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Old 08-02-09, 09:07 PM   #1
ricardo_NY1
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Touring & Riding At Night On Roads

I'd love to hear your feedback on the following: Cars and traffic to me are a no issue. I've worked as a bike messenger in Manhattan and have ridden plenty on public roads.......and I am comfortable riding at night. I use a rear Planet Bike light, I have a one LED "Beamer" as a dedicated strobe and two hard points to attach my two main lights. But a serious fear of mine is riding at night on the right shoulder of road that is curving to the right. I can envision getting clipped and see it as the most susceptable place to be on the road at night (Even in the day actually).

What do you guys recommend? The only solution that I can think would help lessen the possiblity of this is having a dedicated light that is facing left towards the road and shining a beam onto the right lane that would be seen before you are. I'm planning a shorter distance tour and would definately like to put miles in during the night.
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Old 08-02-09, 09:21 PM   #2
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In addition to the lights, don't forget reflective gear. I wear a reflective vest and ankle bands when I ride at night. I also have reflectors on my bicycle.

The thing is ... drivers can see your lights (I use at least two rear lights) from some distance off, but when they get closer to you, their headlights drown out your lights and you disappear. But if you're wearing reflective gear that will all light up as you get closer. I've ridden with people and observed this situation, and I've been a driver and observed it as well.

This was taken with a flash (by Rowan on the Last Chance in 2005), which gives the impression of headlights close at hand. My two taillights are on, but you can hardly tell. However all my reflective gear is lit up nicely.




Oh, and whatever you do, don't shine a white light backward, in the position of a taillight. That just confuses drivers. In some cases it is illegal to have red lights on the front of your "vehicle" and white lights on the back of your "vehicle". My lamp with my Schmidt Dynohub has a fairly wide spread of light out front that spills into the lane, so you might try something like that.

Last edited by Machka; 08-02-09 at 09:26 PM.
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Old 08-02-09, 09:22 PM   #3
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Adding a mirror will provide some early warning of approaching vehicles that may be cutting the corner into your space on the edge of the road.
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Old 08-02-09, 09:52 PM   #4
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I can't imagine why a bicycle tourist would choose to ride at night, unless it's an emergency. Everyone has their own style of touring, though.

You'll probably get better help from the kind folks over in the Long Distance Cycling group. They're the ones who ride brevets and audax events, which commonly include nighttime riding.
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Old 08-02-09, 10:53 PM   #5
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I've seen high powered Red LEDs pointed out, back and down to the riders left so as to illuminate a section of the road.. might give you a little close in cushion, but

machka's got the right outfit for night riding.

lotsa flecco, some good blinkies, a rear view mirror, and ride!

I strongly recommend sporting the slow moving vehicle triangle on the left back pannier on tour, day or night.

on a lightly travelled road you will often hear a motorist a long ways back.

I've ridden at night on tour, at night generally in the countryside is very nice and quiet. combine a lots of stars on a moonless night with the aurora borealis dancing overhead, or a full moon so bright its reflecting moonbeams off the pavement, night riding on tour can be quite pleasant. just avoid the time around when the local bars close.
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Old 08-03-09, 12:14 AM   #6
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Originally Posted by ricardo_NY1 View Post

What do you guys recommend? The only solution that I can think would help lessen the possiblity of this is having a dedicated light that is facing left towards the road and shining a beam onto the right lane that would be seen before you are. I'm planning a shorter distance tour and would definately like to put miles in during the night.
reflective gear that lights up your outline will do more to bring notice to your presence than 1watt of light competing with the cars 70watts. I could see having a 100-200lumen helmet lamp that you turn on for those specific circumstances to signal your position as it will shine into the road way with your head but it's your space you don't want struck, so define it, not the road next to you.
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Old 08-03-09, 04:14 AM   #7
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In addition to what's been said about the reflectors, I find it handy to have more than one tail light, just in case one DOES run out of batteries. Headlights (which don't seem to have been discussed in this thread) are also important if you want to avoid pot holes in the road, or if you want to be seen by crossing traffic at intersections. I currently run an E6 headlight powered by a Schmidt hub dymano as a primary headlight, with a 5-LED battery powered back up mounted on my handlebars. The LED light also doubles as a camp flash light.

Once you have the right lighting equipment, you may come to the realisation that riding at night is actually SAFER than riding during daylight. I know I feel that way.
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Old 08-03-09, 04:35 AM   #8
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Headlights (which don't seem to have been discussed in this thread) are also important if you want to avoid pot holes in the road, or if you want to be seen by crossing traffic at intersections. I currently run an E6 headlight powered by a Schmidt hub dymano as a primary headlight, with a 5-LED battery powered back up mounted on my handlebars. The LED light also doubles as a camp flash light.

Once you have the right lighting equipment, you may come to the realisation that riding at night is actually SAFER than riding during daylight. I know I feel that way.
I mentioned my Schmidt hub dynamo. And I do run an LED backup just in case ... actually I find the LED useful on hills. I go so slowly up the hills that my Schmidt hub doesn't have enough energy to power the lights, so I switch on my backup light for those situations. The LED backup is also handy in rainy conditions on black roads at night ... for some reason the lamp I've got is almost useless in those situations. I had an E6, but it broke during a flight (my stupid mistake for not removing it and packing it properly), now I've got a Lumotek.

And yes, there have been many instances where I've felt safer at night ... there's so much less traffic, you can see traffic coming for miles away, and if I'm lit up properly with a good combination of lights and reflectors, cars tend to slow down and pull way over onto the other side of the road to go around me.
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Old 08-03-09, 04:48 AM   #9
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It can be a great way to beat the heat and I especially like to ride an hour or so in the dark before sunrise. I am usually on very empty rural roads when I do this and use a rear blinkie and a headlamp, although sometimes I don't bother with the headlamp depending on road conditions. I do typically also have on some reflectorized clothing and believe that I am more visible than in daylight on dark rural roads. At that hour it is so quiet that I can usually hear any approaching traffic a mile off.

