Bike blog: you can keep your light on

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If I had to admit to a vice, it would probably be that I’m often not as concerned as I should be about being visible when cycling.

It doesn’t sound like a terribly thrilling admission, but it’s definitely shameful. While a lot more could be done to protect the safety of cyclists on the road, we’re each responsible for doing our utmost to make sure that we’re seen. There’s a limit to how considerable drivers can be if they can’t see you, and with daylight saving just around the corner (if you’re based in the UK), cyclists need to be extra vigilant to ensure that the ride home is a safe one.

So, with no further ado, here’s my suggestions about keeping yourself lit and reflective. Leave us a comment below with yours!

  • invest in some decent lights. There’s certainly plenty of selection out there, and plenty of online reviews. Don’t try to save money on your lights – it’s not worth scrimping on. Rather, go with the best that you can afford
  • lights need to fulfill two purposes – enabling you to see, and enabling you to be seen. The latter will be important irrespective of where or when you usually cycle. Even if you only expect to be out during daylight hours, gloomy weather, fog, mist and rain can adversely affect visibility and you need to have lights to hand to make sure motorists can still see you
  • the kind of lights you need to enable you to see, on the other hand, will depend on what kind of cycling you’re doing. As I mainly cycle on the un-lit country roads around CAT, I need something with a serious beam to ensure that I don’t end up in the river. If you’re mainly cycling in urban areas, you might not need something as powerful
  • although it’s completely obvious, always have them with you. I’ve often made the mistake of not taking my lights, anticipating to be back well before dark, only to find that plans change and I’m stuck three miles from home without anything to guide my ride back. No matter where you’re going, take them!
  • and in the same vein, always make sure you’ve got back up. Lights are made up of various parts that could fail unexpectedly – have spare batteries, or always have your charger with you, and have spare bulbs and know how to change them. Alternatively, have a spare set of lights
  • think about how you look to a driver. What would make you most clearly visible? Motorists need to be able to see your outline and position on the road at a distance, so carefully choosing and positioning your lights and reflective gear is key. A confusing mass of variously coloured blinking lights may not be that much help
  • if you’re using something seriously high powered, be considerate to other road users. Lights mounted on helmets can be in the eye line of drivers and can blind
  • British law requires cyclists to be lit up at night. You must have a white front light and a red back light, a red rear reflector and amber pedal reflectors. The law additionally recommends that white front reflectors and spoke reflectors are used, and that cyclists use steady lights in conjunction with flashing lights
  • use a flashing light to be seen at front, as well as a steady beam. Using a steady beam as well makes it easier for motorists to see where you’re going. Use a flashing rear light, and, if possible, mount a light on your helmet. Motorists need to be able to see your outline, so indicate this as clearly as possible
  • go out with a friend to check your visibility. Sometimes back lights can be easily obscured by panniers, or by an overhanging coat or skirt
  • bike light technology is ever-improving, so if your set up is a bit aged, have a look at what’s on the market now. I wouldn’t recommend replacing anything unnecessarily, but you may find that older lights drastically under-perform compared to more recent makes
  • wear hi-vis, however apparently undesirable it is. There’s plenty of options, from the full-body suit to the light jacket, but getting something multi-purpose (such as a yellow raincoat with reflective stripes) is ideal. You can purchase reflective tape and reflective stickers, and if you’re really desperate to find alternative means of making yourself reflective, get some of Dashing Tweed’s tweed with reflective thread for a classy waistcoat or cape