7 Vital Safety Tips For Cycling At Night

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Cycling at night can be pretty dangerous, and riding when you don’t feel completely safe can take away from your enjoyment.

However, by taking just a few simple precautions, you can feel significantly safer and enjoy your night rides more!

Night bike rides can be super fun. The roads are generally less busy, everything is really nice and quiet, and you can even use it to enjoy the stars or bask in the moonlight whilst riding your bike.

So, what are some good things to do to ensure that you remain safe on your bike after the sun goes down?

Don’t worry! Here are seven top tips for keeping safe on the roads at night. We’ll be covering:

  • Using Good Quality Lights
  • Wearing Reflective Clothing
  • Keeping A Spare Pair Of Lights In Your Saddle Bag
  • Keeping Your Phone Charged
  • Riding With A Buddy
  • Riding With Extra Caution
  • Being Prepared For Darkness On Longer Rides

Let’s dive in!

7 Safety Tips For Cycling At Night: Title Image

#1. Using Good Quality Lights

This is the first and most important thing you must consider when cycling in the dark.

If you don’t have lights, you shouldn’t be on the road in the dark!

It is the primary way that vehicles and pedestrians alike can even know you’re there, particularly on less-lit roads.

Another thing to consider is that the beam from your front light can even alert cars coming around the corner towards you of your presence.

The beam may illuminate objects and the road ahead of you, and even if a car can’t see you directly, it might be able to deduce your presence.

Generally, riding in cities can be dangerous, even in the daytime, and it’s a good idea to do everything you can to remain as safe as possible.

It’s worth investing in a good set of lights for this very reason. A big, powerful beam is far more likely to be noticed than a small LED. If you’re riding off-road or in complete darkness, then this is also essential to be able to see the path ahead.

If you are riding off-road, then riding without good lights in the dark is a terrible idea. Obstacles in your path will remain unnoticed, and you may end up having an accident. It is paramount that you can see the path ahead so that you can adjust your riding to it.

Look for lights with 1000+ lumens as an absolute minimum.

Generally, it’s a good idea to keep your rear light on flash to save some extra battery. The front light, however, should be left on consistently for safety reasons.

Make sure that your rear light is red and your front light is white or yellow since this is the only way that vehicles can know in which direction you are traveling.

A mountain biker rounds a corner at night with powerful headlights and a helmet torch.

#2. Wearing Reflective clothing

Riding in the dark dressed all in black is a recipe for disaster. Even with a car’s front light illuminating you, you can easily blend in with the surroundings on a less-than-well-lit road.

It’s not uncommon that a rear light can be mistaken for something else or merely not noticed by drivers due to the general positioning of a cyclist at the side of the road.

Wearing reflective clothing means that you will catch any residual light and the car’s beam, meaning that you are a much bigger part of a driver’s field of vision, and they are more likely to be alerted to your presence

Being visible on the road is by far the most important thing to think about when riding in the dark, and you should do everything in your power to increase your visibility.

A good way to be reflective is to wear a reflective jacket, gilet, jersey, backpack, or even shoes, and maybe even put reflectors on your wheels or saddle bag if you plan on riding in the dark often.

There are lots of good places to find such gear, and if you’re shopping online, have a look at Sigma Sports or Wiggle.

A pair of bikes with red rear lights turned on lean against a brick wall.

#3. Keeping a spare pair of lights in your saddle bag

So, you’re out on a ride, and the sun goes down, as you expected, and you go to turn your lights on.

Except, nothing happens!

You forgot to charge up your lights overnight, and now you’re not going to be safe on the road. It’s an incredibly easy mistake to make.

That’s why it’s always a good idea to keep a cheap pair of (battery-powered) backup lights in your saddle bag at all times. Then, if your main lights are out of battery, you can remain safe on the road by using your backups, and you’ll never be caught in trouble.

These don’t have to be expensive lights, just anything that will alert cars to the fact that you’re there.

However, since it’s these might be less bright than your main lights when you need to use them, cycle slower and exercise additional caution.

A mountain biker descends a grassy hill at night.

