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  1. #1
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    I suck at riding at night. Any tips?

    Like the title states, I'm terrible at this. I ride with the same couple guys and I have no trouble keeping up or leading the group during the day. Nighttime comes, and I bust out the light, and all of a sudden, I'm getting dropped. I've got the best light out of the group, a 1400 Lumen Gemini Duo, so its not the gear. I can't put my finger on exactly what the problem is, but I just feel like my timing is off when riding at night. Any suggestions? I've been riding mountain bikes for over 10 years, but I'm pretty new to night riding.

  2. #2
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    Wait you only have the one light?
    Is it on the bars or the helmet?
    Are your trails smooth single tracks, fast open fire road descents, or some kind of rocky lumpy terain?

    Single light on the helmet is ok for slower smooth single track but blend trail obsticles so it's very hard to pick a smooth line through rocks.
    Single light on the bars is ok for anything strait and rocky but will make you hesitant in the turns.

    A combo of two lights works best with a floodyier light on the bars, may a little more lumens then the helmet because the same light is spread over a larger area. Then a more spot light style for the helmet pointed right where your eye normally focus so you can see through the corners.

    You don't wear contacts by any chance do you?

  3. #3
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    Do you have the light on the bars or helmet?

    I have really bad night vision....and it has gotten worse over the years.

    If I ride with just a helmet light.....it ruins depth perception and contrast so you can't make out rocks and roots. And dust/ pollen makes it worse.

    I now run a 3x clone on the bars....that gives a good flood with good definition.
    And I run a SSx2 ...which is spottier...on the helmet...and I have it set pretty far forward to see ahead, over stuff and around corners.

    Huge improvement for me.

  4. #4
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    When setting up a light on the helmet you need to make sure its at the right angle. I personaly tend to tip my head forward and look up just below the horizon of my visor when I'm riding a fast flowy trail or a steep descent. Then when I come to a stop and chat with the guys my light is just shining into the sky. This make it easy for me because every time I mount the light I put my helmet on, look just below my visor and point the upper portion of the spot at the edge of the visor, done.

    When climbing a fire road the helmet light is usually pointed to high so I turn it off to save battery and switch the bar light to low.

  5. #5
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    Quote Originally Posted by RojoRacing53 View Post
    Wait you only have the one light?
    Is it on the bars or the helmet?
    Yes, just one light, on the helmet. I'm guess I ought to have two?

    Quote Originally Posted by RojoRacing53 View Post
    Are your trails smooth single tracks, fast open fire road descents, or some kind of rocky lumpy terain?
    I've ridden a mix of smooth twisty singletrack and lumpy twisty trails. No wide open fireroads, but strangely enough, the faster I go, the more comfortable I am.

    Quote Originally Posted by RojoRacing53 View Post
    Single light on the helmet is ok for slower smooth single track but blend trail obsticles so it's very hard to pick a smooth line through rocks.
    Single light on the bars is ok for anything strait and rocky but will make you hesitant in the turns.

    A combo of two lights works best with a floodyier light on the bars, may a little more lumens then the helmet because the same light is spread over a larger area. Then a more spot light style for the helmet pointed right where your eye normally focus so you can see through the corners.
    This makes sense. I had it on the bars for a few minutes on my first ride and I didn't like it. The trails here are too twisty, I kept getting "surprised" by obstacles around a turn or riding off the trail because I didn't see a turn.

    Quote Originally Posted by RojoRacing53 View Post
    You don't wear contacts by any chance do you?
    I do. Why do you ask?

  6. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by the mayor View Post
    Do you have the light on the bars or helmet?

    I have really bad night vision....and it has gotten worse over the years.

    If I ride with just a helmet light.....it ruins depth perception and contrast so you can't make out rocks and roots. And dust/ pollen makes it worse.

    I now run a 3x clone on the bars....that gives a good flood with good definition.
    And I run a SSx2 ...which is spottier...on the helmet...and I have it set pretty far forward to see ahead, over stuff and around corners.

    Huge improvement for me.
    It could be the lack of depth perception. I do feel like my timing is off, like I'm going faster than I actually am. I had a couple times last night where I was in a dip/woop and I couldn't make it up the other side because I just didn't have the momentum.

  7. #7
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    I asked about the contacts because I ride with a few guys in their 40s-50s and they use contacts. They say the contacts are clear but for some reason at night they really mess with their depth perception vs during the day. We don't know why but that what they tell me. They also had crappy lights so that probably didn't help. Just some food for though but yes on the two lights it will help a lot.

