Cycling at night isn’t as daunting as many people think it is – and is usually just as fun as cycling in broad daylight.
Although you don’t get to soak in the sun’s rays whilst gliding along, depending on where you live and route to or from work, school or anywhere else, there’s a good chance you’ll be trading the bustle of the day with the peace and quiet that comes with the night.
Not only this, but it’s a good way to continue exercises throughout the year, as finding time to get anything done during daylight hours in the winter can be difficult! The most important thing with cycling at night – or any type of cycling – is to make sure you’re safe, and that starts with being visible.
So, here are our tips on how to cycle at night safely, whilst enjoying it all the same:
1. Plan Your Cycling Route in Advance
It’s always a good idea to ride a route that involves roads and turns that you know well, as this means you’ll be familiar with the road and are less likely to make a mistake or be unsure of where you’re going.
As well as this, it’s also a good idea to choose a route that’s well-lit, as it makes you more visible, but also gives you a better view of the roads you’ll be cycling on. If you’re trying a new route for the first time, check it out on Google Maps to see if it’s suitable for you before giving it a go.
2. Check Your Bike Before You Start Cycling
Regardless of how experienced you are, how long or short your trip is, or how good your bike is, you should always, always check your bike before a ride.
Make it part of your routine to give all of the key parts and components a quick check, just to make sure they’re all working as they should. If you’re unsure, give them a quick tighten or adjustment, just to ensure your safety during the ride.
3. Make Sure the Gear You Use is Reflective
The main challenge with cycling at night is being seen. Sometimes drivers and pedestrians find it hard enough to spot cyclists during the day, so at night you have to take extra care in order to make sure you’re visible to all.
The easiest way of doing this is by wearing reflective and high-visibility clothing. Many companies now produce bright yellow, orange, green and even pink shirts and jackets that you can wear over your cycling gear. Some of these even reflect light back at headlights so it’s virtually impossible not to be seen.
For those who either don’t have the budget for this – as some of these can be quite expensive – or simply don’t want to, there are other options such as reflective buckles, straps, tapes, and tags.
Whatever type of reflective material you use, just make sure you have enough of it to be visible from a good distance – the general rule with this is, “If you’re not sure, add more.”
4. Always Follow the Rules of the Road
Regardless of when or where you’re riding, you should always follow the rules of the road – especially when visibility is low.
When riding a bike, it’s advised to take routes that avoid heavy traffic, busy crossings or intersections, and lane changes, as this increases the risk of danger. Always stop at red lights or stop signs, even if no-one is around.
5. Get Some Good Bike Lights
When cycling at night, having good bike lights is just as – if not more – important as having reflective gear.
Without bike lights at night on certain roads you’ll almost be impossible to see, and this doesn’t just endanger you, but also endangers the people around you; if a car has to swerve last minute to avoid you, who knows what the result could be?
You should always have a bike light on the front and rear of your bike, like a car’s headlights, and these should be visible from at least 100 feet away. Make sure these lights aren’t too bright, as these can actually dazzle drivers and distract or blind them from the road.
It’s also a good idea to have a light on yourself, and/or your helmet too. Bike lights range hugely in price, some starting from $5 for the pair, going all the way up to over $100.
There’s no need to spend loads on some, but make sure they’re durable, hardwearing, have a decent battery life, and if you’re going to be riding in the rain, make sure they’re waterproof too.
6. Keep Your Focus on the Route
You should always be completely aware and focused when riding, especially in areas heavy of pedestrians or traffic, but this is especially important when riding at night.
Be vigilant of your surroundings, look around regularly, and keep your focus on the road ahead to watch for any bumps, dips or obstacles on the road surface.
7. Don’t Go Too Fast
It’s better that you get home slowly and safely than never getting home at all. Cycling as an ultra-fast pace should be reserved for empty pathways or competitions alone – when cycling on the road, speed shouldn’t be a priority.
Cycle at a slow and steady pace, in order to ensure that you don’t surprise any drivers or pedestrians by suddenly appearing without warning. This will also give you more control over the bike, and keep you better prepared for any unexpected obstacles or cars.
8. Cycle with a Friend
Cycling at night on your own isn’t exactly a bad idea, but if you’ve got a friend or family member with you, it’s often a safer and more fun experience.
Not only does this give you someone to share the trip with, but it’s also another set of eyes and ears that can help you watch out for your surroundings.
9. Be Careful of the Road Obstacles
Although hugging the pavement allows cars to overtake you easier, it’s not advised, especially at night. Obstacles in the road – leaves, empty bottles, food – often end up being forced or kicked to the edge of the road, so if you’re too close to the pavement, you’re much more likely to bump into them.
Not only this, but keeping some road from the pavement allows you to avoid obstacles in both directions, which will give you more control, and again, ensure your safety.
10. Make Sure You Enjoy the Ride
And last but not least… enjoy it! Although cycling at night can be quite different to the day time – and quite scary for some – it’s still a fantastic experience and a great way to get in some exercise.
Feel the chill in the air, watch the stars from above (but keep your eyes on the road!), and embrace the change in environment from what you usually have. Just soak in the change of scenery, and try to enjoy it as much as you can.
All in all, cycling at night is a fun, exhilarating, and enjoyable experience that should be recommended to anyone who’s a fan of cycling.
It’s just important to bear in mind the added safety implications – always wear highly-visible clothing, always make sure you have at least two working lights, and always cycle steadily and with confidence. If you can manage that, then you won’t have any problems!