Night Cycling For Beginners

As the daylight keeps getting shorter, and my work days are not, I’ve been finding it harder and harder to find time to ride my bike during the week.  Yet, while the weather is still decent I’d still rather ride than go to the gym.  So, I finally decided to give night cycling a try.  At first I was apprehensive about cycling at night, but I researched a bunch of products to keep me visible and help me see while biking at night, and finally set out late one night to see how I liked it.

First, here’s my list of purchases that I made before I started bicycling at night:

On The Bike

Planet Bike Blaze 1 Watt Headlight

SpokeLit Safety Light for Wheels

Planet Bike Superflash Taillight

On Me

High Visibility Safety Vest

On My Helmet

NiteRider MiNewt 250 Lumens Rechargeable Headlight

Planet Bike Blinky Helmet Mount Taillight

I also purchased some Scotchlite Reflective Tape to put on my bike frame, but have not yet put it on.  Also, one thing still on my wish list are some tires with reflective stripes on the side, like these Schwalbe Marathon road bike tires.

I know that this might sound like a lot, but I live out in the suburbs where folks don’t necessarily expect to see people riding a bicycle at night, so I wanted to make sure I caught their attention.  And I have to say, I think my set-up is working quite well.

The strobe flashing functions on the lights on my bike are really great — the Superflash taillight is almost legendary now for its attention-grabbing flash pattern, and the Blaze headlight (while not bright enough to use alone to see on a dark road) has a great strobe flashing function as well that gets attention even during the day.  It also tends to cause cars to slow a bit, as they try to figure out what that strobe light they see is.  I’ve used both of these for a while, and the batteries for both last an amazing time when used on strobe.

I use the SpokeLit in flash mode on my front wheel spokes, and really like the side visibility it gives me as I approach or stop at an intersection — keeps cars from making lazy turns into my lane.  I may get another for my rear wheel at some point.  The vest I bought has reflective tape all around, and it’s always good to have some non-battery items to help you be seen (I also have all of the normal reflectors).

I had read good things about NiteRider bike lights, and was attracted to the MiNewt because it gave a lot of lumens for the price, and it also is self contained (no separate battery pack), and can charge with a USB cable.  Right now, I like having it on my helmet because I can aim it around turns and also get the attention of cars that look like they may coast through a stop sign into my path.  It is plenty of light for road riding, but one day I may be tempted to mount another on my handlebars for extra light.  I keep the Blinky helmet taillight on solid to comply with my State’s law requiring a solid taillight after dark (be sure to check your State and local laws) — and since it only takes 1 AAA battery, it costs less to keep on solid.

After all of that preparation, I have to say that I have really enjoyed riding a bike at night.  There’s less traffic on the road, its a bit cooler, and since I’m lit up like a Christmas tree I actually feel like I’m more visible to motorists at night than I am during the day.  While I still prefer being able to really see the countryside during the day time, I like night cycling and it sure beats exercising at the gym or on a stationary bicycle trainer.

What about you — have you tried cycling at night?  If so, how do you like it?  If not, what’s holding you back?  Please share your comments at the bottom of this page.

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11 comments to Night Cycling For Beginners

  • Tom

    I’ve found that having a mount on your helmet (in addition to a bike-mounted front light) is key for signaling motorists or going around a curve.
    I don’t use a vest, but one of these Reflexite sashes: http://www.dontgethit.com/allarbesa.html

    Also, lights aren’t just for dark. When the shadows are long or it’s cloudy/raining it’s a good idea to use a front blinkie.

  • admin

    Hi Tom, I like the sash as an alternative to a vest. I agree with you — I use the lights on my bike (front & rear) on strobe mode often during the day to alert motorists. I’ve found it really makes a difference.

    Best,
    Rob

  • Bob

    You can get CST Corporal 700c tires with the white reflective bands, AND kevlar tread belts, for about $20-25 each. I like mine!

  • admin

    Thanks Bob, I see Niagara Cycle has some listed on Amazon: CST Corporal Tire - BLK/REF 700 x 35

    Do they come in any sizes narrower than 700×35?

    Regards,
    Rob

  • Dean

    I’ve done nights, but mostly on paved trail. I have the planet bike 1 watt and supperflash, but didn’t think of helmet or wheel lights. I’ll look for some.

  • Doug

    I believe you can’t be visible [enough]. For passive lighting I have reflective tape on the frame and inside of my wheels and I wear the safety vests. For front lights I have a Cygolite 400 on my helmet and a 600 on my bike. for the rear I use two Planet bike superflash turbos and a planet bike helmet mount flashy. I am sure I am more visible at night than during the day. I try to use the flash modes during the day.

  • admin

    Hi Doug, thanks for the comment (sorry for the delay in responding, I’ve been on vacation). Wow, with TWO Superflash Turbos on the back of the bike, you must be dazzling! I agree, it’s much better to be seen than not!

  • Mercedes

    I recently took a 12.21 mile bike ride at night; it was already dark at 7ish when I took off and it was extremely dark when I finally got back at 8ish.

    One of the things I will make sure of in the future is having back up light sources.

    I just had my 1 red tailight and it was fine but my front handle bar mounted light must of been vibrated loose or something because it shook and dimmed and up on the hillsides, it was extremely dark and I could barely see in front of me due to the mountains around the Estrella Park area here in Avondale, Arizona.

    IT lasted till I got back but that was my first concern. Going to return that damn walmart light now.

    I”ll be getting one of those reflective vests as well. There are some dips in the road to PIR on El Mirage that hide me from view for a bit.

  • I wear the reflective vest with a cycling jacket with reflective panels. The bike has regular reflectors all with a headlight and strobe mode taillight. Works very well for me.

  • admin

    Hi Pico,

    Thanks for your comment! I checked out your blog (looks nice) and pics there, and it looks like you are well covered! I will recommend the SpokeLit light (or similar) that I have used on my front wheel — for giving increased side visibility, and I’ve specifically noticed that it has been good at keeping cars from being lazy with their turns when I’m stopped at an intersection waiting to make a left turn.

    Best,
    Rob

  • Jason

    Skip all the little lights and buy a big headlight and a big taillight.

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