Embrace the darkness to extend your riding and training time

There’s no reason to stop riding your bike just because the sun has set. With some good quality lights and the right attitude, you can extend your riding time, and riding outdoors, even in the dark, sure beats riding on a stationary trainer staring at the wall or television.

Cycling under a full moon on a clear and crisp evening is an exhilarating experience, so here are six tips for embracing the darkness.

1. Lights. You’re obviously going to need some good lights, and fortunately, these days you can get some very bright and long-lasting lights for not a lot of money. LED technology has transformed cycle lights - it’s a far cry from the days of the Eveready bike lights.

- Your guide to the best front lights for cycling + beam comparison engine

Exposure Strada Mk6 - mounted.jpg

If you’re venturing out into unlit country lanes, you need a front light bright enough to illuminate your path and reveal potholes and other hidden dangers. The rear light wants to be bright and the run time for both lights needs to exceed the duration of your planned ride. It’s sensible to carry a couple of small backup lights just in case your rear light inexplicably fails. Better to be safe than sorry. Clearly, make sure the runtime of you lights exceeds the length of your planned ride.

- Winter cycling: 16 tips to keep you motivated

2.  Reflectives. While lights are obviously critical for riding at night, don’t discount the value of reflective clothing. The choices for reflective clothing has gotten much better in the past couple of years, with the likes of the Sugoi Zap and Proviz Reflect 360 offering full 360-degree reflectivity.

Proviz Reflect 360 Jacket.jpg

Research a few years ago showed that the up-and-down motion from pedalling can catch the eye of the motorist more than a large reflective stripe across the back, so think about reflective pedals, overshoes or ankle bands to help you stand out as well. Also, consider adding some reflective tape to your bike can be a good measure too - I have some on my mudguards for added visibility.

- Buyer's guide: the best reflective cycling clothing & accessories

3. Plan your route. Depending on what you want to get out of your ride, whether it’s a structured training session or just a case of getting the miles in, planning ahead and having a route in your head or on a computer can be a useful aid.

Riding at night probably isn’t the time to do a long steady 3-hour ride, so save that for the weekend and instead think about a short and focused session for a really effective 1-hour ride. Pick a short loop with a hill that you can ride repeatedly to provide some structure to your riding, and riding a short route close to home is ideal in case  anything happens. It’s also worth picking the roads carefully, and avoiding poorly surfaced roads and any that are likely to have lots of potholes.

night riding - exmouth exodus

4. Ride with a partner or group. Riding with a friend or a group is a good way to approach night rides. Having a regular with a club or group of friends is a good way to provide the incentive and motivation you might need to head out into the dark. There is also the safety in numbers and more help at hand in case of a mechanical issues.

- Survival tips for cycling in the rain

5. Be prepared for mechanicals. Fixing a mechanical in the dark isn’t much fun, so the first step before every night ride is to ensure your bike is in tip-top mechanical order, to minimise the risk of something failing when you’re far from home.

BTwin puncture repair kit - contents

Make sure to carry enough tools to fix most likely mechanical failures, from spare inner tubes to a well stocked multi-tool with a chain breaker. I carry the same spare kit as I would for a day ride, so that’s two spare inner tubes, a tyre boot, reliable pump and good multi-tool. Don’t forget the mobile phone in case the worst happens and you need to phone home. I always make sure to give the bike a quick visual once-over before a night ride, ensuring the tyres and brakes are in good conditions to hopefully spot any issues in advance.

6. Enjoy it. Don't forget to enjoy riding at night. Yes, it’s easy to be intimidated by the darkness, and the first time you set off from the comfort of a warm house out into the darkness for a 2-hour solo ride can be a strange and daunting experience. Riding at night is invigorating though and there’s less to distract you, and often, depending on routes, the roads can be much quieter once the rush of motorists to get home has died down. And hearing strange sounds over your shoulder can sure make you ride a bit faster too…

Riding at night will help you retain the fitness you gained over the summer and while other people are watching television, you can be smug in the knowledge that you can eat that second mince pie guilt-free.

