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Night commute sensible or not?

scottjessukscottjessuk Posts: 58
edited July 2012 in Commuting general
Hi everyone and sorry if this has been asked before. I'm currently thinking about getting rid of my slowly dying car and spend about £500 on a bike to commute 10miles to and from work5-6 days a week.

My only issue is that I'll be cycling back from work at about 1am in the morning so will be very dark. I will have to invest in some good lights as well but I'd also like to use this as a getting fitter boost. I have cycled to work before but that was during the day and managed it on a mtb with road tyres in 35-40mins.

So is it sensible or not to commute in the dark is basically what I'm asking or do any of you do the same?

Stevens Cyclocross
One One Pompino
Giant Talon 0


  • CiBCiB Posts: 6,098
    Lots of us do it through the winter, where the chance of it being dark, cold and occasionally wet is a bit higher.

    The right kit and some decent lights should see you right.
  • I never worry about traffic - at that time of night/morning I'm more worried about the chavs and p*ss-heads. How safe is the route?
    2007 Felt Q720 (the ratbike)
    2012 Cube Ltd SL (the hardtail XC 26er)
    2014 Lapierre Zesty TR 329 (the full-sus 29er)
  • oxomanoxoman Posts: 10,452
    I currently set out at 4.30 on my 10 mile commute and as it gets darker i light my bike up like a christmas tree as mix of town and rural roads. Hi viz clothing of some sort, my jackets and jerseys have all been chosen hi viz properties. Altura night vision are good. A good strobing light to stick out plus a decent one for the dark bits out of town. Spoke reflectors although frowned upon by some are very visible in dark area's. Most important thing about the lights is to make sure they have decent batteries at all times. Have started to see people put their lights back on now its getting dark again and a lot have duff batteries. The lights work but you don't see them till you right next to them as not very bright. Either way go for it but keep your wits about you, very easy to get startled by rats and foxes etc at side of road.
    Too many bikes according to Mrs O.
  • supersonicsupersonic Posts: 82,708 Lives Here
    Is a great time to rider! Cooler, less traffic - I love riding at night.
  • InitialisedInitialised Posts: 3,047
    There's at least one shift workers who lurk here (or in Commuting Chat) that does later runs than most of us.

    Bright lights (budget at least £100 for these) and avoiding dodgy parts of town is probably the best advice.

    The down side is that I always fine traffic outside normal rush hour times is less cyclist friendly because they don't have to deal with the same riders on the same stretch every day and less traffic usually means it's moving faster.
    I used to just ride my bike to work but now I find myself going out looking for bigger and bigger hills.
  • Thanks everyone for your suggestions, the road I would be cycling is fairly straight forward with a few inclines and a few downs to boot. One good part is that there is a designated cycle path for two miles into my destination which would help. Thankfully the road in which I cycle tends to not have too many crazies out to grab the nearest shinny bike heading their way, well at least I think so anyway. I'm actually going to ask my boss if the company do a bike to work scheme because this could be a good way to save money and get all the bits and bobs that I will need.

    Is it difficult knowing what to wear as to not get too hot when cycling, I do a bit of running too and always have a problem of thinking ohh I need to wear this jacket because it's raining then have to carry it 30 mins later due to overheating. Do you have any recommendations on tops/jackets/gilles to look at or what do you all wear? I will always wear shorts and if the weather continues being so rubbish it will be waterproofs, get a good pair of spds which I may also be able to use on the mtb.

    I guess another question is, what's a good commuting bike, I hear your better off with a road bike because hybrids are not so good on the roads compared to a designated road bike. Would prob spend £400-£600 on a bike.

    Stevens Cyclocross
    One One Pompino
    Giant Talon 0
  • I'm a MTBer, so I commute in baggies.
    Padded shorts, a good wicking layer and then I layer up from there. Light short-sleeve top at the moment.
    It's all lightweight so that if it gets wet, it is dry by the time I have to go home.
    Also have a Gore Alp-X SO that I use for 3 seasons. Expensive but is showerproof and has removeable sleeves if it gets too hot. I carry a small emergency waterproof in my backpack (Altura pocket rocket that I got in the sales) - boil in the bag, but packs up really small and light and is good if teh heavens really open.
    Other than that a helmet and gloves. I also use sealskinz socks in winter.

    As for the bike - don't know, but if you are on the road all the time I would go for a straight out road bike. (I commute on a MTB as have a number of routes that I use - many of which take me through fields and along trails.)
    2007 Felt Q720 (the ratbike)
    2012 Cube Ltd SL (the hardtail XC 26er)
    2014 Lapierre Zesty TR 329 (the full-sus 29er)
  • bails87bails87 Posts: 12,998
    I'd recommend a CX/tourer type bike, something with practical touches (mudguard and pannier rack mounts) and the capapbility to take wider tyres.

    Edit: And commuting at night is fine. I find I get more time and space when it's dark because I'm more noticeble than when it's light....even the brightest bike lights are going to be slightly outdone by the sun, after all.

    Get good lights though, and always carry backups for front and rear. And have a couple of lights on the back so that if one fails and you don't notice then you're still lit up.

