I’m so excited to have guest blogger and avid cyclist David Padfield writing for Five Seed today! He is the author of the blog All Seasons Cyclist where you can find great reviews for bicycle accessories and practical cycling advice. The subject today is one heavily on my mind, now that autumn is approaching: Cycling at night! Here are David’s tips for keeping you and your bicycle safe in the dark:
I started cycling at night several years ago when the Chicago area was experiencing an unusual heat wave and it was just too hot to ride during during daylight hours. While my original motive was just to escape the heat, riding at night is something I now look forward to. Not only is it cooler at night, but the wind is seldom a factor (Chicago is not called “the windy city” for nothing).
The fall of the year is my favorite time to ride at night since the air is crisp and I can hear the sound of the leaves crunching beneath my tires. My usual nighttime route is 30 miles long and about a third of it is on the open road and the rest on a heavily wooded bike trial. At night the trail is pretty much empty of joggers and cyclists, but full of deer, raccoons, and rabbits (along with an occasional skunk).
The first challenge to riding at night is being able to see where you are going. Obviously you are going to need a good headlight (or two). If you can only afford one headlight then buy the most powerful one you can for your helmet. If you can afford it, buy a second light for your handlebars. The light on your helmet will follow your line of sight and allow you to see whatever you are looking at. The light on your handlebars will allow oncoming traffic to see you. I have a Jetlite A-51 light on my helmet and it provides an amazing 720 lumens of light (almost what your car has on low beam). I also have two CygoLite Expilion 250 lights on my handlebars (providing another 250 lumens each). Riding with over 1200 lumens of light means I don’t have to ride any slower than I would during normal daylight conditions. These lights can run at maximum brightness for three hours straight and are rechargeable.
A good tail light is needed to allow motorists to see you. I use both a Planet Bike Superflash and a Portland Design Works Radbot 1000 . These are both excellent tail lights, but when used together in flash mode they make it nearly impossible for anyone to miss you. I also put a BikeWrapper on the bikes I ride at night. BikeWrappers are made of a highly reflective poly-blend spandex with a velcro fastening system. They come in three pieces (one each for the seat tube, down tube and top tube) and can be put on in under a minute. BikeWrappers are visible for up to a quarter-mile away.
I do not believe it is possible to have too much reflective gear on at night, so I always wear either a white jersey or a jacket with reflective piping. One of the coolest items for commuters is the GloGlov , which is a thin reflective glove you wear over your cycling gloves and it allows motorists to see your hand signals (these are often worn by traffic cops as well).
While you do not need sunglasses to ride at night, you still need some sort of eye protection because the bugs will usually be drawn to your headlight (which is sitting just a couple of inches above your eyes). You will also need bug spray for the same reasons.
The only thing more exhilarating than riding at night is riding at night while it is snowing, but we will save that discussion for another time.
Many thanks to David for these fantastic tips!