The World

Tips for riding in the dark

A bicycle with front and rear lights turned on in a dark rural setting

Take your rides from day to night with these top tips!

Light it up

First, let’s state the absolute basics of night riding – you need lights: white light at the front and red light at the back.

Now that’s covered, let’s talk about using the right light for you. Depending on whether you ride in an urban or rural setting (or both), you will need different lighting solutions.

Front light  

When riding along well-lit city roads, your front light’s main task is to improve your visibility rather than to light your way. Therefore, a small, blinking light starting at 200 lumens will work well here.

If you’re riding along dark or unlit roads, you’ll need something more powerful that will light the way ahead of you. An 800+ lumen light will help you see clearly. As a comparison, a single car headlamp is roughly 1,200 lumens.

Back light

The task of your backlight is to ensure other road users see you. Therefore, contrary to your front-light requirements, you may need something brighter in an urban environment. For your backlight, opt for 100+ lumens on well-lit streets and 25+ lumens for the darkest trails.

While front and back lights are essential, many modern lights will also have a feature that increases your side-on visibility. If you can, try to be seen from 360 degrees.

GIF of a bike with the focus on the front light

Top tip #1: Use a blinking and a steady light to improve your road visibility. A flashing light helps you stand out, and a persistent light will help other road users’ depth perception.

Top tip #2: If you’ve got a basket or bag on the front of your bike that obstructs your lights, choose a light that attaches to your basket, or opt for an additional head torch.

Taking it off-road?

Adventures off the beaten track take on a new level of excitement in the dark. A bright light plus an additional helmet light will be your best friends here. The bike-mounted light will illuminate your route, while the helmet light will always shine in the direction you’re looking and help you view even more of your environment.

Let someone know where you’re going and what time you’ll be back if you’re tackling a challenging route in the dark. 

Cyclist at night on top of grassy mound looking over a cityscape

Road visibility – what you need to know

Lights are just the first step to night-time visibility. The next step is road position.

Ride where you can be seen by other road users and avoid riding in the gutter. Aim to position yourself roughly 50cm – 1m into the road as this will put you in the eye-line of drivers and help you dodge obstacles at the side of the road.

Cyclist riding at night in London with London Eye behind

Dress for the occasion

When riding at night, wearing clothes that keep you warm and improve your visibility are a fantastic idea.

Keep warm by wearing several thin layers that can easily be added or removed depending on the weather and your ride intensity. Choose a light or reflective jacket as your top layer.

Reflective clothing will help you stand out on the road and ensure that you’re seen from the side as well as front and back. Reflective accessories are also a good choice since you can add them to any outfit.

Gloves with a reflective strip will ensure your hand signals are clear to other road users, which will make your movements more predictable. 

If you don’t own reflective gear, don’t worry. Wearing lighter and brighter clothing will help you stand out in the dark.

Bike rider in a snowy night setting with reflective strip around torso

Go slow and enjoy the ride

Even the most familiar path can look different when we ride at night. Riding slowly will allow you to find your best route and react to any obstacles or hazards in good time.

If you’re riding with others, make sure you leave enough room between you so you have time to react to each other’s actions. Also, leaving more space will prevent your light from casting their shadow in front of them and impacting what they can see ahead.

There are so many sights and sounds to take in at night so enjoy the opportunity to slow down and savour the experience.

Bike rider with bike wearing hi-vis gear in a snowy night scene

And finally…

…remember to charge your lights!

Have fun, night riders!

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