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Advice on riding at dusk or night

rumbatazrumbataz Posts: 796
edited November 2015 in Road beginners
As a recreational rider I've only really cycled during nice, bright weather over the last 4 years. However, I did my usual route yesterday evening and it got quite dark. I must admit I was pretty nervous. I had front and rear lights on and was extra-cautious about traffic (it was rush hour so traffic was very heavy).

I made sure I wore very visible clothing.

I imagine many people on here cycle at night regularly and I'm just really looking for some advice on better preparation, safety (that's my prime concern when I cycle), road positioning, etc.

I know the nerves will subside with practise but I want to make sure that I am as prepared as I can be for cycling during the hours of darkness.

Posts

  • keef66keef66 Posts: 13,286
    Two lights front and rear, one static, one flashing. Point the front ones down so you don't dazzle other road users. As much reflective gear as you can muster. If anything try to ride a bit more assertively than you normally do and make your intentions clear to other road users.

    Try to avoid riding at dusk and certainly not into the setting sun. And if possible avoid the rush hour.

    This time of year I do my rural evening rides after 7:30 when it's properly dark and I encounter very little traffic. I'm well lit up and drivers give me plenty of room. Wildlife is the biggest hazard for me.
  • Wildlife is the biggest hazard for me.

    You hit the nail on the head. I actually ran over a badger the other night and nearly rode into a ditch but more worrying for me is that I've had a few close shaves with deer, which silently jump out at 90 degrees to you, at full speed, usually in pairs.

    I do hundreds of miles of night riding in autumn/winter, all on unlit very quiet rural roads. I wouldn't do it on busy roads where there is a good chance of two cars converging with me lost in headlights.

    In no particular order, I'd advise the following (assumes rural type riding).

    1. Use well-known routes where you learn all the potholes, gravel patches, blind bends etc.
    2. Avoid routes with huge fast downhills - hitting a deer at 30mph+ could be pretty serious.
    3. Use a good front light which can swivel on its bracket to "dip" for cars. My preference is an Exposure Toro, bright and 100% reliable. Also a decent rear light and plenty of reflectives especially on your moving parts i.e. feet
    4. Damp/wet roads require massively more lumens to illuminate than dry roads, so that 1,200+ lumen is not over the top for safe cycling.
    5. Make sure you have tyres that can easily be removed/refitted even with numb hands.
    6. Assume that you will have a breakdown and take spare layers accordingly - you can get alarmingly cold very quickly on winter nights.
    7. Expect frost sometimes, even if it's not forecast
  • oxomanoxoman Posts: 8,225
    Pretty much what keef has said, try and get some reflective spoke straws, lidl and aldi do them when they do bike promos normally. Stick 6 or so on each wheel and when car light's catch them or even a flashing bike light they light up the whole wheel. Various clips on YouTube show how effective if you look, also look at a rear light for your helmet that flashes, doesn't need to be mega bright but when your heads bobbing about they are very visible.
    Too many bikes according to Mrs O.
  • rumbatazrumbataz Posts: 796
    Many thanks for the informative and detailed replies. I'll digest them all before my next night ride.
  • supermurph09supermurph09 Posts: 2,471
    I don't think you need to go overkill on this. A good rear and front light and some effective clothing are the obvious things and perhaps ensure you look further ahead than you normally would. Also, some sunglasses with clear lenses are a must.

    What I would suggest is to ensure you can change a tube with some confidence and be aware that the temperature can really drop at night time, wear clothing that suits the end of your ride not the start. Riding at night is a different experience imo, I don't do it often but when I do I tend to enjoy it.
  • singletonsingleton Posts: 1,644
    What others have said - good lights, refelctive clothing and being more assertive and clearer about your intentions.
    Try to ride with others if you can, multiple lights and reflective bodies present a bigger and more visible target than a lone rider does. Like others, we ride later in the darker months - usually not going out till 7 or later to give the roads a chance to clear.
  • rumbatazrumbataz Posts: 796
    Thanks again. Yes, I need to be more assertive when I ride at night. At the moment I am trying to find a cycling club to ride with other people or just friendly neighbours who like to cycle.
  • Monty DogMonty Dog Posts: 20,614
    I prefer to riding unlit roads to lit-ones - approaching cars can see you more clearly. Agree on riding on roads you're familiar with - I double-flatted on an innocuous-looking pothole on a downhill bend in the middle of nowhere - I was riding fixed so no chance to bunny-hop! Reflectives are far more effective than any amount of fluoro-nylon - particularly ankle-bands. Powerful lights are great for lighting-up the roads but make sure you're not blinding on-coming drivers, particularly on narrow lanes.
    Make mine an Italian, with Campagnolo on the side..
  • I'm another who enjiys riding at night as I feel safer, as cars can see you much further away than in day light.