    "As I said last time, it won't happen again."
  • BelgianBeerGeekBelgianBeerGeek Posts: 5,226
    I think you might be safer at 1am than at 5pm during the winter - less traffic, hopefully. Good suggestions above.
    I'm a fan of cyclo-cross bikes - Edinburgh cycles were recently doing one in your budget that would be pretty much perfect for commuting.
    Ecrasez l’infame
  • richVSrichrichVSrich Posts: 527
    are the roads lit?

    if they are then you really only need a good strobe light..but if they are unlit, then a decent light to see the road is definitely needed...a couple of small lights for the helmet i find useful too...

    dont wear dark colours if you can... cyclists are already a small object on the road, so everything you can do to make yourself visible helps :) (though i have seen some christmas trees riding to work ... :P )
  • jedsterjedster Posts: 1,717
    One leg of my commute is in the dark for most of the year - no real problem.
    I seriously recommend that you look at a dyno hub lighting system - very reliable, convenient. Shimano hub dyno and B&M lights are a good place to start. You might want to small battery/led flashers for extra safety (although I often don't feel the need)
  • rhextrhext Posts: 1,639
    Re 'sensible or not' - no problem. I commute all year round and in Winter it's dark morning and evening. At that time in the morning, there will be few other road users anyway. Good lights and reflectives and you're away.

    Re bike. Personal preference re road/MTB/Hybrid. I'm considering replacing my Tricross, and will probably go for a Ribble Audax/Winter Training bike. Start at £580 (including mudguards - big plus on a commuter).

    Re clothing: you'll quickly get the hang of it, but it's better to be a bit too warm than too cold. In summer: bib shorts and a light top. In winter, bib longs plus classic outdoor baselayer+midlayer+shell combination is good. I use merino wool base and mid (which are a bit expensive, but which last for ages and don't smell) and a softshell. Opinion is divided re whether true waterproofs are worthwhile and will depend to a certain extent on how intensly you cycle. As a rule of thumb, when you step out of doors in winter, you should feel uncomfortably cool, but not freezing.
  • I'm not sure what leads you to believe that hybrids are no good on roads. They are a good option for commuting especially if you are fairly new to cycling.
  • I commute in the dark and most roads are unlit b-roads. I set off from home around 5-5:30 am for my 16-17mile commute. Up until this year I commuted through all weathers all winter and often used bridleways in the pitch dark 8)

    In the darker/winter months I wear a flouresant top and also have flouresant markings on my over shoes. I also have 2 rear & front lights, both rears always on (just incase of battery going flat while riding), I use 1 front light (100Lumen Minewt Niterider) all the time and have a 900lumen torch on my helmet for when riding bridleways of unlit roads with no cars on them.

    In terms of bike choice, I have a Road bike and Hardtail MTB so have a choice but if only wanting 1bike I would look at a Hybrid

  • BordersroadieBordersroadie Posts: 1,052
    Firstly, kudos to you for ditching the car and going for the bike option! Sensible? Hell, yes!

    My commute is 100% backroads, all unlit, and commuting all year round means lots of dark commuting.

    I love it. I invested in an Exposure Toro (more lumens than a man needs!) and it's like having a car headlamp for the bike, absolutely superb and strangely addictive. On well-known routes (ie I know all the potholes/sharp bends etc) it's a relaxing experience riding in the pitch dark.

    In many ways commuting at night (at least on country roads) is safer as you can see cars from a long way off, even approaching junctions blind, as you see their lights.

    Main thing in night commuting especially in autumn/winter is the risk of frost/ice, so studded ice tyres are fairly essential if you want to eliminate the chance of ice-related accidents. This would err you towards a bike with the necessary space for larger tyres, like a hybrid/tourer.

    On your clothing question, if you're cycling hard (I do, as I see every ride as a training ride) then you'll get hot and sweaty, so 100% waterproof will still get wet inside, so as a result I dress more for warmth than dryness. In deep winter, a 100% waterproof keeps you very warm though, and if you sweat inside it doesn't matter if it's just a 1 hour ride or whatever.

    EDIT: oh, yeah, full mudguards an absolute necessity, with long mudflap on front.
  • MichaelWMichaelW Posts: 2,164
    I prefer a dynamo hub for commuting in winter. The light output is pretty good with modern LED and optics and there are no battery management issues. You need a spare battery-lamp backup to do repairs and it is always good to have 2 lights at each end.
    Darkness is much safer than dusk. You can light up and use reflectors.
    You need some well protected tyres of med width to minimise punctures. I would opt for disc brakes, they work well in all conditions. A disc CX style bike or non-sus hybrid is ideal.
  • hooliohoolio Posts: 139
    Reflectives on the bike can make a big difference too. Red reflective tape, cut into thin strips like pinstriping and applied down the rear stays, and the back of the seat tube, white pinstripe on the side of the frame, front of the forks. It's always "on" and helps you to be seen.
  • Again thanks for all the great suggestions, I have considered a cyclecross bike because i like the idea of using it for longer trail/road when not commuting. I know id probably have to spend a little more but I'm pretty sure it would be worth it in the end. Not exactly sure how much £££ ill get for my car to be honest, prob not much since it's on it's last legs.

    Id be one of the trail shorts riders I'm afraid, at the moment i'm not built for the lycra i'm by no means mahooosive but it's baggies for me. I've ridden first thing in the morning about 2 years ago and one week I got completely drenched each day which was fun-ish, typical Scottish weather. I'm pretty sure i'm made of a thicker stuff now and raring to go.

    Thanks and I'll keep you posted on my progress, but it's a bike which I really need first so 's better start looking.
    Stevens Cyclocross
    One One Pompino
    Giant Talon 0
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