The end of Day Light Savings means the end of all too many mountain biker’s riding season. Don’t let it happen to you! There’s an exciting new option in mountain biking called “night riding.” Yes, with new technologies and skills, you can actually ride your bike at night, have a great time, stay fit, and see an entirely different type of night-life than what you see at Sports Bars or on TV!
Anyone who’s done any night riding knows how much fun it can be. The problem is that not that many mountain bikers have given it a shot. We’ve got a few suggestions for people new to night riding that will help ensure that you get a taste of the activity under the best of circumstances.
Before you get fired up about the ride itself, the most important things to sort out are:
1) Know where you legally can ride. There are many public and private locations that are legal at night. You just need to make sure that you speak with (or read on their website) the people who are in charge of the area(s) in question.
2) Find some people who’ve done some night riding; especially in the ares where you’ll be starting out. Most people are surprised at how easily they are disoriented on trials they’ve only ridden during the day when they ride them at night. Riding new trials at night… not a good idea.
3) Make sure that you have the proper lighting and riding gear before you set out – even for your first ride.We’re not saying that you need to spend hundreds of dollars on a high-end lighting system, or buy specialized, multi-layer bike gear to give night riding a shot, but you might want to borrow someone’s high-quality bike light and pack extra clothes when starting out. A flashlight taped to your barsor riding in a tee shirt as the temp drops 30 degress just isn’t safe… or much fun.
4) When you go, make sure that someone knows where you went, and when to expect you back.Not to be a buzzkill, but, if you’re headed out in the night, when and where temps can drop rapidly, disorientation is an issue, and the lack of daylight makes finding people a whole lot tougher, treat night riding with respect.
A Basic Night Riding Checklist: The Essentials:
- Fully-Charged, Tested, Primary Lighting System
- Map or Topo Chart of Riding/Route Area
- Helmet, Long-finger Gloves
- Extra Clothing Including a Waterproof Layer
- Eye Protection with Clear Lenses
- Tube, Patches, Pump/Inflator and “mini-tool”
- Back-Up Light Source
- Cell Phone (make sure your night ride stays in cell phone coverage!)
- Signaling Device (ie. whistle, horn, etc.)
Here’s a list of Night Riding DOS and DONTS we’ve compiled over the years:
Plan: The Ride, The Route, and for things that can go wrong! And don’t forget to check the area’s evening weather forecast!
Check your lighting gear to make sure it’s in perfect working order and always carry a backup light source
Look ahead: scan, anticipate and respond to terrain, as well as wildlife: There are lots of animals that come out of the dark and on to your path at night!
Keep one finger on the brake lever: especially at night!
Pay attention to the trail and terrain up and ahead of you: especially at night!
When riding in forested areas, be aware of tree limbs and branches that are often hard to see at night
Remember that terrain surfaces are often far more slippery at night than during the day
Bring and wear clear-lensed eye protection
Remember the five Ps of night riding: Plan, Preparation, People, Place, and Pace in order to maximize safety and fun
Go on a night ride without knowing exactly where you’re starting from, the route, and a map of the entire area in case you do get lost. It happens!
Go on a night ride without bringing what you could need to fix your bike, stay warm and dry, signal and/or call for help
Forget to tell people where you went, your route, and when to expect you back
Underestimate weather conditions. Rapidly falling nighttime temperatures and/or un-forecasted precipitation can spell disaster
Ride at a speed that’s safe during the daytime; even if you know the riding area well
Ride over, around, obstacles or terrain where visibility is limited or obscured: stop and get off your bike!
Forget that if your light goes out, not only will you be unable to ride, you might not be able to see well enough to walk back to your starting point: make sure your lighting system(s) is/are in good condition, properly charged and always carry a backup light even if it is a small, hand-held, flashlight
Ride at night by yourself: Share the fun!
Above all else, remember that the night holds as many
potential threats to your safety as it does opportunities for your enjoyment. Treat the night accordingly, and you’ll have a great time and avoid problems.