Ultra-distance cycling and riding at night go hand in hand, with riders often choosing to ride in the hours after sunset and before sunrise. For many cyclists taking part in this year’s Transcontinental Race, night riding was a key part of their strategy. Here, we talk to TCRNo9 winner Christoph Strasser, second place finisher Robin Gemperle, pairs winner Sherry Cardona and riders Nicky Shaw and Sebastian Sarx, who all rode with Apidura’s new Packable Visibility Vest. Find out about their motivations behind riding at night and how, if done safely with the right equipment, it can enhance your whole riding experience.
In audax and ultra-distance races like The Transcontinental, a huge number of miles need to be covered in a set amount of time. While it’s still possible to ride competitively during mostly day light hours, riding after dark can enable riders to cover more ground in the limited time available.
“When you ride for a fast finish and a good competitive result, you have to ride at night, otherwise you lose too much time,” says Christoph Strasser, this year’s Transcontinental Race winner, whose careful balance between night riding and sleep was crucial to his overall win.
“I really like riding in the night, it is quiet, the traffic is between low and zero, sometimes you have bright moonlight and a sky full of stars. The atmosphere in the night is so lovely!”
While night riding offers riders the chance to cover extra ground, it also means fewer distractions – when the rest of the world is winding down, cyclists can pass through busier areas without the usual day time hustle and bustle.
“I like the sense of peace and solitude that it brings,” says Nicky Shaw. “There’s a lot less distraction and reasons to stop, therefore it’s a great opportunity to ride efficiently.”
For Sebastian Sarx, it’s also a time to focus: “With empty cities and streets, you can concentrate entirely on cycling and yourself.”
But while night riding has its benefits, it’s imperative that cyclists do so safely. “It’s clear that we have to reduce every risk that can be easily avoided,” says Robin Gemperle, “and visibility is definitely one of them.”
“Before my first TCR I was a bit afraid of riding in the night without a support vehicle and my support crew, who light my way and make me safe,” says Christoph.
“I thought it would be dangerous. But honestly, if you have a strong front and back light, and a good high-visibility vest, drivers will be able to see you better.”
In some countries like France, wearing a properly certified high visibility garment at night together with bright front and rear lights is the law, giving cyclists every opportunity to be seen by other road users and peace of mind.
Up until now, riders have only really had the choice between multi-functional garments, such as a gilet or jacket that features built-in reflectivity, but falls short of recognised visibility standards, or a fully certified item that is not optimised for on-bike fit, is heavy, non-breathable and takes up valuable pocket or pack space.
“Nobody wants to wear an oversized sail, which makes you slow and uncomfortable and is tough to store in a jersey pocket,” says Christoph.
For Sherry Cardona, a high visibility vest shouldn’t be an after-thought: “When choosing a visibility product for cycling we look for the same attributes as for all other performance gear: packability, weight and ease of use.”
Apidura’s new Packable Visibility Vest meets the European EN 17353 standard for night riding whilst also ensuring on-bike fit, adjustability and packability. And for our recent TCR riders, a small pack size was one of the most important things second only to the actual visibility of the product.
“It’s very common to wait to put on a visibility vest when it’s starting to get dark, as you know you’re going to put on a jacket anyway later when it gets a bit colder,” says Robin. “You won’t do that if the product is easy to put on and small enough to stow away in a jersey pocket instead of a pack. A small pack size is just as important as a good fit.”
For ultra-distance racers, audax riders, early starters and late finishers, having the right gear for safe and effective night riding means they can concentrate on the task at hand and enjoy the unique experience riding after dark offers.
“I love night riding and the quietness it brings,” says Sherry. “I feel more energised when temperatures fall, the stress of the start fades and traffic calms down. You have the chance to experience the landscapes in a different way.”