Ever since I first tried MTB riding, I’ve been addicted to it. Not even after the first fall, which happened after not more than ten minutes of riding, did I feel this wasn’t the right activity for me. As I was gaining more experience with every new ride, my confidence grew and the distances covered got longer. I particularly enjoy the fact bike rides are possible the whole year round, though there are different challenges involved.
However, there was still one challenge that I was slightly apprehensive about: a night ride. I was at the same time excited by the prospect of riding in the dark and nervous about possible accidents and injuries. Still, I plucked up the courage and joined a local group of cyclists from Adelaide one evening in May and went for my first night mountain bike ride. How was it? Well, I guess the fact that I now have dozen of night rides behind me speaks for itself.
So, if there’s anyone out there who feels like I did before the first night ride, I’d like to share some of the tips I got and some of my experience to help you overcome the fear and make the most of this wonderful opportunity.
You definitely need some high-quality lights, at least 1,000 lumens, so that you can see well on the trail. Needless to say, you need to fully charge the lights and bring some batteries in case you get lost and your lights start fading. There’s one thing I learnt from a fellow-cyclists about positioning the lights. Before I started going on night riding sessions, I used to ride my bike around the city in the evening and my lights were mounted on the bars. Now, this is not the best idea for off-road riding, since you can only see where your front wheel is pointing. Instead, you should mount the lights on your helmet, so that you choose which part of the trail you want to see. Of course, you can keep the lights on the bars for extra visibility, but don’t rely solely on them.
You may prefer cycling alone, but I urge you not to do that at night. First of all, you'd feel better and safer and in case anything goes wrong, you'll have a helping hand by your side. Just make sure you keep a distance so that you don't collide.
Another reason why you shouldn’t ride close to each other is that a strong light can create a shadow in front of the other rider, which significantly decreases visibility. Finally, if you’re riding behind your friend and the trail is dry and dusty, your light won't be able to illuminate the trail well since all the dirt and dust would get in the way.
Don’t even think about a night ride unless you have all the right gear. In my case, that means a reliable mountain bike, helmets and gloves, comfortable mountain bike shoes and a backpack with enough water, spare batteries, a small head torch and a repair kit. I have never opted for cheaper gear if the quality was not satisfactory. The difference in price should never justify risking your life, at least in my opinion.
There are many trails around Adelaide I’ve explored and some of them are just perfect for night riding. For example, Shepherds Hill Recreation Park and the Eagle Mountain Bike Park are just two of my favourite places for cycling, but you can find many others closer to your home. Just do a bit of research or contact a local cycling group for recommendations and encouragement.
I can completely understand that night rides are not for everyone and they are definitely not the best way to get introduced to the world of cycling. However, if you’re already a cyclist and love the freedom provided by cycling, you can most certainly increase your love for this activity and discover a whole new world if you decide to give it a go.
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