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A guide to cycling in the dark

cyclists with lights

It's important to be seen when cycling in the dark

cyclists at night with lights on their bikes

Having a partner or group to cycle with can provide that little extra motivation you may need to get out on your bike

bike with pannier with a light on it

Consider where you place your lights on your bike so that they can be seen

When the clocks go back at the end of October it can be easy to forget that suddenly we are left with one less hour of daylight in the evening. Therefore it’s important at this time of year to think ahead and make sure you're prepared for cycling in the dark.

In the UK there are legal minimum requirements for cycling after dark; one front white light, one rear red light, plus the reflectors that should already be on your bike. It is important to remember that your lights must be working properly and your reflectors are clean and visible.

Here are some top tips to help keep you pedalling safely throughout Autumn and Winter and make sure you're visible to other road users.

1. Don't forget your lights

This may seem like obvious advice, but after months of riding your bike without them you may be out of practice in ensuring you have your bike lights on you at all times. Come day or night you may need them - if you’re not sure if it’s dark enough for lights it’s always best to put them on. 

Consider putting your rear light where it can always be seen, like attaching a permanent LED light to your pannier rack.

It may also be worth keeping a back-up set of lights at work, like this Be Bright LED Light Set, and a spare set of batteries. There are also many USB charged lights available, so you can charge them while you’re at your desk.

Check out the selection of lights available in our shop 

2. Be bright

Being seen by other road users is of upmost importance when riding at night. Wearing brightly coloured reflective clothing is a good way to stand out on those darker, rainy or foggy days.

There are many accessories for you and your bike that will help you to be seen at night including reflective belts, wheel lights and reflective strips.

Take a look at the reflective gear we have in the Sustrans shop

3. Plan and know your route 

As the seasons change, it may be a good time to consider changing your regular routes to a better lit path or road. Bear in mind that some routes may include seasonal harzards such as fallen leaves and branches.

It can be very easy to get lost if you are trying out a new route in the dark, so try to test your route in the daytime to build up your confidence and familiarity with it.

Find a cycling route near you

4. Keep your bike in good shape

Fixing your bike on the roadside is a challenge and can be even more difficult in the dark. Making sure your bike is in the best working order it can be will greatly reduce your chances of breaking down while on the road.

To avoid getting punctures, fit winter tyres to your bike and pump them up regularly. It’s also important to regularly check your tyres for nicks, cuts and road debris. Avoid cycling in the gutter as this is where most hazards that cause punctures can be found (broken glass and other debris).

Follow our top tips for keeping your bike well maintained

5. Buddy up

There is strength in numbers when cycling, and this is especially true in darker conditions. If you are all well lit and bright you are more visible to other road users, and having a partner or group to cycle with can provide that little extra motivation you may need to get out on your bike.

Read our tips on how to become a bike buddy

6. Be alert

It’s always important to be aware of your surroundings when cycling, and even more so in the dark. The tips above should help you be seen by other road users, but being alert to what is happening around you will minimise any other risks.

Go slower than you would in daytime and keep your eyes open for unexpected obstacles, bumps in the road and movement by others on the road or path.

Check out our tips for cycling in winter weather

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