Night Time Group Riding

Spring beckons but the grass isn’t yet ris and we’re still wondering where the birdies is, so we have a while to go before we can get rid of lights on evening rides.  Better late than never, here are a few pointers for night time group riding.

A key thing to be aware of is that group riding at night has different needs from riding on your own, so what works for you when pootling about after dark probably won’t be what’s needed for a group ride.  When you ride in a group you have to consider the needs and safety of the whole group, not just yourself.  With that in mind…

Lights: 

You should have a minimum of two front and two rear lights (better still 3/4/5…there’s no such thing as too many).  Why two?  At some point, on one of your many rides, one of your lights will exit stage left – the battery will unexpectedly die; you will hit a pot hole and smash it to bits; the light will fail for any one of a thousand reasons etc.  If you only have one light you now have no lights.  If you want to take that risk on your own that’s fine; in a group, no.

There’s no excuse for this – if you only have one light, go and buy another.

How bright: 

Rear lights don’t need to light up the moon.  If they are too bright they will blind the rider behind.    In a group, if your lights have a low-power mode, use it; otherwise angle them down so as not to blind.

Front lights do have to light up the moon.  You will be traveling at pace on dark roads so you need to be able to clearly see what’s ahead, and with enough time to react to danger.  When you are at the front you are the eyes of the group.  Commuter lights, even decent ones, are unlikely to be up to the job – as an example rule of thumb: if it’s by Cateye or Knog or attaches via a silicon strap or you got it at Aldi, it probably won’t be bright enough.  Expect to spend a few quid on these, but eBay can throw up some bargains.  Ask about for advice.  Good lights will last for years and you will be glad you spent the money.

A good article to get you started: http://road.cc/content/news/97193-big-roadcc-lights-test-2013

Reflectives:

Reflective vests are good when on your own but not good in a group.  They reflect the light from the rider behind and blind them.  Take them off when you are in the group and put them back on when you are on your own.

Reflective wrist bands are good – the traffic can see when you are indicating to turn.  A dark arm doesn’t really show up.

The law:

It is legal to have a flashing light on a pedal cycle, provided it flashes between 60 and 240 times per minute.

Check out: http://www.ctc.org.uk/cyclists-library/regulations/lighting-regulations for a more in-depth write-up on cycle lighting and the law – you might be surprised at what is required to be legal.

Other thoughts:

Consider mixing different makes of lights.  Whatever causes one light to fail might do the same to both if they are the same make.

Night time riding can be fun and safe.  A group of riders is very visible.  Try sitting behind or in front of one and you will see what I mean.

Give it a go.  Night riding is very different and can give you a whole new perspective on familiar routes.  On the right night it can even be quite magical

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