Updated: May 27, 2021
Autumn in California means days are getting darker earlier now (around 4:30PM) which means you'll be chasing the sunset sooner! Please keep in mind that these tips are meant to increase your visibility and make yourself as obvious on the road as possible. Before you go out riding, consider the below so you can be safer and noticeable on the road:
1. Lights (MUST. HAVE.)
For both front and rear, as you do your research, the 2 initial things to keep in mind are battery life (also whether it is rechargeable with a micro-usb) and brightness.
a. Front lights - This is usually bright white and I aim for lights that allow a flickering/pulsing. Pick a light that's powerful and shines pretty wide in front of you to see potholes, pedestrians, pets, etc. I own Light & Motion Urban 900 - pretty happy with it along with the various modes it offers. Here's a great technical bike-light article to learn more about the nuances of a bike light.
b. Rear lights - They are typically red and have different modes of blinking (depending on the kind you get). These are also standard to use during the day. Make sure that the battery life for these (in the brightest or most pulsating setting) exceeds the duration of your ride). Also make sure it's fully charged. To see how smart lights can get, Garmin offers audible and visual alerts (Garmin Varia) as cars approach you.
2. Reflective Gear
Clothing/equipment that has an element of reflectivity will add to your presence. Having that detail can make you more pronounced on the road especially as cars pass by you. Proviz is a great brand that focuses on visibility for cyclists and/or construction reflective vest. Remember that even though it is reflective, it is not armor.
3. Know your route (and what is around you)
Keep in mind that area that you are riding through. At night, roads can appear different than during the day. The more familiar you are with the path the more predictable the road. You can also do research prior to your night ride using services like Google maps or ridewithgps.com. On top of that, ride defensively and be alert at every intersection so you know for certain what is around the corner. Every pedal stroke should be one of certainty and with that, you can make your way confidently through the night.
To sum in one word visibility. Similarly to riding in the day, be predictable and aware of your surroundings, and heighten your level of awareness. Equip yourself well, bundle up with layers if you need, and have fun out there. If you have anything else you'd like to share, feel free to add it in the comments. I'd love to hear what you learned during your night time rides.