  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by msrothwe View Post
    Yes, just one light, on the helmet. I'm guess I ought to have two?
    I've always ridden with my light on my bars. Switched it to my helmet, and found that I was much slower and it was noticeably more difficult seeing obstacles at speed. Switched it back, and all is good.

    Schmed
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  9. #9
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    Possibly with your helmet light, you're following your beam on the trails rather than your beam following the trail, if that makes sense. If you feel that you're balance is off, or that you're getting hung up on easy obstacles, I'd wager that your balance is being thrown off because you're inadvertently following your light beam while riding, instead of riding the trail itself.

    A handlebar flood pattern light might fix this.

  10. #10
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    ZOMG

    One light on the helmet is difficult !!!! the closer the light is
    to your eyes, the smaller the shadows behind anything so it is
    very hard to tell the size of rocks and sticks. with a helmet
    light only I get tossed around like a ragdoll.

    a single light on the bars throws nice shadows and I can judge
    obstacles far better and am far faster, the only drawback is cornering
    on unfamilar trails, where a headlamp helps with that.

    suggestion: 1 light only, put on BARS. 2 lights, make bars the brightest
    one and headlamp secondary

  11. #11
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    Here's a couple examples of night ride video with only the handlebar light. I always run helmet and bars but this night I forgot the battery cable for the helmet light so I was stuck with only one light on the bars. The trails in the video aren't rocky but do have a few very minor drops/jumps that the bar light casts nice shadows past so you can see them coming up. Unfortunately since the camera is also on the bars and inline with the light you can see the shadows so the video lighting looks like the same as your eyesight with only a helmet light. I was able to negate the handicap of not being able to see through the turns with only a bar light by making sure I alway had someone in front of me leading the way. This was not a problem since this was a new group ride for me and I'd never been down these trails day or night. The light I'm using is a magicshine mj-856 which has the biggest flood angle of any light I've ever seen so its a great bar light and reasonable at $120.

    Don't mind the last few seconds of the second video, that's just the sound of my utter agony.
    Humbler 11 27 13 v3 - YouTube

    Edit: my bad this second video is with both lights on a different ride.
    Upper Indian Creek Trail 12/4/13 Youtube 1080 - YouTube

  12. #12
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    With my helmet light, I make sure it is shining far up the trail not just in front of the bike. If it's lighting too close to the bike you will find it really hard.

    You want it so you keep your chin up and look as far as you can. That way you make decisions early and are planning ahead rather than trying to react to the trail just in front.

    Night riding this way has improved my daytime riding as it has trained me to look further ahead so I'm preparing for the next section of trail rather than the one I'm on if that makes sense.

    To demonstrate try riding a section of trail in the day whilst looking just in front of the bike, then ride the same section with your chin up looking far ahead.

  13. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by neninja View Post
    With my helmet light, I make sure it is shining far up the trail not just in front of the bike. If it's lighting too close to the bike you will find it really hard.

    You want it so you keep your chin up and look as far as you can. That way you make decisions early and are planning ahead rather than trying to react to the trail just in front.

    Night riding this way has improved my daytime riding as it has trained me to look further ahead so I'm preparing for the next section of trail rather than the one I'm on if that makes sense.

    To demonstrate try riding a section of trail in the day whilst looking just in front of the bike, then ride the same section with your chin up looking far ahead.
    Just an observation but you don't need your chin up per say to look farther ahead. Like I said earlier I tend to tip my chin down and look up at my helmet visor because when your leaning off the back off the bike for a steep descent or tucked down low for more speed you can only tip you head back so far. You probably mean the exact same thing as me just wording it differnt or maybe my riding style is more aggressive then some riders.

  14. #14
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    Quote Originally Posted by neninja View Post
    With my helmet light, I make sure it is shining far up the trail not just in front of the bike. If it's lighting too close to the bike you will find it really hard.

    You want it so you keep your chin up and look as far as you can. That way you make decisions early and are planning ahead rather than trying to react to the trail just in front.

    Night riding this way has improved my daytime riding as it has trained me to look further ahead so I'm preparing for the next section of trail rather than the one I'm on if that makes sense.

    To demonstrate try riding a section of trail in the day whilst looking just in front of the bike, then ride the same section with your chin up looking far ahead.
    Yea, I've got that habit pretty well programmed from riding motorcycles, chin up, look for the corner exit. Helps out a lot during the day too, especially on a motorcycle.

  15. #15
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    Just embrace the suck and have fun instead.

