Fall is here, the days are getting shorter and the night is getting darker. It is only a matter of time until winter hits and the sun seems to only appear for a few fine hours a day. In preparation for the harsh darkness that comes along with the colder seasons, learning how to prepare for a night time ride is essential. Whether you commute by bike, or cycle for exercise or training, heading out in the dark at some point is inevitable.
While the National Safety Council is not particularly fond of night time riding, they do advise that if it is necessary that the rider should be visible. And that is the key component to any night time riding. Be visible. Here are a few tips to help you be as visible (and safe) as you can be, for nighttime riding.
- Have a strong headlight. A bright white headlight is a necessity for nighttime riding. If attached to your handlebars, make sure to look straight ahead, and where your handlebars shine the light. Another great option is a helmet attachment headlight, therefore you can see wherever your head guides you.
- Always have a flashing taillight. Make sure your bike always has a flashing red taillight. Like an automobile, the rear lights should always be red, but for a bicycle, you want a continually blinking rear like so that you are always visible to those around you.
- Use reflective clothing and gear. There are so many options for reflective gear. Most bike commuter bags have reflective strips, as well as various types of cycling clothing and jackets. Also, make sure to have spoke reflectors on your wheels and reflectors on the back of your pedals.
- Take a well-lit route. Be safe, and try to stay on well-lit roads and routes. It is dark at night even with overhead lamps on the roads, the more light to make you visible, the safer you will be.
- Know when to get off your bike. Getting off your bike may seem like a hassle, but knowing when you should could be the difference between life and death. Especially when riding on busier roads, or simply roads with automobiles, make sure to hop off the bike when needed. This especially comes in handy when taking a left turn. You will be much safer at night getting off your bike and using a crosswalk to take that left turn, as opposed to turning through traffic to get there.
The most important thing in night time riding is just to be visible and safe. Bicycle safety is a priority. Always wear a helmet, and remember that you are completely exposed. So the more that you can make your surroundings aware of your presence on the road, the safer you can be.