Do you regularly ride at night? Any tips to add?

David has worked on the road.cc tech team since July 2012. Previously he was editor of Bikemagic.com and before that staff writer at RCUK. He's a seasoned cyclist of all disciplines, from road to mountain biking, touring to cyclo-cross, he only wishes he had time to ride them all. He's mildly competitive, though he'll never admit it, and is a frequent road racer but is too lazy to do really well. He currently resides in the Cotswolds.

26 comments

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Augsburg [29 posts] 1 year ago
0 likes

I ride with my front and rear lights opearting year round.  During daylight hours, both lights are on flash mode.  I believe those flashing lights saved me dozens of times during daylight hours, where I could see in the driver's eyes that the flashing lights caught their attention when they would not have otherwise noticed a bicyclist.  

For night time riding, take into account your age, ambient street lighting, local terrain and quality of pavement in your area.  Twenty-somethings can probably see reasonably well with a 400 lumen light under ideal conditions.  If you are over age 45, I'd say you can get by with an 800 lumen light when streets are well lit, terrain is flat and the pavement is properly cared for.  I'd bump that to 1600 lumens minimum for conditions that include downhill decents at speed, dark unlit conditions and more typical lousy pavement - with lots of trolly tracks, potholes, ruts and cracks, broken glass, shards of metal and other hazards.

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StraelGuy [1547 posts] 1 year ago
1 like

I agree with the year round thing and always have a good rear light (currently a See.Sense Icon). I think it says to drivers 'the cyclist in front of you KNOWS you can see him so don't be a pillock' and I'm pretty sure I get more passing space when people go around me (apart from the odd bellend but you'll never get rid of all of those unfortunately).

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oldstrath [981 posts] 1 year ago
5 likes
Augsburg wrote:

I ride with my front and rear lights opearting year round.  During daylight hours, both lights are on flash mode.  I believe those flashing lights saved me dozens of times during daylight hours, where I could see in the driver's eyes that the flashing lights caught their attention when they would not have otherwise noticed a bicyclist.  

For night time riding, take into account your age, ambient street lighting, local terrain and quality of pavement in your area.  Twenty-somethings can probably see reasonably well with a 400 lumen light under ideal conditions.  If you are over age 45, I'd say you can get by with an 800 lumen light when streets are well lit, terrain is flat and the pavement is properly cared for.  I'd bump that to 1600 lumens minimum for conditions that include downhill decents at speed, dark unlit conditions and more typical lousy pavement - with lots of trolly tracks, potholes, ruts and cracks, broken glass, shards of metal and other hazards.

Seems over the top to me - despite being 59, I can happily ride in Highland Scotland with an Ixon IQ Premium, which I suspect is about 250 lumens, but rather better distributed for road use than brighter offroad lights.

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Grahamd [982 posts] 12 months ago
2 likes

Obvious, but I forgot to did it last year, only once, review your clothing. Always pack a gillet or jacket in readiness for the drop in temperature.

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fenix [1094 posts] 12 months ago
1 like

I think it helps if you know the roads too - night time isn't the time for discovering new pothole locations. 

 

And if you do have a mechanical remember you'll need a light to see by. So either a head torch or a light on your helmet.  You can't always use your main torch to fix punctures or whatever.

And yes always spare kit in case you need to stop. And I always pack a space blanket thing. Just in case I have a mechanical and I'm stranded for a while. 

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maxburgoyne [35 posts] 12 months ago
0 likes

On ebay I bought flashing light to go on my helmet. A red, flashing one facing backwards. It moves and at 7' up is more apparent to drivers.

I cycle after midnight in both towns and Shropshire countryside  - drivers are so dopey at night.

Prsonally found little difference between £80 lights and £15 ones but you pays your money ...

