There's always something of a buzz about riding out at night when it's dark, some of your most familiar routes become something totally new and once the rush hour traffic has subsided a sort of calmness descends.
If you are serious about getting some road miles in over the winter and with less than eight hours of daylight per day in December and January, you are going to have to embrace the dark.
If like me you can't last on a turbo trainer for more than five minutes then cycling at night is a necessity.
One of the best ways to enjoy getting out on the bike at night is to join a group of like minded cyclists, especially if night riding is new to you.
Let there be light!
Obviously if you are riding at night then you will need to look at investing in some decent lights. I am a big believer in the more lights the better and you don't have to spend the earth with some great bargains to be had out there.
On the front you will need at least one light capable of lighting up the road ahead of you with a battery life that is going to last. I have personally found the cheap 'Cree Lights' from China to be a good buy and for the price its worth getting two or three. I also like to have a flashing LED light which is there more to ensure that oncoming car drivers or the car pulling out of the petrol station see you ! When I go mountain biking at night I also like to have one on the helmet which can also light up the direction in which you are looking.
The rear lights are all about making you visible to traffic approaching from behind and I personally tend to prefer the approach of looking like a UFO, enough flashing lights to make the approaching driver think he is entering a scene from ET! Again you dont have to spend the earth, my LED rear lights cost £1.85 each and they have been great and can be found easily on eBay.
The right clothes!
As well as cycle lights to make you visible, think about the clothes you wear. Are they visible? If a car is approaching you from the side, the front and back lights are not going to do you much good. So the more reflective gear the better. It's also wise to leave the shades at home and use some clear lenses.
Know Your Route!
In the dark, even the most familiar places can look totally different and throw your sense of direction completely so it is important that you know your route well if you are on your own, or try to join a group that know where they are going.
Try to look ahead so you can see obstacles, pot holes and other road users, don't get into the habit of just looking at the small patch of illumination provided by your bike light immediately in front of you. The same goes if you are following someone, look ahead and past them and not at their flashing LED light which slowly puts you in a self-hypnotised trance that you then simply ride straight into their back wheel!
If you are going out on your own then at least let someone know where your heading and what time you expect to be back just in case.
If your bike is going to fail then nine times out of ten it will do it down the darkest, dirtiest lane of your ride and where the phone signal is normally pants. Ensure you have the right tools you need to fix a puncture, sort a snapped chain or simply tighten a loose allen bolt.
Hope that helps and if you haven't tried cycling at night then give it a go!
We (BDCC) meet on a Tuesday and Thursday evening at 6:30pm and you are welcome to join us, and you won't get left behind.