Night muni: A dummies' guide?

Given the onset of winter and the clocks changing it would appear to be dark early enough to put paid to my occasional brief muni on my way back from work. The last week or so it’s been getting a bit too dark by the time I’ve finished; now I’d be setting off in the dark… :frowning:

So I’m pondering about night muni-ing, but I am very much a n00bie in this regard!

My main stalling point is lights; how much would be a good amount to pay for basic illumination? Lots of the links I’ve seen in previous threads lead to manufacturers of hideously expensive lights at several hundred pounds, which I’d rather not splash out for. Are there any “starter kits” or whatnot out there?

Secondly, what kind of trail do people find works best in the dark? I’m guessing my normal daylight haunts of really technical tracks are out…

Ta muchly,


You can make your own for a lot less money. I don’t know how to do it, but a lot of the bike magazines have ‘How to’s’ on make your own lights. All I know about them is they’re a lot cheaper and just as effective (maybe not quite, but almost…and they won’t be as durable unless you make it really well). If you can’t find on the net how to make your own light for night riding get back to me and I’ll take a photo of the instructions in a MTB magazine I have lying around somewhere.

Technical riding is by no means out…it’ll just be a lot harder. :slight_smile: I’ve only ever ridden at night on a uni in the 24hr race I went to but I have quite a bit on my bike.

Good luck,

i think technical trails would be close to impossible at night.

I’ve not tried uniing at night yet, but this afternoon I spent too long reading r.s.u. and forgot how early it gets dark, but I still wanted to get out and try taking my two-wheeler down a pretty steep, technical trail that I found recently, until I get around to aquiring a working uni. It was getting a bit rosey-hued when I set out, but was fully sunset when I got to the trail bit 20 mins later, so I ended up going down it in nearly darkness. Not sure if it would be easier or harder with a uni, but it was all I could do to keep to a controllable speed with my b*ike’s brakes, compounded with the eye’s much reduced focussing abilities in low light, made it a fairly hair-raising ride. So I’d recommend to keeping to minimal steep hills/loose rocks/deep leaf drifts when in the dark! But then again, you’ve got to try this stuff for yourself, so I may as well just say ‘have fun’ :slight_smile:

  • Sam

The other year I found myself up the Malvern Hills with a bike as the sun set. The route down, on the side away from the sun that had gone anyway, wasn’t all that fun… in the dark I took a wrong turning, so I was following a very steep, windy and narrow route I didn’t know, in the dark, with crap brakes. That was hairy!


uni-light in three easy steps:
1-find flashlight.
2-get duct-tape
(here’s the tricky part)
3-dust-tape flashlight to uni

~you’re welcome

Re: Night muni: A dummies’ guide?

Aren’t you employed now? Take advantage of that new found influx of cash and buy some toys. :slight_smile:

Lumicycle is a UK company that makes good lights. It’s probably cheaper for you to get something by Lumicycle than the US made lights like NiteRider.

Pay attention to the charger. Get a setup with a smart charger that knows how to turn off when the batteries are charged. The charger needs to monitor the “delta V” (yes, smart chargers do calculus which is why they are smart). Dumb chargers rely on a timer circuit and will eventually overcharge your battery and ruin the battery. Batteries are expensive so don’t fry them. Smart chargers are very much worth the extra money. And not all smart chargers are created equal. Some claim to be smart but are not as smart as they should be.

You can’t just use a regular flashlight and expect to be able to see well enough to ride a unicycle well. You also need a rechargeable battery or you’ll end up spending all your beer money on replacement batteries.

For a cheapish easy to attach light I’ve found headlamps with elasticated band are good.

By positioning the lamp on your frame with 50% of the band on either side, the looped ends can be wrapped and then secured around the lamp.

Being elasticated makes it good on impacts, plus it’s easy to remove/replace.

Probably nowhere near bright enough for off roading on anything but easy trails, but good for roads.

Remember to definitly wear eye protection at night.

Re: Re: Night muni: A dummies’ guide?

That’s half the problem, I have been already, never mind lights too… :roll_eyes:

There seems to be a very large gap between fairly posh headlights at about £50-60 and Lumicycle et al. head mounted lights at £170 odd. I’ve never tried night riding before, so £170 is a lot of money for something I’ve never seen or used.

I’ve wondered whether it’s possible to attach these £50-60 lights to a helmet somehow… but then if it’s not bright enough or doesn’t fit very well it’s an even more expensive experiment… :confused:

However, it is now dark by the time I leave work, so it may only be a matter of time. Which is a dangerous thing; the next thought is “if I’m going to get them sooner or later it may as well be sooner rather than later” and the next thing you know the delivery man is knocking on the door…


I’m not a roads person, really… the biggest wheel I have is a 24", and I’d much rather be riding peacefully at my own pace than having to make sure I don’t get swatted by a bus; I’ve had enough of that on two wheeled cycling contraptions…


What about this?

If you can ride with a buddy or buddies, then can you mount a headlight on the back of each MUni and point it downward? So that the rider in back would benefit from the loss of shadows because the beams would cross in front of the behind rider.

It still screws the front rider, but would it benefit the rear rider(s)?

Ride before work at 6:00 AM in the sunlight.