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McHackety [12 posts] 12 months ago
1 like

If on a long ride, take a portable power bank with you. Just in case your lights or phone fails (provided your lights are usb chargeable). Always take a spare rear light. I find positoning one on the bike and and one higher up (probably on the helmet) helps. Reflector strips are also good. I used these on the TCR on the back of the helmet, shoes and rear stays.  

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roof30 [10 posts] 12 months ago
2 likes

I always commute with at least two sets of lights on my bike, one set to flashing (the brightest set) and one on steady; also carry a spare set - just in case.  I also wear the Proviz Switch jacket (high viz in daytime and reflective at night) together with the Respro ankle bands which are also reversible high viz/reflective.  On my longer rides I have a set of Lezyne Femtos plus a set of Moon Nebulas; people tend to give my bike a wide berth as the Nebulas are very bright!  I may look like a Christmas tree but at least I'm alive to tell the tale.

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embattle [97 posts] 12 months ago
1 like

Good lights are important, as is positioning of them but much more important is actually having lights in the first place which still seems to be a worrying issue that quite a few still don't bother.

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risoto [78 posts] 11 months ago
3 likes

I have become a bit obsessed with safety after the deaths of Mike Hall, Michele Scarponi and others recently. Since then I now always ride with lights on during daylight. Normally they are on flash or pulse during the day and steady at night. I think the flashing daylight mode really helps drivers, dog walkers etc pay much more attention. There was a Danish study done which showed a significant decrease in the number of accidents among cyclist using lights in daylight.

For night riding I always carry a helmet light, the Lezyne one with both front and rear light. It serves as a spare light if the main ones go out and will be indispensable to fix a puncture or other mechanical.

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Al__S [1293 posts] 11 months ago
0 likes
risoto wrote:

There was a Danish study done which showed a significant decrease in the number of accidents among cyclist using lights in daylight.

Do you have any more details about this study?

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nbrus [585 posts] 11 months ago
2 likes
Al__S wrote:
risoto wrote:

There was a Danish study done which showed a significant decrease in the number of accidents among cyclist using lights in daylight.

Do you have any more details about this study?

I found this link...

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22884376

Abstract

Making the use of daytime running lights mandatory for motor vehicles is generally documented to have had a positive impact upon traffic safety. Improving traffic safety for bicyclists is a focal point in the road traffic safety work in Denmark. In 2004 and 2005 a controlled experiment including 3845 cyclists was carried out in Odense, Denmark in order to examine, if permanent running lights mounted to bicycles would improve traffic safety for cyclists. The permanent running lights were mounted to 1845 bicycles and the accident rate was recorded through 12 months for this treatment group and 2000 other bicyclists, the latter serving as a control group without bicycle running lights. The safety effect of the running lights is analysed by comparing incidence rates - number of bicycle accidents recorded per man-month - for the treatment group and the control group. The incidence rate, including all recorded bicycle accidents with personal injury to the participating cyclist, is 19% lower for cyclists with permanent running lights mounted; indicating that the permanent bicycle running light significantly improves traffic safety for cyclists. The study shows that use of permanent bicycle running lights reduces the occurrence of multiparty accidents involving cyclists significantly. In the study the bicycle accidents were recorded trough self-reporting on the Internet. Possible shortcomings and problems related to this accident recording are discussed and analysed.

Copyright © 2012 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

 

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WashoutWheeler [114 posts] 11 months ago
1 like
risoto wrote:

I have become a bit obsessed with safety after the deaths of Mike Hall, Michele Scarponi and others recently. Since then I now always ride with lights on during daylight. Normally they are on flash or pulse during the day and steady at night. I think the flashing daylight mode really helps drivers, dog walkers etc pay much more attention. There was a Danish study done which showed a significant decrease in the number of accidents among cyclist using lights in daylight.

For night riding I always carry a helmet light, the Lezyne one with both front and rear light. It serves as a spare light if the main ones go out and will be indispensable to fix a puncture or other mechanical.

