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Why you should still get on your bike despite the dark evenings

Yes, the clocks have changed and the evenings are dark now but that's no reason to neglect your cycling. Here's why…

1. You'll maintain your fitness

If you have a full-time job, the opportunity to ride in the daylight might well be limited to weekends at this time of year. If you want to maintain your fitness, health, mental well-being and all the other benefits that you get from cycling, get out on the bike in the evening.

2. It’s a buzz

Cycling in the dark can be really fun. It feels faster than in daylight and roads you know well look entirely different. Riding a sweeping descent that’s lit only by a light on the front of your bike is an addictive experience and the same goes for hitting a gravel track with a couple of mates. 

winter darkness.jpg

3. The roads are quieter

Head out in the evenings and the roads tend to be quiet. That’s always good news. There’s also something intoxicating about riding roads where you can’t see any lights from traffic or nearby towns or villages.

4. There’s only so much time you can spend on the turbo

Yes, you can ride the rollers or turbo to preserve your fitness and get your cycling fix, and things like Zwift’s 3D virtual world make the experience much more enjoyable, but nothing beats getting out there on the road. 

Here’s our guide to getting started on Zwift. 

5. Lights are really, really good these days

If you grew up enduring dim bike lights that needed new batteries on an almost constant basis, forget them. You can get amazing bike lights these days that provide excellent illumination, they’re simple to recharge, they’re durable, they’re lightweight and compact... Plus, we all like the excuse to buy new kit.

Check out our guide to the best front lights for cycling, complete with a beam comparison engine. 

Mat has worked for loads of bike magazines over 20+ years, and been editor of 220 Triathlon and Cycling Plus. He's been road.cc technical editor for eight years, testing bikes, fettling the latest kit, and trying out the most up-to-the-minute clothing. We send him off around the world to get all the news from launches and shows too. He has won his category in Ironman UK 70.3 and finished on the podium in both marathons he has run. Mat is a Cambridge graduate who did a post-grad in magazine journalism, and he is a past winner of the Cycling Media Award for Specialist Online Writer.

21 comments

Avatar
gsavill90 [34 posts] 2 years ago
5 likes

Also, I have noticed that cars seem to give you a bit more respect at night. They will often stop to let you pass on a country lane.

I suspect they don't know you're a cyclist...

Avatar
700c [1267 posts] 2 years ago
2 likes

There's probably safety in numbers, but on my own I feel pretty vulnerable on country lanes at night. Cars bomb along and just don't expect you to be there.

I get the buzz and thrill of it all. It seems faster. Dodging potholes and praying that you don't puncture or crash is probably part of that too! But thrill-seeking is tempered by caution for me more and more these days.

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Plasterer's Radio [473 posts] 2 years ago
5 likes
gsavill90 wrote:

Also, I have noticed that cars seem to give you a bit more respect at night. They will often stop to let you pass on a country lane.

I suspect they don't know you're a cyclist...

I second that!

As soon as the Range Rovers see my Volt 1600, even on medium, they dive out of the way.

Also pass with far more caution.

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Jack Osbourne snr [719 posts] 2 years ago
2 likes
Plasterer's Radio wrote:

As soon as the Range Rovers see my Volt 1600, even on medium, they dive out of the way.

 

Burnt out retinas can make people do that... even Range Rover drivers.

Medium power on the volt 1600 is still 500 Lumens which is more than the combined output of the TWO Hope One lights I use when out in the country in the dark..

 

But hey... I'll not start the lighting argument just yet...  4

 

 

 

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StraelGuy [1602 posts] 2 years ago
0 likes

I used a Hope One for a couple of years but I'm with Plasteresradio on this one. I have an Exposure Diablo and at third power (allegedly 433 lumens) it's fab for road riding but the 1,300 lumen full blast is excellent for off road excursions and unlit farm tracks. It's nice to have a bit of proper wallop in reserve.

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BikeJon [210 posts] 2 years ago
5 likes

6. To commute

Avatar
Jack Osbourne snr [719 posts] 2 years ago
8 likes

I'm not advocating the Hope Vision One as a light for all occasions and if I was doing more frequent mileage in the dark (other than my normal commute) I would invest in something a bit brighter.

