Road riding at night- thoughts? advice?

Hi everyone,

I drew the short straw with work/school hours recently which leaves me with a fairly unconventional sleep schedule, and the only time I have free to ride is during the night. I’m not super keen on spending the summer on the trainer though! I often run at the same time or finish up in the dark as well as having seen some other footage of riders doing late night rides, so I kind of like the idea of riding when it’s a little quieter out though I have the obvious safety concerns. Curious to know if anyone has any advice, experiences or gear recommendations! (I also don’t drive much, so I’d be interested to hear that perspective)

If it helps: I’m looking at heading out around 1-2am and I live in a small town, so traffic is fairly minimal. Road conditions are also pretty good, but I’m mostly concerned about narrower sections where climbs/turns make visibility a bit more limited, and the possibility of drivers being a little more distracted because it’s not as busy. Sadly no gravel/bike paths nearby or I’d be there!

At that time you’ll have the roads to yourself. Bliss!
Usual advice: bright rear light plus a second one as backup. Decent front light, something like the Exposure Strada, high vis jacket.
I often head out at 4.30am and it’s a different world. You’ll see loads of wildlife and very few cars.

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As above, plenty of bright lights and I’d recommend the proviz gillet or jacket

Gets you lit up like a Christmas tree

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The most important thing is to have very good lights to see and importantly, be seen. If you want to do this regularly, you should get smart lights with a battery life indicator.

Good front lights are harder to find than good rear lights. As far as strength goes, if you are on the road something like 800 lumens should be enough. For offroading you’d need more. You might also get a second helmet light so you can look ahead and you have a spare light.

In addition, I’d make sure to wear bright clothing with plenty of reflective material. Giro has some cycling shoes that are entirely reflective. But you can also get shoe covers. The good thing is that your feet are moving, and moving reflective things are easier to see and recognize than things that are standing still.

Getting good rear lights is much easier than getting good front lights. If you head at at 1-2 am, I don’t think radar is a necessity, but it’d be a nice-to-have.

Another thing I’d do is to share your location with others, e. g. with your partner, in case something happens.

Apart from this, the last important thing is route choice. I don’t have any generic recommendations here, but if I were you I’d look for a route that is relatively empty, but not completely deserted. In case something happens, I’d still want to be found eventually by someone. The same goes if there are shops along the route (in Japan we have tons of 24/7 convenience stores) or if you have dangerous wild life (we have bears where I live).

Oh, and I don’t think you’ll need any special gearing, just use the gearing that works during daylight. However, I do reckon you might be a bit slower at the top end, though.

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Just to add to the above, high viz clothing (the bright yellow/green etc type) is pretty useless at night, what you need is something reflective. Even small bits of reflective material stand out a lot when headlights shine on it.

To be honest, when I haven’t ridden much at night for a while, I always get a crazy fear of it, but once you do it, it’s actually fine. It’s not usually as dark as you think, the roads are pretty quiet, and your bike feels just like during the day. I do agree that you’ll likely be a bit slower though.

If you want to do intervalls and so on, I would probably start by finding a few good spots during the day, so you can have a good look at the surface. And then do repeats of the same climb etc, instead of going on a long ride on unknown roads (you won’t have much of a view anyway). It depends what you usually do as training though.

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I had some surprising experiences when I started riding in the dark a few times - not what I was expecting.

I should add I’m in a semi-rural area of the UK so things may be different, but I was really surprised that cars seem to give far more respect and space than they do during the day. I wonder if its simply that they do not expect to see this brightly lit up and reflective ‘thing’ on the road at first and hence give me a wide berth simply because they’re not quite sure what to do and how to deal with it?

I wear one of those newer reflective Proviz gilets, gloves and over shoes so am pretty reflective, along with good lights, When they see me up the road they probably arent sure what the hell they are looking at - there aren’t many cyclists out in the dark around here :rofl:

Maybe we are quibbling over terminology, but in my mind all high viz clothing has highly reflective elements by definition. And even with reflective elements, IMHO it is wiser to go for yellow, orange or white rather than something like black.

It’s not scary if you know what you are doing, although I don’t do it as much as I used to because I have kids and my sleep schedule is pretty regimented. But you need to be aware of what you are doing. Some animals are nocturnal, others tend to traverse roads in the late afternoon, at sunset or sundown. That sounds stupid … until you see e. g. groups of boars crossing the road or come across a bear. (Both happened to me more than once.)

The bright bits of hi viz clothing requires sun light. For pure night cycling reflective is what you want.

But I really feel the focus on hi-viz really takes away from the biggest thing, which is lights. If you think it’s going to be long term, I’d consider a dyno hub and lights - never any issues of running out of battery/ charge.

Hi, I am an Audax rider and often you have to ride through the night. The priority is At Least 2 Rear lights different flashing rates it makes drivers go what the F*** is that. Next is the hi reflective bit, I Use Browning buckle arrangement, its that Hi reflective green stuff and it is around your back and front and waist. You can get ankle straps that are good as they are rotating in car lights. I Use Lumicycle lights ( Not Cheap) With the endurance battery can last several nights. I also have a head torch Pretzal for reading sign post. There is something blissful riding at night. The thing to remember is it is colder, also repairing punctures take longer and if the roads are wet, powerful lights are needed to see the Pot Holes.

