Night ride safety for winter and beyond
UK cyclists: the clocks have gone back, it's dark at about 3pm and the streets are both thick with traffic and trafficked by the thick. If you want to live to see spring, we suggest you invest in some new lights, some reflective gear and maybe even a "radar". And if you're not from the UK, we dare say it gets dark where you live, too.
Yes we know that black cycling kit is cool, manly and very, very slimming but the night sky also tends to be black. That means no-one will see how dandy you look if you go monochrome after dark – and that includes drivers of 7.5-tonne trucks. To ensure you get to enjoy your apparel noir when the sun eventually sneaks its way back to UK skies, make sure that you stand out like a neighbour from hell’s Christmas lights this autumn and winter.
This is the pick of the cruellest seasons' lights and cycling safety kit. It's okay, there's plenty of tech - and still a little bit of street style - to be had, even in the darkest months…
Note: as we get further down the list, there are some older bike lights, which are now very affordable compared to when they launched. For those who like to be canny shoppers as well as cyclists.
Lucas KOTR City 500F • £70
KOTR stands for King of the Road - well, of course it does - and with a whopping 500 lumens of lighting power available, it’s hard to argue with that label.
The City rules in urban areas. Sure, the light is bright, but that's only the start; side lenses add 180 degree visibility so that you’ll be seen as you pull up to junctions. An added bonus is that it can work as a USB battery, so you can get a cheeky charge for your phone… Or your USB rear light, come to that.
Oh, and a word to the wise: it beggars belief, but Lucas also does a light called the "F500", which is not the one you want, unless you're after a sportier option with less all-round illumination. Show a bit more imagination in your product names, guys, eh?
Cygolite Metro 550 USB • £87
If you’re looking for a front light that’ll let you chase Strava KOMs on unlit roads then the Cygolite Metro 550 should be on your list. Importantly its well-balanced beam has an excellent reach so it lights the road in front of you brilliantly.
In fact, so bright is that the Metro is even worth a look if you fancy some furtive, nocturnal off-roading. No, we don’t mean dogging by that. Honest.
Exposure Blaze • £100
There’s bright… And then there’s the Exposure Blaze. It’s one of the best rear lights available.
Yeah, it looks like a fire hydrant, but don’t let that put you off. There are three programmes with either constant or flashing modes in each, and the rechargeable battery can power the 80-lumen light for up to 24 hours of constant use or 48 of flashing. The only downside? If you ride in a chaingang, riders following you might need shades.
Guee Mini R rear light • £30
Innovation in rear lights is rare – red, flashing and bright works pretty well so why bother? Hats off, then to Guee. The Mini-R is red, flashing and bright but it also does a little bit more.
As well as the usual rear light duties, it also gives off a larger pool of red light from it’s base which bathes the rear of your bike and the road around your back tyre in a rather sensual, scarlet glow, making you a moving red-light district. Pretty cheap, too.
Lumo Bermondsey Backpack • £125
We're big fans of Lumo's light-up cycle wear (more for its stylish look and excellent design than the LEDs, if we're honest) and it also makes this fetching and similarly light-festooned urban backpack
Here, the water-resistant, waxed canvas and Italian leather straps look great and there’s plenty of space for a laptop, spare clothes and your packed lunch, while red LEDs on the rear and white ones on the straps provide decent levels of added visibility to complement your bike's various illuminations.
Hiplok Gold Superbright • £90
Hiplok’s Gold Superbright wearable lock kills two important cycling birds with one stone, helping you get seen and stopping your bike getting nicked.
The Gold gets it’s name from it’s top Sold Secure rating – its 2.4kg,10mm hardened steel chain and super- tough shackle should take at least five minutes for a determined scrote to break. When riding, you simply wear the chain like a belt – the reflective nylon sleeve gives you 360 degree visibility after dark. Now that is double safe.
Blaze Laserlight • £125
The Laserlight is both a pretty decent front light and a novel extra-visibilty tool that's being trialled on London's Santander-sponsored hire bikes. Its party piece is to laser-project the image of a green bicycle onto the road ahead of you - think of it as your very own bat signal.
