What to wear?
Typically you can wear the same as you do in the day time in addition to some reflective clothing. In the winter however I naturally dress more warmly when riding at night, typically wearing:
- Bib shorts
- Bib tights/leg warmers
- dhb Buff (to keep my face warm and to limit how much cold air I breath in)
- Glove liners and winter gloves
- Arm Warmers
- Reflective Jacket/Coat
- Cycling Cap (useful for when it rains or hails - keeps it out of your eyes)
Riding in the dark will unfortunately require you to dosh out some more cash and invest in some more items such as a powerful front and rear light, in addition to ideally some sort of cycling specific reflective clothing. If you've ever driven in a car at night and seen a cyclist out on the road, you can appreciate how important being seen from a distance is, knowing the speeds vehicles can go. So once you've recovered from having to fork out even more money on cycling you can enjoy the freedom to ride your bike at whatever time of the day.
Front Light - Essential
A powerful front light for seeing the road ahead. It’s not good enough to have a normal light that gets you seen. If you want to go to some more remote roads you’ll need a light that sufficiently lights up the road ahead of you. I have reviewed the Lezyne Super Drive XL here. I don’t recommend buying that particular light but you’ll want something capable of a similar lumen output of around 500 lumens or more.
Rear Light - Essential
Go out at night confident that you are going to be seen by other road users with a bright rear light. I personally use the Knog Blinder 4v Rear Light reviewed here.
Reflective Clothing - Essential
I wear a fluorescent dhb cycle jacket which protects me from the elements and cold weather at night as well as keeping me seen. Ankle reflectors and reflective material on shoes and clothing, are also a great way for drivers to quickly identify you as a cyclist.
I did for a little while use a head torch which was a useful way to see and to be seen on the bike... until it broke. It's up to you whether you wear one but you may find it uncomfortable under your helmet.
I was gifted a helmet mounted light for Christmas which I use when riding at night. It may admittedly not look fashionable but you shouldn't generally care anyway, considering you're probably already wearing skin tight lycra! I highly appreciated the gift as it was another way to be seen and identified as a cyclist by drivers. My helmet light also allows me to use it as a head-torch almost - useful for if you get a puncture or your cycle computer isn't back-lit.
Spoke reflectors look pretty cool when the wheels are turning and act as another factor to get you seen- especially when you are pulling out at a junction.
For more cycle safety information visit the Gov.uk website here.
Before Setting Off - A Personal Note
Before you decide to set off into the night ensure that your lights are sufficiently charged to last you your ride. Make sure you know how long your lights can last on each setting, this will ensure you let yourself enough time to get home confidently before your lights run out. I know what it’s like to have a low battery when riding at night. It’s stressful.
I take with me everything I would normally on a ride, in my jersey pockets and saddle bag in addition to a spare battery for my front light. Take a look here for what I take on my rides.
If you have a light that you don’t feel fully confident riding in the pitch with stick to main roads which are lit by street lights. The bonus of riding at night are the roads should be practically deserted. One thing to take in mind however is drivers may feel they can go at faster speeds because the roads are empty. You might have the odd boy racer out there, however I haven’t had too much trouble with drivers like this.
Even with a bright front light descending should be taken with a little more caution than normal. My front light’s range doesn't extend terrifically wide so I have to anticipate/ know the corners I am going around and make sure I do not go too fast or wide around them. You don’t know what could be on the other side.
It is important to look out for potholes when riding in the dark. Ensure that your front light is in the correct position so that you can see the road surface far enough in front of you to make sure you have enough time to avoid any nasty pot-holes or bumps in the road.
Group Night Rides
You may find that in your local area group night rides are organised. Check with your local club- ask around or go onto their website or social media sites to keep updated. These are a great experience to get motivated to get out there even when it’s dark! I’d recommend riding in the day-time with a group first to familiarise yourself with drafting and general group riding etiquette.