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  1. #1
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    Tips for Night Riding

    Rando n00b here, I only have a few 200k's and one 300k under my belt, which gives me a grand total of about 4 night-time riding hours.

    I am prepping my bike and mental strategy for the upcoming NJ Rando Shore by Night 200k. With a start of 10pm and a sunrise of 5:45am, I'll be looking at almost 8 hours of riding in darkness. I haven't done a 400k but I assume that this would be the most similar, considering for 27 hours you will probably ride a significant night portion no matter how you cut it.

    I was trying to find a thread on night time riding specifically, but can't really find much. It seems like a big obstacle to tackle for the longer events, and it is somewhat intimidating. Yes, I suppose I could glean some of the tips in the 400-600+ km threads, but the advice in there is peppered with other suggestions on how to deal with sleep deprivation, fatigue, etc., which is a bit beyond the scope of what I am trying to figure out. This ride will be short and sweet, and hopefully a crash-course (without the crashing) in night time riding.

    I feel fairly prepared in terms of lighting/reflectivity, what to bring, and finishing the course in good time, but I guess I am asking for other tips on situations that might be harder to foresee or prepare for. I've already read that riding with others at night is safer and good for morale. I am also planning on using bags with many pockets vs. one big container so it's easier to locate items I will need during the ride. All of the controles are going to be 24hr convenience stores it looks like, so I shouldn't have to worry *too* much about food/drink supplies. It seems that going slower in the night is par for the course, but how much more time would I be expecting to finish a similar course if I were to do it during the day?

    Sorry if I didn't really have clear questions, but looking for as much advice as I can get to make this ride as successful as possible.

  2. #2
    Randomhead
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    I can be very slow, so I've ridden quite a bit at night. For me, it's a non-event. I try not to waste daylight, but other than that I'm not sure what tips to give. I do like to find someone to ride with at night, but I'm also very comfortable riding by myself. It's definitely nice to have help with navigation. There are stretches of road that I prefer to ride with people on even in daylight

    night riding is slower, but I'm really not sure how much slower. I'm thinking not much depending on the road conditions and your state of rest. I think it's pretty much the same as riding during the day. There are generally fewer people out at night

  3. #3
    Senior Member Cyril's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by unterhausen View Post
    I can be very slow, so I've ridden quite a bit at night. For me, it's a non-event. I try not to waste daylight, but other than that I'm not sure what tips to give. I do like to find someone to ride with at night, but I'm also very comfortable riding by myself. It's definitely nice to have help with navigation. There are stretches of road that I prefer to ride with people on even in daylight

    night riding is slower, but I'm really not sure how much slower. I'm thinking not much depending on the road conditions and your state of rest. I think it's pretty much the same as riding during the day. There are generally fewer people out at night
    +1
    There's also less wind

  4. #4
    Galveston County Texas 10 Wheels's Avatar
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    I did some night century's last year.

    Don't out ride your lights.

    [SIZE=1][B]What I like about Texas[/B]
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PGukLuXzH1E

    Set F1re To The Ra1n ( NY Night Rain Ride)
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W7jfcWEkSrI

  5. #5
    Long Distance Cyclist Machka's Avatar
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    A suggestion ... tonight, kit up with your reflective gear, check your lights to ensure they are working ... and go for a short ride after dark. Just an hour or so.

    It would give you a chance to ease into it ... and most importantly to check your lighting to ensure you've got it adjusted right. Bring a cue sheet and see how easy or difficult it is to read. Look at road signs ... see how easy or difficult they are to see. Stop and try to find something out of your bag.

    You may also be able to answer your own question about how much slower you are in the dark.

    Go out a few more times after dark, cycling in different places, just for an hour or so and make adjustments as necessary.

  6. #6
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    One of the most important things about lighting is to have redundancy. That is, to have back-up lights front and rear, and also to have spare batteries (unless you are using a dynohub). If using batteries, make absolutely sure that they are new when you start, and have a look at them, and especially the rear one, whenever you stop... I find it remarkable the number of commuter cyclists in my city that have totally ineffective rear lights because their batteries are almost defunct.

    Apart from that, look around you, rather than get into the tunnel stare that is quite possible when riding to a narrow light beam. I'd also suggest that if you don't wear spectacles normally, to have a pair of clear glasses to wear at night. The insects are out and about big time in the evening, and the last thing you want is for a bug to take out one of your eyes when making a fast descent (or any other time, for that matter).

