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Five tips for riding safely at night

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7 Dec 2021
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Night riding brings with it an increased level of risk, but you can do much to mitigate that risk

Come winter, cycling at night becomes a necessity for riders in the UK. If you commute by bike, you’re more likely to be riding in the dark both to and from work as the days get shorter and the evenings draw in. Your visibility can also be reduced in the daytime, either because of cloudy conditions or the sun staying low in the sky. To stay safe during the darker months of the year, it’s therefore worth investing in some specific kit, while changing your approach to riding can help too. Here are some essentials for riding safely at night...

1. Invest in some lights

The easiest way to simultaneously increase your visibility and ability to see is by buying some bike lights. Front lights come in two different styles – ’to see’ and ’to be seen’ – which do exactly as you’d expect. The former will be bright enough to guide you when riding in areas without streetlights – look out for lights that are 400-plus lumens – but are potentially a bit much if you’re simply commuting along well-lit roads.

Rear lights don’t need to be as powerful as the front ones as they’re there purely for visibility and safety. To help you stand out from the crowd though, opt for a back light with various flashing modes.

How many lights you use is up to you but there is a legal requirement to have at least one front and one rear when riding between sunset and sunrise. That said, it’s always worth either having a backup set or at least a way of charging them when you arrive at your destination. The majority use a USB cable, making it possible to keep your lights topped up whenever you stop.

2. Plan your route to avoid dark spots


With your lights sorted, you might think you’re all set. Those routes that you tackle in the daytime change after dark though, and what is a nice, quiet country cut-through in the midday sun can become a pitch black guessing game come nightfall – hiding blind bends, dips and speed bumps.

While they might be slightly busier with other traffic, well-lit roads will generally be safer to ride along; the glow of streetlights helping you keep your wits about you and spot any obstacles in your path such as wet leaves, potholes or puddles. It’s also a lot easier to repair a mechanical beneath the beam of a lamppost if you do happen to have an issue.

3. Ride with caution


When riding after dark, it’s best to assume that other road users might not have seen you. While it might feel slightly aggressive, the easiest way of doing this is positioning yourself up to a meter from the side of the road. Not only will this ensure that any drivers can see you clearly and will have to give you space when overtaking but it also keeps you out of harm’s way from drain covers and leaves you a bit more time to react if someone or something cuts across your path.

4. Layer up in reflective clothing


Like lights, reflective clothing is an easy way to help you stand out from the crowd. It is possible to go the whole hog and buy fluorescent-coloured clothing, but there are more subtle alternatives if you don’t want to dress up like a traffic cone. Most winter-focussed items of clothing – from jerseys to jackets – include some level of reflective detailing that looks like part of the design in daylight but comes to life when a headlight shines on it.

As well as clothing, most panniers or cycling rucksacks can be bought with some level of reflective detailing or in a hi-vis colour. And as these are likely to be in a driver’s eyeline, can help keep you safe and seen.

5. Stick on some wheel reflectors


When buying a new bike, there’s a good chance that one of the first things you did was remove the reflectors that were fitted as standard. Bulky and not in keeping with the smooth lines of a modern road bike, reflectors get a bad rep, despite being a great way of improving your visibility to other road users.

Fortunately, there is an alternative at hand. The Wheel Flash 2.0 from award-winning French brand The Beam is a novel solution to improving your bike’s reflectivity without taking anything away from its wind-tunnel-focused design.

The minimalist reflective stickers are constructed from a glass powder pigment, and leave you with 360-degree visibility both at dusk and after dark. The 12-piece set is enough for two wheels, and can be easily added to any rims and any brake setup – whether they’re carbon, aluminium or steel, rim brake or disc. The 3M adhesive lining keeps them secure in all conditions, but once you’re finished with them, they can be removed without leaving any residue. Available in four colours (silver, black/rainbow, pink and blue), they’re one of the cheapest and quickest ways to add visibility to every ride.

• Learn more about the Wheel Flash 2.0