Between the heavy afternoon rainstorms and the shortening days, it's even more important to make sure you're riding safe. When darkness comes into play there are two things to keep in mind… how well can you see the path ahead of you and how well can others see you?
According to the Pedestrian and Bicyclist Information Center, nearly 30% of all bike fatalities occur between the hours of 4:00 pm and 7:59 pm. and other studies suggest that the highest rates of serious collisions/crashes happen between 6:00 pm and midnight. A number of factors come into play between those hours, but visibility is a big one.
Seeing where you're going:
This seems pretty obvious, you need to see where you're going,… right? Make sure you have a proper, bright, and easy to use headlight. We recommend something at least 500 lumens (the brighter the better) with a sturdy mount to keep it securely in place. Rechargables are great, many of today's models charge via USB, although some still use regular batteries (keep an extra set handy).
Where to mount your headlight: Handlebars or Helmet?
Depending on how and where you'll be riding, you may want to have both. Keep in mind that your handlebars only point the direction that you're actually going, if you need to turn, but can't see something obstructing your path until it's too late, you could find yourself wrong-side-up. Mounting your headlight to your helmet means that your light is always pointed where you're looking and will help you avoid trouble along the way. If you mount on both, you're doubly covered.
Always cary a back-up
Isn't it always the case that when the power goes out and you reach for a flashlight, your batteries are blinking out on you or are completely dead? The same goes for headlights. It seems nearly all summer long we just don't need them, and so the batteries die out, the charge seeps away… and you have no lights. Make sure your gear is in good working order before you hit the road and always keep a back-up handy. You never know when something may set you behind schedule (flat tire, getting lost along the way, etc.) leaving you on the road or trails longer than you anticipated. If you get caught without a headlight, you may wind up white-kuckling it (or walking) all the way home.
Making yourself visible to others:
Again, this is a no-brainer… if you're riding on the roads or paths after dusk, it can be difficult for cars, hikers, walkers and other bikers to see you if you're not properly prepared. A good headlight helps everyone, but you're going to also want to add some tail lights to your set up.
Tail lights can attach securely to your seat stem, clip onto your jersey, or strap snug around your waist. Setting the light to flash can help draw extra attention to you, especially on the road.
Your PM Kit
Everyone likes to look good on their bikes, we get it, and black/gray/navy… all nice colors. But at night, you're nearly invisible if that's what you're wearing. Add some bright colors to your wardrobe and seek out items with reflective accents. If you don't want to go bright or white with your kit, consider bringing along some reflective bands to slip onto your ankles/around your waist for when you're unexpectedly caught out after dark.
Staying in Contact
These days, nearly everyone has a cell phone and lots of us are tracking our rides regularly. Several apps and computers offer a live-tracking option so select friends and contacts can be aware of your location. Not a bad idea if you frequently ride solo. But in lieu of this, make sure someone knows where you’ll be riding and about how long you plan to be biking.