Night riding - what to expect?- Mtbr.com
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  1. #1
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    Night riding - what to expect?

    Hi all.

    With the days starting to get shorter, I'm considering riding at night. I've yet to do all the research for lights, but I wanted to know what to expect before I invest in a system.

    For example, what changes when riding at night? Any physical impact to having the light mounted on the helmet? How about the emotional effect of riding alone at night (on familiar trails)? What can I expect out there?

  2. #2
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    Quote Originally Posted by moldau94 View Post
    Hi all.

    With the days starting to get shorter, I'm considering riding at night. I've yet to do all the research for lights, but I wanted to know what to expect before I invest in a system.

    For example, what changes when riding at night? Any physical impact to having the light mounted on the helmet? How about the emotional effect of riding alone at night (on familiar trails)? What can I expect out there?
    Well for one, even with good lights trail features take on a more two dimensional effect. To be more precise there is a loss of depth perception. Depending on your light set-up this can be very pronounced or hardly noticeable. Too much light output off the bars can be detrimental if the beam pattern has too much "close in reflective glare". Such glare effects your night vision and hampers your ability to see farther into the distance. It is always recommended that anyone wanting to seriously take up night riding get a two-lamp set-up...ie...one on the bars/ one on the helmet. This serves a two-fold purpose: One, it lets you see better by illuminating objects from two angles and two, if one lamp fails you have the other as back up.

    Riding at night is exciting. For the person who properly prepares him/herself for nocturnal activities it is relatively safe as long as you understand the limitations of MTB'ing in general and exercise caution when learning a new activity. Just like with any other sport there is a learning curve....things you can do, things you shouldn't do, and things you shouldn't do but will do because it is such fun. Once you get over the "fear of the dark" issue the good times will begin.

  3. #3
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    Get 2 complete light systems. One for the helmet and one for the bars and if you get two that are interchangeable, same plugs, charger, and batteries, it will be a plus. Try riding with one light first, helmet mounted and then bar mounted so that you get an idea of what each will bring to the table. Then you will appreciate having both. Expect that familiar trails that you ride in the daylight will seem unfamiliar at night sometimes. You could become a bit disoriented or lost if you will, at night because things just look different sometimes. On familiar trails I became totally confused when I came to a section of the forest that had just burned. At night riding from normal trees and foliage and then entering into the area with everything charred and lifeless, I felt like I entered into another whole dimension and it was eery, but sort of cool at the same time. Be careful of branches hitting your eyes. Wear protective glasses just as you should in the daylight. Watch out for critters. Tell someone where you are going before hand. Above all expect riding at night to be completely awesome and fun.

  4. #4
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    Find a friend to go with the first few times. Your mind can play tricks on you. Everything is more relaxing with a buddy. We have a regular group that rides on Tuesday nights and it's just like riding during the day. The same route by myself, is totally different.

    2 lights is a great suggestion if you can afford it. Night riding is easy with 2 and you have a backup in case one drops dead.

    It's a blast!

  5. #5
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    I'm about to start night riding, bought some used lights, Stella 200L and a old niterider classic.

    The classic needs a new battery, I think I will try replacing it with a new lithium type battery, if anyone has info on this that would be great.

    Does anyone ever run into animals? Anyone recommend carrying a weapon? I usually carry a knife but maybe for riding at night I'll carry a small handgun.

  6. #6
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    I usually ride with at least one or two other people at night and we have seen several deer, a moose, a bear and a snake so far this year in Montana.

    Every time our lights have done a great job of giving us enough warning to stop and once the animal recovers from the shock and realizes that we are people, they run away and find a quieter place for the night. We typically have a can of bear spray on hand, but that is as far as we go.
    Josh

  7. #7
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    Great advice so far. I best explain it as "tunnel vision".
    first time I went out was with some buddies who literally had light cannons on their helmets. I'm talking 1600 lumin output which turns night into day. I had a little NightRider 200 lumin light that was easily out ridden. Luckily I could fallow my buddies light beam who was riding behind me.
    Lights have come down a ton in price. I picked up a Magic Shine a few years ago that puts out about 900 lumin which I find is easily enough light.
    Like the others have stated, make sure your light on your helmit is the brighter of the two if you do decide to use two lights, to include a handlebar mount.

    First time out I remember all the dust that gets illuminated on the trails and gives an eary feeling.
    Good luck and enjoy, it's a blast.
    XXL Spesh FSR 29er | Custom Ti roadie by Triton | FM190 build in progress

  8. #8
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    Expect to have a blast. Night riding adds a whole new dimension, and with proper lighting (and riding buddies), it is so much fun. Oh, and remember to duck more, as you have a light sitting a couple inches off the top of your helmet

  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by moldau94 View Post
    For example, what changes when riding at night?

    Well, there are substantially more zombies at night--definitely something to watch out for. On the flip side, there are WAY fewer hikers (probably a result of the zombies...). We rally in the dark on trails where you will run into a hiker every 2 minutes during the day. I'm definitely faster at night on most trails. Riding at night has a little bit of a video game feeling to it. I don't drink as much (water--probably more beer though) and I feel like it's easier to get into the "zone".

