Let there be lights - Road Cycling UK

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Let there be lights

At the time of writing the nights have definitely drawn in more than somewhat, to the point that the daylight hours are starting to occur solely during working hours. Which isn’t ideal if you like to get your rides in of an evening.

But there is an answer. Get yourself some lights, wrap up warm and head out for a night ride. You’ll see the road in a whole new light.

Get kitted out

There are loads of different lighting systems available. They can be divided into two broad categories – lights to be seen by and lights to see with. The former category could also be called “commuter lights”. You’re looking at small, compact lights that put out enough light to let other road users see (and avoid) you, but spread it around in the name of visibility and don’t have enough power to illuminate the way ahead.


For the second category, the fun really starts when you’ve got at least 10W and a big rechargeable battery to play with. The most useful systems have twin beams, usually a wide flood and a narrow spot, combined with a high-capacity lightweight battery sufficient for a couple of hours of riding.

The choices of lamp unit, battery technology, features and manufacturer are somewhat bewildering – keep an eye on the site for our full guide to high-power lights.

Whatever you choose, it’s not a bad idea to run a little commuter light too. It’s a useful backup if your main lights packs up, and you can use it on more visible stretches to save battery power.

Setup and use

Once you’ve got your lights, you need to set them up right. Many twin-beam systems have independently-adjustable light units, allowing you to vary the aim of the flood either a bit nearer to the bike for low-speed stuff or further down the road when it’s required.
The key to successful night riding is choosing the right lights for the ride. To get a decent length ride you need to be fairly conservative with your beam choices. Set off with all lights blazing and with most systems you’ll be plunged into darkness in less than an hour. Save the full beam for when you need it. Don’t forget to turn off the excess when you can, though, and turn off pretty much everything when you stop. This both saves batteries and prevents overheating – some powerful systems rely on a gentle breeze from riding along to stop the bulbs melting.

Strength in numbers

It’s always a good idea to ride in groups, and for longer night time rides on the road it’s an even better idea. The addition of lights adds another layer of potential gear failure and a riding partner, or two, maximises your ability to get home if anything goes pear-shaped.

As always, let someone know where you’re going and it’s probably not a bad idea to take a phone if it works where your ride is. Getting stuck out overnight isn’t likely to be fun at the best of times, and if you get stuck on a night ride, well, it’s already night.

Road Vehicle Lighting Regulations

Last but certainly not least, you must ensure that your front and rear lights meet British standards. The finer details of the Road Vehicle Lighting Regulations (RVLR) are rarely enforced, but in the event of an accident, this could affect your legal position. This is what you required to have on a bicycle or tricycle, to ride it legally at night.


According to the CTC, the national cyclists’ organisation, a front lamp is required, “showing a white light, marked BS6102/3 (or equivalent), positioned centrally or offside, up to 1500mm from the ground, aligned towards and visible from the front. And a rear lamp is required to show a red light, marked BS3648 or BS6102/3 (or equivalent), positioned centrally or offside, between 350mm and 1500mm from the ground, at or near the rear, aligned towards and visible from behind.” For full details visit www.ctc.org.uk

Flashing Lights

Following years of campaigning by the CTC, flashing lights are about to be legalised. The order for the new law was signed last week, which will permit the use of flashing red and white lights. Barring any objections that may be raised in Parliament, it’s expected to be approved and made law in October.

So, get all this stuff right and there’s no reason why you can’t get just as many rides in over the winter. No excuses!


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