    Practise getting your water bottle into and out of its cage without looking down. You have to do stuff by feel on the bike, and this is one of the major ones.And you need to pay even more attention to your drinking and eating routines while on the bike.

    Also, if you run a phone or some other device for distance, be aware that the glare from it can lessen your ability to see properly ahead of you. That's why cockpits for cars and planes have subdued lighting, even around instruments.

    And finally to route instructions. If you haven't put them on your device, you will need a way to illuminate them while riding... a torch attached somehow to your helmet.

    In my experience, you do need to select one that has a more subdued light than you think -- it's not a light for riding by. If it is too intense, it will reflect off the paper notes (or if you have them in a plastic sleeve, off the plastic). I used Energiser ones. But equally important in my estimation, is being able to turn it one and off conveniently.

    The Energiser ones I have do this by a slide switch, rather than a press-button one; the former I find much easier to manipulate when the torch is on my helmet. The three AAA batteries are also self contained within the light itself.

    I think most lights come these days with a single band, and I have usually modified my at the buckle to enable me to thread the band through the vents in my helmet, so it is permanently attached and very unlikely to fall off.

    And if you are confident enough, a radio or music player may come in handy to while away the hours if you are riding by yourself. Keep the sound low rather than blasting your ears.

    A rear vision mirror attached to your bars also will enable you to see headlights behind you long before you have see or hear the vehicle, but you should be able to hear what is going on, radio/music player or not, so you can judge the behaviour of the driver well before it passes. Squealing tyres and hard revving engine might suggest stopping and moving well off the side of the road until it passes.

    As 10Wheels says, don't outrun your lights -- wildlife has a habit of standing on the side or in the middle of roads and it can cause quite a bit of damage if you happen to hit it!

    That's all I can think of at the moment. Go practise some night riding. Some, including me, think it's a great time to ride a bike, and especially after midnight. Some of my most outstanding memories are from night riding.
    Dream. Dare. Do.

  7. #7
    Randomhead
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    Rowan makes some very good points.
    Randonneuring -- it's touring for people that aren't smart enough to stop for the night.
    It's a wonderful sport when you can make up for a lack of ability with a lack of sleep

  8. #8
    Senior Member antimonysarah's Avatar
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    I did this ride last year as my first night brevet -- it's flat, it's fast, it's fun. Most of it is suburban enough that there's a fair bit of ambient light, too. You'll probably learn that some piece or other of your gear isn't perfect, but that's the point of the learning experience, and it is unlikely to be ride-stopping. You won't be a huge amount slower -- whether you get a headwind or a tailwind along the coast will be more important to your time. It's still my fastest 200k because of the terrain, and it generally is actually 200k rather than 130+ miles.

    A lot of people will want to form packs -- if you want to join one, you might slow down a bit, or you might gain some speed -- it depends on your speed and who's there. I deliberately didn't for most of the time because I wanted to practice navigating solo in the dark, but there were a lot of groups intentionally staying together.

    The only piece of advice I will stress is to be careful with the drive back -- the sleepies can kick in then very easily. (I had to stop and get a hotel room and sleep for three hours on the way home -- it was so hot the next day I couldn't just pull off and nap in my car.)

  9. #9
    Dog is my co-pilot 2manybikes's Avatar
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    If you have any kind of breakdown a helmet light can be wonderful, it will aim at what you're working on. There are small aaa and aa battery lights that will do the job. I hold mine on my helmet using a big O ring looped over each end of the light and under a small "bridge" Between two large vents in the helmet. This will be easy to remove the light from the helmet, if you need it for something else. Bring extra o rings or elastics for when you drop one in the dark.

    This is two things, a light for riding and also one for working on something in the dark, or just around the camp. Anything that can fulfill two jobs or more helps cut down on your load.

    Newly made LED lights are now much brighter than they were. A single AA light from Fenix or Nightcore will be bright enough, but you might like the extra run time of a 2AA light.
    [SIGPIC][/SIGPIC]

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by Rowan View Post
    Also, if you run a phone or some other device for distance, be aware that the glare from it can lessen your ability to see properly ahead of you. That's why cockpits for cars and planes have subdued lighting, even around instruments.

    And finally to route instructions. If you haven't put them on your device, you will need a way to illuminate them while riding... a torch attached somehow to your helmet.