The idea is that bike will make you more visible to motorists by, for instance, nosing past a junction before you, thereby pre-warning the impatient driver of a German executive saloon of your impending arrival.
Dashing Tweeds x Fred Perry Harrington Jacket • £850
Want to wear a hi-vis vest that doesn't actually look like a hi-vis vest? This Harrington jacket could be perfect for you. Designed by British menswear company Dashing Tweeds, with cloth from Fred Perry, this jacket has 3M reflective yarn woven into the tweed. We've tested the jacket and it's surprisingly effective. During the day, it looks like a normal jacket, but in darker conditions it manages to reflect a lot of light, making the wearer much more visible.
The Dashing Harrington boasts Teflon treatment for extra protection against water and bike grease, and the collection also includes a backpack, tote bag, messenger bag, and flat cap.
Proviz Reflect360 • £70
We can’t confirm this, but we suspect that when car headlights hit them, Proviz products are probably visible from space. It’s safe to say that you’ll struggle find jackets, gloves or bags that pack more reflective punch for your pounds.
The Reflect360 rucksack is a case in point. During the day, it’s a slightly shiny grey bag, but at night your whole sack will glow as soon as an external light source catches it. With a 30-litre capacity, there’s also plenty of space for you to pack up your non-reflective items.
Lezyne PowerDrive 900XL • £85
Bike lights aren’t always just there to help you be seen. In particular, those of us who live outside of the bright lights of the city need something that will also help us ride quickly in the dark. Lezyne’s Power Drive 900XL light is just such a thing, but it is priced not unlike a normal bike light - hoorah!
Many can and do pay hundreds for properly bright lamps, and we've some examples later in this list.
With 900 lumens of lighting power at it’s brightest setting, you can hack along unlit back roads at a hell of a pace. It has six lighting modes, so you can dim the high beam to avoid blinding oncoming traffic, and it also has flashing modes for town riding.
Sealskinz Halo Overshoes • £40
One simple way to increase your visibility is to attach lights to your moving parts which is why Sealskinz Halo overshoes are a neat idea for winter riding.
Sealskinz is a past master at making waterproof kit, so these shoes do a great job of keeping your feet dry, but then added cleverness comes in the form of a removable, three-mode red LED that sits neatly in the back of the overshoes. It's visible from 500m away and will give you up to 240 hours of increased visibility on a CR2032 watch battery.
Bontrager Transmitr • £50 + cost of lights
Bontrager’s Transmitr remote control lighting system is one of those gadgets you didn’t know you needed until you use it. A handlebar mounted remote lets you control up to seven compatible lights – the Ion 700 front (£110) and Flare rear (£50) are especially tasty.
In practice the remote lets you switch both lights off at the same time, scroll through different settings on each light from your bars and, if you have two of the ANT+ compatible rears, even add indicators to your bike.
Torch T2 • £90
If you a) subscribe to the idea that you can never be too visible and b) love the Tron look then you’ll love the Torch T2 helmet. One of the growing number of crowdfunded cycling safety gadgets – Google 'Bike Balls' for more – the Torch, thanks to its two huge front and rear LED light panels, rather sensibly provides 360-degree night-time visibility at drivers’ eye level.
It’s not a lid that dedicated MAMILs will be wearing for weekend rides - even the brand's own models look pretty pissed off to be wearing it in the promotional pics - but as a commuting tool it makes a lot of sense. Would also make good rave wear, we fancy.
GarminVaria Rearview Bike Radar • £240
Cars, lorries and buses have a nasty habit of sneaking up behind cyclists, so Garmin has decided that you need a bit of help and created the Varia Rearview Bike Radar. It’s actually a smart rear light that can detect up to eight vehicles from up to 150m behind you and, via it’s bespoke head unit or an Edge computer, let you know how fast the traffic is approaching.
Of course, you knowing that a truck is bearing down on you is, erm, useful but there’s not much you can really do about it – luckily the light also gets brighter the closer the vehicles get, so that they see you too.