    J.

  16. #16
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    Just thought I'd add some things that no one else thought to mention. Along with all the advice about getting a second lamp ( very important in my opinion ) if keeping up with the buddies was a problem it could either be just a mental "night ride" reaction or a physical energy level thing. People naturally have higher ( or lower ) energy levels at certain times of the day. Some people are morning people and can do all kinds of crap just as the sun is rising. "Me", I'm totally CAt crapped when the sun is just coming up. My highest energy levels are "late afternoon" ( after 5 ). I can't do jack anytime before 1pm.

    For me it has to do with my job and my age but even when I was younger I never was a person that could jump out of bed and be ready to rock. Now if you're a younger dude this is likely not the case because young people have younger cardio/hormone levels that help compensate for what I will dub, "bio-rhythmatic-jetlag".

  17. #17
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    Do you have any funky vision issues?
    Geologist by trade...bicycle mechanic (former) by the grace of God!

    2012 Specialized Stumpy EVO 29 HT

  18. #18
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    I suck at riding at night. Any tips?

    Quote Originally Posted by TiGeo View Post
    Do you have any funky vision issues?
    Ive got an astigmatism but I think that's fairly common and I'm corrected to 20/15 with contacts. So no, not that I know of.

  19. #19
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    Not sure, it really just takes some practice. Have 2 lights - 1 on the bar to light what is immediately in front of you and 1 on your helmet to use as a pointer to look ahead and into turns helps out.
    Geologist by trade...bicycle mechanic (former) by the grace of God!

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  20. #20
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    Quote Originally Posted by Cat-man-do View Post
    Just thought I'd add some things that no one else thought to mention. Along with all the advice about getting a second lamp ( very important in my opinion ) if keeping up with the buddies was a problem it could either be just a mental "night ride" reaction or a physical energy level thing. People naturally have higher ( or lower ) energy levels at certain times of the day. Some people are morning people and can do all kinds of crap just as the sun is rising. "Me", I'm totally CAt crapped when the sun is just coming up. My highest energy levels are "late afternoon" ( after 5 ). I can't do jack anytime before 1pm.

    For me it has to do with my job and my age but even when I was younger I never was a person that could jump out of bed and be ready to rock. Now if you're a younger dude this is likely not the case because young people have younger cardio/hormone levels that help compensate for what I will dub, "bio-rhythmatic-jetlag".
    Didn't see you post until now. The issues I'm having aren't really related to me being tired, I don't think. I just can't seem to handle my bike with lights.

    I went ahead and ordered another light, I'll update the thread when I get my night ride in.

  21. #21
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    Quote Originally Posted by Cat-man-do View Post
    ...getting a second lamp...People naturally have higher ( or lower ) energy levels at certain times of the day.
    Great point(s) I concur on both

  22. #22
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    Quote Originally Posted by msrothwe View Post
    Ive got an astigmatism but I think that's fairly common and I'm corrected to 20/15 with contacts. So no, not that I know of.

    On the contacts issue, I don't know how long you typically wear yours, but I wear them during the day, take them out in the early evening, and switch to glasses. I typically don't wear them longer than 10-12 hours. On night rides I would leave the contacts in longer, which would cause my eyes to be "tired" from wearing contacts longer than usual.

    I tried riding with my regular RX glasses, and was worried about them falling off, fogging up, etc. but those turned out to be non-issues. I now night ride with glasses instead of contacts, and my eyes feel a lot better.

  23. #23
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    I wear glasses (progressive bifocals) and have no trouble during the day. However at night, getting my eye to look through the right part of the lens never was where my lights were focused, It was always a little out of focus. My optometrist was amazed I was even able to do that at night. She switched me to single-vision distance lenses for riding. The difference was staggering! I'm flying through sections that I used to tippy-toe through and spotting everything. I have to hold my phone at arms length to see it but wow what a difference it made...

  24. #24
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    Another light, as others have mentioned, with the flood pattern on the bar will help a lot. Night riding also takes practice and doing more of it will make you a better night rider. Depth perception changes with darkness, at least for me, and with practice, your brain and muscle memory will adjust. Just need practice.
    "I love the bike. It's my meditation. I think I'm bike-sexual." -Robin Williams

  25. #25
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    I suck at riding at night. Any tips?

    We'll I rode last night even though I've got a pretty nasty cold, I had to. My new light came in, a Gemini Xera.

    It was pretty incredible how much better it was with two lights. I was going pretty much full speed on most sections. I think this might be the fix.

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