    In my experience, you do need to select one that has a more subdued light than you think -- it's not a light for riding by. If it is too intense, it will reflect off the paper notes (or if you have them in a plastic sleeve, off the plastic). I used Energiser ones. But equally important in my estimation, is being able to turn it one and off conveniently.
    Good advice. I use a GPS and turn the backlight down. The lower it is the less glare and the longer the batteries will last. If you do this test it ahead of time to see how long the batteries last with the backlight on at the level you will use. I carry enough rechargeable batteries for the ride. I can stop at a store and buy disposable batteries if for any reason I run low however if it's a ride where I don't know I can find a store I will carry 1 set more then I need. I carry a light for my helmet in case the GPS fails and also for repairs, flats etc..

    Also Machka's advice to go for short rides is good. This gives you a chance to try different ideas and see what works best for you.

  11. #11
    Uber Goober StephenH's Avatar
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    it's difficult for me to read a cue sheet by helmet light while riding in a straight line in the dark. So if I'm actually navigating by cue sheet, that pretty much involves a full stop at every corner. On courses I know, or if I'm riding with other people that know it, not an issue.

    Staying awake can be a challenge. You think "I'll just sleep the afternoon prior to the ride and no problem!" then you lay down to sleep and you're wide awake.

    It's cooler at night, but humidity can go up, so you can wind up sweating just as much as you would out in the day.
    "be careful this rando stuff is addictive and dan's the 'pusher'."

  12. #12
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    It can get surprisingly cool at night, even in the middle of summer. I've found that having an extra layer of clothes, or even a lightweight jacket, can make a really big difference in comfort.

  13. #13
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    thank you for the advice everyone! i will have a dynamo hub powering a supernova front + rear light, 2 USB front lights as backup/for descents (are there even any on this course??), battery rear tail light as backup, front headlamp attached to the helmet for cuesheet/garmin. i might put the backlight on my garmin at the lowest setting i can get away with, will have a gomadic charger if it drains it too much (but i should be fine). think i have my packing list pretty good to go in terms of clothing, tools, and spares. i do want to make sure to know the approximate run-times of the USB lights because i won't really be able to charge them (one i might be able to charge with the gomadic, but don't want to bank on it).

    will be going on a shakedown ride later tonight with a friend who i might be riding with, we'll see how it goes. he's more of a novice than i am, and i haven't ridden with him before, so hoping he can keep my pace.

    the ride is on saturday night, so i am thinking about staying up all friday night into saturday morning, and then sleeping saturday morning to afternoon. post-ride i'll have to drive to philly, which hopefully won't be too bad. maybe even try another shakedown ride in the wee hours of saturday AM just to tire myself out further?

  14. #14
    Uber Goober StephenH's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ccblunt View Post
    It can get surprisingly cool at night, even in the middle of summer. I've found that having an extra layer of clothes, or even a lightweight jacket, can make a really big difference in comfort.
    This is the difference between riding in Texas or riding in Michigan!
    "be careful this rando stuff is addictive and dan's the 'pusher'."

  15. #15
    Galveston County Texas 10 Wheels's Avatar
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    Added a Light bar to my new to me trike. Three forward and three tail lights.



    [SIZE=1][B]What I like about Texas[/B]
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PGukLuXzH1E

    Set F1re To The Ra1n ( NY Night Rain Ride)
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W7jfcWEkSrI

  16. #16
    The Left Coast, USA FrenchFit's Avatar
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    Lots of good advice here. I'll add: I always pack a pair of clear lens goggles/sunglasses. I've ridden through bug infected areas late night, it is real problem if one of those little buggers gets in your eye, even a glancing blow can send you to the ophthalmologist. You can pick up a cheap pair on eBay.

  17. #17
    Randomhead
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    Quote Originally Posted by seajaye View Post
    t
    the ride is on saturday night, so i am thinking about staying up all friday night into saturday morning, and then sleeping saturday morning to afternoon. post-ride i'll have to drive to philly, which hopefully won't be too bad. maybe even try another shakedown ride in the wee hours of saturday AM just to tire myself out further?
    don't tire yourself out. You aren't going to readjust your sleep cycle in a couple of days, so don't try. The difference between being well rested and being tired is huge. I have trouble getting to the long rides in Eastern PA in a well rested state, and sometimes it can get a little tough in the middle of the night. In contrast, when my fleche team starts at my house, 24 hours of being awake is never a problem. You only need 90 minutes of sleep to be almost perfectly rested, I've proven this to myself many times.

