26 Mar Fun in the dark
Mountain biking is awesome. Add the thrill of night riding and it becomes an adventure of a lifetime. Night riding can allow you to escape the heat of summer, bring another sense of adventure and it can even help you to become a better rider!
Don’t fear the dark side of mountain biking.
What to consider when buying mountain bike lights:
Fit – first thing to check when buying is that the light and battery components will actually fit on your bike. Make sure clamps fit the handlebars securely, helmet brackets are secure so they won’t shake loose on a rocky descent. A badly placed helmet light can drag your helmet down making the whole ride a frustrating one.
Power – ie how many lumens each light is. Lumens represent the total amount of light emitted by a given source.
Beam type – make sure you use the power wisely. The best set up is to have both a spot beam affixed to your helmet and a wider beam on your handlebars. This combination will provide you with the best coverage of lights for both fire road and single track trails.
Battery life – you need a battery that gives you enough life (with a bit extra) to cope with your longest rides. Being able to run lights for the entire ride without worrying about getting stuck in the dark is VITAL.
Separate lights or all in one unit – do you want an all in one unit or a separate light and battery unit.
Reliability – mixing electronics, dust, mud, rain and crashes ain’t easy. Reliability is vital because light failure at speed on technical terrain is no joke.
6 tips for having a successful night ride
- Get the best lights you can afford
You need two, yes two, high powered lights that are designed for off-road use. This does not mean getting a small Dolphin torch and zip tying it to the bars.
The best set up is to mount one on your handlebar, and the other to your helmet – try to balance the output and battery life so they both use up power at the same rate.
- Start out on the easy stuff
Unless you know the trails like the back of your hand, ease up Tiger. Judging speeds, gaps, gradients and distances at night is far harder than when riding during the day.
Trails are much more interesting at night and the sensation is that you’re riding faster, even though you’re not, so you don’t need to get all techy on the first few rides.
- Set your bike during the day
It’s never really dark in town but in the bush, light diminishes very quickly. And that is not the time to be strapping lights on handlebars and faffing about with settings.
Remember to charge your lights and familiarise yourself with the settings. Do this at home so you are all sorted for your ride.
- Dress right
At night, even during summer, you may need to add a layer. If the forecast is for rain, bring a jacket. Bring another change of clothes including socks. The definition of awesomeness is pulling on a new pair of socks after a wet winter night ride!
- Get lights smart
Use both lights on full power for those technical trails like Scorpion. But, to conserve battery life, drop your lights to a lower power setting. This could be the difference between finishing the ride with a smile or finishing having to use your mate’s lights…
- Don’t ride on your own
A given with mountain biking but a necessity when night riding for the first time. Besides the adventure and the stories are so much more interesting if you have your riding buddies with you!
Below is the video from the 2014 Dusk till Dawn Event: a 12-hour mountain bike marathon held from 6 pm till 6 am that depicts how much fun night riding can be with a big bunch of mates!