How to Ride Safe in the Dark

Not enough lights here!

Not enough lights here!

In the Northern Hemisphere, November through March is a dark time. It also happens to coincide with the months leading into the racing season. And unless you have a highly flexible work schedule, training in the dark is going to be necessary to get your form dialed come racing in April.

The default most riders chose is to hit the trainer. Riding a bike in the dark is not appealing to most, and plenty think it is more dangerous than typical day time riding. So, we’d like shed some light on some of the myths about night riding to keep you outside longer this year.

1.      You can’t see where you’re going.

This is a common fear, but one that is really unfounded. Any decent bike light will shed enough light on the road or trail to give you ample warning of that root or pothole you need to avoid. In fact, at the relatively slow speeds one travels on a bike compared to a car, I would say you’re lighting will give you an equally good view of your path while going 18mph than a cars headlights would going 45.

2.       It’s dangerous, no one can see you.

Another common misconception, this is actually completely opposite to reality. If you are lit appropriately (and we’ll talk about that in a second) cars will be able to see you well, and in my experience, give you far more attention than you get during the day. Think about it. If you are lit up like a Christmas tree riding along the road, anyone driving will be able to see you, and their eyes will be drawn to you much sooner than if it were day time. You become a stark contrast to the dark night, unlike the day time where you are simply another thing that could blend in.

**Also, as counter intuitive as it may sound, I feel safer on the road at night. Why? Because cars ALWAYS give me more space when it's dark. Probably 3x as much space. It’s amazing. Maybe they’re just impressed by my tenacity to ride a bike, even at night. Who knows.**

Being lit is the key to all of this though. We’ve experimented with this quite a lot and have found there to be a few crucial elements that provide maximum safety.

Dusk turning to night

Dusk turning to night

  • The Helmet Light - Quite simply this is the simplest way to see and be seen. With a light on your helmet, wherever you look, you shine light. Not only does this help for seeing whatever you look at, but it helps when you're looking up the road, around a curve or trying to get the attention of a motorist who might not see you.
  • The Tail Light - While most accidents happen because cyclists aren't seen from the front, many still happen by not being seen from behind. Having a bright blinking light is crucial to catching the attention of a driver who might otherwise hit you from behind. If possible, we recommend something that is not steady, but that has changes to the blink. We find that often times (especially in cities at night) steady lights can all blend together. Erratic lights however stand out well.
  • The Bar Light - While having a light on your helmet is great, it still doesn't replace the constant visibility of having a bar mounted light that always keeps you visible from the front. When your head is constantly moving (as it should be) to check for dangers around you, your helmet light will not always be perfectly visible to oncoming traffic. Having a bar light then maintains that visibility and obviously can be positioned to light up the road or trail in front of you.
  • The Side Light - The most common issue when riding at night is side traffic. Drivers oncoming will want to turn directly in front of you, or pull out of a side street in front of you. Depending on the angle of you to that driver, they may not be able to see your front and rear facing lights clearly. Having side markers that project straight out from either side of the bike can help eliminate this "blind spot" and keep cars from T-boning you on the road.

Riding at night is a fantastic way to get in more miles during the shorter days. And with a bit of proper lighting technique, it really won't be as scary or dangerous as some would believe. Investing in an array of lights will not only keep you safe, but will keep you training outside, longer.