Volvo Lifepaint • £10
A car company helping cyclists make themselves more visible to avoid getting hit: isn't that nice? Spray Lifepaint on your clothes and it’s invisible until lights hit the transparent glue and reflective glass microspheres that make up the paint. Then it gives off a ghostly silvery glow. Lifepaint can be applied to your bike, clothes, shoes and helmets, and could also be used, says Volvo, on 'pushchairs, children’s backpacks and even dog leads'.
The product is actually made by Swedish start-up Albedo100, and distributed by Volvo via its dealer network. We could add that it also offers all manner of invisible-genital-painting-based hi-jinks potential on friend’s clothes, but that would be childish. Anyway, it's okay; it can be washed off.
Electron POD • £45 per pair
Batteries and USB charges don’t last forever and chances are you will, at some point in your cycling life, find your main lights give up on you just as darkness falls. A small back up set like Electron’s PODs should therefore be secreted about your person for just such an occurrence.
These won’t be much use for finding your way out from deep inside a pitch-black, scary wood but they will at least ensure the werewolves, and drivers, can see you.
Altura Night Vision Commuter Jersey • £50
Riding in high-visibility, reflective gear used to mean looking like you’d just finished your shift on the bin lorry or helping children cross the road. Now, even if you have just completed the last rubbish collection of the day, you can be seen, be comfortable and look vaguely stylish.
British brand Altura’s Night Vision jerseys are among the best shiny biking products out there. They're well made, brilliantly fitting, good looking and have excellent thermal properties - ie, they're warm without cooking you down to a sweating ragu. They also have 360-degree reflectivity which is, of course, the main point of a product with Night Vision in the name…
Cateye NanoShot RC • £60
High-intensity white LED lenses delivers a solid, 250 max lumens of illumination. USB-chargeable battery gives 1.5 hours at maximum brightness, 12 hours flashing and recharges in 3.5 hours. It won't let you down.
Knog Frog Strobe Front and Rear Light Set • £20
Made to battle the elements, this silicone built set shoots a combined 50 lumens of brightness and will serve up to 80 hours of illumination from four coin cell batteries which are included. You can also take your pick from a series of modes including strobe and disco strobe if you want to cycle back into the 70s. Another great choice for back-up lights, or cycling in merely low-ish light/heavy winter clouds, as opposed to deathly black.
This price is for the 2015 edition. You can get previous years' for less, if you shop around.
Fibre Flare • £23
A highly noticeable, fibre-optic glow stick that'll fit your bike, bag or jacket - just add decent front and rear lamps for brilliant all-round visibility. Available in red, yellow or green, these run on 2 AAA batteries, and you can keep on cycling for up to 75 hours before you need to stop off at the shops for some more juice. Very handy for adding side lighting to your bike, and also for raving with, we dare say.
Supernova E3 Pure 3 Dynamo Light • €139
This is the smallest legal road light with aluminium housing, but don’t be fooled by its size. It’s one of the brightest bike lights on the market, thanks to its innovative inner housing design, which directs the heat of the LED straight to the cooling fins for maximum brightness. Forget about damage because it’s sealed watertight. And if that doesn’t seal the deal, it comes with a five year warranty.
Moon ADJ-1300 • £110
Equipped with an over heat protection system, a low battery indicator, an adjustable light beam system and a taillight function, this is the perfect companion for night rides. It can shine up to 10 metres away and can control any excessive swings. You can choose from a range of seven modes: Over drive, High, Standard, Low, Flashing, Strobe or SOS. You can also mount it to your handlebar or helmet for easy navigation in the dark. The battery lasts up to nine hours.
NiteRider Pro 3600 DIY • £550
If you’re looking for top tier brightness, then this could be the one for you, as it produces a whopping 3,600 lumens of light, thanks to six LEDs. Unique DIY software lets you customise the NiteRider to your own liking, making it truly personal. It is insanely expensive, but then again, it will enable you to be seen from Scotland, whilst cycling in France, more or less.