Starting my ride at twilight, I made my way up to the Corvair trail – 1.4 miles of twisting, flowy singletrack, starting just above 9,000 feet. Corvair is a personal favorite of mine, mostly because when it ends at the Mid Mountain trail, I can access multiple other incredible descents all the way into town. But on this particular ride I wanted a new perspective on a familiar trail. I wanted to try mountain biking at night. Finishing the climb with my light shining brightly and welcoming the darkness, by the time I reached the top the sun was well behind the hills.
Mountain biking at night provides a completely different experience. Gone are the majestic views and wildflowers. The grueling climb that rewards you with a peaceful rest spot is dominated by darkness. The quiet is unrelenting with stillness only broken by the movement of your headlamp. On the trail you can only see where your light shines, making you hyper-focused on the details. It’s unlikely that you’ll see another person which opens up the possibility for some fast riding. And the cool night air makes you feel like you can ride for hours.
Night riding is best done with a powerful headlamp. Manufacturers like Light & Motion make helmet- and handlebar-mounted lights with lumen outputs in the thousands. It’s the equivalent to putting a car headlight on your head – although in a lighter and more manageable package. The battery can be stowed in your bag or mounted to your frame. Modern lights illuminate the trail very well. And while there are still some shadows that can play tricks on you, obstacles within the trail are still easy to identify at speed. A light jacket is another important thing to take along. Nights tend to become quite chilly in the mountains, regardless of the warm summer season.
Night riding can be a bit dangerous. Less traffic on the trails means less people there to find you if something were to happen. The best advice is to ride with a friend or two. I gave myself a time limit for the ride and let multiple people know the trail I was riding and when I should be home.
Interested in night riding? First, make sure that your bike handling skills are advanced enough to be able to quickly react to obstacles in the trail. Then make sure you have the right equipment including a headlamp, water, clear glasses, and an extra layer. You will also need to be able to change a flat tire quickly and efficiently. Find some fellow mountain bikers who are up for the challenge and then stop by White Pine Touring, Jans, or your local bike shop and talk to an Expert about the best spots to ride safely at night.
Alone at night (or with friends) guided by nothing but your headlamp.
Paul Boyle, Production Manager