Lighting Requirements

The purpose of the lighting requirement and inspection is to ensure that the cyclist has an adequate set of lights for riding in low and no light conditions including rain/fog. Backup requirements ensure that the cyclist can continue despite a failure of some component of the lighting system. This listing is the minimum requirement by RUSA for ACP and RUSA sanctioned events. Cyclists are responsible for the proper operation of their lighting system.

Also, as stated in the RUSA lighting rules: "Each rider, whether riding in a group or by himself, must fully comply with this requirement. Everyone must use their lights!" Non-compliance with these regulations during low or no light conditions will result in disqualification. Rider safety is paramount.

The performance of reflectors and reflective clothing is discussed on this site.

Primary Lighting System

  • white headlight
  • at least one red taillight with steady operation mode
  • generator or battery powered sources (head and taillights, which may or may not share power).
  • Lights must be firmly attached to the bike, not clipped onto a bag which may change their angle when riding.


No specific requirements are made for a backup system; however the following are recommended.

  • spare headlight
  • spare taillight
  • spare battery/batteries for headlights/taillights
  • small headlamp (useful for reading cue sheets or making repairs)

Reflective Requirements

reflective vest, sash, Sam Browne belt, illuminate type jacket or vest, etc. (small reflective stripes on clothing do not count) red rear reflector (state law), note some lenses of rear lights do not qualify as reflectors. They must be explicitly marked as having been approved by the CPSC (bicycle-type) or S.A.E. (automotive-type), reflective ankle bands. For more details, please visit the RUSA site on Reflectivity Guidelines, and the Rules for Riders (Article 10).

Recommended Items

  • reflective material on pedals or shoes
  • light-colored clothing
  • map/cue sheet reading light such as a hiking headlamp or a small clip-on light

Most Common Lighting Problems

  • low or dead battery
  • wiring problem (loose wire, short, bad switch or connector).
  • failure of attachment mechanism; light falls off and is damaged.
  • failure to operate due to moisture or rain (recommend sealing light with electrical tape or clear plastic bag)
  • generator failure or slippage
  • LED failure
  • battery enclosure problem

Make sure that the combination of lights, power sources, and backups you choose allows you to tolerate any of these types of failures and will last for the hours of night/low light riding you will be doing.

Bicycles and riders will be subject to a safety check prior to the start of the ride. Riders whose bikes and persons do not meet the minimum requirements will not be allowed to start.

Questions or comments about the site? Contact us.