Can Bicycle Lights Be Too Bright? (And How To Tell)

I finally decided to get a brand new light for my bike after riding in the dark for several weeks. As I was doing my early morning bike ride, I noticed the I was blinding the walkers on the walking/bike trail. this had me wondering can bicycle lights be too bright?

I did some further research for signs that my bike light is too bright and what you really need for an early morning bike ride.

Can Bicycle Lights Be Too Bright?

Yes, bike lights (both front and rear) can be too bright and blind both people and other bikers if not used properly and aren’t angled correctly. Having too bright of lights can be dangerous for you as well as uncomfortable for pedestrians, other cyclists, and motorists.

Here’s some signs to let you know your lights are too bright and what you can do about it.

4 Signs Your Bike Lights Are Too Bright

You’re Blinding Pediastrians

One of the easiest ways to tell your bicycle lights are too bright is if you’re seeing people squint and turn their heads as you approach them. This can be annoying and is no different than a vehicle jamming their bright HID lights in someone’s face.

If you find yourself blinding walkers or pedestrians, you need to angle your lights down. We’ll discuss how to properly angle your bike lights below.

People Yell You When Riding Past Them

If you’re riding your bike in a congested area with people, there’s a good chance someone will let you know your lights are too bright. Depending on where you live will determine whether someone cusses you out or lets you know nicely.

Stand In Front of Your Bike

Before you take your bike for a spin with your new light, perform a test to see how bright they are. Have someone hold your bike and then stand about 10 meters in front of it.

Stare directly into the light and this will let you know what other people will experience when you ride in front of them.

You’re Blinding The Deer

I ride my bike at a local park early in. the morning and the first time I used my new bike light, I noticed a deer standing and rooted to the spot until I passed them. At one point, I thought they were going to run out and in front of me and hit me.

After all, we’ve all read stories about a deer running into a cyclist. If you’re noticing animals standing and staring at you while you’re riding, there’s a good chance that your lights. are too bright.

Why Are Bicycle Lights So Bright?

Bright bicycle lights are one of the biggest complaints on biking forums, because of the way bike lights are made.

Bike commuters are now using bicycle headlights that are similar to that of a car’s headlights. The biggest difference being that the car headlight is pointed towards the road, so they don’t affect other motorists.

How Many Lumens Do You Actually Need?

It’s easy to think you need the most powerful bike lights to help you see where you’re going. However, this isn’t always the case.

Every bicyclist is different, the type of lights you choose to get will depend on the type of riding you do, as well as the conditions you’re riding in. When buying lights, always choose the ones based on the worst conditions you expect to ride in throughout the year.

For example:

  • If you’re a hobbyist rider like me, you don’t necessarily need to invest in a 2400 Lumen bike lights because it’s overkill.
  • For someone who lives in Seattle and does a lot of urban commuting, a 200 Lumen light should be fine as long as the road lighting is good. You should also avoid strobe mode with bright headlights as they can be dangerous.

Here’s a quick chart of the how many lumens you may want to consider investing in.

Daytime100+ Lumens
Commuting and Urban Use50-200 Lumens
Adventurous Commuter200-600 Lumens
Serious Off-Road Riding1,000-2,400
Walking/Riding Pedestrian Trail50-100 Lumens

The main purpose of a bike light is to help you see others and become visible by others. According to the bike laws in the United States, your bike light should be visible of at least 500 feet to the front of the bike. This may vary depending on the state you live in, so you will want to check the municipality in your area.

If you get something that isn’t bright enough, you’re just putting yourself at risk of having an accident.

How To Angle Your Bike Lights

how bright should a bike headlight be
The type of riding you do will determine the brightness you need for your lights.

If you have a 200+ lumen directional light, it’s important to pay attention to how it’s angled on your bike, whether it’s on steady or flashing mode. A headlight that is pointed upwards will will point directly into people’s eyes and you run the risk of blinding them.

This will make you think that you purchased a light that is too bright, when in reality, it just needs to be angled differently.

There are several ways to angle your light beam, depending on the type of riding you’re doing. However, this method will ensure you’re not blinding people when you’re riding.

Choose whether you want the light to be on the left or right side of your handlebars. Point the bean so it’s shining about 10-20 meters in front of you towards the ground, and slightly towards the curb.

If you’re riding really fast, you’ll want to point the light up higher. With a slower ride, you should be able to see the curbside since this is where you will be able to see trash and avoid blinding oncoming motorists and people.

*The angle downward will depend on the brightness and beam spread.

The importance of angling your bike light.

It’s not only good etiquette to take other people into consideration, but there are also some safety reasons to consider.

  • A correctly angled light will give you a better view of the road/path to see branches, debris, glass, potholes and etc.
  • Not blinding people in front of you (drivers, pedestrians, cyclists and even animals who’ll stop like a deer in headlights)
  • Make yourself visible to stay safe.

What To Do If You Didn’t Angle Your Lights Correctly?

Don’t feel bad if you run into a situation when you do blind people. When I bought my first bike light, I was riding on a walking trail and noticed that I was blinding people.

What I did was put my hand over the light prevent it from blinding people. You don’t have to turn it off, after all, you need to be able to see what’s going on in front of you.

If you’re riding in an area where there’s no oncoming traffic, you don’t necessarily need to run your lights in high mode. Always take your riding environment into consideration when considering using high mode or flashing mode.

Rear Light

The rear lights will attach to the saddle post and are not as powerful as some front lights. The purpose of the rear lights is “to be seen lights” for vehicles or pedestrians that are behind you.

These should be left on at all times whenever you’re using you front lights, or if you’re riding conditions that make visibility challenging.

Most rear lights will run off a battery and will have a range of 30 – 180 lumens. The Moon Nebula is one of the brightest rear lights that has a 16-hour battery life.

It has eight different modes, which differ in brightness and flash patterns. The downside is the highest setting will likely be too bright when you’re riding in the pitch dark.

Some higher-end rear bike lights will have the ability for you to set the brightness output, which will enable you to set the brightness you need.

Final Word

You’ll probably blind people when you get your first bike light. However, don’t let this deter you from using your light, especially, if you’re riding in the early morning hours or at night. You need a bike light to help you see and in some states, it’s required.

Don’t be scared to purchase a strong light. As long as you angle it correctly, you shouldn’t have any issues with blinding people.