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Why Waste Your Nights Sleeping? Go for a Ride

By Martin Atanasov

We are not afraid of the dark, and although some horror movies try to scare us straight into staying indoors, preferably with our lights turned on, we love to dedicate our nights to our bikes. Luckily for you, we are willing to share our secrets and let you enjoy some quality time on two wheels in the pitch-dark woods as well.

Why you should definitely try riding at night

MTB in the night
Everything looks completely different at night. © Profimedia

Night riding in the mountains is downright enchanting. Even if you’ve run a specific track millions of times, it looks completely different at night. During the summer months, the heat from the day recedes, and the cool air makes these rides refreshing and enjoyable. You can simply concentrate on enjoying speeding down the trail. Furthermore, during the night hours, there are barely any other people at the scene. While during the day, the mountain is packed with hikers, other bikers and house pets, you can have the track all to yourself at night. To make sure you are safe, we’ve prepared several must-know tips before you hit the dense forests at night.

Stick to the tracks you know

The dark hours are not a good time to dress up like Dora the Explorer and aimlessly wander around the mountain. Leave that pleasure for the day trips. During the night, stick to the tracks you know. First of all, you will see them in a completely different way. It’s truly astonishing how the absence of natural light changes the scenery. You can see things you’ve never even imagined. The transformation is even more magical once the mist settles in.

In all seriousness, exploring during a night ride is a definite no-no. You should know exactly where you are at all times. Wild animals typically stay away from often-used trails and tracks, so you should remain on them. Keep in mind that getting lost in the mountains at night, especially if there is fog, is as easy as gaining weight over the Christmas holidays.

Never go alone

Night riding on a mountain is not a solitary pleasure, and you should share it with others. Not because you are an altruistic and selfless person, but because it’s safer for you. While you will most definitely meet other people during the day, either on bikes or hiking, the chances of that are slim to none during the night. That’s why if you get injured, you need to have a person that can help you. Furthermore, the wild animals mentioned above are more likely to stay away from a group of people.

MTB in the night
Enjoy the sunset on two wheels. © Profimedia

Gear up for night cycling

You shouldn’t underestimate the mountain, even during the day. That goes double when it comes to night riding. The helmet is a must, and you should wear it even during the climbs. It’s tedious and uncomfortable, but safer. When you’re riding in the dark, branches wait to slam into your head from the shadows. Also, there are traitorous slippery leaves and mud puddles you might not see in the dark. That’s why wearing a helmet is absolutely crucial.

Don’t hold back on your usual gear, and bring more water. Glasses are an absolute must. As you might imagine, we are not talking about sunglasses with category 4 protection, but clear ones that will protect your eyes from insects. Your lights will attract hordes of them, and for some obscure reason, they will decide your eyes are the perfect place to die.

Lights for night riding

If, by any chance, you are not a bat, you might want to see where you’re going when speeding down a trail. It’s a shocking concept, we know. Needless to say, you will need lights – good ones.

There are all kinds of different bike lights on the market with different characteristics. We recommend bringing at least one flood headlight attached to your bike and one spotlight on your head. This way, the flood light will illuminate the whole area in front of you, and the spotlight on your head will support it. If you have your lights only on your bike, you might remain blind while jumping, on steep drops, or on sharp turns. That’s why you need one flashlight on your head as well. This way, you will always see in the direction you are looking.

Cycling in the night
Lights are of the essence. © Profimedia

When it comes to night riding, not just any lights will suffice. While you can go with relatively weaker beams in the city, it’s vital to have good headlights in the mountains. The bare minimum is 500 lumens and 40 lux for the flooder and 250 lumens and 75 lux for the spotlight. That configuration is fine if you are on a more enduro trail where your speed won’t be too high. If you are descending a downhill trail, we suggest getting at least a 1,500-lumen flooder and 750-lumen spotlight.

You may also consider keeping a spare headlight in your backpack in case the one you are using gets wrecked in a fall or goes out for another reason. Believe us, going down a pitch-dark mountain is not as fun as it sounds.

It’s good to have a reflector on your backside so that others will see you. However, restrain yourself from using backlights. They will make the experience a living hell for anyone behind you.

Night Ride
Always be careful. © Profimedia

Be prepared

Before leaving, charge your batteries, your phone, and your lights. The phone is a must-have. If someone gets injured, you might need to call for help. If you get lost, you can use the GPS to find your location. The phone may be your absolute last resort to illuminate your way if everything else fails. Plus, you will be able to take some astonishing pictures and share them on Instagram for billions of likes.

Enjoy yourself

When all is said and done, there is only one thing you should not hold back on, and that’s enjoying yourself. Being able to ride at night in the tranquility of the mountain is a blessing not many people have. Enjoy the silence, the peace, and the darkness around you. As we said before, the mountain is truly magical at night, especially at 30mph on a steep slope, steering between the woods, screaming your lungs out with exaltation.