With summer in full swing, you may suddenly find that it’s a little too hot to enjoy your usual afternoon ride.
If that’s the case, there’s a good chance you’re waiting until the sun sets to head out for your favorite route. After all, there’s nothing quite like a long ride on a balmy August evening -- especially when the traffic dies down and the stars come out.
If you’ve decided that night riding is for you, here are a few simple steps you can take to enjoy it safely all-year round:
1. Pick the right light.
Whether you're riding at night, in the early morning, or in foggy weather, a headlight, tail light, and integrated brake light are must-haves. Not only do they light up your path, but this combo also makes your presence known to cars.
When it comes to selecting your headlight, you're probably thinking that brighter means better, but it's not as simple as that.
There are some lights on the market that provide well over a thousand lumens (the standard measurement for brightness), but are probably not practical for your style of rides. For instance, some mountain bike headlights provide about 4200 lumens, which is 6x as many lumens as a car headlight. This is awesome for romping around the woods at night, but it just doesn't make sense for street riding.
If you end up going too bright, you run the risk of blinding oncoming traffic, which can put you in a bad situation. Too many lumens also makes it harder to see the brake lights and turn signals on the cars around you.
Our electric bikes come with a 200-lumen headlight, which meets industry standards and is designed to give you plenty of visibility. If you're looking for a little extra confidence, we also offer a 500-lumen premium LED Halo headlight as a stand-alone accessory or as a featured accompaniment to the RadRunner Plus electric utility bike.
2. Dress yourself (and your bike!) for success.
During the day, you're used to people noticing your bike. In our experience, they're probably also stopping you to ask a whole bunch of questions. But when you're riding at night, you can't rely on your bike being noticed based on its radness alone. You have to go out of your way to be seen.
For starters, this means going with reflective clothing to catch drivers' eyes. This can be a fluorescent jacket or a bright helmet, but a recent study from the University of Clemson shows that if you're really hoping to be seen, you should go with reflective pants or leggings as well.
That's because drivers are hardwired to notice motion on the road and when you're pedaling, your legs are moving. With that in mind, if your lower body is covered in reflective material, you have a significantly better chance of standing out.
Make sure your bike is also prepared for maximum visibility. Keep your headlight on, go with a taillight, and consider wrapping the frame and fenders with a few reflective safety stickers.
3. Ride defensively.
No matter how big and mean your lights are, or how shiny your cool new all-reflective jacket is, you still need to ride like other road users don't see you. (Actually, that's true during the day, too!)
This boils down to using common sense. Take more time at intersections to stop and look both ways. If you're on a narrow street and notice a light behind you, consider pulling over and letting that car pass. And if you usually listen to music, try leaving the Bluetooth speaker at home so you can pay full attention to the road.
Planning the right route is also a great defensive measure. Go where cars are expecting you: bike lanes, bike paths, and other frequently cycled areas. The last thing you want is for a car to whip around the corner and be surprised that you're there.
Just remember that you don't see as well at night either, so slow down, watch for potholes, and keep your guard up.
And make sure to stick with your comfort zone, especially when you're first starting out. Being cautious doesn't mean you're afraid of the dark.