    Lights are so cheap now compared to a few years ago so you ABSOLUTELY need to invest in a light for your helmet and a light for your bars. The two of them together will help create more shadows which will illuminate bumps better--one light source will tend to flatten trails. Conventional wisdom is to run a spot pattern on your head and a flood on your bars, but I'm a big fan of floods for both--if you're running a flood pattern, I don't think you can have too much light.


    There are really four schools of thought when it comes to buying lights:
    1. Buy a $$ light from a respected company and enjoy a high quality product and good service.
    2. Buy a cheap light online that was built in China and enjoy the feeling that your light or battery MIGHT go out at any point while riding (and the battery might set your house on fire when charging it). Seriously though, most Chinese lights are fairly well built and super bright. Search for sellers with a good reputation on MTBR to increase the chance of having good service if you ever do have a problem.
    3. Buy your parts online and build your own light. This is definitely the best/cheapest way to go if you have the expertise to do this.
    4. Buy a home brew light from someone who is smarter than you and can build a great light. I'm a big fan of #4 and run Amoebas that were built in "Scar" on MTBR's basement. I've had them for three years now and they are very bright, very well constructed, super light and relatively low cost compared to #1. Scar's service has been great too the one time that I had a problem with one of my lights. In addition to the Amoebas, there are a handful of other builders here on MTBR and elsewhere on the web.
    The other thing I would suggest is lots of redundant layers. If you have a mechanical during the day, you can usually walk out and stay warm. If you're riding on a 15 degree night, you're going to want an extra layer or two for those "just riding along" moments. As others have said, clear lens glasses are a must, as are anti-fog wipes since you will fog your glasses up several times each ride. Sunscreen is totally optional at night though.

  10. #10
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    First of all, expect awesomeness! It's really a nice change to ride the same trails at night. It's a different feel but you are still in familiar territory. Trails feel a lot faster at first since you can't see 1/4 mile up the trail, it's almost like you're in a 25x100 foot tunnel of light and the trail moves past you.

    One challenge is making sure you keep your eyes up the trail, and not directly in front of you. My natural inclination in the dark was to focus on stuff immediately in front of me, which is the opposite of what I do in the daylight. In daylight it's easy to see what's in front of you using peripheral vision, so my eyes are typically scanning 25-50 feet ahead depending on speed. It should be the same way at night, but for some reason it's harder for me to keep my eyes "up trail".

    I always notice more wildlife. Not sure if this is due to reflective eyes or just that more animals are active at night, but it's very cool (except for skunks!). I definitely recommend a light on both the bars and the helmet, as they compliment each other. They also provide a backup for each other in case of failure or if a battery goes dead. At the very least get a helmet light, as the light goes where you look, which is usually where you need it. A bar mounted light is great, until you come up to a sharp corner and the bars are pointed straight ahead - not helpful!

    As for what lights to get, it really depends on your budget. Like all things in MTB'ing you can spend as much as you want and you'll almost always get what you pay for. There are a few lower end Chinese lights that are actually very good, but should you go that route make sure to pick up two so you have a backup. They're cheap enough that you can get two for the same cost of one of the more expensive lights. And if you buy it from a good company they will take care of you should there be a hardware failure.

    Here's what I've been running for the past 2 years: (872 just one year)
    Bars: Magicshine MJ-872 1600 lumen - $150 with 6.6ah battery
    Helmet: Magicshine MJ-808 - $80

    The MJ-872 is a bright "flood" pattern light that doesn't have much throw but works perfectly for the bars. It lights up the area directly in front of the bike and out to 30 feet or so like it's daytime. The MJ-808 has a pretty tight spot, almost like a handheld flashlight. But it does have move spill and produces quite a bit of light. You can spot with it out to a couple hundred feet so it works great as a helmet light. Just get the position right and it will point directly where you're looking.

    Here's a video with the group I ride with. One guy has a high end NiteRider 1500, one other has 2x Lupine Piko, a few with MagicShine 808's, and a couple with Gemini Xera and Titan. Everyone has fun!
    "Got everything you need?"

  11. #11
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    So, I'm a night riding novice -- just completed my first two night rides. And I have to concur with most all of what others have said. Having two lights (one on bar, and one on helmet) is the way to go.

    First ride I was a bit thrown by how different my very familiar trail looked -- not aesthetically but in terms of how I had to adjust to the way technical sections looked unfamiliar. I had difficulty in some sections because of this. Interestingly, on my second ride I took on an unfamiliar trail and found it a bit easier. Maybe because I was more cautious? I believe it will take some adjustment, but I had a blast and can't wait for more.

  12. #12
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    As far as animals are concerned, I don't think night riding is any more dangerous than daytime riding. There have only been 2 attacks by mountain lions on mountain bikers reported in CA, and they were on the same day caused by the same lion during broad daylight if I'm not mistaken. However riding off into the trails in the dark can be a little unsettling esp the first few times. People are another concern. I have seen people on trails at night two or three times and they all were up to something sketchy. I rode past w/o incident every time, but you never know. I do carry a knife for many reasons including self defense, better safe than sorry.

  13. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by attaboy View Post
    First ride I was a bit thrown by how different my very familiar trail looked -- not aesthetically but in terms of how I had to adjust to the way technical sections looked unfamiliar. I had difficulty in some sections because of this. Interestingly, on my second ride I took on an unfamiliar trail and found it a bit easier.
    Hells to the yeah!




    If you know what I mean.
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    We just ride...

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