Nighttime e-bike riding is great…I love it! In summer, temperatures at night are much more pleasant for anyone living in a hot climate.. In winter, you may find that wind speeds are more agreeable at night. And any time of year, there’s just something very magical about nighttime rides. If you’ve never ridden at night, give it a try–but do it safely. Here’s a few tips to help you enjoy a safe ride in the dark.
Reflectivity for Safety
Riding in dark or low-light conditions is inherently more risky. Whether day or night, you definitely want to be noticed by the driver of any vehicles approaching you. Reflective gear is a great way to increase your visibility. A wide variety of reflective aids for nighttime riding is readily available. Gear such as reflective tape, vests, spoke reflectors, etc. are very helpful, so take a look and choose the items that you like.
Naturally, this includes not only what you wear, but also your e-bike frame, wheels and fenders. Magicycle, for example, equips every e-bike with wheels that feature reflective sidewalls. These wheels glow very brightly in the headlights of surrounding traffic. You can also take advantage of this reflectivity by adding lighting to your e-bike.
The Fat Tire Magicycle Cruiser shown above demonstrates the effectiveness of reflective sidewalls. Note also the abundance of lighting accessories that strongly contribute to visibility.
Lighting your Path
And speaking of lighting, this is an aspect of night-riding safety that you can upgrade effectively and inexpensively. First, choose an e-bike that has integrated tail lights that also function as brake lights. When a Magicycle rider presses a brake lever, front or rear, the tail light immediately becomes much brighter. This signal that you are braking is extremely helpful to vehicles coming up behind you.
Nearly all e-bikes come with a stock headlight that is not bright enough for the safest night riding. 200 lumens is the industry standard for a bike headlight, but there is added safety in lighting that is at least twice the industry standard. Fortunately, there is an endless variety of higher-powered headlights available for upgrading. Choose one that is upwards of 400 lumens, and aim it so as to not blind oncoming traffic. As a guide, the average automobile headlight is rated between 2000 and 4000 lumens. That is very, very bright, so consider staying under 2000 lumens for your e-bike headlight.
If you ride off-road frequently, and want an even brighter headlight, get one that has adjustable brightness so you can still ride safely on city streets. Alternatively, you can consider installing two headlights of varied brightness.
Another consideration is the addition of underglow lighting, frame lights, and/or wheel lights. This type of accessory lighting increases your visibility substantially, making it difficult for vehicle drivers to miss seeing you. These lights also add a certain “coolness factor” to your ride! For prices under $20, bright and effective underglow lighting can be attached to your bike frame in less than 5 minutes.
Finally, consider adding turn signals to the ends of your handlebars, as shown in the video below. This type of lighting serves as side markers, especially at night. Then, when preparing for a turn, the light blinks brightly to help traffic understand your intentions.
Rules of the Road
Always ride alertly, as though your life depended upon it — because it does. You cannot rely upon the alertness or civility of vehicle drivers. If you are riding in traffic, you can always assume that some of those drivers will act like idiots. Certainly, it is best to ride very defensively, as though you knew vehicle drivers will not notice you in time to avoid hitting you. This is especially true at night, so double your defensiveness for nighttime rides.
If you have options as to time, plan your night rides for hours when traffic is lighter. You’ll also want to observe all the same safety rules that apply to daylight riding, such as wearing a helmet. You can even purchase a bike helmet that has additional lighting built into the helmet.
If your helmet has no lighting, it is simple and inexpensive to add a light designed to mount on top of your helmet. That’s a great way to improve your visibility to vehicle drivers, because your head is much closer to the eye level of approaching traffic. Lighting at head level is a very nice safety addition.
Be Aware of Limitations
Nightime vision is always limited as compared with daytime vision. Drivers of approaching vehicles cannot not see as well, and neither can e-bike riders. Even though your Magicycle is capable of high bike speeds, be sure your priority is safety. Riding in the dark calls for lower speeds, so that you are not “over-riding” your headlights. You want plenty of opportunity to spot bumps, potholes, or other obstructions in your path. Enjoy our nighttime rides, and do everything possible to stay safe.