Night Rider

Part way into my 2nd ‘off-season’ as a cyclist and I really don’t want anything to do with the ‘off‘ part of that phrase. Cold-turkey symptoms clearly kicking in with pangs of anxiety attacking on dark Friday evenings at the realisation that the weather is going to be too cold/wet/windy to enjoy a weekend on the bike and that, shock-horror, I actually have to find something else to do for the weekend. Pure panic sets in and in no time I’m worrying that in the space of a month or two I’ll have lost my form that I spent hard work building up throughout the spring and summer months. My muscles are already aching through lack of use. I can’t have that!

So to keep my inner chimp that much happier, I suggest to my club members that given the reasonably warm-ish evenings (once you’ve 5 layers on and spinning a happy 100rpm), the increasing number of high-vis and high-tech lights that are available on the market, and of course not forgetting our well lit cycle paths here in the Netherlands, that we head out for a night-ride.

Now, getting on the bike, in the dark, and completing 50km is not something I would have considered this time last year. And it’s not because I think it’s unsafe (more to come on that), but more because I wasn’t so bike crazy!

To me, the idea of getting out in the dark, only the immediate road ahead visible, seemed like a great exciting adventure. After all, there’s only so much flat land you can look at here before you get bored. At least riding in the dark would require a little more concentration!

It’s probably no surprise however, that the majority of club members responded as if I’d asked them to jump in front of a train. It ‘sounds scary‘, ‘ooh it’s too un-safe‘ or, it would seem, some of them actually know how to participate in an ‘off season’. Luckily however, another fellow English person, maybe as crazy as me, volunteered to pick the route and accompany me. And that there, is key. Identifying our route in advance, we were able to flag any obstacles or parts of the route that may cause an issue.

Getting on the bike last Monday evening, I didn’t really know what to expect. But being well prepared, I enjoyed it much more than I thought. It was a little odd at times cycling through pitch-dark country lanes, not able to even identify the animals in the adjacent field and unsure if the dog barking ferociously at us is locked up, but the whole experience was much easier than I’d thought it to be. The roads were pretty empty, and the cars that did pass us (thanks to a lot of lights between the two of us), did so with great care; some in fact refused to even pass us – imagine that!

I not only enjoyed my night ride, but I managed to get 50km of cycling in during the week, that I didn’t think would be possible without sitting in a gym or bare room staring at a wall or DVD. So, why not mix it up and get out there and try it too?
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Want to plan a night ride? Here’s my tips on keeping it safe and enjoying it.
1) Plan the route – know your intended distance and pick a route you’re familiar with or know well. Identify in advance any obstacles i.e. blind junctions, corners, road furniture and make sure everyone is aware of the intended route. Maybe plan a couple of ‘get out’ short cuts or train stations that you can easily get to if you need to cut it short. And of course, be extra vigilant in making calls – forget pointing – you need to be vocal about any little thing that could easily cause trouble.

2) Don’t go alone – as tempting as it may be, going out alone isn’t the best idea. The more people, the more visible you are to others and the road to you. Plus, if you happen to get in trouble (try fixing a puncture in the dark!) 2 is better than 1. However, don’t forget that too many bodies can also be a hazard.

3) Be prepared – I’ve already mentioned the dreaded puncture, so bike maintenance is key. But, should things not go your way, make sure you carry a phone with plenty of battery to last the ride, and enough money for that emergency lift home should you need it.

4) Be bright – this goes without saying really, and I hope I don’t have to go into detail. Lights, lights, more lights and reflective clothing. It can be surprisingly dark on the rural roads than you might expect, so a good headlight or even a helmet light is best (those shadows can give you the eebie-jeebies if you’re not careful!)

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What kit did I use?

Lezyne Macro Drive Front Light – this is a very powerful headlight but also has 5 settings you can flick between – so dimmer on the lit roads to full beam on the dark country roads. It lasts between 2.5 – 3 hours, so I supported this with a couple of small LED lights, turning off the headlight when it wasn’t needed. What’s great about this light, is the built in USB for charging.
Lezyne Femto Rear Light – nice and small, I was able to hook this light onto my saddle bag with ease. As it is small, it’s easy to slip it off and into
your pocket when you leave your bike/ no longer need it.
According to my friend – it’s nice and bright!

