Riding in the dark

Hi all,
I am thinking that, due to various life circumstances (ie going to Uni miles & miles away), if I want to ride regularly & not just at weekends over the winter (which I do), I am going to have to ride in the dark.
I would like to hear people’s thoughts/experience of riding in the dark.
Thanks in advance.

First, it’s jolly good fun!:smiley:

That said, it takes some nerve, and some careful choice of route.

As you will see from the photos I’ve recently posted, my road uni has front and rear lights. These are there to be seen, and do not in any way whatsoever help me to see. They are standard cheap LED lights from a cycle store.

Hard riders use really powerful head torches, brighter than a thousand suns, that melt the tarmac and shrivel the leaves from the trees. These are very expensive indeed.

I use a high-powered LED head torch with 3 LEDs, which is enough to light up a short section of road ahead of me.

I also carry an emergency back up hand torch.

The problem with a head torch is it is shining from the sameangle as you are looking from, and it tends to “wash out” minor humps and bumps in the road ahead. A hand torch can be held at a variety of angles to throw shadows so that you can read the road.

(The ideal would be a milkmaid’s yoke with a bank of spotlights, but it would be uncomfortable, and would affect steering.)

There are 3 approaches to riding in the dark

  1. Ride in well lit areas.
  2. Use overkill heavyweight high powered illumination.
  3. Use a sensible minimum of illumination, and enjoy the experience of riding in as near to total darkness as you can manage.

It’s a while since I’ve ridden in the dark, but i enjoyed option 3 very much.

Remember, for safety, be visible, as well as being able to see where you’re going.

Re: Riding in the dark

Mikefule wrote:
> The problem with a head torch is it is shining from the sameangle as you
> are looking from, and it tends to “wash out” minor humps and bumps in
> the road ahead. A hand torch can be held at a variety of angles to
> throw shadows so that you can read the road.

Personally I use Lumicycles (for me, the only reason for wearing a
helmet on a unicycle). But reading the above, it occurs to me that the
Cateye EL-400 could make an excellent unicycle light. It should be easy
to mount to a unicycle or a helmet, or it can be comfortably held in
your hand:

I should stress that I haven’t actually used one. I played with one in
my LBS last autumn and I’ve been looking for an excuse to buy one ever
since. I found that excuse a couple of weeks ago, when I discovered
that the kids’ trailer could do with a new front light. Must get around
to buying one.

(Blimey, 4 posts in one day. I can’t remember the last time I did that
in rsu).

Danny Colyer (the UK company has been laughed out of my reply address)
“He who dares not offend cannot be honest.” - Thomas Paine

I don’t like riding in the dark. I’ve gone on several trials rides with bike trials friends at night and I really struggle. I seem to rely a lot on my vision for maintaining balance. I’m also not very good at balancing on one leg with my eyes closed.


night riding

Trust me if you really wanna rip use to lights from different angles such as on mounted on your unicycle and one on your head.

bad typing skills aside, my message is two eliminate the shadows for better depth perception.

Not joking: practise riding with your eyes closed. First find a big empty area of smooth tarmac/concrete. Count pedal strokes and aim for 5, then 10, then 15 as you build your confidence up.

Then find an area of mown grass and do the same.

Hold the handle or the front of the seat very lightly, and let your fingers tell you what’s happening.

You should be able to develop the skill of riding by feel, rather than vision.

it’s great fun, and Mike’s option 3 is probably the best.
Last year I had some similar thoughts and got some good answers with this thread . I’d add for the first ride or 2, stick to familiar routes.

If you’ve headlighting only, then you will have zero depth perception. if it’s frame mounted you may get irritating knee shadows. experiment for what’s best & go for the most expensive lights you can: the brighter the better (although 10 Watts could be adequate)

it’s good fun without lights too, on a slightly uneven surface. your abilities quickly improve!

I ride with lumicycles, I mostly ride with just a 12W spot, mounted on my helmet, sometimes using a more powerful 20w mid beam light for really technical offroad riding or fast offroad cokering. They are very expensive, but great. I love the fact they’ve got a really bright rear light that runs off the same (rechargeable) battery, so I don’t get the thing where your rear light slowly gets dimmer and you don’t notice for a couple of weeks. I justified lumicycles by riding to work every day, which saved me a couple of quid each day which I set aside for toys.

There are loads cheaper 12w head torches, which are okay for riding muni. Alternatively, if you’re practical, you can bodge one together for not all that much money using plumbing parts and cheap batteries from maplin.

However, if you don’t do scary muni with them, or want to ride super-fast, then a head mounted LED torch, or a headmounted halogen torch does an alright job, you can get these from Maplin pretty cheap, or from camping shops.

If you’re just riding on the street or in areas with lighting, you can get by fine with just front and back LEDs, mounted on the seatpost. I’d also recommend some red and white reflective tape on your frame (get it from halfords in the car trim section), partly because seatpost mounted LEDs aren’t very visible from the side, and partly because it’s more visible to cars from a distance than LEDs. If you’re not on the road at all and it’s lit, you probably don’t even need the lights.

Whatever happens, it’ll be a bit different to start with, but riding at night is super cool, especially if you’re somewhere really remote, nothing beats being on top of a great big hill in the middle of the night.


I posted a thread a while ago that was very similar. Going into the Southern Hemisphere winter, I was going out at dusk and then having trouble getting home without walking.

I resurrected my old but very good bike lights after a few suggestions and find them fantastic. I have a light on a helmet and the light sticks (batteries) in a camel back plus flashing tail lights. Wired up, I can go for long road and muni rides in total darkness. I really recommend it as it is great fun and gives you a sense of Independence

I originally designed this for mountain biking. If I get the hang of this uni thing then I’ll use it for that as well. The gel cell in my directions can be sub’ed with a Nicke Meta Hydride setup nowadays. Figured I’d share it over here. I need to finish the site update.

On the page that says “Feb '05 update - Site update in progess… check here for previews…” you can jump into SOME of the updated site, but the full project is followed using the links at the bottom of this particular page.

Have fun! The Maglite Project