Sometimes, biking at night is inevitable. For instance, several trails are long enough to last you days, or even weeks, on the road. Unless you find a good campsite, you will have to keep pedaling. And as winter approaches, nights become longer than days. By the time you finish preparing for your ride, the skies have dimmed. Or you simply can’t find time to bike during the day in the middle of a busy schedule.
Why should the night sky, with all its twinkling marvels, stop you? Biking at night is a peaceful break from your exhilarating and strenuous daytime journeys and is just as rewarding. Before embarking on a night ride, read up on these tips.
Light is your best friend when biking at night.
Afraid a wild animal might jump onto your path, or that you might run over an unsuspecting little rodent, or maybe even fall off a cliff you didn’t know was there in the first place? Many people shy away from the idea of biking at night because it is dark, but if you were equipped with the right lights, half of your problems have already been solved.
Ideally, there should be lights at the front, side, and rear of your bike. The most important are the front lights, which include bar-and head-mounted lights. Bar-mounted lights should have high intensity since the handlebar is a more stable support for bulkier lamps. On the other hand, the head-mounted light illuminates whatever area your head turns to. This is a necessity for technical trails, which have sharp turns and snaky singletrack.
Bike lights are predominantly LED-based due to the energy efficiency and durability of the technology. They are available in different brightness levels that are quantified as lumens. A 1000-lumens light can suffice for a front light. One other consideration is the beam pattern. Wide-focus beams are perfect for off-road biking as they have a larger illumination scope, while narrow-focus beams are more appropriate for urban areas.
These days, bike lights have more functionality. Rechargeable units have settings that control uptime and intensity. Play around with intensity settings so you can maximize the battery life and readily change the intensity if the situation calls for it. Technical trails will require you to use both lights at high intensity, while easy trails will give you the opportunity to save juice. At least, hours before you set out, put your lamps in charge.
Choose your trail wisely.
Cyclists are known to be adventurous people – what’s a bike ride for if it doesn’t fill your limbs with adrenaline? Sure, the fulfillment you get from accomplishing an advanced-level route isn’t just something you feel every day, but it never hurts to care a bit more about safety.
Make sure you are already familiar with the trail. Even your bike lights can’t save you from a sudden descent. If it is your first time biking at night, or if your rider’s instincts aren’t at their full potential yet, it would be wise to be as cautious as possible. Never venture into mysterious-looking groves of trees nor ride jumps. Likewise, avoid trails that will potentially isolate you from populated areas.
If you want a more meaningful trip, choose a route that has pitstops that do justice to the sunrise. Imagine taking a break or ending your trip with the day’s first rays of sunshine cradling your face. Now that’s an experience.
Expect the unexpected. There is always a small possibility of your tires giving way, so bring a spare tube, bike pump and a handy bag containing your bike repair tools, a roll of electrical tape, extra batteries, and a travel torch. If you have space for a first aid kit, you may also bring one.
Set up your bike during the day to avoid wasting precious time under the starlit trails. Optimize your suspension so that the seat feels adequately soft, since you will be riding seated most of the time.
Be mentally and physically fit for the activity. Technical trails obviously require more focus and presence of mind. Atmospheric temperature drops during nighttime so wear a light jacket that provides insulation. If you’re anticipating a muddy section of the trail, you can wear waterproof bottoms (socks, trail trousers, or tights). For good measure, throw in some kneepads to cushion a possible stumble.
Tag your friends along.
Rides are not only more enjoyable with good company; they are also ten times safer. Having a bike buddy or two can guarantee you aid in case you end up with an unlucky injury (always wear a helmet). Remember to be considerate when riding with other people: be aware of where your lights are shining, as you can blind your companions with high-intensity lights. Bike in a way that gives everyone enough space.
If no one can accompany you, inform your friends and family of the details of your trip. You can also find postings or invitations in local bike shops about groups that ride at night.
The night sky is one of the most wonderful sights to behold and is best seen outdoors. But before you ride into the night, make sure you are equipped with the right lights, handy tools, and ample knowledge of your trail. Enjoy biking at night with friends or make friends along the way. Happy biking!