    The temperature issue is something to consider. I like having a rain jacket in the summer anyway, thunderstorms can be really cold. That is nice if it gets chilly, which it has been known to do down by the shore.
    Randonneuring -- it's touring for people that aren't smart enough to stop for the night.
    It's a wonderful sport when you can make up for a lack of ability with a lack of sleep

  18. #18
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    just got home from a 2 hr shakedown ride with my buddy who will be joining me.

    i've realized:
    -shooting the breeze is an easy way to while away the time
    -the 60-70 temp range at night is really tricky. i started in shorts and a wool jersey, fingerless gloves. stopped to put on long-finger gloves, which was really nice. arms and core got a bit cold so i stopped again to put on a wind vest and wool armwarmers = big mistake. i was overheating less than 5 minutes later. i wish i had something lighter just to cover the arms, a full wind jacket that i can scrunch up the sleeves miiight do the trick but i'm afraid of my core overheating...
    -i am REALLY afraid of riding solo in the dark. my buddy's wife called him a bunch trying to get him to come home sooner, so we parted ways with maybe 20-30 minutes of a 2 hr ride left. i had all 3 of my lights on, i turned on music on my phone even before he turned off (so that i would have zero time of silence), and i kept looking over my shoulder for hybrids driving behind me without their lights on.

    so, layers, aaaand settling into a rhythm with others...
    924856_301353383379136_384830737_n.jpg

  19. #19
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    Quote Originally Posted by seajaye View Post
    arms and core got a bit cold so i stopped again to put on a wind vest and wool armwarmers = big mistake. i was overheating less than 5 minutes later.
    Unless I'm really hot or cold I'll only add or remove one thing at a time. It's easy to go too far a small change can make a big difference. I would have put on the armwarmers and then ride long enough for my temp to stabilize and then add the vest if needed.

  20. #20
    Long Distance Cyclist Machka's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by seajaye View Post
    -i am REALLY afraid of riding solo in the dark. my buddy's wife called him a bunch trying to get him to come home sooner, so we parted ways with maybe 20-30 minutes of a 2 hr ride left. i had all 3 of my lights on, i turned on music on my phone even before he turned off (so that i would have zero time of silence), and i kept looking over my shoulder for hybrids driving behind me without their lights on.
    Personally, when I ride at night, and especially when I ride solo, I prefer to turn the music off. I want to be surrounded in silence. That way, if there is an approaching car or bear or something, I can hear it.

    And a mirror can help, to watch for cars coming up behind.

    But this is one of the reasons why I suggested going out for short night rides. Go again ... go several more times. Experiment with the clothing, with the lights, with whatever needs adjusting.

  21. #21
    Randomhead
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    I'm sorry to hear you don't like riding in the dark. I have to say it's the best riding for me, particularly if the roads have no traffic as is often the case. The cars that are out that late don't have any trouble seeing you, so it probably is safer than daytime riding in that regard

  22. #22
    just another gosling Carbonfiberboy's Avatar
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    A suggestion on temperature compensation: I've been riding with sun sleeves this year. I find I just leave them on. If it's warm and I'm sweating, they allow me to stay cool. If it's cool and I stop sweating, they allow me to stay warm.

  23. #23
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    I guess I can't really do much to "get over" being scared of the dark. I wish I had a somewhat louder music system...last night I simply turned some music on through my phone, but the volume was greatly diminished when in a handlebar bag. I am not really worried about hearing/seeing animals or cars...I tend to look around a lot to make sure I don't get "tunnel vision" and start spacing out.

    Sun sleeves do sound like a much better option than wool armwarmers. I always underestimate how hot they can get. Just something to keep them from the cool air, without blocking wind and without generating additional heat...

  24. #24
    Long Distance Cyclist Machka's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by seajaye View Post
    I guess I can't really do much to "get over" being scared of the dark. I wish I had a somewhat louder music system...last night I simply turned some music on through my phone, but the volume was greatly diminished when in a handlebar bag. I am not really worried about hearing/seeing animals or cars...I tend to look around a lot to make sure I don't get "tunnel vision" and start spacing out.
    You can take steps to adjust to riding in the dark ... keep going out there. And turn the music off. It is important to be able to hear the noises around you.


    A question ... do you go for walks in the evening, in the dark?

  25. #25
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