With only a short window of light through the deepest darkest months of winter, many of us will find ourselves spending most of our daylight hours either at work, or commuting to work. But with a small investment in some reasonably bright lights strapped to a bike we needn't retreat from our weekday excursions.
Since the beginning of human history there has been a need for portable sources of light. These have varied from primitive flammables to the advanced battery operated lighting we have today.
The first battery powered flash light was invented in 1899, aptly named a 'flash light' for its inefficiency to provide a consistent and continuous light source. The early Zinc batteries of the day could not sustain a constant current and required time to 'rest' in-between use (probably not very safe for riding bikes at night). Our modern equivalent though, has come a long way and can provide us with a constant, bright light source for hours on end.
RIDING AT NIGHT
Whether you choose to ride on the road or the trails, riding at night is a delightful experience. I personally prefer the off road variety or very quiet lanes, where you can feel reassuringly safe from the glare of oncoming headlights and away from the hum drum of whirring engine noise.
One of the interesting things about riding at night, is that it provides a complete change in perspective, you quite literally see your surroundings in a new light. You revert to a sense of tunnel vision as your beam focuses your mind ahead, shadows dance at the edge of the darkness and reveal the reflections of eyes in the undergrowth. You can feel very alone (in a good way); winter rides offer a solitary mysterious feel among the cold silence, clear skies and moonlit reflections that shimmer on the surface of puddles.
I often find my winter rides to be more solitary and spontaneous reserved for those crisp feeling evenings that make the most of clear and starry skies.
WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW
Probably the worst thing about riding at night is the thought of your lights running out of power. So its handy to know how much time you get out of your particular lighting system.
To be on the safe side; take spare batteries, or have at least two lights so you have a back up just in case. This way you don't have to worry too much about the time, and you can swap lights if you end up staying out a little longer.
Good bike lights, particularly for off road use can cost a small fortune. While I don't condone buying cheap Chinese lights of eBay I do have one, though I never rely solely on it. Despite being bright it is prone to running out quite suddenly.
If you can afford it, buy from a reputable brand. They will have passed certain safety regulations and usually indicate an hour ahead of time when they're running out which gives you a good idea of how long you have left to get back.
- Note: battery life can be reduced in cold weather.
Choosing a route - its a good idea to choose a trail/route you are already familiar with, and one that fits into your allocated lighting time. This means you don't have to faff around in the cold working out where you are or should be. Plus, the fun thing about riding at night is how it completely changes the feel of a familiar local ride.