 200L dual: 800 +;1200l + and 140 rear. All are superb and Dinotte customised the 800+ with narrow road lenses for extra punch (and less flood) on the road.

  24. Jamie 28/09/2012 at 7:57 am #

    I use an exposure flare at the rear and a couple of cree5 front lights from eBay. All use chargeable AA or AAA cells which I just charge at home or work depending where the charger is.

    With the cree5 lights I often get cars moving over in traffic as if I’m a police car. Have had all my lights over a year and working fine. Currently trying to decide what to get to mount to the helmet, another flare or something else.

    • Jamie 28/09/2012 at 8:00 am #

      Sorry the flare uses a small chargeable cell.

  25. Claire 01/11/2012 at 1:15 pm #

    I was just wondering how folks were going with those Knog front boomers? – Have read with the interest all the reviews and replies on londoncyclist and was all set to purchase when I came across many, many, awful reviews on Evans Cycles website.

    Taking into account that people are more inclined to leave negative rather than positive feedback on such things, can they all be wrong? Would be interested to hear people’s thoughts?

  26. Tory 12/02/2016 at 10:42 am #

    Agree re the impact of a variety of lights, and lights on your heels help you stand out. Sealskinz booties with LED lights are great but not cheap, and you have to warth out for turning the lights on accidentally. At the cheap-as-chips end of the scale, LED shoe clips off ebay look like coloured glow sticks on the back of your shoes. Designed for trainers but OK for clip-ons too.

  27. Mike w 14/02/2016 at 3:15 pm #

    Can I add choosing mud guards and tyres that have built in reflective strips.

    http://www.wiggle.co.uk/sks-bluemels-reflective-mudguard-set/

    http://www.chainreactioncycles.com/schwalbe-marathon-plus-road-tyre-smart-guard/

    As well as choosing the lightest coloured bike frame in the range.

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