Dave Lowell (uni57)

In general look for a 10 - 20 watt flood (not spot) light with a good attachment to the helmet.

Carry a mini-maglight or LED torch as backup!

Leo White

I’d suggest going for a ride with a petzl or a maglite or whatever torch you’ve got already first. Then once you’ve realized that night riding on proper technical terrain is the best thing in the world you’ll be suckered into buying some expensive lights.

You can get cheaper lumicycles by only getting one lamp unit and not getting the head kit. You can still use them on a helmet with the zip-tie connectors. The helmet kit is very nice but not essential.

Don’t skimp on the charger or batteries though, you really want a decent smart charger like the lumicycle one and nimh batteries or else you end up having to think about when you’re charging things.

If you’re feeling diy, you can get a cheaper light by

a) get a lumicycle charger - this seems to be the best charger it’s easy to get. £40
b) get a lumicycle compatible battery from £45 and a connector from maplin (£5) and solder them together being careful to get the polarity right for the lumicycle charger.

then either

c) get a lumicycle lamp unit with bulb £30,

c) make up a lamp unit using the lots of links on the web to DIY bike lights. Hopefully less than £30.

If you happen to be up london any point, you’re welcome to come on a ride with my lumicycles, I’ve got two batteries so I can split the set between two riders.


Re: Night muni: A dummies’ guide?

You can ride anything you can ride in the light. Sometimes a bit more because you can’t see what you’re riding off. You get used to feeling the terrain with your legs as well as what you can see.

There’s no reason to limit yourself to easy stuff.


Phil et al,

Below are some homebrew light ingredients available in the UK
from CPC (prices + VAT I think):

Leo White

BT0228266 charger
1+ 5+ £10.12 £9.34

A universal desktop Ni-Cad/Ni-MH battery charger/discharger with selectable output voltage and charge current. The charger is able to detect voltage change and will automatically switch from fast charge to trickle charge when the battery has been fully recharged. The charger is reverse polarity protected…

Selectable output voltage (2.8V to 14.0V) for 2-10 battery cells Selectable charge current 500mA/1000mA Detects transient voltage change Discharge function Reverse polarity, short circuit and overload protection Supplied with Tamiya plug and crocodile clip connectors, and detachable jack plug

The only disadvantage is that it won’t charge 11 cells (lumicycle batteries)

(BUT you can run lumicycle cells at 12 v (10 cells instead of 13.2V)

Batteries …

7/5AF 1.2 3700 66x17.2mm
18650 1.2 4100 64x18mm
18650 1.2 4500 64x18mm

1+ £4.14 10+ £3.79

7/5 AF Ni-MH Battery + Tags
1+ £3.87 10+ £3.54 1

BT0064366<<Embedded OLE Object>>
1+ £3.87 10+ £3.54 1

12 volt bulbs

1+ £3.06 10+ £2.71 1

1+ £3.06 10+ £2.71 1

35mm bulbs fit inside copper plumbing stuff (35mm jointing piece)

I have difficulty getting up at 6:30am for work anyway; getting up even earlier would finish me off! :slight_smile:

I’ll have a ponder about semi-DIY helmet lights; they seem a much more acceptable burden on the wallet than a set of Lumicycles in one go.

The urge is growing, however; I was cycling to a cash machine tonight so I can afford lunch tomorrow and took a detour through a semi-offroad patch, holding my bike light in one hand. It wasn’t anywhere near bright enough, it was difficult to remember to keep pointing the light to the front even when manically arm waving, but the increased impression of speed was fun and having only a split second to notice bumps on the ground was rather exciting.


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…

My advice: Go for as bright a light as you can. I thought when I bought a Nightlightning with a 20W IRC lamp that I would be satisfied. It’s OK for general riding, but when racing or if it starts getting foggy and you’re tired you will find it very difficult if you can’t see every bump coming at you. I would say get a 35W lamp if you can. 10W lets you know what trees you’re riding into, 20W gives you some idea of what rocks you’re riding into, 35W gives you enough trail definition to go fast.

Listen to Ken’s advice, get more Watts

Why? Is this a joke? I wear eye protection (in the form of safety goggles) while using power tools to prevent foreign objects from entering my eyes. I also wear eye protection (in the form of sunglasses) when I am riding at the Skifields to prevent from going snowblind from the glare. The only hazard I can think of at night would be flying insects heading towards your headlamp accidentally colliding with your eyes. Has that happened to you Dave? It has happened to me a few times but it doesn’t bother me much, and I wouldn’t bother wearing eye protection to prevent it.

I have a Petzl with three LEDs. I would not call them super bright after seeing a real light in action. Like you say, the LEDs are good enough for some situations, such as easy tracks, and ones you are familiar with. You might find yourself falling off more than during the day, but it’s fun and has a different feel to it than day time. During the NZUni weekend me and Tony went on a night ride up Mt Kau Kau (more of a hill than a mountain). Tony’s headlamp was so bright, it drowned out my feeble Petzl light. It was like Tony had captured the sun and strapped a slice of it to his head. I think an LED headlight is OK for letting you know if you are still on the track. For serious night riding, and being able to actually see all obstacles, a more expensive, heavier light seems far more ideal (now that I’ve seen the light). Now I just need to find employment so I can start saving for a Coker, and the most expensive headlight and battery pack I can find.