It wasn’t long after getting absorbed by the world of MTB when I was introduced to the MTB night life. For the first few months on my Niner (and years earlier on an old Cannondale) it was a race against the sun. In the early months of the year you couldn’t get home from work fast enough. There was simply no time to ride. Come March and April you could squeak out an hour or so of daylight before eventually succumbing to the throes of darkness. Dark times indeed.
Through a friend I was introduced to night riding. Heavy light packs and many lumens later I get a NiteRider Dual Beam something or another. I believe its somewhere in the neighborhood of 1200-1400 lumens. No longer was I enslaved to the axis and rotation of Earth. In fact, I looked forward to the cover of darkness! Night riding makes old trails new again, shines a light on our fears and introduces us to creatures in the dark.
If you’re interested in night riding and aren’t familiar with it, I recommend a light with at least 1,000 lumens. A lumen is a scientific measurement of visible light and, of course, more is better. My NiteRider is, I believe, an older dual 1200 lumen model. A handlebar mounted housing unit with two 600 lumen lights inside guides the way. One light is spot, one is flood. It gives a comfortable enough dose of light to comfortably tackle the pitch black trails that surround the James River. The cell phone pictures here don’t do it justice.
I’ve used a friend’s 800 lumen light and it just isn’t enough to blaze through the trails with confidence. I find myself touching the brakes too much because I can’t quite see far and wide enough to ride like it’s the bright of day. However, using these two lights in tandem is an immaculate combination. The smaller lights are easily mounted atop your helmet while the larger, battery pack powered lights are best mounted to the handlebar.
I always bring a backup light when I head out. There’s been a couple times where my headlight has malfunctioned or the cable has become disconnected from the pack and in the pitch black of night out in the woods, this can be scary and dangerous. Any blinky commuter light will do as all you need is enough light to either fix your situation or find your exit safely.
Bikes rule, right? Of course. But sometimes you get bored of the same old thing. If you’re like me, you’ve got several bikes for several applications. Sometimes that’s just what it takes to get you back on track. A simple switch. The trail system near my house in Richmond is nothing short of amazing in my opinion. They’re easy to get to and easy to log miles in. But everything gets a little dull after a while. Night riding fixes that. After nightfall, all sorts of creatures come out of the woods. It can be scary and exciting to see the eyeballs of strange creatures light up and blow by you as you tear through the trails. You’ve got no idea what they are, just a strange premonition that you’re being watched by hundreds of monsters. Most of the time they’re just deer, but there are definitely some things out there that I’m not familiar with and I love that feeling. It keeps your legs pumping.
Aside from the creepy crawlies, a familiar trail quickly becomes unfamiliar when all you’ve got is ten to twenty feet of visibility. There’s no more preparing for that jagged rock that’s sticking out of the dirt or that low hanging tree limb. Those slippery creek beds that you normally line up ahead of time? Good luck. All of these things are thrown in your face at a moments notice. This can be a positive thing for someone who’s constantly second guessing himself, or a disaster for the over confident.
The night is dark, frightening and exciting. It can provide new opportunities to extend the life out of your trail system. Night riding is for the adventurous thrill seeker, for the nine to fiver who can’t buy enough daylight. It isn’t for everyone but if you’re constantly searching for more reasons to ride, grab a light and pedal into the darkness.