It’s always tempting to strap up and hit the pedals at any hour. And if you commute on your bike, you’ll know all about riding home to and from work in the dark. In fact, nighttime rides can be a different experience altogether – quieter and more introspective than cycling during the day. You just have to be more careful, calm and considered. If you’re not, cycling in the dark can lead to injury.
Let’s discuss why cycling at night is something to look forward to, before tackling some essential know-how and common questions about staying safe on two wheels after the sun goes down.
Why is cycling at night worth a try?
Do you often ride in a busy area? Somewhere typically noisy, crowded or heavy with traffic? If so, nocturnal cycling could be a brilliant switch-up. Instead of jostling with cars and other road users, you’ll have much more room to cycle for longer periods at your own pace. There’s a special quality to taking in the night air on your own, tuning into subtler sounds of the city or countryside.
Road riding in the dark is also much cooler in the UK. If you’re fed up with clammy, difficult routes in the day, trying those same routes at night might be easier. You’ll feel fresher and perhaps more relaxed. Overheating is a real risk on a bike in the warmer months, especially when you’re still getting used to a routine. Cycling at night in spring and summer can make you less tired, sweaty and dehydrated.
Now that we’ve covered the pleasure of nighttime rides, we’ll focus on seven key tips for remaining confident and protected. Remember, visibility goes both ways – you must be able to see what’s ahead of and around you, as well as be discernible to drivers or anyone else.
7 suggestions for nocturnal safety
Cycle with friends or in a group
There’s safety in numbers. Not only will riding with other people bring out the best in your competitive streak, but it’ll also provide more eyes and ears for dangers and incidents on the road.
Use the right cycling lights
While some kind of illumination is essential, you might not be aware of what separates best-in-class cycling lights from the rest. For instance, you’ll want an accessory with anti-glare optic design for more precise reflection and refraction. Equally, shop for a low trajectory beam that won’t blind traffic. We have plenty of quality cycling lights if you want to compare front and rear models.
Wear reflective clothing and accessories
Specialist jackets, gloves, trousers and backpacks reflect headlights at night. Whether you’re somewhere congested or relatively isolated, reflective clothing is really important for riding in the dark. Our innovative products use cutting-edge technology to deliver the very best in performance, functionality and visibility.
Ride with caution and expect wet/slippery patches
This is more relevant to cycling in winter, but also counts for nights generally, which tend to be wetter and change how you approach the bike. Deep, unexpected puddles are a hazard, so take care when descending a steep hill in case there’s any water at the bottom. For ice, avoid steering or braking as hard as you usually do. A softer, more sensitive ride will keep you in good shape.
Take a spare set of lights
We’re fond of cycling lights that recharge. However, there’s no harm bringing another set with you on longer rides – no purchase is totally guaranteed to last as long as it’s meant to.
Stay warm with extra layers
Many good cycling jackets have fleece linings, keeping you cosy and insulated in the dark. Breathable, waterproof designs work with your body instead of being a burden while you’re out. Or instead, you might prefer a gilet over a cycling jersey. Layering is a smart habit to get into.
Tell someone where you’re going
This is great advice for any trip. While cycling in the dark spontaneously can be exciting, it’s still handy to give someone a heads up about where you’re going and how long you might be. If you live alone, mention it to a friend or relative, so they’re at least aware of what you’re doing.
Cycling at night FAQs
Get up to speed – whatever that speed may be – with even more information about riding safely in the shadows.
Is cycling at night more dangerous?
Although there’s a lack of recent stats about nighttime biking fatalities in the UK, incidents may be increasing as more people travel by bike. Bloomberg reported that crashes after 6pm involving cyclists in the U.S. rose by 9.2% between 2017 and 2018: the largest percentage share. In the years since, these figures may have got worse and reflect a trend in this country as well.
So yes, there’s more risk to avoid in the dark. You might be cycling slower, but you’re much harder to see without appropriate gear and lights, while hazards are also tougher for you to see and swerve.
Is cycling at night good for your health?
We all know that cycling is fantastic for cardio and endurance training. However, did you know that a late-night ride can help you sleep better too? A review of 23 sleep studies found that medium intensity exercise an hour or more before bed encourages quicker, deeper rest. Just make sure you don’t try interval training at night – it might have the opposite effect.
Can you cycle without lights at night?
Technically, it’s illegal. The Highway Code stipulates that “at night your cycle must have white front and red rear lights lit”. These can be flashing or steady lights, but riding without either leaves you open to a penalty if you’re caught. This also applies to a red front reflector. Rear and wheel reflectors aren’t mandatory, yet they’re always useful for being seen.
What are the legal requirements for cycling at night?
Aside from illumination on the road, most other suggestions are only that – suggestions. For example, you’re not legally bound to wear a helmet. It’s a sensible precaution when road riding at any time though, not just in the dark. Likewise, you don’t have to leave your lights on when stationary, but it can be a smart idea.
Is it safe to cycle at night when commuting?
Commuting in the dark can be a little more dangerous than when it’s light. This is why it’s important to wear reflective gear when cycling at night. Our Nightrider collection was designed with commuting in mind, and includes jackets, waterproof trousers, backpacks and lighting accessories. With highly visible colours and reflective detailing for extra visibility under streetlights and headlights, you’ll stay warm, dry and comfortable to and from work – as well as seen.
With the correct clothing and equipment, you can look forward to savouring the nighttime rides to come. Whether you’re riding for fun or commuting, they have a particular magic that could lift your cycling to the next level. Don’t miss our reflective cycling clothing to stay safe while you’re out in the dark though.