I just returned from my first "official" night ride - one started after darkness with the express purpose of riding at night. I have been commuting home as darkness falls lately, but this was a whole different experience.
A summary of my night riding setup:
* DiNotte 200L on my handlebars
* Fenix L2D on my helmet
* 2 PB SuperFlashes at the top of my seat stays - one on blink, the other on steady
* Red rear reflector on the seatpost
* Wheel reflectors
* Reflective material already on my shoes and hi-viz jacket
* Xinglet reflective harness/vest thing
* Reflective bracelets added to my ankles and wrists
* Riding glasses with clear lenses and my Take A Look mirror
* Cell phone, Road ID, and the typical stuff to fix a flat.
As you can tell, I'm pretty serious about taking responsibility for my safety and visibility.
The first thing I discovered are that the back roads in my area are totally unlit. This is probably best for my visibility and lighting effectiveness anyway. I left around 7:30 and went out for a little over an hour. Traffic wasn't as dead as I had hoped, but was certainly lighter than the evening rush hour.
There were definitely a few cases where cars did not know what to make of me. One car headed in the opposite direction nearly came to a stop in the middle of the road as I rode by, and another just sat at a Stop sign for ages as I approached, probably wondering what the hell I was. I found this a little bit disconcerting, but it certainly reinforced how visible I was making myself.
The light combo I have is pretty good but it's clear that here is no way I can ride much faster than 15 MPH safely. So the rule of night riding is to take it easy.
It was a bit awkward having the helmet light, sometimes having to tilt my head in odd ways to see further down the road or to look down at my water bottle cage to make sure I don't miss it when I take a drink. I'm guessing it's a general rule to turn off the helmet light when coming up to major intersections, or I'd end up potentially blinding drivers.
I did see and hear some critters on the sides of the road and found the darkness behind me to be slightly spooky. And I doubt fixing a flat would be much fun.
My plan is now to ride into work late (in the light) and come home late (in the darkness), and get more comfortable with it.
It's a unique experience. I'd feel very safe doing it regularly if I wasn't doing it solo.