Reviewed: Lighting options for day and night
We put three lights made by Niterider, Bontrager, and Knog to the test to see how their various functions performed.
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Perhaps it seems counterintuitive to use a light during the day, but it makes sense for the same reason cars now use daytime running lamps: Any extra visibility that draws a driver’s attention means added safety for you.
Here are three lights we tested for brightness, charging accessibility, and mounting options. The right light for you depends on where you’ll be using it — in city traffic, out on the trails, or as a backup light tucked away just in case — as well as how often you’ll be lighting the lamp.
NiteRider Sentinel 40
This 40-lumen rear light is the serious commuter’s dream come true. It has five flashing and static light modes you can change depending on riding conditions, visibility, or time of day. But it’s the Sentinel’s “Laser Lanes” that really set this light apart. Projecting two bright laser lines on the ground on either side of your bike, the light creates a virtual bike lane, helping drivers assess how much room to give when passing. This feature was a hit with fellow riders on morning commutes and drivers tended to give us more room than with any other light we tested.
At 92 grams, it is one of the heavier lights we tested. But when it comes to commuting, where you’ll likely have panniers or a backpack full of electronics and extra junk, you may not notice a bit more weight.
Depending on the light function, the Sentinel’s claimed run time is between 4.5 and 36 hours. Ours ran out around 12 hours after using a mix of the functions. But a four-hour charge using the USB rechargeable system had us ready for the next day’s commute.
The light’s mount holds securely and allows you to take the light on and off for charging easily. It’s a bit difficult and time-consuming to move the mount from one bike to another, so consider buying additional mounts if you have multiple bikes.
The Sentinel is a key piece of gear for a safe ride on city streets, narrow shoulders, and night rides.
Bontrager Ember Multi-Use Light
Small and unobtrusive, the Ember is best suited as an evening or emergency light in case your ride runs into the early twilight. It’s not as bright as other lights so we wouldn’t use it for city commuting, where heavy traffic is common. Bontrager also says that the it’s not bright enough to make a strong impact during the day and that the Flare R is a better option as a daytime running light. But the Ember is so small, you can leave it on your bike for emergencies, when you might need a little extra visibility for a ride that runs longer than expected.
The Ember has two lighting functions: static “on” and flashing red. A simple press of a button makes it easy to switch between these two options or to turn the light off without taking your eyes off the road ahead. With its minimal functionality, the Ember lasts for upwards of 40 hours but it uses two 2032 batteries that need to be replaced each time the light runs out — not ideal if you’re looking for a light to use on a daily basis. It works well for emergencies, but we’d opt for more environmentally friendly USB rechargeable varieties for everyday commuting.
The elastic silicon attachment strap makes installation a snap and it’s easy to swap around between your seatpost, seatstay, helmet, shoes, rack, backpack, or onto another bike. At $10, the Ember seems like a no-brainer for a backup light.
Knog Blinder MOB V The Face
The Blinder MOB’s special sauce includes the 44 lumens that shine brightly in the dark, reaching to nearly 1.2 kilometers or ¾ of a mile in sight distance. But the long, thin light body is stylish and sleek as well, so it won’t junk up your bike whether you’re riding a scratched up commuter or your pristine race machine.
It has five running functions including two static “on” options with different intensities, as well as three flashing pattern options. It’s USB-rechargeable and the run times vary depending on the mode of use: The High Steady setting lasts for only about 2.5 hours. But when in the “Eco Flash” mode, it’ll last for up to 55 hours. All of the other modes are somewhere in between, and we had to recharge around hour 14 when using the various functions over numerous rides.
With three interchangeable mounting straps, you can swap the light between bikes or get creative with mounting positions. We were even able to mount it on a wide, aero seatpost using the largest band of the three. For $45, the Blinder Mob is a versatile option if you’ve got multiple bikes.