Tip #3: Constant Vigilance
If you thought playing in traffic in broad daylight was scary, night riding is a whole new ballgame. If you ride a high end road or mountain bike, the mechanic at the shop you bought it from no doubt removed all of the reflectors long before you bought it. If your bike is a frame-up build, it’s probably never been within 2 feet of reflectors unless you parked it next to someone’s single-speed Walmart special at the bar one night.
If you’re used to riding around in cruise mode during the day, switch to everything-is-trying-to-kill-me mode when you ride after sunset. If this is your first night cycling rodeo, go slow and keep your eyes open for unexpected obstacles, bumps in the road, potholes, and other obstructions.
Alter your body position to take the weight off of your seat and put it squarely on the pedals. Use your legs as suspension to soak up anything you might not see with your eyes first. Well trained legs “see” things long before your eyes do and may save you from things your eyes miss at night.
Tip #4: Add Reflective Tape to You, Your Gear, Your Bike
The idea is to make yourself as visible as possible. Buy reflective duct tape from the hardware store and add strips to your bag. Add strips to your frame. Add strips to your shorts or pants and the shirt you plan to ride in. The same store you bought your clear safety glasses from earlier probably stocks rolls of reflective tape, too.
Tip #5: Plan Ahead
Remember “failing to plan is planning to fail” from middle school? Well it’s back with a vengeance now that you’re all grown up and have taken to riding your bicycle to work.
So far these tips focus on what to do if you find yourself staring down an unplanned riding-at-night situation. A stop at a nearby hardware store on your lunch break will get you kitted out with the basics, stuff that will help you survive your unplanned night ride. Use Google to find a bike path, hopefully lighted, and make sure you’re covered in reflective tape, wearing the right glasses, and prepared for the unexpected while you ride.
To become a night riding connoisseur, like the folks at NiteRide.org, you’re going to have to do better than a one-off trip to the hardware store. A lot better. If you find your bicycle commute often strays into the midnight hours, the right bike and a killer lighting setup ensures you go farther and faster, all while doing it as safely as possible.