In South Africa, riding a bicycle can be hazardous at any time of the day or night. Whilst no amount of safety gear can protect you from a distracted or drunk driver, being visible at night can make a big difference.
One of the easiest ways to achieve this is to light up using bicycle lights. They will even help for daytime visibility as well. Ardent cyclists categorise the lights as “Be-seen” (motorists and pedestrians can see you) and “To-see”(bright enough lighten the road or trail at night). There will be some commonality between the two!
Most bicycle lights that you can buy have a variety of settings with a solid beam that can change intensity or pulse at a variety of speeds. A solid beam is a cyclist’s preferred option for lighting a road or trail at night and enhancing your visibility to motorists and other road users. They are also less jarring than pulsing beams.
However, there are indications that a flashing light is better in twilight conditions. The contrast is that the flashing reacts more on one’s eyes – similar to a car’s rear brake lights. It’s the contrast that is eye-catching. So, let’s look at the best set up…
At night you should have a minimum of two lights on your bike – a front-facing light to light your path and rear-facing taillight to enable drivers to see you. The front light should be bright enough for you to see oncoming obstacles and set to a solid beam position at the brightest intensity. An acceptable range is between 1000 – 2000 lumens, especially if mountain biking on unlit trails. In the city where there is far more ambient light (if we are not being load-shed), so this could be reduced – but 1000 lumens is a good starting point. The taillight should be red and pulsing – a good range here will be between 50- 150 lumens.
Then you should look at the optics. It’s not just the intensity of light, as quality optics determine the light pattern and focus on the surface which makes for improved visibility. It is also good practice to place some yellow reflective tape on your bicycle in strategic areas which will show up nicely at night.
Daytime lights that flash also make you more visible and reduce the risk of an accident. This applies to the front and rear. Some folk mount a light to their helmets but this is only advisable when you have a fixed light on the handlebars. If you rely on a single helmet light you will see where you are looking but if you turn your head, you may become invisible to oncoming traffic. With the taillight, ensure that it is not obstructed by your toolbox or anything else.
We always recommend that you experiment with new equipment like this. In this case, play with them in a dark, safe space to set them up correctly before hitting the trail.
Stay safe from all of us at Cross Country Insurance Consultants.