Things to consider when you head out in the dark
With summer coming to a close, it’s time to embrace the shorter days, and that often means getting runs and rides in before the sun comes up or after it has set. In order to help you put together a kit to keep you visible when you’re out and about at night, I spoke with designers in the running and cycling world, as well as professional ultrarunner Rickey Gates, who ran over 300 miles at night during his run across America last year. Here are their best tips.
Don’t Assume a Higher Price Equals Better Visibility
Sometimes the cheapest gear is the best; Gates logged his night miles in a five-buck vest he bought at a gas station—similar to Neiko’s High Visibility Safety Vest ($6). “It’s what the truck drivers wear when they hop out and fix their tire if they break down,” Gates says. “You can find them anywhere.”
Light Up the Front...
Gates used a Petzl headlamp with three AAA batteries to increase his chances of being seen on the road while he ran. Giuseppe Ribolzi, product developer for premium Swiss cycling brand Assos, suggests always keeping the brights lit for safety’s sake. “You need to start out with your lights on,” he says. Gates’s headlamp was an older model, but the more modern Petzl Actik ($50) will serve you well.
...And the Back
Gates also depended on Nathan’s simple StrobeLight ($10) for added visibility. “I would attach it to the back of the waistband on my shorts and leave it on nonstop,” he says, “to the extent that I would walk into a café and someone would say, ‘You know you have a blinking light on the back of your shorts?’”
Consider the Points of Reflectivity
“When you ride a bike, your moving legs are what’s eye-catching for the driver,” Ribolzi says. “We strategically place reflective materials on the back of the calf,” as on Assos’s LL.Bonkatights_S7 ($439). And Julianne Ruckman, women’s apparel and sports-bra product manager for Brooks, notes the importance of also having reflective gear that clearly makes you identifiable as a human in motion. “It is all about putting reflectivity in skeletal movement zones,” she says. “We want a driver or cyclist to recognize a runner as a person and not a traffic cone or a sign on the side of the road.” Look for gear that has reflective details on the chest, wrists, and ankles and along rib lines.
Full Reflectivity Isn’t Always Necessary
“Consider when you run most,” says Ruckman. If you often head out in low light but not full-on darkness, like dawn or dusk, contrasting fluorescent colors can make you stand out from the background. “They help cyclists and drivers recognize movement,” Ruckman says. But if you’re running after sunset, look for products with lots of reflective details that will light up under a pair of headlights.
Take Your Layers into Account
“Remember that by the end of your run you are usually about 20 degrees warmer, so think about what you are wearing underneath your jacket,” Ruckman says. “Make sure you have pieces that will help you throughout your entire run.” Even if you don’t have a base layer with reflective hits, accessories like the Brooks Threshold Gloves ($50) with fluorescent colors can make you more visible, don’t add much weight, and will likely stay on through the whole run.