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The Case for Road Riding at Night

There's plenty of fun to be had by going nocturnal

by james stout
Riding at night. pinterest icon

There’s no getting away from the fact that it’s getting darker earlier, and your daytime riding hours are becoming sparse. It’s easy to tell yourself that this means you can't ride as often, or if you do, it'll be in a well-insulated trainer pain cave. But there’s still plenty of fun to be had once the sun goes down—riding your bike outside at night is awesome.

For many people, the idea of a night ride can be off-putting. It is, after all, dark and cold. But with the correct equipment, it’s totally safe and really enjoyable. Once you start, you’ll see that you can ride farther and longer at night than you realized—I recently completed a midnight century ride under the full moon.

Here are some reasons you should give it a try. (Looking for even more adventures? Check out The Cyclist's Bucket List for inspiration.)

         RELATED: 9 Ideas for Squeezing in More Ride Time

It's weirdly meditative

It's weirdly meditative.

There has been a lot of talk about flow state in endurance sport. Riding at night will give you a new level of appreciation for this term.

The absence of visual distractions lets you really get in the zone on your bike. There’s something delightfully otherworldly about allowing yourself to absorb into pools of light beneath glowing street lamps, which become your whole world. There’s an odd peace after hours, even in the middle of a city, and the sound of spinning wheels lulls you into a calming trance.

Once you’ve experienced the solitude and sense of calm that come from riding at night, you’ll start to crave it.

         RELATED: Shred Like a Monk With These Meditation Tips

There's much less traffic

There's much less traffic.
Sascha Kohlmann/Flickr

Riding is much more pleasant when you have the whole road to yourself. Once everyone is home from work, the roads are much quieter, and you don’t have to share them with the stressed-out commuters who just want to get home.

Riding at night also makes it much easier to see cars coming from behind; The headlights give you ample warning.

Not only that, but having less traffic on the road also opens up routes that are normally far too busy, so you can hit some less ridden-segments for new KOMs.

         RELATED: How to Ride When Traffic's Holding You Back

You'll see the strangest things

You'll see the strangest things.

One of my weirdest Race Across America memories is coming full speed around a corner at night on a time-trial bike, only to be faced with an armadillo. I quickly hopped over it and got on with the task at hand, but just writing this makes me realize what a weird and unique experience that was.

Nighttime plays host to a great variety of animals (and people) that you otherwise might not see. You’ll grow to love the captivating sunrises, sunsets and full moons. (Just watch out for armadillos.)

         RELATED: How to Avoid 8 Common Road Biking Hazards

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You can go hard on the holidays

You can go hard on the holidays.

Being able to pack in more riding over the holidays makes it feel okay to indulge in pumpkin pie and eggnog without facing the prospect of putting on pounds or hurting your watts. Heck, even science says riding regularly before the holidays gives you more protection against certain effects of overeating

There’s also a sense of pride that comes with riding when others are posted up on the couch home—and physical payoff, too. If your friends decided to take the season off because they don't want to ride in the dark, they'll regret it when you're dropping them at the start of the spring season.

         RELATED: How Far Should You Ride to Burn Off Thanksgiving Dinner?

It'll keep you on your toes

It'll keep you on your toes.

Remember Frogger? That’s pretty much what descending at night is like. When you can’t see as far ahead, you have to think and react faster.

A good set of lights will help you feel confident at speed, but limited visibility means you still have to be more catlike in your response time. Give it a few rides, and the daylight will seem boring. Come summer, you’ll be darting through gaps in crits like a pro.

There's a whole new type of gear to get into

New gear.
James Garaghty

Night riding gives you an excuse to start a whole new division of your cycling wardrobe.

On top of the obvious need for lights, there are also reflective kits, gloves, jackets, and helmets. We suggest at least one front light of over 400 lumens, and a rear light of 100 lumens. I personally use a 600-lumen front light with a small flashing LED, and a 150-lumen flashing rear light. 

         RELATED: 6 Amazing Pieces of High-Vis Cycling Gear

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