How to cycle in the dark

Posted: November 10, 2010 · By: Donnacha Clifford · Comments: 0
Under: Tips

Might seem a fairly easy question to ask but not one that is answered without a bit of thought. Cycling in the dark is a great way to keep fit over the winter but one that can prove to be much more dangerous and stressful that cycling during daylight hours. The most important factors of course are being seen and seeing what is in front of you.

Visibility

It is essential to have a good set of lights, both front and back. At the moment I am running a twin light up front, each taking two AA batteries and I find them quite effective. These are pointed forward on the racer with a slight tilt downwards to show me any obstances that may be in front of me on the road but not too far down so that oncoming cars are aware of me on the road as early as possible. To the back of the bike I have a flashing red light that attaches itself to my saddlebag. As well as this I have a one rear red LED light which is attached to one of my seat stays on the back of the bike. Both of these flash every second or so and I find them quite effective. I would recommend constant light to the front of the bike and flashing to the back.

Clothing

Other than lights I always ensure that I have as much reflective clothing as possible. In my case I have a reflective high vis jacket and overshoes with reflective strips on them. These are essential to compliment your lighting but also in case something happens any one of your lights and you are stuck in darkness. Temperature during the dark is considerably lower that in the daylight for obvious reasons. It is essential to have the correct layers on and to ensure that you are not overly cold during your cycle which can decrease the benefit taken from cycling as well as make you more prone to infections if your body temperature is too low.

Picking a route

This will really depend upon where you are living but the choice of route is important for stress free evening time cycling in the dark. Of course if you have the benefit of a hard shoulder then I would encourage you to use it for as long as possible as traffic can give you a wide berth when passing. If your route is primarily urban then I would suggest picking a route to maximise stress free cycling and keep away from traffic as much as possible. I have noticed that even with good lighting some drivers just won’t spot you, so give cars a wide berth when passing them if they are parked and do expect them to pull out in front of you, more often than not you might be right. Typically my evening winter time routes will see me departing from the County Buildings in Tralee and heading to Castleisland and back where I have the benefit of hard shoulder for the entire journey (approx 30K).

These are the items that I could not go cycling in the dark without:

  • 2 X Electron EHP217 Front Nano 9 Bike Light LED (Front Lights)
  • Topeak RedLite Rear Bicycle Light
  • Polaris High Viz Jacket 2010
  • Knog Frog LED Set (Front and Back)
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