As the days get shorter in much of the top side of the globe, even committed commuters have questions to consider. How comfortable am I riding in traffic in darkness? Do I have the right gear for wet days? Am I ready for cold and wet riding?
Taking your bike out on a clear, moonlit night can be exhilarating, and definitely a more inspiring way of staying healthy than parking yourself on a trainer all winter, but it still helps to be prepared, so here are our top safety tips for people considering a night bike commute.
1- Pimp your ride
Now is the time to check your reflectors, lights and fenders. You may also want to invest in a set of rugged 28-32 tires. Look for “all season” models that offer robust puncture protection from the built up dirty winter street debris. (ex. Continental Grand Prix 4-season and Gatorskin models). If you thought changing out that flat last summer was the worst, doing it at night by streetlamp light in the pouring rain is probably not for you. Which reminds us to remind you to check your spare and patch kit (with quick fill co2 cartridges or classic mountable bike pump right?).
In addition to the regular cleaning and frame-checking, a seasonal shift is a great way to remind yourself to take your bike in for a thorough check-up. Keep in mind that bikes ridden in tough conditions need require more maintenance and care than fair-weather rides. Many commuters keep an additional, less expensive bike for bad weather commuting exclusively.
2- It's ok to slow down. No, really
It seems like a given that you might want to go slower when you can't see as far ahead of you as usual or the road is more slippery and leaf-covered than usual, but an important thing for speedsters to keep in mind.
3- Get to know your route (all over again)
The route or routes your favor by day might not be the best for night. Be on the lookout for illuminated bike paths which you may not have noticed during your daytime commute. Test out multiple routes before you commit to a night route and look out for potential hazzards, like driveways and corners which become harder to gauge in darkness. It's good to know your route by heart by the time you have to do in bad weather - and in a hurry.
4- Light up the night
In the age of lightweight, super bright lights, there is no excuse for not being able to see what's ahead of you - far ahead of you. Once the potholes start springing up on the road, you'll be glad for any additional feet of reaction time you can get. Of course, rear lights also help drivers see you as they approach from behind you. Look for lights that are USB chargeable so you can keep them juiced up whether you are at work or at home. For an extra bump in visibility, try using a pair of rear lights with different blink patterns - it can really catch the attention of drivers.
5- Eyes on the road and sidewalk
While most bike collisions also involve a motor vehicle, remember to be extra vigilant and look out for pedestrians. Like you, pedestrians are also looking out for cars and may not be looking out for you when crossing the street, etc. Unlike you, pedestrians generally do not come with headlights or reflectors, and a collision with a pedestrian - or the sudden movement to avoid one - can still lead to serious injuries for you both.
6- Gearing up
Recent studies have shown that a disproportionately high number of bike-motor vehicle accidents occur near dusk and dawn. We also know that fluoroscent colors used in traditional high-visibility clothing are brightest-looking under UV/sunlight, which is why reflective accents are necessary to make them visible at night. While traditional high visibility clothing has passionate fans (and in many areas, legal mandates), high viz detractors include people who aren't convinced of its effectiveness and people who just don't want to wear traffic cone colors.
We at SUGOi truly believe that the right gear can keep you riding - in safety - in any conditions. With that in mind, we took to the challenge of developing reflective gear that provides excellent visibility without looking like traditional high viz. So we developed Zap fabric, the next step in the evolution of safety gear. Our Zap fabric is woven with micro lenses that are designed to maximize reflectivity under artificial light. Pieces like the Zap Bike Jacket and Run Jacket provide incredible, full garment illumination.
7- Accessories make the outfit
Now that you've got your body covered, add a few more pieces to complete your reflectivity from head to toe. This creates the “silhouette effect” for drivers, allowing them to truly recognize you as a human figure. If you are in a wet climate, a pair of waterproof bike gloves make an excellent investment. Our Zap 2.0 helmet cover provides extra reflectivity where you need the most protection and keeps the rain off your head, while booties and shoe covers become extra eye-catching when your pedaling puts them in motion.
Shop the entire Zap Collection on our web store today and stay safe this winter.