Off-road cycling in the dark – how to stay safe.


17.11.21 at 6:54 pm

Share this story

There is something quite liberating about riding off-road in the dark. Just you, the trail, and your 1,000 lumen light shining the way. It can give you a sense of calm, help you get out of your comfort zone and of course, keep you fit. But, there is also an increased element of danger when riding in the dark. No matter how bright your light is, not everything will be as well lit as when the sun is shining. Not to mention the added challenges winter brings with the darkness: wet, slippery leaves and roots, and ice to name a few. Below, we’ll discuss how you can stay a little bit safer on the trails in the dark so you don’t have to put your gravel or mountain bike away just yet. 

Off-road cycling in the dark – how to stay safe.

Lit up like the proverbial Christmas tree

When you’re riding off-road, you’re not just trying to be seen like you might be in an urban environment with street lights and other road users. Instead, as well as staying visible for other people on the bridleways or trails, you need the light to actually see where you’re going. 

Many people assume that brighter is better when it comes to picking out lights, and while this is true to a degree, there is such a thing as too bright – especially if you’re riding with friends. You want something that will shine the way and has a wide field of illumination, so anything around the 1,000 lumens mark is a good starting point. 

Where you mount your lights is also worth considering. If you mount it to the handlebars it will suffer less when you go over the rough stuff than on your helmet, but, equally, it is in a static position and won’t always illuminate as much of the trail as you want. A helmet mount can ease this. By moving the light with your head, you’ll always be able to see where you’re going and a little bit further ahead. This is especially important if you’re riding twisty, bermy trails that require a bit more focus than your bog-standard towpath. We recommend using both a handlebar mounted and head torch light in unison.

Use a GPS tracker

Even if you find yourself trawling the same routes over and over again, it’s better to keep your loved ones in the loop if you’re out riding in the dark. You’re unlikely to be eaten by a coyote in the UK, but just in case you have a crash or a mechanical that requires a rescue operation, you can give yourself and your family peace of mind by having your GPS device tell your nearest and dearest where you are. 

Ride with your mates

With the days growing shorter and shorter over winter, it’s harder to get everyone together while the sun is still shining. So stick together in the dark and head out as a group. You’ll want to make to sure that you all have adequate, fully charged reliable lighting. When riding down the trails in a train, you’d be surprised how the riders lights ahead of you can help. 

Pick familiar routes, to begin with

If you’re riding off-road in the dark for the first time, consider riding the trails or routes you know pretty well to ease yourself into the experience. That being said, even your regular routes can seem completely different when it’s dark. Every rock is lit differently, and every turn might appear slightly sooner or later than you remember. But it’s okay to make mistakes; riding in the dark is not going to be as fast as the daytime, it’s more about enjoying the experience and not submitting to the settee on a dark evening!

Pack wisely

In the dark everything is a little bit cooler, and with that in mind, if you do find yourself getting a bit chilly it’s best to be prepared by packing a jacket or warmers. And, if you do find yourself getting into some trouble, you won’t freeze while you’re awaiting rescue. Similarly, take more provisions than you would normally. An extra KitKat won’t weigh you down and could prove vital if you take a wrong turn and end up further off the beaten track than you planned. 

Of course, cycling in the dark has its dangers, but there’s a risk with every type of riding, and there’s nothing so exhilarating as cruising through an eerie woodland by moonlight. Make sure you and your bike are protected with our cycling-specific insurance by getting a free no-obligation quote from us today. 

Share this story