The winter evenings set in early enough to spoil those sunset mountain rides, but don't put your bike away just yet. With the nightfall comes a whole new adventure to be had on two wheels - night riding.
For most people who are limited by their working hours, once the autumn comes the opportunity to ride in the week takes a swift nose-dive off a cliff. So, unless you're happy to only riding your bike just on weekends, or spending your evening on a turbo trainer at home, then you should really give night riding a go.
While it sounds a little scary and maybe even intimidating, all you really need is a good pair of bike lights to squash those fears, and get going. Mountain bike lights are a lot more powerful than road cycling lights, so you need to make sure you have the right kind. Lucky for you, we've done most of the hard work with our MTB light buying guide, which you can read here.
Along with your normal riding attire, bike and lights, we have some top tips to help get you off to a flying night-time ride.
A good set of bike lights aren't as heavy and as bulky as you may think. Modern technology has enabled the production of lightweight, convenient and reliable illumination that emits incredible shining power.
The brightness, weight and designs will vary a lot between brand, and budget. Some devices are a single unit with an integrated battery whereas others have a battery you carry on your bike, or in your pocket.
Many riders will opt for having two lights. One mounted to the handlebars which tend to be brighter and heavier, and another mounted to the top of the helmet which will be smaller and lighter - ideal for illuminating the path your eyes are following (i.e around corners).
Keep your eyes peeled
Even your most frequented and favourite trails will look totally different at night. You may think you know every berm, feature and descent, but cast playful shadows over them and they suddenly seem very different - which is part of the fun!
Keep your eyes peeled and look ahead at all times. The night-time can bring out new wildlife, dancing shadows and the occasional "over-friendly" couple along the way.
Relax and breathe
Night riding is something new, something different and it can be a little challenging to get to grips with at first.
The most important thing to remember is to relax your body and control your breathing. Tensing up over rocks and roots, or blindly shooting off in a panic can lead to an accident, so if you feel yourself worrying, take a little break and relax. At the end of the day, you're just riding your bike on your local trails, so enjoy.
It goes without saying that it's a lot colder at night-time, so remember to layer up with some good base-layers. If you have to stop to fix a puncture or take a break, it's surprising just how quick your body cools down.
There's safety in numbers
Riding with friends is awesome, and it's also a little safer in case there's an accident or problem on the ride.
Night riding with friends is also a lot less scary when you have people with you to chat with, which distracts you from those ominous shadows around you. Just be careful when you stop for a chat; if you have a light on your helmet and you turn to look at your riding companions, you could end up dazzling them.
Night riding is a whole new experience that every mountain biker should try at least once. It's fun and thrilling, and you learn a lot more about your local trails than you ever thought.
So have fun out there this winter, and give it a go!
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