Have you ever felt like your trail riding routine has fallen into a rut, so to speak? Are you looking for a means to add some magic into those familiar loops in the woods? Try riding those same trails at night! Even the trail that you absolutely know by heart in the daylight becomes a totally fresh, new experience when riding it in total darkness. At the very least, it just feels faster when you ride trails at night.
The key to riding trails at night is, of course, the utilization of sufficiently bright lights. And unlike riding on the road where a single headlight will suffice, for the optimal trail riding experience you’ll want a pair of lights: one mounted on the helmet and one mounted on the handlebars.
The helmet-mounted light provides a view ahead that syncs with your line of vision. So whenever you move your head, the helmet light will illuminate where you’re looking. The second light mounted on the handlebars will provide an immediate field of view of the terrain directly ahead in front of your front wheel.
How Many Lumens Do I Need?
The helmet-mounted headlight needs to be bright, much brighter than the handlebar-mounted headlight. 700 lumens is considered a base level, but having a helmet-mounted light with a triple-digit lumen output will pay amazing dividends out on the trail. The NiteRider brand of lights set the standard for lighting up trails like daylight, and their Pro 2200 Race Headlight provides an absolutely massive 2,200 lumens at the highest setting. Quite simply, it’s like having your own personal sun. Bike Nashbar also features several other NiteRider headlight options that are excellent, including the NiteRider Pro 1800 Race Headlight, the NiteRider Pro 1400 Race Headlight, and the NiteRider Pro 1200 Race Headlight with 1800, 1400, and 1200 lumen maximums respectively.
Your handlebar-mounted light should have a minimum of 300 lumens, but running a headlight a bit brighter, such as the NiteRider Swift 450, provides just that additional bit of light in front of your front wheel for added clarity.
Night Riding Tips
This may sound like a no-brainer, but make sure you start your mountain bike night ride with fully charged lights. Keep them plugged in overnight the evening before or make sure they’re charging throughout the day in advance of your ride so you’ll have the maximum amount of battery strength at your disposal.
And speaking of fully charged lights, it’s a very good idea to bring along an additional fully charged light as a back-up option. Stow it in your pack and hopefully you’ll never need to use it, but you never know what might happen out in the woods. Trust us when we say that navigating out of the woods in total darkness is not how you want to spend your evening.
Preserve your battery strength and maximize run times by being judicious about when you run lights at their brightest settings. If you’re riding to and from the trails, you can certainly run your headlights at a much lower lumen output than you would need on the trails. Similarly, if you know the trails and find yourself on a section that’s not very technical, or if you find yourself climbing and don’t need full-on illumination due to a slower speed, then by all means run your headlights at a lower lumen output. Save all those lumens for trail sectors that are more difficult to navigate.
If your night riding trail adventure includes riding to and from the trails, as opposed to driving to a trailhead, then you’ll want to add a tail light to the mix for safety. Once you’re on the trails, you can turn it off so it won’t be distracting to other riders on the trails.
If you’re riding trails at night with other people, wearing reflective clothing helps provide an additional visual cue as to the location of your friends.
And last but not least, if you’re riding trails at night by yourself, make sure you tell someone where you’re going.
So there you have it. With the addition of some lights, you’ll have the means to really expand your trail-riding horizons. You won’t have to worry about chasing daylight to get in a great ride. And riding at night is just plain fun, which is what cycling is all about.