Last year, I rode a lot in the dark. This year, it hasn’t happened yet. I hope I’ll find time.
I think that riding in the dark has a special charm, especially cruising along the river bank by the light of the full moon, with a few wispy clouds scudding past, the distant lowing of the cattle, the ploughman homeward plodding his weary way, the geese flying low, the bats flitting at the edge of vision, and the lonely howling of the timber wolf…
Well, perhaps not the timber wolf.
I think you need three things:
A light to be seen with, if you ride on any public road or path. UK law is that a cycle must have lights attached to it. OK, UK law says cycles shouldn’t be ridden on pavements either, but a nod in the direction of compliance can’t hurt. I have a cheap (6 quid) LED attached to the front of my 28’s frame, as low as possible, just above the forks, and a cheap red LED at the back, below the seat.
A light to see with - ideally a head torch. 30 - 40 quid will buy something reasonable. Mine has 3 super bright LEDs and is good enough for a variety of circumstances, but not for real head banging hard riding.
A directional light to break up the shadows, and read the road ahead. I carry a Mini Maglite ™ for this purpose. I only use it now and again, but I’m always glad it’s there.
Head torches, being close to your line of vision, can throw artificially elongated shadows, which can either ‘smooth out’ the ground ahead, or conceal dark obstacles like pot holes or puddles. A second light, hand held (Mini Maglite ™) can give a different angle, and deal with these problems.
Why go for fantastically bright and expensive lights? If you’re not racing, enjoy the night time riding experience. Your eyes will adjust; you will feel the feedback of the uni as you hit different surfaces; you will experience nature in all its dark majesty.
Very bright lights can ‘wash out’ the imminent microtopography . (That means make it harder to spot the bumps.)
Also, head torches attract flying insects…