Hayley Davies

Hayley Davies

Writer

Riding since Feb 2011 Hayley is a 30 year old female who loves adventures. If she’s not on one of her many bikes or in the water on a bodyboard/surfboard, then Hayley is probably out looking for something new to keep the adrenaline pumping!
Website: www.hjdonline.co.uk

Review – Visibly Better – Two Zero TZ-3 Super Bright Flexible LED Light

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

TZ-3 Super Bright Flexible LED
I’ve opted for the Red rear LED Light. The LED light is a great addition to your high-vis set up. This little light has a recessed button so you can’t accidentally switch it on by dropping it or resting something on it, it has a large button that is easy to use with gloved or cold fingers. It comes housed in a solid body with a stretchy flexible silicone mount loop. Press the on off button once and you get a solid light, press it again and it will flash intermittently (don’t use in flashing mode if on a bicycle or motorbike), press once again and it switches off… simple. There are two small recessed screws on the underside of the body to allow you to replace the battery (CR2025) which the manufacturer says should last you 100 hours.
I’ve tried the light on my bike frame and handlebars and because the light has a shaped underbelly it sits comfortably on flat or curved surfaces and with the silicone stretch loop it won’t slip or move against metal, handlebar tape, carbon fibre or painted surfaces and fabric. The loop can be pulled up and fully over itself depending on the diameter of the item you’re wrapping it around, you can put the strap over the front of the light body or further back over the casing and it doesn’t press or restrict access to the button. It’s coped fine with the scrapes and drops it’s had so far. It really is ideal to attach to your helmet, it neatly slots through the helmet vents and is a real upgrade to just using a reflector, because it’s so lightweight you don’t notice it’s there. I’ve also attached it to bags and backpacks and it works a treat. When you pair it with the Verso High-Vis Gilet by TwoZero (read our review here) it sits neatly on your back just above your shoulder blades and when you have a backpack under your gilet it sits up and faces behind you without being obscured by your backpack, it takes over from your helmet reflectors if they become hidden behind the bulk of your bag. It comes in a choice of white or red LED light and both provide a strong bright light. A great addition to you cycling safety gear, it’s small, lightweight, flexible and it fits neatly into a pocket when it’s not in use.

Colour: Red LED or White LED
RRP £9.99 with free UK delivery
Available from: www.two-zero.co.uk for delivery worldwide
also available from other online and high street retailers

What TwoZero say about their product:
Easy fit silicone loop LED
Flashing or Solid State
Long Battery Life 100hrs (replaceable)
red and white LED version
easy to attach to TZ bags, Verso Gilet and rucksacks

 

Reviews: Visibly Better – Verso High-Vis Cycling Gilet

 

 

Visibly Better

It’s time to pull out the high vis winter cycling gear for the commute so we thought we’d take a look at a couple of products, these two items caught our eye as they work together or individually, the Verso High-Vis Gilet and the TZ-3 Super Bright LED Light (read LED review here). They’re a new addition to TwoZero’s range, the award winning company is already known for it’s range of cycling and motorcycling bags. I own one of the cycling bags which I’m mightily impressed with so I thought we’d try some of their other products. I enrolled the help of my hardcore commuter cycling pal to road test them.

Verso High-Vis Expandable & Reflecting Cycling Gilet
I’ve chosen the black gilet in size S/M, even the style conscious cyclist wants to be visible but not in your face and to be honest I can’t quite pull off the 1980’s neon rave look, maybe back in the day but not now… and to be honest the black doesn’t look too much like a high visibility jacket when you’re off the bike in daylight.

