Author Topic: Night Riding, Pros and Cons??  (Read 4855 times)

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Offline j1of1

Night Riding, Pros and Cons??
« on: February 23, 2023, 07:44:16 pm »
Has anyone ridden (assume paved roads) significant distances at into the night (maybe stopping around midnight) or all night?  Pros (e.g. heat avoidance, reduced headwinds, ??).  Cons (e.g., being seen - safety, limited visibility, ??).  What say ye?

Offline John Nettles

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Re: Night Riding, Pros and Cons??
« Reply #1 on: February 23, 2023, 08:54:12 pm »
I have a handful of times for various reasons, mostly due to heat.  The pros/cons are what you say add a plus of less traffic at night (but you have to careful when a car is passing you).  A con is, at least for me, you see less scenery, but what you do see, tends to be/look different from what I saw during the daylight. 

If done, I would have at least 2 BRIGHT blinky taillights and one bright headlight and if doing more than once or twice, a reflective vest.

Tailwinds, John

Offline Pat Lamb

Re: Night Riding, Pros and Cons??
« Reply #2 on: February 23, 2023, 09:34:15 pm »
I've done more night riding randonneuring than touring, and more still commuting.  Agree with everything John says, as a baseline.

A few more notes (of course!):

Night riding at its best is almost magical.  The visual world compresses, but the auditory world expands.  On a lonesome road you'll notice the occasional house, church, or open convenience store, and welcome it, even more than during the day.  Also of note is that the temperature drops; even when it's in the 90s during the day, it can drop to the 50s at night.  How welcome that cool is may depend on how many layers you have available.

Make sure you have spare batteries for any battery-powered lights.  I try to avoid any night-time riding without some kind of reflective garb, and my Ortlieb panniers have reflective patches.  You'll want to have a light (helmet or spare flashlight) in case you need to fix a flat.

Route selection is critical.  You'll want to avoid rough roads, because your reaction time disappears when you approach a pothole or other obstacle in the dark.  Busy roads with minimal or no shoulders are pretty scary when you're passed with inches to spare.  Also try to avoid anything but the smallest hamlets when the bars are closing; Friday and Saturday and holidays are good days to ride early (get up at 3:00 am if you want to ride at night), but settle down early on those days to avoid trouble.  Definitely try to avoid shift changes at large plants, mines, hospitals, etc.

One big downside to riding until midnight is that you'll have to set up camp, assuming you're camping, in the dark.  You'll probably also miss the early morning rides when the temperatures are cool and the wind is calm.

Supply can be a problem.  Want to refill water bottles, buy a Coke, grab something to snack on?  Better to plan ahead than try to get to the convenience store that's going to close at 10 p.m., only to get there and find it closed an hour earlier than you planned.

Offline canalligators

Re: Night Riding, Pros and Cons??
« Reply #3 on: February 23, 2023, 09:37:41 pm »
Just guessing, but I suspect more drunk drivers at night.  At the least, I’d plan to be off the road by closing time of the bars.

Offline jamawani

Re: Night Riding, Pros and Cons??
« Reply #4 on: February 23, 2023, 10:42:50 pm »
You may be approaching magical riding from the wrong direction.
The finest riding is at dawn.

Cool, very little wind, very little traffic.
Plus you can see and be seen.
And the drunk drivers are off the road.

It requires getting up before daylight -
and, by definition, getting to sleep early.
Big,busy campgrounds don't work well.
Dispersed, remote camping is ideal.

Offline wildtoad

Re: Night Riding, Pros and Cons??
« Reply #5 on: February 23, 2023, 11:08:13 pm »
I prefer the very early morning approach to beating the heat as opposed to riding into the night/evening (I try to avoid riding into the night/evening to the extent possible in all cases). Early a.m. is generally the quietest time, the late night crowd is off the roads, temps at their coolest, early morning drivers might be more alert (that's the hope, at least), etc. Not always feasible depending on the route, accommodations, etc., but has worked well for me on occasion. Obviously good lighting and other visibility measures are essential.

Nowadays I have standing agreement w/ family that a tour is over if there are more than a couple of consecutive days of extreme heat.

Offline HikeBikeCook

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Re: Night Riding, Pros and Cons??
« Reply #6 on: February 24, 2023, 11:44:30 am »
I would also go for the early morning approach - East to West if possible on roads, with the sun at your back and not in the face of oncoming drivers. We have done a fair amount of night riding on gravel, and rail trails, (not always by choice) and bugs can be a real problem at night especially around water. Also, it is supper easy to out-ride your head light, which either slows you down or creates danger from unseen obstacles. Expect to cover fewer miles. It is also easy to overshoot a campsite or a critical turn in the dark.