 

Yep me too, better safe than sorry. Rear Light is a Bontrager FlareR  and the front is a Lezyne Microdrive 500 neither particularly heavy both very bright with day flash programs and both good for at least 6 hours of riding. The Lezyne also has a very bright steady setting but only good for 60 mins. I also carry a Smart Lunar R1 as a backup or attached to my helmet.

I am sure some of the wanna be racers that pass think errh but I am not trying to kid myself I'm a racer, nice and steady does it for me mind you I am getting on a bit!

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Oclvroadbikerider [2 posts] 11 months ago
3 likes
Augsburg wrote:

I ride with my front and rear lights opearting year round.  During daylight hours, both lights are on flash mode.  I believe those flashing lights saved me dozens of times during daylight hours, where I could see in the driver's eyes that the flashing lights caught their attention when they would not have otherwise noticed a bicyclist.  

For night time riding, take into account your age, ambient street lighting, local terrain and quality of pavement in your area.  Twenty-somethings can probably see reasonably well with a 400 lumen light under ideal conditions.  If you are over age 45, I'd say you can get by with an 800 lumen light when streets are well lit, terrain is flat and the pavement is properly cared for.  I'd bump that to 1600 lumens minimum for conditions that include downhill decents at speed, dark unlit conditions and more typical lousy pavement - with lots of trolly tracks, potholes, ruts and cracks, broken glass, shards of metal and other hazards.

Seems like way overkill on brightness.

At 61 we ride relatively straight trails and paths and back roads at night with 250 lumens.  Bump that to 500 for speed downhill.   On roads we also have a companion flashing front along with our steady light.

Reflective ankle bands add biomotion recognition, especially at night.  Other clothing reflector s can be a plus.

You do not want to blind others riding with you and lower light lumen levels allow you to also see your surroundings, not to mention greatly extending runtime if your light is capable of higher output.   Save the 12-1600 lumens for technical mtn biking!

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felixcat [585 posts] 5 months ago
2 likes

It's pleasant change to see two helmetless cyclists in a pic. on this site.

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alexb [190 posts] 5 months ago
1 like

I've been a regular nightrider for well over 30 years. 

The most important things that I have learnt are that the temperatures can really drop at night, so packing extra layers is really important.

Plan for the worst, so carry tools, spares and a headtorch. You may find yourself stranded and too late to use public transport if you can't fix your bike.

Lights are good, but on dark lanes, you will get used to the darkness, and having too bright a light means you have no awareness of what's going on in the hedgerows and fields around you which is part of the fun of nightriding. Good rear lights are important, but if it is dark, you will stand out from a long way back. Carry a spare and spare batteries though.

I actually think that having a light high up is deceptive. On a dark road, a high mounted light can give the false impression that the rider is further away from the driver, reflectives are more important than lights in my opinion.

Reflective spoke clips are a brilliant and relatively cheap addition to the bike and really visible from a long way off.

Riding with an organised group can be a lot of fun. I'd recommend the Fridays if you are London or South of England based: https://www.fnrttc.org.uk/ and of course everyone should try to ride the Dunwich Dynamo at least once!

https://southwarkcyclists.org.uk/product/dunwich-dynamo-xxvi-2829-july-2...

Avatar
Simboid [142 posts] 5 months ago
3 likes

'The choices for reflective clothing has gotten much better'

 

Really? This is what a professional journalist calls a sentence?

Please, somebody wake up the Editor and tell him his kids have hacked the site again.

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don simon [2542 posts] 5 months ago
0 likes
Simboid wrote:

'The choices for reflective clothing has gotten much better'

 

Really? This is what a professional journalist calls a sentence?

Please, somebody wake up the Editor and tell him his kids have hacked the site again.

It's a stateside thing, I don't think we need to worry ourselves about such things over here.

EDIT: the main photo shows the riders riding backwards, which may also be a contibutory factor...

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Jack Osbourne snr [716 posts] 5 months ago
0 likes
don simon wrote:

EDIT: the main photo shows the riders riding backwards, which may also be a contibutory factor...

