7 Pieces of Essential Bike Gear for Riding in the Dark
The days are significantly shorter. Be prepared for your commute with the right lights and apparel.
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Now that daylight saving time is over, I often find myself riding after sunset. To be prepared, I make sure that my lights are charged and on the bike at all times, my apparel has plenty of reflective hits, and my outerwear is high-viz.
Truth be told, I try to live by these rules year-round. I get that lights can be cumbersome, and Day-Glo gear isn’t always the most stylish (though many companies are doing a better job of blending style and visibility). But staying safe is more important than looking good. To help you navigate the dark, here’s a list of my favorite bits and pieces of safety gear.
Rapha Pro Team Long-Sleeve Training Jersey ($170)
If one company has managed to make visibility cool, it’s Rapha. The Pro Team jersey is a midweight piece that I wear from early fall through late spring. It’s cut trim and is highly elastic, so it layers well. And it’s studded with reflective hits, including grids on the front, rear, and collar. While the jersey is available in gray and black, you’d be foolish not to get the chartreuse or high-viz pink in the Aero version of this top.
Poc AVIP Rain Jacket ($290)
This is the jacket that clued me in to how effective bright apparel can be. Every time I see it in poor conditions, I’m dazzled once again. The traffic cone orange is bright, and the large reflective logos on the outside arm and back add even more pop. But more than just its high-viz attributes, this jacket is tailored exceptionally well with long sleeves, Velcro wrist closures, and a low-slung tail for full coverage in the drops. The fully taped, three-layer laminate fabric keeps out the nastiest weather, even in all-day downpours, and the laser-cut ventilation holes at the pits help with overheating.
Capo Padrone SL Roubaix Bib Shorts ($260)
I like these midweight bibs because they’re subtle and refined enough to wear every day, but the three-inch gray leg grippers are cut from a luminescent fabric that shines like a mirror in the throw of a car headlight. That means you’re extra visible to motorists even if you forget all your lights and high-viz stuff. The pad is seamless and nice and thick for winter riding, and the Super Roubaix SL fabric is fleecy and warm. For extra security and warmth, I’ll sometimes use the matching SL Roubaix leg warmers, which combine the coziness of the bibs with a fully luminescent exterior.
Pearl Izumi Pro Barrier WxB Gloves ($100)
Buy these a size bigger than your normal gloves and stow them in a rear pocket or pack for extra protection. The waterproof coverage is invaluable if the weather turns foul, and the bright back and reflective hits provide just a little more visibility.
Giro Cinder MIPS Helmet ($150)
Though this helmet is nearly indistinguishable on first look from Giro’s top-end Synthe, it costs almost 50 percent less. It’s nominally heavier (290 grams) than the Synthe and maybe slightly less ventilated without the Roc Loc Air system of the higher-end lid, though that bit of added warmth is actually a good thing on chilly fall mornings. Honestly, Giro makes some of the best-fitting, most-durable lids on the market, and this one is an incredible value, especially considering the included MIPS protection. It’s tempting to go with one of the staid black or white colorways, but the Highlight Yellow is sure to get you seen and avoided sooner.
Sealskinz Neoprene Halo Overshoe ($65)
Sealskinz has transformed the lowly bootie with four-lumen LED lights in the heel of each of these overshoes. The lights, which tuck into kangaroo pockets on the back of each foot, run off tiny CR2032 batteries, last almost forever (240 hours on the flashing mode), and provide yet another possibility for motorists to see you. And the thick neoprene body, lockable side-entry zippers, and Kevlar-reinforced heel and toes patches keep your feet dry and toasty as well as easy to see.
Bontrager Flare R City Light ($40)
I’m already a huge fan of the Flare R taillights for their incredible throw (Bontrager says they’re visible for more than a mile in broad daylight, which seems right based on my experience). While the new 35-lumen Flare R City isn’t as powerful, it is smaller, lighter, and less expensive, so you basically have no excuse for not keeping one on each of your bikes at all times. They’re USB-rechargeable and attach via a handy silicone clip, meaning it’s easy to bring them inside and keep them topped up. There’s a matching 100-lumen cube for the front, although I prefer to skip it and carry the Ion 800 R instead, which provides enough light for riding technical singletrack on the darkest night.