However, I have some very real concerns that to the majority (of inexperienced riders at least) more lumens is the only way to go when it comes to riding at night and while I personally love riding at night (I do at least 1200 miles a year in the dark) some people seem determined to make it harder for me.

Anyway, I'm going to put my final comment on lights here and be done with it... mibee...

In my limited experience of using and observing LED's (all on-road) I'd put lights into the following groups:

10-25 lumens is the low end of "see me" lights - little or no issue blinding people but these are only for back up lighting.

25-150 gets you a very visible "see me" light but at the higher end of this range, consideration of other road users should start to should be taken into account when seting them up and using them.

150-300 will comfortably show you the way through shadows but also, very definitely, needs to be used with care. Even at 150 lumens you will dazzle anyone in front of you if using a light without a cutoff beam angle OR have it angled incorrectly. This, as I'll expand on later is my big issue with powerful lights.

Over 300 lumens on the road in an urban environment is unneccessary and inconsiderate if not potentially dangerous.

On unlit roads, you'll struggle to see much with anything under 200 lumens and I'd go so far as to say 300 is probably the starting point for night riding in unfamiliar territory. 500 is probably enough to cover most situations but again lights in this category need to be set up properly AND used considerately.

So... lights like PR's Volt 1600 orr the BBB light recently reviewed? They're both very capable lights and set up correctly with a reponsible user behind it can cover the majority of on and off road scenarios... BUT...

...Far too many people are simply buying a bigger light and sticking it on their handlebars in the naive belief that more output means they'll be safer. Meanwhile, they also appear not to give a shit if people in front of them (be they oncoming or travelling in the same direction) are being blinded by the searchlight beam they're caught in.

I've seen many, many lights pointing upwards or straight ahead as if deliberately designed to shine directly at people. So much so, that even a cut off beam angle would be rendered ineffective. They're also often permanently on full power when the lowest setting would be more than enough. The concept of switching modes to a lower/higher power to depending on the situation seems to enturly escape many.

Whether this is a lack of knowledge or deliberate fuckwittery is debatable, but with every passing winter I see more bright lights being used innappropriately on well lit roads.

How do we improve this?

Better instructions - no light I have ever bought shows or tells you how to set it up properly.

Warnings on the packaging eg. "not for on-road use at full power"

Responsible reviews - eg. at least mention the fact that its a light designed for trail riding and isn't really meant for riding in traffic on well lit roads.

More info online - how about a Road.cc "how to set up and use your lights properly" article?

I'm sure there are dozens of more ways to help with this, but I've siad more than enough already!

 

 

Avatar
bikebot [2117 posts] 2 years ago
2 likes

Everything above laugh

Especially the suggestion of an article on this, although your comment is halfway to being that article.  I went through my own learning curve with lighting, less fun being on the receiving end of so many others doing the same now that lumens are so cheap.

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Redvee [415 posts] 2 years ago
0 likes
BikeJon wrote:

6. To commute

 

Ditto, working 14:00 - 22:00 shift means 50% of my commute is in the hours of darkness. I do get exclusive use of a 10 foot 'cycle lane' back into Bristol when riding home.

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dafyddp [464 posts] 2 years ago
0 likes

I'm a big fan of using two lights - a long 'strip' light (COB) mounted on the head tube and fairly sharply angled down (shining a meter or so beyond the front wheel), and a beefier 400+ Lumen directed at a further point on the road. The first is kept on all the time during winter, and the second only used on darker roads. With more powerful lumination and the advent of USB charging, there's an argument for using the flash mode less as well, perhaps.

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nbrus [585 posts] 2 years ago
0 likes

I recommend Fenix BC21R (or BC30 if you need more output). This light costs less than £70 (or less if you shop around), offers a good 880 lumen output, runs on standard user-swappable 18650 lithium cells, and most importantly has a beam cut-off to prevent blinding other road users.  More info here...

http://reviews.mtbr.com/review-fenix-bc21r

http://www.fenixtorch.co.uk/Shop/Fenix-Torches/Bike-Lights/13272-Fenix-B...

