Posted in Cycle
A bike light attached to handlebars

Why should I try night riding?

Night riding is so much more than just riding your bike at night. Not only will it enable you to keep riding in the evenings when the daylight is depleted, but it can also add a whole new dimension to the trails and routes that you would normally ride... that twisty singletrack will become a series of heart pumping blind bends, that little drop will become an adrenaline filled dark bomb hole and that climb won't seem as bad as you can't see the top when you're at the bottom!

There's no denying it, night riding is becoming HUGE and it is well worth trying; far better than getting on the turbo or going down to the gym. You can get out and enjoy the ride when everyone else is stuck indoors in front of the TV on a dark night.

What lights do I need?

Having a good light is essential for night riding, we have a dedicated Lights Buying Guide to explain what your money can buy you in terms of power and battery life. For serious night riding you need to be looking at the performance bracket of lights (£100+), this will ensure you have enough power, beam spread and battery life to deal with the demands of unlit trails and roads.

When considering the level of power that you want, it is worth considering firstly the kind of rider that you are and secondly the kind of riding you will be doing:

  • The Rapid Descender: If you are a rider that likes to take it steady on the hills, but fly down the descents, then you will want to look for a high powered light with a long beam, so that you can illuminate the route safely even when you are descending at speed; you can then toggle back on output to conserve battery life on the next climb.
  • The Endurance Rider: If you are the kind of rider that tends to keep going like a Duracell battery but you never get too extreme on the downhills, then you will need a light with a long battery power and a medium powered beam.
  • The Cautious Newcomer: If you are new to night riding and unsure of what power level you need, it is often worth getting the higher powered of the two units that you are considering. Night riding can be a bit daunting if the trails aren't lit well enough, and you should consider that as your confidence builds you may become more of a "Rapid Descender"!

It is worth mentioning that you tend to adjust to the level of lighting that you are using. Therefore budget needn't be a barrier; just because you can't stretch to the 2000 lumen unit price tag, you can be just as fast and enjoy night riding just as much with a medium powered light.

Image of a night time cycling event

Lights Comparison Tool

To compare our top selling lights, it is well worth checking out our Lights Comparison Tool, where we have taken some of our best lights and tested the beams down the same stretch of road. That way you can really see what light will offer you the output and beam spread you prefer.

Two images of different bicycle lights shining down a country road

Use our Lights Comparison Tool

What should I take?

Night riding is no different from riding during the day in terms of the risk of getting a mechanical problem or in terms of the energy that it takes; therefore you should take all the same food, drink and tools/spares that you would normally take on a ride. For the mountain bikers, have a look at our Mtb Essentials Guide, and for the road cyclists our Road Sportive Checklist if you are unsure what should be in your pockets, rucksack or saddlebag.

In addition to the above, it is also worth taking a few extras with you when you go night riding:

  • Backup Light: A backup light is a must; this can be a low powered lights from the £20-£100 bracket in our Lights Buying Guide but it will be powerful enough to get you home (albeit slowly) if your primary light fails or gets damaged.
  • Rear Light: It is very important to BE SEEN as well as SEE your way. Make sure you take a good back light with you; when you are trundling along the road drivers will be grateful if you are well lit from behind.
  • Extra Layers: It is worth remembering that it cools down very quickly at night; wrap up warm and pack some extra layers in your jersey pockets or rucksack, to ensure that you remain comfortable throughout the ride.
  • Hot Drinks: If you've got room in your pack, take a thermal mug with some hot drink or soup. Then when you stop on top of that hill to look at the view and the stars you can warm yourself up from inside and get your energy back for the next adrenaline filled downhill.

Images of a thermal mug, a backup and a rear light, and a sportful underlayer

Top night riding tips

Here are a few tips that will help you get the most of your night riding...

  • Toggle back on the power on your light when you are climbing; you don't need to see so far ahead, so save the battery life and you can keep riding for longer!
  • Protect from punctures: whether this be self healing tubes, Kevlar reinforced tyres, or running a tubeless set-up. Getting a puncture at night when it is cold and dark is likely to dampen your spirits.
  • Ride with a friend. Taking a riding buddy with you when you go night riding is highly recommended, both from a safety and enjoyment perspective.
  • Just do it! The prospect of riding in the dark can be daunting, the best thing is to just get out there and give it a go. You'll soon find yourself immersed in a world of excitement, experiencing your local trails and roads like you never have before!

Cyclist Augustus Farmer in action