Perhaps you’re looking for a thrill. Or perhaps the only time you can fit in a ride is after nightfall. Whatever your reason for hitting the singletrack after the sun sets, being prepared is essential to staying out of harm’s way. Keep the following five tips in mind to ensure a safe and enjoyable ride.
- See if you can demo a good lighting system your first time on the trail after dark. If you have an enjoyable experience and see regular night rides in your future, shell out the money to purchase a reputable, bright lighting system. Having a handlebar and helmet-mounted light is ideal, but if you’re only night riding occasionally, or can’t afford both, choose one or the other based on personal preference.
- Ride with a friend (or three). Your constant talking and the noise from your bikes will alert any animals further in advance. Plus, if you or someone in your group gets hurt, you’ll be able to get help much faster than if you were riding solo.
- Slow down! Even if you are familiar with the trail, it will appear much different at night. Your light will cast shadows that weren’t there during the day, distorting obstacles and likely altering your depth perception. Take it easy to avoid a preventable spill that could ruin your ride. With that in mind, anticipate your night mountain bike rides to consume more of your time than those during the day.
- Accessorize: Wear a pair of clear protective lenses if you have them. Branches can pop out of the surrounding darkness with little to no warning. It’s a good idea to bring an extra layer of clothing should you unexpectedly stop moving for a while. Typically, if you’re riding at night, the days are shorter and the weather is colder. Finally, wear bright or reflective clothing to help other trail users (hikers, hunters, etc.) better spot you in the dark.
- Believe in yourself—and your ability to mountain bike. If you’ve never ridden in the dark before, visualize success, stick to a trail you know by heart and get out there and ride your bike at night!