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Thread: I love my commute from Bethesda to DC now, but what happens in the fall/winter?

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    Default I love my commute from Bethesda to DC now, but what happens in the fall/winter?

    This is the first year that I've been regularly commuting from Bethesda - my office isn't far from Judiciary Square - and I absolutely love it. Can anyone who does a similar commute tell me how it is when we start losing daylight? I know this sounds like a silly question (i.e., the obvious answer is "buy a light"), but I'm also curious to know what to expect. For example, is the CCT safe in the evenings when it's completely dark, as opposed to summer evenings when it's packed with people? What about the ride through DC and Georgetown when the only part of me that's visible to cars is my light? And how strong of a bike light do I need so that I can see what's ahead of me on the CCT (including walkers and other bikers)?

    Thanks in advance for the help.

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    Quote Originally Posted by ab20854 View Post
    This is the first year that I've been regularly commuting from Bethesda - my office isn't far from Judiciary Square - and I absolutely love it. Can anyone who does a similar commute tell me how it is when we start losing daylight? I know this sounds like a silly question (i.e., the obvious answer is "buy a light"), but I'm also curious to know what to expect. For example, is the CCT safe in the evenings when it's completely dark, as opposed to summer evenings when it's packed with people? What about the ride through DC and Georgetown when the only part of me that's visible to cars is my light? And how strong of a bike light do I need so that I can see what's ahead of me on the CCT (including walkers and other bikers)?

    Thanks in advance for the help.

    There's lots of CCT commuters that will offer great advice, so I'll leave that part to them.

    For lights, I use a Bontrager Ion 800R (formerly used a 700R that was just replaced under warranty). It's got a high, mid and low beam and two strobe modes. Battery life is 1.5 hours on high and six on low. I use it in low mode on the trails. I typically throw the high beam on if I'm some place really dark or when traveling the streets at night.

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    You'll be in good company on the CCT. I can't speak to that route specifically regarding personal safety concerns, but I am sure some of the regulars that use it will chime in. Talk to some of the folks on the route you find yourself riding with and ask them what to look out for. You might even make a commuting buddy.

    You can find a ton of posts about lights. More opinions than you can shake a stick at there. I like a helmet mounted light so I can attract the attention of cars by looking up and not blind my fellow path users by looking down.

    I'm kind of looking forward to cold dark and wet mornings.

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    There are loads of commuters who ride the Crescent from DC to Bethesda in the evenings, so you will be in good company through the fall and winter. You will be riding ďwith traffic,Ē which makes it a lot easier. In the dark itís a difficult trail for reverse commuters like me due to the stream of blinding headlights. There are also pedestrians chicly dressed in dark colors with no lights or reflectors. And as in summer, there are lots of deer and other critters. So you will want good lights but best avoid the billion-lumen type. I ride the Crescent at all hours. In terms of personal safety, the only uncomfortable incidents Iíve had on that stretch have been in daytime in nice weather. On certain other trails, I like to carry mace and a shriek alarm if itís the middle of the night. But on the Crescent I donít bother. Enjoy! w&w

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    From a year-round CCT commuter (not me): There's a Facebook group for that CCT Users Group

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    Default I love my commute from Bethesda to DC now, but what happens in the fall/winter?

    Year-round CCT commuter here...Personal safety is not really an issue as there is a pretty steady stream of trail users during the morning and early evening and it's just a safe area to start with. But the trail gets DARK and there can be hazards like bad pavement, fallen branches, and wildlife (including ninja peds). A 300 lumen light would probably be sufficient without being obnoxious (there will always be complainers regardless of how dim your light is).

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    Volume tails off gradually until about December, then stays low until March. There are nearly always other riders in sight until about 8 p.m. during the warmer months. After that, it's absolutely still safe, though you will need a light. Portions of the trail are lit, others are not. When shopping for a light, be aware that a focused beam will allow you to look further up the trail, but also has an effect on some riders of being a bit disorienting, making you feel as if you are floating in a pool of light. A broader beam helps with that, but again, it won't shine as far ahead. In terms of lumens, no lower than 300, and about 500-750 is the best.

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    I would also recommend you were protective glasses. At night you can't see branches well, even with a light.

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    Keep in mind that lights are needed for two separate reasons, and you will need for both.

    - To be seen. There's generally enough light, riding in populated areas (and on the lighted Custis Trail), that you don't really need a light in order to see. But you absolutely need lights to be seen. I'm a fan of having several lights sprinkled around the bike that will get the attention of motorists and others. Also, having more than one both front and rear helps protect you if one fails. Cheap (and sometimes free) blinkies are great to have attached here and there.
    Just as important, if not more so, is reflectivity. The more reflective stuff, whether on your bike or your body, the better. Hi-viz colors are designed to be visible during the day, but are no more visible at night than any other color. There are a million ways to be reflective. It's good to be reflective in all four directions.

    - To see. For you, you will need this for the CCT. Tons of great suggestions and previous threads about lighting. Lots of discussion on the Forum about not blinding oncoming cyclists. Enjoy!

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    Quote Originally Posted by ab20854 View Post
    This is the first year that I've been regularly commuting from Bethesda - my office isn't far from Judiciary Square - and I absolutely love it. Can anyone who does a similar commute tell me how it is when we start losing daylight? I know this sounds like a silly question (i.e., the obvious answer is "buy a light"), but I'm also curious to know what to expect. For example, is the CCT safe in the evenings when it's completely dark, as opposed to summer evenings when it's packed with people? What about the ride through DC and Georgetown when the only part of me that's visible to cars is my light? And how strong of a bike light do I need so that I can see what's ahead of me on the CCT (including walkers and other bikers)?

    Thanks in advance for the help.
    I ride the CCT after dark pretty much every night even now. It's quite safe, even at night. In nice weather, we sometimes get homeless people sleeping on the benches, but a) they are just trying to sleep, not hurt anyone, and b) they stop doing it when it gets cold.

    Lights are useful for seeing on the trail. I have two headlights, just so that a malfunction of one won't leave me blind. I've made it on a 100 lumen light, but I recommend at least 300 if you are going at a reasonable speed.

    But reflectors are much more effective at being seen during that ride through DC. An ANSI class 2 safety vest is cheap, and will make your whole torso, not just one little light, visible. A reflector on your ankle is also particularly effective, because it draws attention to your pedaling. I have several tail lights on my bike. But after biking behind someone using both, I would prioritize reflectors over lights.

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