#4. Keeping your phone charged

We’re all guilty of occasionally not bringing the phone out on a ride, especially when you have a head unit that you use for navigation. But this isn’t a particularly sensible thing to do, particularly when it’s dark.

Firstly, if you get a major mechanical that you can’t fix with your repair kit, then what would you do without a phone?

You need to have a phone with battery, so you can contact a friend, family member, or taxi to come and rescue you from the countryside in the dark.

Secondly, if the worst happens, and you do have an accident, then you need to have a phone to be able to contact medical services or friends or family.

And lastly, if your head unit runs out of charge or you take a tumble and it breaks, you need to have a backup navigation source.

This might not be too much of an issue on routes you do regularly, but if you’re trying out a new route, you could easily get lost.

So basically, just bring your phone! It’s incredibly important that you can contact people if need be or get home without your head unit.

A pair of cyclists ride a mountain bike trail at night.

#5. Riding with a buddy

Riding with a buddy, in almost all scenarios, is a safer way to cycle.

Now, many enjoy cycling for the meditative aspect of being out on the open road with only themselves for company, in which case, you may not be too keen on riding with another person.

However, there are numerous ways in which it can keep you safer.

Riding with another person on the road means you’re simply a bigger object for cars to notice, particularly if you’re both donned in reflective gear with bright lights.

Additionally, if something does happen, then you have someone there to help you fix a mechanical or call medical services or family. You’ll also have an extra repair kit and phone, just in case one of yours runs out of charge.

A cyclist rides a folding bike through a rainy city at night.

#6. Riding with extra caution

Even if you’ve taken all of these tips on board, and you’ve got bright lights, reflective clothing, a spare set of lights, you’re riding with a friend, and your phone is fully charged, riding in the dark is still a little more dangerous than in the daytime.

Cars will find it harder to see you, and you’ll find it harder to see what’s in front of you, and this just increases your probability of getting in an accident or taking a light fall.

In any situation, never ride without a helmet, especially at night.

Additionally, make sure you don’t have earphones in or anything that will obstruct your ability to hear the traffic around you. When your eyesight is somewhat compromised, hearing is your most reliable sense!

Ride with sensible positioning, around 1 m out from the side of the road or from the parked cars, to ensure that any car doors don’t hit you if they are opened suddenly. But make sure you’re not in the middle of the road, as oncoming traffic won’t be expecting it.

A cyclist emerges from the darkness on a racing track at night.

#7. Being prepared for darkness on longer rides

Sometimes, you go out for a ride in daylight with absolutely no intention of riding in the dark, but the time just gets away from you.

Before you know it, you’re dangerously racing the sunset back home, trying to avoid getting caught out without your lights because you were unprepared.

This is unsafe for two reasons.

Firstly, even if you make it home before it’s dark, it’s likely that you’ll be cycling abnormally fast, and you could easily miss an obstacle, a pedestrian, or a car when you’re moving at such speed, putting yourself (and maybe others) in danger.

Secondly, if you lose your race with the sun, you’re out in the dark in day clothing and without lights, and you’re going to be practically invisible on an unlit road. For obvious reasons, this is incredibly dangerous.

So, whether or not you’re planning on riding in the dark, if you’re going on a longer ride, or trying a new route, always bring an item of reflective clothing and some good quality lights (and spares) with you in your saddle bag.

Better safe than sorry!

Especially during winter in the northern hemisphere, the light can fade incredibly quickly. Suddenly, you’re riding in complete darkness, terrified that you’re going to get hit by a car or run into an unseen pothole.

After all, it’s better to have your night gear and not need it than to need it and not have it!

Found this night cycling guide helpful? Find more from the BikeTips experts below!

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Jack is an experienced cycling writer based in San Diego, California. Though he loves group rides on a road bike, his true passion is backcountry bikepacking trips. His greatest adventure so far has been cycling the length of the Carretera Austral in Chilean Patagonia, and the next bucket-list trip is already in the works. Jack has a collection of vintage steel racing bikes that he rides and painstakingly restores. The jewel in the crown is his Colnago Master X-Light.

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