Avatar
northernrebel [74 posts] 2 years ago
1 like

I've got a lovely Busch & Muller Luxos on my commuting/touring bike that runs off a dynamo hub. Works out your speed & lighting level & balances the beam between widespread 'be seen' LEDs and focused on the road ahead LEDs. Great fun riding quiet Derbyshire country lanes in the dark as it spreads across the whole width of the road but in a controlled way so you're not dazzling other road users.

On my MTB I've got a 25 quid eBay speacial which is great off road - it's like strapping a lighthouse to your handlebars, but I pair it with an old Cat Eye & turn it off for the road sections as it's seriously antisocial. Again, I'd thoroughly recommend off road night riding. Even familiar trails have a real buzz when you ride them at night, and the feeling of being on top of a hill in the middle of nowhere at night is brilliant, especially around a full moon.

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Bob Wheeler CX [104 posts] 2 years ago
0 likes

1 big reason surely this  time of year after 4pm, it's dark, end of

 

riders on a budget, 10 quid ALDI USB lights front and back, and a 20 quid hi-viz jacket off decathalon, drivers will have no excuse to see you on those unlit b roads

 

offroad, i like the moon mask at full whack to light up some pitch black loose singletrack

Avatar
hairyderriere [29 posts] 2 months ago
0 likes

It's about time smart headlights were produced.

We're already seeing smart tail lights which can detect both deceleration as well as traffic approaching from the rear. It shouldn't be a huge leap to have head lights which automaitcally dip in strength if they detect oncoming traffic, permitting cars to pass without blinding drivers.

I predict that we'll see them within a couple of years - with more automation and smart behaviour bundled in.

 

Avatar
John Smith [179 posts] 1 month ago
1 like
Jack Osbourne snr wrote:

I'm not advocating the Hope Vision One as a light for all occasions and if I was doing more frequent mileage in the dark (other than my normal commute) I would invest in something a bit brighter.

However, I have some very real concerns that to the majority (of inexperienced riders at least) more lumens is the only way to go when it comes to riding at night and while I personally love riding at night (I do at least 1200 miles a year in the dark) some people seem determined to make it harder for me.

Anyway, I'm going to put my final comment on lights here and be done with it... mibee...

In my limited experience of using and observing LED's (all on-road) I'd put lights into the following groups:

10-25 lumens is the low end of "see me" lights - little or no issue blinding people but these are only for back up lighting.

25-150 gets you a very visible "see me" light but at the higher end of this range, consideration of other road users should start to should be taken into account when seting them up and using them.

150-300 will comfortably show you the way through shadows but also, very definitely, needs to be used with care. Even at 150 lumens you will dazzle anyone in front of you if using a light without a cutoff beam angle OR have it angled incorrectly. This, as I'll expand on later is my big issue with powerful lights.

Over 300 lumens on the road in an urban environment is unneccessary and inconsiderate if not potentially dangerous.

On unlit roads, you'll struggle to see much with anything under 200 lumens and I'd go so far as to say 300 is probably the starting point for night riding in unfamiliar territory. 500 is probably enough to cover most situations but again lights in this category need to be set up properly AND used considerately.

So... lights like PR's Volt 1600 orr the BBB light recently reviewed? They're both very capable lights and set up correctly with a reponsible user behind it can cover the majority of on and off road scenarios... BUT...

...Far too many people are simply buying a bigger light and sticking it on their handlebars in the naive belief that more output means they'll be safer. Meanwhile, they also appear not to give a shit if people in front of them (be they oncoming or travelling in the same direction) are being blinded by the searchlight beam they're caught in.

I've seen many, many lights pointing upwards or straight ahead as if deliberately designed to shine directly at people. So much so, that even a cut off beam angle would be rendered ineffective. They're also often permanently on full power when the lowest setting would be more than enough. The concept of switching modes to a lower/higher power to depending on the situation seems to enturly escape many.

Whether this is a lack of knowledge or deliberate fuckwittery is debatable, but with every passing winter I see more bright lights being used innappropriately on well lit roads.

How do we improve this?

Better instructions - no light I have ever bought shows or tells you how to set it up properly.

Warnings on the packaging eg. "not for on-road use at full power"

Responsible reviews - eg. at least mention the fact that its a light designed for trail riding and isn't really meant for riding in traffic on well lit roads.

More info online - how about a Road.cc "how to set up and use your lights properly" article?

I'm sure there are dozens of more ways to help with this, but I've siad more than enough already!

