While the sun may be moving north, adding minutes of light almost daily, weeknight mountain bike rides are still a while away. Unless you have a night-riding setup.
“I would liken [night mountain biking] to full moon powder skiing—fun for a different set of reasons than the same activity during daylight hours,” says Dillon Osleger, the executive director of the Sage Trail Alliance in Santa Barbara, CA, and an occasional winter evening mountain biker.
Making the transition to night riding is not hard, says Osleger. The only additional gear are lights. Any trail works, but with less peripheral and long-range vision, expect to go slower in technical terrain and on descents. And, with fewer people out there and generally colder temperatures, being prepared for mechanicals and injuries is even more important than during the day.
The benefits to pushing through the instinct to stay inside after dark go beyond exercise and fresh air, says Alex MacKay, a recreational mountain biker in B.C. who started night riding last fall.
“The darkness makes familiar trails feel new,” he says. “It pushes your bike handling skills, you get out when you wouldn’t normally, and it’s just really fun.”
Here’s what you need to get started:
Go with a two light set up with a total of 2,000 lumens or more. A good combo is the Light & Motion Seca Comp 1500 (1500 lumens) on the handlebar to light up the trail and a Vis 360 Pro (600 lumens) on the helmet to shine around corners and spotlight details. The Vis’s amber side lights and a tail light add safety for riding on the road to and from the trailhead.
[$160, $130; lightandmotion.com]
Keeping the tool system simple helps with headlamp fixes. We like the one-piece, 18-tool Topeak TUBI 18. It can manage most minor repair jobs, except a broken chain. And among the Allen keys and hexes is everything to seal a tubeless tire puncture, from an air stop to plugs and a knife.
All you need to add to Adventure Medical Kits Ultralight/Watertight .5 Medical Kit is a reflective space blanket. Packed into the waterproof storage bag are all the accessories needed to deal with wounds, injuries, burns, blisters and bugs.
The familiar can get confusing in the dark, so bring a charged phone with the Trailforks app downloaded. Even without a cell signal, the app uses the phone’s GPS to plot your position in real time within the trail network. Because getting lost sucks. Getting lost in the dark is even worse.
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