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Scout your routes during the day so that you know where any hazards are - pot holes, pinch points, speed bumps, etc. Maybe you can do it after dropping the kids off or on the way to work, etc

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Yes, this. And I never use constant light, I always use random pattern flashes.

No, when hit by car lights they strongly reflect light. Note that like with cateye-type reflectors, the reflections are strongly directional, they come back towards the light source. So if you are looking from the side, you won’t see much. Most of these high-viz reflectors look darkish-gray-silverish. That’s why they are combined with bright colors to make sure riders are also protected at dusk and dawn when some drivers no longer use their head lights.


The yellow bits is what I meant rather the reflective bits. A Browne Belt is as effective as the builders vest at night time.

I have a proviz 360 jacket, and a couple of Polaris Really Bright Stuff jackets. For rural night time riding I’d go proviz everytime, over the yellow/ orange RBS with just reflective strips*.

*I only really wear the RBS for commuting, as it’s one less excuse for a didn’t look/ didn’t see idiot in a vehicle!

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I regularly ride at 4:00 a.m. and echo the light/clothing advice of others. On the flip side when it’s dark you can see a car coming behind you long before it gets there because of the headlights. This gives you much more time to prepare or react than you typically have during daylight hours.

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I find that night road riding is safer than day riding because there are less cars and the few cars that come along usually have no idea what you are and usually slow down a lot. My biggest issue is a random dog. You cant see them coming ahead of the time in the dark and you see them at the last moment. Not that many dogs come out, but when they do, it a bit scary.

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Agree with many of the points here.

2 front lights, 2 rear lights. Batteries go flat (especially in cold weather), mounts fail - you don’t want to be caught out if one of your lights suddenly fails. I’d run the 2 rear lights simultaneously, because you won’t notice if one failed.

Reflective clothing/vests/straps are also a must. Consider reflective details for the legs/ankles - the moving legs really draw the drivers attention.

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100% agree with the two rear lights, I do lots of night riding and always use 2 lights on the rear going at the same time. Probably around 4 times now have I got home and noticed that one of my rear lights had stopped unexpectantly. If it wasn’t for the rear I would have been on unlit roads with no rear light, the consequences of such would be horrific.

Night riding is so much more relaxing. I did a ton of night commuting with some shitty lights front and rear, no decent clothing, and it wasn’t bad at all. People seem less distracted at night compared to the day too.

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Lights:

Front: one single light makes it harder to judge speed and distance so I have 3
One center light with lots of lumens
1 LED on each fork leg like these https://www.amazon.com/Serfas-Thunder-Blast-USB-Headlight/dp/B018JOG020/ref=sr_1_6?crid=1ICX2Y85SLAA&dchild=1&keywords=serfas+thunderbolt+usb&qid=1625754122&sprefix=serfas+thunderb%2Caps%2C165&sr=8-6

Rear lights: more is better here
Garmin varia https://www.amazon.com/Varia-Cycling-Rearview-Vehicles-Wearable4U/dp/B089LJJQW2/ref=sr_1_2_sspa?dchild=1&keywords=garmin+varia&qid=1625754229&sr=8-2-spons&psc=1&smid=AY1YC2BWA3QO7&spLa=ZW5jcnlwdGVkUXVhbGlmaWVyPUEzSjVBVUpTREcxMEpDJmVuY3J5cHRlZElkPUEwNjk0NDQzM1UwQTdMOUhMVUQ2TSZlbmNyeXB0ZWRBZElkPUEwNjc5NjUxMzhHTzFIRTlSMDMxUiZ3aWRnZXROYW1lPXNwX2F0ZiZhY3Rpb249Y2xpY2tSZWRpcmVjdCZkb05vdExvZ0NsaWNrPXRydWU=

2 LED tail lights on the seatstays like these https://www.amazon.com/Serfas-Thunderbolt-USB-Taillight-Black/dp/B009WGFYRC/ref=sr_1_3?crid=1ICX2Y85SLAA&dchild=1&keywords=serfas+thunderbolt+usb&qid=1625754122&sprefix=serfas+thunderb%2Caps%2C165&sr=8-3

Reflective stuff:
I have a strip on the heel of my shoes, and some strips on the bike. This is what I use. Sticks well and is super reflective https://www.amazon.com/dp/B06Y2K189Y?psc=1&ref=ppx_yo2_dt_b_product_details

These on my wheels, they look cool and are crazy reflective https://www.flectr.bike/pages/flectr-360-specifications

The mounting bands for the serfas lights are gross so I replaced them with these which work great but don’t leave them on the floor if you have cats https://www.amazon.com/Wrap-Storage-Super-Stretch-Silicone-Bands/dp/B07RZDGFL7/ref=sr_1_2?dchild=1&keywords=wrap-it%2Bsilicone&qid=1625754520&sr=8-2&th=1

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Cars have headlights, don’t over estimate the power of your lighting to attract the attention of distracted drivers. The routes you take are more important and the type of traffic at night.

Semi-rural UK can be wonderfully quiet to ride at night, be wary of likely drink-driving and joyriding times and areas though - Friday evening on the normally quiet country roads near me can be terrifying.

For proper pitch black country roads I use a fairly powerful headlight, you don’t want to be hitting potholes blind.

As always, take appropriate spares, kit and money in case of mechanicals and make a note of public transport points that can get you back if needs be.

Enjoy! :biking_man:t2:

Studies have shown that flashing lights grab attention better, but solid lights help humans judge speed and distance better. I run solid and flashing lights for that reason.

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