Finding the time to get out into the woods before dark can be challenging during Canada’s dark winter months, but that doesn’t mean you have to stop riding.
Good lights have shrunk in size and cost in recent years, making it much less of a commitment to invest in riding through the night. A set of lights good enough for mountain biking used to be wildly expensive for something the size of a small toaster with a rats nest of cables connected to external battery packs. Now, incredibly bright lights easily fit on your handlebars, last for hours, and won’t completely break the bank.
If you’re interested in getting on the trails after dark, here’s five tips to make your first night ride a success:
1) Charge your lights.
Sounds basic, right? But almost every ride you go on, there will inevitably be someone who will have neglected to fully, or even partially charge one of their lights. I’ve been that person. Everyone has, and will be again at some point. This is one reason why having two lights, one on the bars and one on the helmet, is so appealing. Even when one fails, the other will still get you out of the woods comfortably.
2) Attach your lights at home, before the ride.
Lights are smaller now and many batteries are internal to the lights so there’s fewer wires to organize, or none at all. But it is still important to set up your lights at home, before you meet your friends at the parking lot. It takes time to figure out the best way attach and aim your lights. Troubleshooting can be done at the trailhead, but set-up is easier at home in the light.
3) Try not to look your friends in the eyes when you’re talking to them.
It can be weird trying to avoid making eye-contact with the person your talking to, especially on the rare occasion you run into another rider out in the night. But do try remember you have the light of a thousand suns – or what will feel roughly equivalent compared to the dark woods – attached to your helmet.
4) Have fun! Bring friends!
Heading into the dark woods can feel intimidating the first time, but it can also be quite fun. Especially if you have a group of friends with you. After a couple rides, night time trail escapes will be something you look forward to, not something to put up with because it’s the only time you can ride. Plus, night riding might even improve your riding during the day.
5) Dress warm, layer smart
Not all night rides start cool but, as the sun disappears, it will get colder. It may be warmer in the woods than in the parking lot, but you’ll be stopping more than your average day time ride and cooling off faster each time the pace drops. Once you’re chilled, it’s harder to warm back up. This is especially true if you’re riding home from the woods. So stay sweaty, my friends. Or, ideally, find that perfect combination of layers that allows you to stay warm without getting sweaty.