Many people find biking during the night to be extremely exciting and a bit more thrilling than “regular old day riding.” For others, the night is the only time for them to ride, being busy with things like school and work. Regardless of your reasoning, night time is the prime time to keep your eyes on safety. As I said earlier, I really don’t recommend riding at night unless you have to; there are substantially more risks involved with riding a bike at night, especially if you’re biking in an extremely suburban or extremely rural area. In the city you have to worry about cars and people; in the wilderness you have to worry about large animals and hidden obstacles. Here are a few tips to keep you out of harm’s way during your night mountain biking sessions:
- Avoid riding alone. If you can ride with a friend, then it’s really the best way to ride, especially in the wilderness. Having a riding buddy is not only great for safety, but it’s usually a lot of fun to have a person to share your mountain biking experience with.
- Invest in a good lighting system. A lighting system is the most important thing in night mountain biking. Lighting systems include headlights (attached to the handlebar), taillights, and may also include helmet lights. It is advisable, however, to have both a headlight and a helmet light since headlights only let you see where your handlebar is pointed, while helmet lights allow you to see where your head is turned. Taillights are necessary for riders behind you to see where you are going. Get headlights that are lightweight, bright, and can last for a long time. Helmet lights should also be lightweight, but not as bright as your headlight.
- Check the duration of your lighting system. It’s important to know how long those lights are going to last. If they are only going to last for 4 hours, then don’t ride beyond 4 hours. Otherwise, you’ll be left in the darkness.
- Never ride alone. If an accident occurs while riding in the night, no one might be able to help you. So always ride in a group, and never stray away from it. It’s also a good thing to carry a warning device such as a whistle or a horn to alert your fellow riders in case of an emergency.
- Familiarize yourself with the trail. Go through the trail a few times during daytime before riding it in the night. Things will look different once the sun goes down, so it is best to have a good knowledge of the trail so as to prevent confusion. Also, exploring new trails during the night can lead to accidents and even getting lost.
- Slow down. The night makes things harder to see, so it is recommended to step your riding pace down a bit. Take a little more time to examine what’s in front of you, and adjust accordingly. With that said, expect night rides to be a bit longer than daytime rides.
- Wear bright clothing. This will make you more visible in the dark. Neon colors like yellow and orange should do the trick.
- Wear protective eyewear. You can never tell if some bugs or low-hanging branches are about to poke you in the eyes, so you’ll need to protect them all the time. A pair of clear glasses or goggles is what you need.
- Bring a small flashlight along. Flat tires and other bike-related accidents are inevitable. A pocket-sized flashlight will come in handy when taking care of these things. Using it instead of your helmet light will allow you to conserve the latter’s battery life.
- Train, train, and train. Mountain biking is a physically-demanding sport, so make sure you go through the proper training exercises before trying this activity so as to prevent injuries.
These are just some basic safety guidelines for mountain biking during the night. Make sure to follow them each time you and your friends decide to go for a ride after sundown. And as you go along with this activity, you will probably learn new things that are not mentioned here. So, the best way to get better at night mountain biking is to do it often. Just remember to stick to these safety tips so that you may live to ride your bike another day.