    Good lights (as a previous poster said, 1 flashing, 1 static pointed down, so as not to dazle), and reflective clothing.

    I'm also trialling reflective tape on my commuter bikt this year, as well as spoke reflector straws.

    I cycle through an old Northern mill town with very congested and narrow streets, so an assertive riding position is also recommended!
  • keef66keef66 Posts: 13,286
    New wildlife encounter last night! It was either a mink or a ferret; not seen one before in the wild. It was just trotting across the road, and paused to have a good look at me as I went past. Marvellous!

    Off to Google images, see if I can work out which it was...

    OK, back from Google. Definitely a ferret. The raccoon like facial markings appear absent in mink.

    Anyone south east of Newmarket missing a ferret??
  • lakesludditelakesluddite Posts: 1,319
    New wildlife encounter last night! It was either a mink or a ferret; not seen one before in the wild. It was just trotting across the road, and paused to have a good look at me as I went past. Marvellous!

    Off to Google images, see if I can work out which it was...

    OK, back from Google. Definitely a ferret. The raccoon like facial markings appear absent in mink.

    Anyone south east of Newmarket missing a ferret??

    Could well have been an escaped ferret - any Yorkshiremen with holes in their trousers in the area? Of course it could have been a Polecat, which is basically a wild ferret (a ferret is simply a domesticated Polecat, so they would be virtually identical).

    Anyway, back on subject...I am now completely in the dark on my commute into work (until next week at least when GMT returns), so I have a fairly good main light (Moon XL500), a flashing led on the front with a similar single led on the back and a main rear light that I have on flashing mode (so thats one static and one flashing on both front and rear). I also have reflective straps on my ankles, as it is probably best to have things like this on your legs, given that they are constantly in motion.
    The Proviz range of gear looks good as well - especially the gilets and vests, plus you can now get a reflective spray for your bike. I think it's made by Volvo?
  • keef66keef66 Posts: 13,286
    New wildlife encounter last night! It was either a mink or a ferret; not seen one before in the wild. It was just trotting across the road, and paused to have a good look at me as I went past. Marvellous!

    Off to Google images, see if I can work out which it was...

    OK, back from Google. Definitely a ferret. The raccoon like facial markings appear absent in mink.

    Anyone south east of Newmarket missing a ferret??

    Could well have been an escaped ferret - any Yorkshiremen with holes in their trousers in the area? Of course it could have been a Polecat, which is basically a wild ferret (a ferret is simply a domesticated Polecat, so they would be virtually identical).

    Ooh, that's quite exciting. Could easily have been a polecat looking at the pics online. I thought they were rare northern things, but I realise I was thinking of pine martens. Never seen a polecat before either. If I spot him again I need to take more notice of his facial markings and throat patch or lack thereof...
  • rumbatazrumbataz Posts: 796
    So I took the advice given in this thread on board and really enjoyed my night right today. In fact, I went out on my Winter bike now which is a lot easier to ride at night than my new road bike. My old bike is a hybrid with flat pedals so I reduced the risk of a fall at night-time. As it's fairly old and was relatively cheap, I'm not that bothered about it getting damaged. I guess that made the whole ride a lot more enjoyable. My first night ride a few days ago was fraught with nerves as I went out on a new relatively expensive road bike so I was fairly concerned about getting a puncture or worse.

    The old bike has also got much more puncture-proof tyres (Schwalbe Marathon Plus London tyres) which means that I'm not that bothered about going over stuff that I can't see.

