So, daylight saving is over and the days are getting shorter. Soon your daily bike commute will have to be done at dusk or in the dark. But don’t be put off! In fact, riding at night can be exhilarating and just the thing to reinvigorate your riding passion. Just ask Dave Medlock from Nitelights. He has some handy tips to make your winter commute safe, easy and fun!
IF YOU HAVE LIGHTS, TEST THEM
Rear flashing lights general use LED batteries, available at most chemists and supermarkets. The older the battery, the dimmer the light. It’s a good idea to replace them each year when you put your clocks back. Batteries for front lights vary widely between manufacturers. If your battery is rechargeable and more than three years old, it’s probably on its last legs. Here’s what you do to test it: move to an open area away from combustible materials, use a fan to keep the light head cool, charge as per the instructions then turn the light on full and leave it on for between half and three-quarters of the maximum burn time. If it cuts out early (better this happens in your garage than out on the road) you may need a new one. Contact the manufacturer for advice.
IF YOU DON’T HAVE LIGHTS, BUY SOME
How much light do you need? No more than 1100 Lumen is the short answer. That should give you lots of light and three hours burn time. Modern lights are extremely bright, in fact they’re brighter than the high beam on cars. So, make sure you look for lights with dimming modes because the road rules still apply. You must dim your light or dip it towards the road to avoid blinding oncoming drivers and cyclists.
Also, choose lights with a local Australia warranty and repair service. Check that they stock the batteries as you may need to replace them in four years and never ever buy old shop stock. Why? Most bike light batteries are Lithium which means they last longer the more you use them. If they sit on a shelf for six months or more they degrade very quickly. Never run a Lithium battery dead flat.
Make sure you buy lights and chargers that comply with Australian Safety Standards. Non-compliant chargers can cause serious fire damage for which you would be liable. Beware of manufacturers and suppliers who simply copy standards stickers and sell you unsafe products. For more information visit this page.
ONE LIGHT IS NOT ENOUGH
Always carry a back-up light. As a third, cheap option, download a torch (sometimes called an assistive light) app for your phone. These are quite effective in an emergency and a lot better than riding in the dark.
MAKE SURE DRIVERS CAN SEE YOU
Pimp your ride with lights and reflectors for the colder months. It’s so important to be seen and not just from the front, from all angles. Mount more than one rear light and try different positions. Why not put one on the back of your helmet? A light at driver eye level can be very effective. Wear a high vis vest, a bright coloured jacket or cycle clothing. Dig out that flouro cycle jersey you don’t like. It may not look great during the harsh light of day but at night it could save your bacon!
With the right gear, some road sense and a good knowledge of the road rules, you can continue to cycle right through those dark winter months. Let the night cycling adventure continue.
Dave Medlock owns Nitelights, a small Canberra-based business selling fantastic bike lights with electrical safety and all the other essential features listed above. He’s been caught out many times with a light that’s gone flat and had to “use the force” to find his way home. He has an incredible offer for Pedal Power supporters. Visit the Nitelights website, use the coupon code PEDALPOWER2014 and get 25% off!