Sunsets, light tests, and night riding

Proper illumination a 'must' now winter's here

Light testing. Set off late afternoon, with a sense of mission, and Lezyne’s DecaDrive on the bars.

Riding in the dark has a quality of its own: gloriously liberating on country roads, demanding full concentration in town, regardless of how well illuminated you are. I’m taking no chances, lighting the way with Lezyne’s aforementioned 800 lumen contender, and running their Zecto Drive out back. Oh, and an Ortlieb reflective rucksack, empty and so adding little weight to proceedings, but creating an unmissable panel for motorists behind.

The sun’s early retreat in the winter months makes proper lighting a must

I’ve been complaining about the cold all week, but to my amazement the warmest place to be is on the bike. Properly clothed, the knowledge that the eight degrees in which I begin the ride will represent its meteorological high point holds no concerns. LOOK’s Excellence jacket and bib-tights, their WinterFall gloves, and a pair of Etxeondo’s Gore Windstopper overshoes serve their purpose well.

The pale sun of a late November afternoon bids a speedy retreat and soon there is darkness and a chance to assess the quality of the front light. Its bright, white beam floods the road ahead, and after some experimental prods at the top-mounted button, I begin to learn its idiosyncrasies.

Its effect on traffic (and that of any powerful light I’ve tried, in fairness) is remarkable. The few cars that approach on country roads seem startled into slowing down, and those met on urban roads show a greater level of respect than normal: pausing at junctions, roundabouts, and other occasions, as if in deference to a larger vehicle. Unsure of what to expect, they err on the side of caution.

Night riding might be an exaggerated term to describe a mission begun with the sun still visible, but flying along unlit country roads is an altogether different experience to riding in daylight. Hearing takes on a greater significance, filling in the gaps created by reduced vision. The sensation of speed is heightened and the changing conditions from daylight to darkness make me focus on effort.

Back in town, and no longer dependent on the Deca Drive to light the way, I select one of its flashing modes now ‘being seen’ has supplanted ‘seeing’ at the top of my agenda. The effect on traffic is similarly impressive, and I’m reminded that many motorcyclists use a front light in daylight as well as darkness. They might be on to something.

With months of early nights to come, the first ride back to town in the gathering gloom has been a success. Winter need not mean the end of cycling, or months on the turbo trainer. There are adventures to be had, but care and proper illumination must be the watchwords.

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