I prefer riding into the coming dawn, with its beneficial light, when the world and nature start awaken. To me it is a magical time.

I also backpack and I do embrace night hiking. You can feel the trail under foot and to me it is less dangerous to hike a well marked trail in the dark, with no light, and be completely emersed in the night.
Surly Disc Trucker, Lightspeed Classic, Scott Scale, Klein Mantra Comp. First touring bike Peugeot U08 - 1966

Offline staehpj1

Re: Night Riding, Pros and Cons??
« Reply #7 on: February 24, 2023, 04:47:49 pm »
I agree with Jama, riding at dawn or pre dawn is wonderful.  Coolest time to ride, light traffic, lots of advantages.  I have done it often.  I typically have been on empty roads where I'd see an approaching vehicle a mile off.  Most wouldn't approve of my lights, a little cheap blinkie on back and maybe a 2AA or AAA helmet mounted headlight if anything on the front.  In town or heavier traffic with more intersections I worry more about lights.  My high vis vest would also be employed where it seemed prudent.
« Last Edit: February 24, 2023, 04:51:09 pm by staehpj1 »

Offline BikeliciousBabe

Re: Night Riding, Pros and Cons??
« Reply #8 on: February 26, 2023, 01:02:51 pm »
Another early morning to beat the heat person, although I did start in total darkness crossing the country when we had many consecutive days in the mid 90s to over 100 in the Midwest. Rural areas, so traffic wasn’t an issue.

Offline Alessa3322

Re: Night Riding, Pros and Cons??
« Reply #9 on: March 05, 2023, 01:58:55 pm »
Just guessing, but I suspect more drunk drivers at night.  At the least, I’d plan to be off the road by closing time of the bars.
This is exactly what I thought when reading the OP's post. Though there re pros of night riding, it is still a dark time when everything can happen.

Offline BikeFreak

Re: Night Riding, Pros and Cons??
« Reply #10 on: March 07, 2023, 05:09:16 pm »
1. In the US (continental) the wind often picks up in the morning and drops in the late afternoon. I often get great daily mileage due to less wind in the evening.
2. You need clear glasses to avoid insects flying into your eyes even when it's dark.
3. Strong headlight in order to see road damages and pot holes. I would NEVER race down a hill with 30 mph when it's pitch dark even with the best head light - it's too dangerous.
4. When setting up camp in the dark (or leaving in the dark) there is a chance you drop something on the ground when packing/unpacking. You cannot scan the ground (maybe tall grass) easily with a headlight for lost items. Thus there is a chance you missed something 100 mi down the road.

Ideal night riding setup: Let's say it has been a hot day and there is a campground close to a mountain pass 40 mi down/up the road. Now you can slowly climb that mountain without overheating and at a speed ideal to avoid potholes and road damages.

Offline barnbeck

Re: Night Riding, Pros and Cons??
« Reply #11 on: March 12, 2023, 10:35:45 pm »
There is much movement by animals at dusk.  I had two encounters with varmits, one sending me to the hospital.  I suggest keeping the speed down.

Offline John Nelson

Re: Night Riding, Pros and Cons??
« Reply #12 on: March 13, 2023, 01:36:59 am »
I like night riding on familiar roads with good shoulders and a great headlight. However, I don't even take a headlight on tour. I have unexpectedly ridden in the dark, however, on tour in a few occasions.
  • A very early start in the Mojave Desert where the predicted high was well over 100F. In this case, I strapped my camping headlamp to my handlebar bag. It wasn't great, but it helped.
  • A late night ride into camp in North Dakota, not arriving until 10:30 pm. Luckily that day I had a full moon and was on a road with zero traffic.
  • When I got an unexpected invitation to stay at somebody's house in Idaho. They told me to follow their car to their house. I should have ridden ahead of their car in the lights of the headlights, but I rode behind their car in complete darkness. That was a big mistake for which I luckily didn't have to pay.

Offline Westinghouse

Re: Night Riding, Pros and Cons??
« Reply #13 on: March 23, 2023, 03:50:55 am »
I bicycle toured many long distances at night on all kinds of roads, in the USA and around the world. There was no special concern about it. Setting up stealth camps in dark tangled thickets could be testy.