In a busy town with lots of traffic and confusing lights I am more cautious, but I really think that on dark rural roads riding in the dark is safer than riding in daylight.
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Old 08-03-09, 06:38 AM   #10
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I would caution against it. Too many drunks.
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Old 08-03-09, 06:51 AM   #11
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I would caution against it. Too many drunks.
Depends where you are .... out in the middle of rural Manitoba you might not encounter any vehicles at all for many hours because everyone is asleep.
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Old 08-03-09, 07:06 AM   #12
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I would caution against it. Too many drunks.
I'll take the 0.08BAC drunks and the cruiser/stoners at night over the hellbent/suv/soccer moms/cellphone yaking/hate my job and this crap commute rush hour sociopaths anytime.

Riding at night, depending on time, is peaceful. Cooler, lower winds, can hear lone motorist approaching before you see them. It's counter-intuitive, but you can actually make yourself more visible at night with multiple flashing lights in the darkness, than in full sunlight with a high viz fluorescent shirt. The darkness is your visibility advantage - it allows you to increase your contrast against the background.

It's impossible to get the same contrast in the daytime - you can't carry that many batteries and lights!

People staring straight at you in the daylight just won't see you. But you can "assault" their night vision with 2-3 PBSFs or equivalent, nevermind the flashing P7s.

Heavy nightime traffic is the exception, very hard to standout in these circumstances. I avoid nightime traffic (daytime traffic too for that matter).

Machka makes a key point - people on the couch / in bed can't hit you with their motor vehicle.
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Old 08-03-09, 07:17 AM   #13
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I'll take the 0.08BAC drunks and the cruiser/stoners at night over the hellbent/suv/soccer moms/cellphone yaking/hate my job and this crap commute rush hour sociopaths anytime.
Yeah, but don't most of us tour where there aren't too many of either group on the road at night?

I know that most of the touring at night was on pretty much empty roads. On the TA we only rode at night if we got caught out because we wanted to get more miles in than the daylight allowed. On other rides (solo ones) I like to get up early, ride in the dark a while, and watch the sun come up. It is the best part of the riding day to me.
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Old 08-03-09, 09:51 AM   #14
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I've only ridden at night once on a tour. I hadn't planned well, finished a book around dinnertime, and had nothing to read that night - unthinkable! I rode a couple of miles to a shopping center and bought something at a supermarket.

I had brought a bike headlight. I thought I'd need it. It was very inconvenient for reading. I had to set it on my chest or shoulder. It constantly slipped off.

Now I carry a head light (a light that fits on my head) for reading - not a bike headlight. If I ever find myself needing to ride somewhere after dark I'll use that. I'll figure out some way. But riding after dark is not part of my normal touring procedure. I'm usually in my sleeping bag by then.
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Old 08-03-09, 09:53 AM   #15
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As a commuter, my morning ride is in the dark for about ten months of the year, and my evening commute for four or five. I really like the morning ride; there's little traffic, so everything is quiet, and as it gets light around me I tend to see stuff I don't see at other times of the day (mainly animals).

Part of that equation, however, is that I do this commute every day, and know the route well. Touring would be different. Still, in the right conditions, I imagine it would be lovely to ride for an hour or two before dawn.

This weekend I did a three day marathon ride or tour, depending on your definitions (280 miles, staying with warmshowers hosts rather than camping). On my last day, yesterday, I got up at 5:00 AM and hit the road at 5:40, well before dawn. It was nice. In fact, it was the only dry part of the day; the rain started soon after sunrise and followed me all day.
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Old 08-03-09, 10:34 AM   #16
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Since I get to commute in the dark like Rhm a good chunk of the year.... The last thing I want to do is tour in the dark. I'm an early riser though and love getting going before the sun comes up. Riding into a sunrise is one of my favorite times of the day.

I do ride with reflective clothing and also a blinky rear light and I have a touring flag on my touring/commuter bike. I would say that the flag is as visible if not more so than just about anything and it's $10 and never needs batteries. Best $10 safety item I have ever owned.

When commuting I have a big bright light/motion headlight mounted to the bars. When touring I use my headlamp for those times I get caught out. I make sure not to ride faster than my headlight......
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Old 08-03-09, 11:25 AM   #17
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I like riding on full moons.

Bright lights by oncoming motorists and every car at night is a possible bailout are my concerns for night time. Use a mirror check out your visibility as cars pass you. I also use this to measure my bailout time I can ride ghost rider style.

Last edited by wheel; 08-03-09 at 11:30 AM.
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Old 08-03-09, 11:41 AM   #18
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I like night riding in the city, but I quickly lost interest on tour. Three reasons:

- 16 hours of riding during the day is enough

- finding places to camp is not something I want to do during the night, I just can't see the terrain. Sliding into a place I have already scoped out or certain kinds of places like beaches is fine, but other types of camping I prefer to see in the day, meet people, etc...

- Also, touring I am normally in the countryside. The light is way less, and with standard bike lights I just can't see the road well enough. Maybe this would be a point in favour of some kind of GPS system, but for dead reconing, and looking around method of finding one's way, it is too easy to get lost.
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Old 08-04-09, 02:48 AM   #19
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A few things
  • I enjoy a sleep in
  • The worst visibility is riding west just before sundown.
    This might be a good time to get off the bike and have dinner etc, then ride a few more hours after sundown.
  • A good red blinky is very hard to miss.
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