First impressions upon unpacking it… looks well made, lightweight, quality stitching and fabric, with good finishing, piped edges in both normal and stretch fabrics. It has a slight tailored shape to it, it’s not just a box shape, it also has stretchy lycra side panels these stretch a further 3cms on each side. The bottom edge of the gilet is elasticated to stop it flapping around. The yellow version has black stretch fabric vents with reflectors and black stretch side panels. It will pack away into the sort of space a pair of below the knee socks would take up…. no idea why I used that comparison but it’s what sprung to mind, so I’m going with it!

The full length zip down the front has a fabric pull loop for when gloved or cold fingers can’t quite manage fiddly fastenings. The high vis panels on the gilet are well designed, there are two soft reflector fabric stripes across the front and back of the shoulders, below that on the front and back of the gilet there’s a bonded or possibly screen printed abstract triangular design in reflecting flexible ink, it’s very well applied and I’ve not seen any signs of wear yet, it doesn’t look like it will flake off over time as I’ve found with similar products, I’ve had a good old pick at the edges of the ink and it’s tough. The collar edge isn’t rough against your skin unlike other high-vis wear I’ve purchased in the past, once out in the cold damp night air you often find collars chafe but the piped edging stops this.


Click on the images above to view them in detail.

The back of the gilet scoops down over your rear like a regular cycling jersey but the main feature which makes it perfect for commuting by bike is the ability to unzip the two concealed back vents, these vents are also elasticated and covered in even more reflectors, they allow you to put the gilet over a backpack, this means you don’t have to trundle around town during the day with a particularly neon or reflector spattered bag just to be prepared for your dark journeys to and from the office or trip into town. The vents really do give plenty of room and because it’s stretchy you don’t find it rides up as you move, nor does it flap around behind you like a cape in bad weather even with a bag underneath. The extra reflectors in the vents do also mean you’re more visible side on at junction as the reflectors continue all around you.

If you put your hand behind the none elasticated areas you can see through it, it’s certainly breathable something that generally is a problem with high-vis winter products, they tend to be a bit industrial, bulky and make you look like you’ve walked off a building site. The Verso is designed to be worn over your winter clothing it’s only to provide you with visibility with the option of putting your bag underneath. It allows you a full range of movement thanks to the lycra side panels. It’s also easy to wash but I’ve found running it under the tap and wiping and mud spatters off is just as easy and quicker than using the washing machine, because it’s such a fine fabric leave it to dry overnight and it’s ready for your next commute.

Verso & light Combination:
On the back of the gilet there is a loop just below the shoulder reflector stripes, this is for you to attach the other product in the TwoZero range, the Super Bright Flexible LED Light, you loop it through and back over itself and then set it to the desired mode. If you don’t have the Super Bright you could use other lights and reflectors but the way the light is designed combined with the position of the loop means the light sits perfectly. Read the full TZ-3 Super Bright LED review here.

I’m my opinion the Verso Gilet is perfect for commuters and with a choice of colours (hopefully more colours and designs will be added to the range) there’s a limit to what you can do with high vis, it can never be minimal because that would make it pointless. It’s certainly been designed with cyclists and motorcyclists in mind but if you run with a rucksack (if you’re mad enough) then it would work for you too.
From a safety point of view the side reflectors in the vents when expanded do really give you a better profile when pulling out of a junction. The Verso Gilet is endorsed by IAM (institute of Advanced Motorists).

It’s in the mid to high end price bracket of the market but it’s certainly better made and better quality than others I’ve seen and it has the added zipped vents to allow a backpack which I’ve struggled to find on other products, it also has the ability to add the LED light for extra visibility, it’s well worth the money.

Available in black or yellow
Sizes: S/M or L/XL
RRP £34.99 with free UK delivery
Available from: www.two-zero.co.uk for delivery worldwide
also available from other online and highstreet retailers

What TwoZero say about their product:

Dual purpose expandable high visibility vest
integrated rucksack cover
unique expanding back will unzip to fit over your backpack
stylish high visibility graphics for increased safety
tailored to hug the body
elasticated panels for comfort
lightweight fabric allowing your skin to breath
back panel loop to attach TwoZero LED flasher (sold separately)

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