Sometimes it's simply not possible to avoid cycling in the dark.
It doesn't have to be a scary affair, you just need to be aware of the differences and what to look out for while cycling at night so you can be suitably prepared.
We all lead busy lives, many of us work late and with daylight hours limited - so it's inevitable that we will only be able to commute or train in the hours of darkness.
Follow our advice for cycling in the dark and you never know, you could end up becoming addicted and actually find it fun! I know we do here at VeloVixen, hence why we're partners of the popular Women V Cancer Ride the Night, the UK's exclusive women-only charity night cycle ride.
1. Light up, light up
Perhaps the most obvious bit of advice is to ensure you have working lights while cycling at night. After all it is dark and no matter how bright your clothes are, they don't emit light.
It is actually illegal to cycle on public roads after dark without lights, so it's best to keep on the right side of the law and keep yourself safe!
At bare minimum you need to have one white light up front and one red light behind, but obviously the more the merrier.
If possible, go one further and have a light to be seen plus a brighter one to see with at the front, and one static and one flashing on the back.
Always make it a priority to ensure that your bike lights are charged, have been wiped clean and are in working order. The worst thing you can do is outride your lights' power and end up with a dying ember trying to light the way home.
2. Be safe, be seen
Don't get too hung up on specific colours for your clothing, at night time the key is reflectivity and where that reflectivity is positioned.
Dipped vehicle headlight beams legally struggle to light up anything much higher than your waist, so wearing reflective material below that point is most effective.
Clothes such as the new Reflect360 jacket from ProViz are perfect because they reach below the waist, there's reflective side coverage to help motorists see you as you cycle past junctions and your arms are also reflective so will be highlighted as you indicate to turn.
Other reflective items that will help include ankle bands, wrist bands, overshoes with reflective detailing and tape for your bike too.
3. Be prepared
Channel your inner Girl Guide and make sure you're prepared for every eventuality. Unless you're planning to cycle through the heart of a city, shops and other amenities are usually closed, so if you're out training you're going to need to make sure you've packed appropriately to get you through the ride.
Your favourite corner shop may not be open after 7pm so make sure you have enough bars, gels, bananas or what ever it is you prefer to keep your legs ticking over.
Same goes for the contents of your saddlebag. If you suffer a puncture and you've not got adequate provisions you could be in for a long, cold wait or walk home. Remember there's no sun to keep you warm at night...
4. Learn to mend a puncture
And while we're on the topic of punctures...
Punctures are a pain at the best of times, but in the middle of a dark dismal ride they can be utterly soul destroying. We recommend giving it a bash in the comfort of your own home, with a brew and a helpful YouTube video playing in the background.
Once you've got the knack, you're good to go. Yes, it still may take some time, but being prepared for the most common bicycle malfunction will keep you riding and get you home safely instead of stranded in the dark.
5. Safety in numbers
Whether male or female, it's often safer to cycle with someone. It's always better to have an extra set of eyes and ears to spot pesky potholes and other potential hazards that are often that bit more difficult to spot in the dark.
6. Change up your route
With many of us using phone apps and computers that track our routes it's very easy to become a potential target for bike thieves and unfortunately potential attackers.
If possible, avoid setting off from the same location - or instead of starting your tracking device when you set off, do it round the corner instead. Think about riding different routes at different times - even the slightest diversions can confuse potential troublemakers who think they know your usual night time ride.
7. Protect your eyes
No, not from the sun, but from the dirt and debris that can be thrown up from the tarmac as you pedal through the night.
Clear or yellow tinted lenses work best.
8. Layer up
It may have been a really warm day, but as the sun falls in the sky, so too does the temperature. Make sure you're prepared with extra layers to keep you toasty as it will only get colder.
Same goes for waterproofs. Even when the rain clears, there won't be any heat from the sun to help dry you off, so it's best to not get wet in the first place.
If all else fails, here's Liz - who not only founded VeloVixen but planned the route for last year's Ride the Night - giving you some gems of knowledge about night riding...
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