 

Yeah... I'm struggling with that one. 

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Simon E [3409 posts] 5 months ago
2 likes
don simon wrote:
Simboid wrote:

'The choices for reflective clothing has gotten much better'

 

Really? This is what a professional journalist calls a sentence?

Please, somebody wake up the Editor and tell him his kids have hacked the site again.

It's a stateside thing, I don't think we need to worry ourselves about such things over here.

EDIT: the main photo shows the riders riding backwards, which may also be a contibutory factor...

The weird effect is the flash firing then the shutter staying open. Rear curtain flash sync - when it fires at the end of the ambient exposure - would create a different effect.

The use of words like 'gotten' grates on me but most sites seem to use American English nowadays (or something approximating it)  2

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davel [2583 posts] 5 months ago
0 likes

Loads of 'Americanisms' are closer to the original English than our (UK's) current use - in many respects our English has evolved and deviated more. I suspect gotten is one of those examples - vaguely remember it popping up in some proper olde shitte at school.

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Deeferdonk [223 posts] 5 months ago
0 likes
Simon E wrote:
don simon wrote:
Simboid wrote:

'The choices for reflective clothing has gotten much better'

 

Really? This is what a professional journalist calls a sentence?

Please, somebody wake up the Editor and tell him his kids have hacked the site again.

It's a stateside thing, I don't think we need to worry ourselves about such things over here.

EDIT: the main photo shows the riders riding backwards, which may also be a contibutory factor...

The weird effect is the flash firing then the shutter staying open. Rear curtain flash sync - when it fires at the end of the ambient exposure - would create a different effect.

The use of words like 'gotten' grates on me but most sites seem to use American English nowadays (or something approximating it)  2

I have just done a quick search of Shakespeare 's texts and he used "gotten" in at least 3 of his works.

Avatar
Deeferdonk [223 posts] 5 months ago
0 likes
alexb wrote:

 

Riding with an organised group can be a lot of fun. I'd recommend the Fridays if you are London or South of England based: https://www.fnrttc.org.uk/ and of course everyone should try to ride the Dunwich Dynamo at least once!

https://southwarkcyclists.org.uk/product/dunwich-dynamo-xxvi-2829-july-2...

If you do the Dunwich Dynamo or any other group night ride, please don't have your rear light on flash mode. Sitting behind someone with red strobes flashing in your face isn't very pleasant.

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hawkinspeter [2515 posts] 5 months ago
1 like
Deeferdonk wrote:
Simon E wrote:

The use of words like 'gotten' grates on me but most sites seem to use American English nowadays (or something approximating it)  2

I have just done a quick search of Shakespeare 's texts and he used "gotten" in at least 3 of his works.

Those darn Yanks, coming over here and re-writing Shakespeare.

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don simon [2542 posts] 5 months ago
0 likes

Simon E has it on the flash/strange light traces making the bikes look like tHey're going backwards.

What has Shakspeare got to do with anything? Britsh English uses got, wheras US English (or American as they prefer to call it in another attempt to put in distance between themselves and England) uses gotten,  in the current form of the language. It's an identifyer between the two countries, if the author was taught the language in the UK, they were taught to use  got, likewise gotten for the USA, If the author is British and uses gotten, then they are wrong.

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davel [2583 posts] 5 months ago
0 likes
don simon wrote:

Simon E has it on the flash/strange light traces making the bikes look like tHey're going backwards.

What has Shakspeare got to do with anything? Britsh English uses got, wheras US English (or American as they prefer to call it in another attempt to put in distance between themselves and England) uses gotten,  in the current form of the language. It's an identifyer between the two countries, if the author was taught the language in the UK, they were taught to use  got, likewise gotten for the USA, If the author is British and uses gotten, then they are wrong.

It's to show that language (English, especially) meanders, and in the face of that, some of the 'Americanisms' that are creeping back in is just more meandering. In the case of gotten, it'll mean picking up a word again that merely fell out of favour on this side of the pond.