Guest Post by Nick Swan
If you are bored of riding the same tracks again and again you have to try riding them at night time! My girlfriend and I go to Bracknell Forest quite a lot, but it was getting a bit boring riding the same routes time and time again. A friend suggested we try riding the trails and night time – and we thought why not! It is one of the most exciting things we’ve done. The trails feel completely different at night time and it’s like riding somewhere completely brand new. As well as making the same tracks feel different, night time riding allows you to get out a bit more in the winter when the days are shorter.
If you’re tempted to give it a go, below are my 5 tips for Night-time Mountain Biking:
1 – Buy a Good Quality Mountain Bike Light
It may seem obvious, however the first and most important thing to consider when night-time mountain biking is a decent set of lights. While the average cyclist may consider a cheap pair of standard road lights, I would recommend purchasing the best assortment of mountain biking lights that you can afford. Ideally, you should aim for two sets of lights on your handlebars. This not only ensures twice as much light and viewable area, but also acts as a backup should one of your bike lights fail.
These days you’re spoilt for choice when it comes to mountain bike lights; ranging from the pretty rubbish sub £70 range, right up to a few hundred pounds. Many people have an expensive primary light, with a less expensive battery operated backup. Flashing LED style lights are less important in the forest, as your main priority here is to illuminate your pathway. But, think of the guy behind you – you don’t really want him piling into your rear. Try to ensure that you also have a tail light for added visibility.
2 – Wear a Helmet Light and Reflective Clothing
A great addition to the powerful handlebar headlights is a helmet headlight. Sure, you may look like a coal miner, but a helmet headlight is a fantastic tool for night-time mountain biking. You operate it without even thinking and ensure that reading maps and accessing your belongings is simple in the dark.
Try to find the best lightweight headlight you can find, with powerful LEDs or standard bulbs that have enough battery to last the duration of your trip.
As well as your helmet headlight, you should also wear reflective clothing. You may not plan on being on too many roads on your bike, but you would be surprised at just how many other people will be out in the dark. Joggers and dog walkers are just two groups of people you may be encounter, so you need to make yourself as visible as possible. A bright reflective jacket will also be useful in an unfortunate situation such as an accident. Reflective clothing also makes it easy for paramedics to find you on a dark mountain or forest track.
3 – Use insect repellents
Night-time can be most insects and other wildlife’s favorite time of the day, and a collection of these species will be out in force. As you shoot along in the dark at 20 mph on your mountain bike you will be disturbing and even crashing through some of these creatures living environments. The result will often mean that you will be covered in insects and even bitten by some midges. By using an insect repellent you should ensure that you a free of these attacks and will come home with no unwanted new pets.
4 – Plan your route and tell someone
Mountain biking in the daytime has an element of risk involved, but those risks are multiplied several times over during the dark. Your path will often be at least 10 times more challenging during the dark and the chances of you getting lost or having an accident can increase. Planning is therefore vital. You should work out your route before you leave home. Allow yourself additional time to complete the trip as you may be going slower than you would in daylight. You should also ensure the land you are covering is accessible during evenings, especially if this is farmers land or national parkland. Once you are happy with your route, tell someone your plans. This will help you be found should an incident occur. Failing to plan your safety is not wise when mountain bike during night-time.
5 – Carry a Mobile Phone
If you have a smartphone with built in GPS/maps and have a way to secure it properly, and then obviously take this with you to assist your trip. However the chances of losing your smartphone are increased dramatically with night-time mountain biking. Therefore I would recommend taking a cheap/old mobile phone with you. This will ensure that in the case of emergencies you have a way of contacting someone, yet if you lose it you won’t be too concerned.
Night-time mountain biking can be a fun, exciting and challenging experience and evolution to the sport. If you have not yet been cycling in the dark or you want to improve the enjoyment of your trips, then follow my tips above for a safe trip.
Nick Swan is a software developer working at Voucher Codes Pro – he lives in Reading and rides around the Berkshire area. You can get vouchers for bikes on his site – check out the ones here from Evans.