Cabin Fever has kicked in, humans aren’t designed to be operating in isolation, I’m pacing around the house in the evenings, I’m not sleeping well. It’s time to start riding the Steve Abraham’s way and get out there whatever the weather, whatever the time of day. I’ve done a lot of riding at night before, but mainly for commuting, so I thought it was time to think about getting out more. Some of the Bikmo team have been out riding, even mountain biking in the dark, which I’ve found inspiring, and they’ve helped pull this guide together…
10 safety considerations for riding at night
1. Be seen.
The obvious place to start when riding at night, but a good one. And it’s not just your lights, it’s everything you wear and that’s on the bike. This time of year I tend to reach for the Castelli Perfetto. It’s a few years old, but I know I won’t overheat while offering decent weather protection unless it get’s seriously wet, but even then it seems to work like a wetsuit. Some of the team have the Proviz jackets, and I think I might invest if cycling through this winter is my preferred option for evening exercise. Lights wrapped around the right arm, or on the back of the helmet are some nice optional extras. My brother rides for Deliveroo in his spare time, and at 6 foot 5 donned in lycra and lit like a Christmas tree half of Bristol can see him coming.
Second after being seen on our list, is actually seeing where you are going riding at night. If you’re riding any kind of distance between towns you’re going to hit pitch black. I was so confident that the famous Bristol to Bath railway path would have lighting all the way along it like main road that my really cheap lights would do the trick. My lack of lumens nearly caused a few trips into the trees on the subtle snaking bends. I bought one of the excellent Cateye range about 6 years ago and it’s been brilliant for dark rides. My wife’s Exposure set edging it for the gloomy daytime or commuting under lights: so quick and easy to fit, with great battery life.
3. Ride it like you’ve just bought it.
Don’t be the person in hospital because you were riding flat out. Not. Cool. If you’re the type of rider who really cares about average speeds, tops speeds and KOMs, please picture yourself in Lycra sat on a trolley while stretched and tired medical staff fit your X-ray in between Covid patients. Cycling now is more important than ever for our health, and cycling safely in the dark is great fun, just back off a little and swallow your pride when riding at night. I’ve met a lot of doctors, nurses and midwives over the past few years who were Strava addicts, that goes for you too!
4. Plan your route.
This one not even Strava can totally help with. Have a decent idea of the surface you’re on and it’s condition, and match your bike tyres and riding style accordingly. That doesn’t mean you have to retreat to the same loop every time, but it might be worth getting to understand and avoid the potentially slippy parts, the dodgy roadwork traffic lights, the bit of mud on the unlit gravel path where your front wheel could slide. Even Danny Macaskill crashes sometimes.
5. Don’t dazzle.
- Yourself: a bike computer set to supernova will surely hamper your vision, and that’s if you need it in front of you at all?
- Motorists, yes, lots of lights, but no-one enjoy getting extra lumen in their eyes.
- Other cyclists. Some commuting routes have an etiquette which the hardcore midwinter commuters know: place once gloved hand over your own light as you approach the other rider, praying that they would do the same. Perhaps John Nash developed Game Theory on the back of being blinded on his commute to campus. Or, indeed, perhaps not.
6. Live Tracking.
Tell people where you are. Strava Beacon is good if you are paying for a subscription: Google maps enables live location sharing for free*, and Garmin’s Livetrack is free with the device, I’m sure there are loads of options. I met with the founders of Busby recently and Bikmo are also partners with them. Their platform is really smart, a great concept that might just save lives. If they detect a fall, and you don’t respond in a period of time you can choose, loved ones are informed.
7. Hump day.
Lumpy Day. I wouldn’t change my wife, kids or job for the world, but by a lockdown Wednesday AHHHH, GET ME OUT OF HERE for an hour; then I’m fine again.
8. Consider insurance.
Specialist bike insurers like us at Bikmo deal with more accidental damage claims than theft, which means if you do damage your bike, or some kit breaks, you can get it sorted. Knowing you have third party liability and legal expenses covered is also reassuring if there are any distracted pedestrians about, and it’s worth checking your home insurance policy, even if you have named your bike, to see what they offer away from home. Specialist insurers can often have cyclists on the end of the phone making claims easier, I know Bikmo are all proud cycling geeks.
9. Be mindful.
And in the moment. Everyone on the planet is fighting a personal battle at the moment, something that can take our attention. So, maybe slow down, relax, be intensely aware of your surroundings and the road, listen to you’re breathing and the wind. Yes, I’ve recently found yoga, thank you Emma!
I know many cyclists are hard of hearing and are perfectly safe, this isn’t just about awareness. Get away from the news for a bit, and noise in general. This is your time, nobody else’s. I tend to put my phone in ‘do not disturb’ so I’m not bothered unless it’s a call from family, it’s a cool feature on my phone. Aftershockz and others avoid you blocking your ears if you do want additional entertainment when riding at night.
I’m leaving this one out of the list as this isn’t advice, or any kind of guidance I’d give to any cyclist: but I’m going to ride alone at night. This won’t appeal to everyone, it’s a personal decision that I need some alone time, some peace where I can focus on my breathing. My incredibly heavy breathing. In addition, Zwift is not the answer for me. I respect if it is for you as part of your training, but I want to leave the house, experience the fresh air on quieter streets, and feel part of the real world rather than more screens. Plus I’m a sweater and we don’t have industrial fans and extractors. My wife Emily and I both zwifted in Ironman training blocks, and when collarbones were mending so I respect the effort, but now more than ever I need to get out more.
Written by Gareth Mills.
I work in marketing for Bikmo, and it’s our mission to protect the world’s riders. We do have great partners here at Bikmo but all tips here are personal views with zero influence from any clothing or accessory brand. Which is a great shame, as we weren’t given anything for free.