In winter night training is an essential part of northern European cycling. Getting up in the morning or going out after work means that there will be times when you cannot avoid riding in the dark. RCUK hands out some basic advice.
Saftey and visibility – some ideas for road bike set up:
• Front and rear fixed beam lights – steady not flashing
• Reflectors on mudguards and on the bars (this is to comply with BS – British Standard)
• Pedal reflectors (if possible to comply with BS)
• Front and rear flashing LED units
• A set of Backupz or similar emergency lights
• Some small LED flashers for feet and hands
• Crash Hat LED’s and Scotchlite tape or helmet band
• Scotchlite ankle/wrist bands (velcro fastening)
• As much Scotchlite tape and accessories and you can get on you and your bike
• Tyres with a Scotchlite band (Schwalbe Marathon) are a good idea for sideways visability
• Wheel reflectors – they may look stupid but they are very effective when stopping at junctions
A lot has been written about LED lights and how visible they are compared to standard (filament) type bulb lights. We all know they are better but the British Standard has only just caught up with the rest of the world. I still think that it is worth over doing the lighting on your training runs and adding BS compatible lights will only help. In the (unusual) event of a collision you want to make sure that the law is on your side. There have been cases of riders not receiving compensation because their lights did not comply with current legislation. So when it comes to cycle lighting the British Standard may have its problems but it is the “letter of the law”. The CTC’s article is the easiest to understand and explains the detail in the legislation.
The Space Grip from Minoura allows for extra bracket space, essential for lighting and computers
If you really want to comply though it looks like you’ll have to fit pedal reflectors, which isn’t really an option on clipless pedals, SPD pedals come supplied with retro-fit reflector adaptor things. If you really want to be BS approved you could super glue a set of reflectors to your pedals and/or shoe cleats. I know it sounds pedantic, it is.
The main beam
Riding at night has been revolutionised by the addition of powerful halogen, metal halide and (latterly) the ‘super’ LED front headlights. Although expensive these floodlight the road ahead, essential if you live in the sticks as you need traffic to see you coming around corners and out of junctions. You will notice the difference immediately as drivers will notice you and dip their headlights, which is a welcome change from when using weedy filament lighting and poor quality light units.
However, if you are riding for more than an hour, most halogen units will struggle to get you door to door. The new generation Super LED units are very expensive but are (by far) the best option for long training rides especially if you have a power option button to conserve valuable power for when you most need it.
Busch & Muller’s Topfire designed for helmet vents, it’s lightweight and very clever
City centre routes
Paradoxically most towns and cities with good street lighting can provide a safer training environment than the open country road. There’s nothing more frightening than an unlit B-road on a training ride, especially one that ‘late for supper sales reps’ use as a rat run.
So set out a short circuit through urban streets that aren’t in a bus route. Use roads close to home as you can get back in easily if you flat or it starts to snow. It will allow you well lit fast, safe riding. Obviously lights to see the road aren’t that necessary here, however being seen is still the utmost priority. A small chaingang of 4 or so riders can have a bit of fun too, find a route that is based in cul de sacs or crescents, where through traffic is at a minimum, add in a hill and you have a perfect fartlek or interval training session.
Scotchlite strips and ankle bands should be a regular part of your winter cycling kit. Get into the habit of wearing these all the time, I place them in my shoes when I get home or to work and then they are always the last thing to put on and I don’t forget them. I spend much of my winter commuting time just getting dressed, it’s a pain but being seen is an absolute priority.
Named after General Sam Browne, OK so they look a bit nerdy but they are very effective
Respro now make some really funky sticker kits that can be added to your bike luggage or clothing, so you don’t have to add a (not very funky) Sam Browne belt or a railway worker’s style gillet.
By far the best (most effective) place to add additional LEDs is to your body. Ankle LEDs are a great idea and because they move constantly as you pedal they are really distracting and highly visible to drivers. For city riding add some to your wrists and arms too, as they will make hand signals far more obvious.
Strength in numbers
A big group on the road covered in flashing LEDs and Scotchlite is going to be pretty hard to miss. It also requires the traffic to slow in order to allows cars to get round and they are far more likely to slow down for a larger obstacle. Your local Chaingang in winter will use well lit and wide roads, if it doesn’t avoid that ride in winter as they are only asking for trouble especially if riding in two lines on quiet narrow lanes.
Remember, in winter there can never be too much Scotchlite
Lastly, when you go out training alone at night, let someone know how long you will be and better still the route you are going to ride and always carry a mobile phone. Add a number into your contacts on the phone called “In Case of Emergency” or “ICE” and carry some ID at all times.
Next up – Turbo trainer group test – for when it all gets a bit much out on the roads.