 

 

 

I agree. It would be nice to see some guidance on the appropriateness of lights for lit road/unlit road and off road. I am seeing more and more bike lights that are dazzling. It would be good for reviews that include it. As a commuter it’s very irritating, especially bright flashing rear lights. Having the cyclist in front of you dazzling you is rather annoying, but I bet they have no idea. They just want to be safe

Avatar
brooksby [3838 posts] 1 month ago
1 like
Jack Osbourne snr wrote:

I've seen many, many lights pointing upwards or straight ahead as if deliberately designed to shine directly at people. So much so, that even a cut off beam angle would be rendered ineffective. They're also often permanently on full power when the lowest setting would be more than enough. The concept of switching modes to a lower/higher power to depending on the situation seems to enturly escape many.

Whether this is a lack of knowledge or deliberate fuckwittery is debatable, but with every passing winter I see more bright lights being used innappropriately on well lit roads.

I've had somone have a go at me, one time, for apparently shining lights at them dangerously.  Except my light *was* pointing forward-and-down at an appropriate angle but if you are riding uphill then that angle apparently changes, doesn't it? I don't imagine there's a cyclist in the world who'd think "Uh-oh - hill: better stop and adjust the angle of my front light".  I'm sure the motorists don't, either.

Which leads me on to a second rant point - the irony of motorists complaining about bike lights when so many of them don't seem to have worked out how to switch from 'dipped' to 'full', with their nuclear powered gazillion lumen headlights! surprise

Avatar
HawkinsPeter [2795 posts] 1 month ago
0 likes
brooksby wrote:
Jack Osbourne snr wrote:

I've seen many, many lights pointing upwards or straight ahead as if deliberately designed to shine directly at people. So much so, that even a cut off beam angle would be rendered ineffective. They're also often permanently on full power when the lowest setting would be more than enough. The concept of switching modes to a lower/higher power to depending on the situation seems to enturly escape many.

Whether this is a lack of knowledge or deliberate fuckwittery is debatable, but with every passing winter I see more bright lights being used innappropriately on well lit roads.

I've had somone have a go at me, one time, for apparently shining lights at them dangerously.  Except my light *was* pointing forward-and-down at an appropriate angle but if you are riding uphill then that angle apparently changes, doesn't it? I don't imagine there's a cyclist in the world who'd think "Uh-oh - hill: better stop and adjust the angle of my front light".  I'm sure the motorists don't, either.

Which leads me on to a second rant point - the irony of motorists complaining about bike lights when so many of them don't seem to have worked out how to switch from 'dipped' to 'full', with their nuclear powered gazillion lumen headlights! surprise

I think I once blinded a recumbent rider as we passed each other on a shared use path. Unfortunately, lights pointing downwards doesn't help when your eyes are only a couple of feet from the ground. Next time, I'll remember to cover my light with my hand when passing.

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Henry Dalton [13 posts] 1 month ago
0 likes

The problems highlighted above about dazzling front headlights exist in part because regulations in the UK are so out of date and do not take into account high powered LED lights. In Germany regulations exist which mean that bike headlights are equivalent to dipped car head lights. As such German lights (e.g. by Bosch and Muller) or those intended for the German market (e.g. Cateye Volt G-80) are far less likely to dazzle oncoming motorists or cyclists since they are focused down on to the road. The UK regulations need to be updated to match the German standards.

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mikepridmorewood [50 posts] 1 month ago
0 likes

The Garmin light has a nice sharp cut-off and changes beam pattern with speed if it's set on auto

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arckuk [92 posts] 1 month ago
0 likes

When the moon is bright, and you're on a stretch of road you know is safe, riding with the light off is often nicer than having it on. My evening journey through Richmond Park is much more enjoyable when I can do this - I keep the rear light on to remain visible and just need to watch out for oncoming cyclists and deer!

Avatar
brooksby [3838 posts] 1 month ago
0 likes
arckuk wrote:

When the moon is bright, and you're on a stretch of road you know is safe, riding with the light off is often nicer than having it on. My evening journey through Richmond Park is much more enjoyable when I can do this - I keep the rear light on to remain visible and just need to watch out for oncoming cyclists and deer!

Just make sure you stay on the path!