    However, I did notice just how poor the front light is - particularly on some unlit sections of cycle paths and roads. I guess I need to invest in a good front light for night cycling - or was was recommended earlier in this thread, two front lights where one is always on and one is flashing.

    As for riding style - I was a lot more assertive when cycling on the roads with other rush-hour traffic and made my intentions a lot more clearly so that drivers could see what I was about to do.

    A big thanks to all those offering advice in this thread. It made a big difference on my second ever bike ride in the hours of darkness!
  • fenixfenix Posts: 5,437
    3M tape is much better than that paint that will wash off.

    Also tyre flys - you can glue them to your valve caps and give you great visibility from the side.

    I avoid rush hour if at all possible - you stand out really well on quiet roads = but busy roads = its easier to blend in.
  • rode home last night, if anyone knows Liverpool then it was down the Ford Rd from Widnes to Crosby... 20 miles on major A & B roads, some with national limits and by time I got home it had been dark for over an hour. heavy rain and darkness made for some worry, not helped at all by the odd censored cutting me up, especially at the apex of roundabouts......how I wish I could have caught her
    I had a reflective jacket, white lid with solid red rear light on the back and a moon 75 lumen rear on flash.....serious bright light!
    front light is actually a torch from China that is bright and had this on flash with wide reflective bands on my ankles (slap straps that kids have walking to school.......excellent for us too!!)
    I was very wary during the ride for obvious reasons but found most people gave me a wide berth, some were a bit too close for comfort but they were probably goons who have no spatial awareness as opposed to people who deliberately cut you up. Wagon drivers were very forgiving and gave lots of room. biggest worry was the standing water and worry over potholes, not knowing who's behind you and how close when you need to swerve a big puddle. workmate went through a puddle/pothole and it was deep......went over the bars and had a real bad gash to his knee, very lucky nothing was behind but didn't report it. You must report these potholes peeps, sooner or later someone will go down and the following vehicle will kill/severely injure them as they'll have no time to react. Stay safe
  • forgot to add, spoke reflectors from Aldi too.....work very well. Got a moon xp 300 front light that I need to mount on my lid, didn't have it last night but will attach it today
  • slowbikeslowbike Posts: 8,490
    Most of it seems to have been covered ...

    key points for me.

    1) Front Lights - have at least 2 on the bike - in case a battery fails - the main light should be mounted on the bars and not your helmet (uk law says steady light not more than 1500mm from the ground) - however, an additional lower power or flashing white on your lid may assist in making you more visible.

    2) Rear Lights - again, at least 2 on the bike - both on at the start of the ride - reason being is that if one fails or falls off you will not notice it straight away - unlikely to lose 2

    3) Reflectives - reflective clothing is useful - my longs have reflective tabs sown into them and my jackets have relfective patches on. Added to that I usually ride with mudguards, so 3m reflective tape on the guards.

    Also, think about side on visibility - this is where the flashing lid light may come into it's own ...
  • mrb123mrb123 Posts: 2,591
    On that point there are tyres available that have a reflective strip round some models of them, such as Vittoria Randonneur Pros.
  • fenixfenix Posts: 5,437
    So do the Schwalbe Marathon City tyres - they're bombproof too - which is what you want at night.
  • rumbatazrumbataz Posts: 796
    So do the Schwalbe Marathon City tyres - they're bombproof too - which is what you want at night.

    This is one of the prime reasons I kept my old bike for Winter use. A couple of keen cyclists at work recommended I put Schwalbe Marathon Plus London tyres on my hybrid and they transformed the bike, with the added convenience of excellent puncture protection.
  • Make yourself as visible as possible.


    I frequently driuve past cyclists on my wy to and from work in the early hours who are simply just not visible enough.

    Some crappy rear light and poor reflective gear is so common its untrue. I don't think a lot of cyclist commuters realise that against bright rear and front headlights and in the rain etc they are simply not visible enough.

    Arguments as to "drivers should be more aware" are utter bollocks. I'm totally aware and last minute moments are still very common.
  • mrfpbmrfpb Posts: 4,476
    Personally I avoid flashing lights on the front as I find they induce migraines. The only thing I would add is reflective gloves/armbands to make signalling clearer.
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