When the clocks change and the night draws in, cyclists have a decision to make: get in the groove with night riding and embrace the darkness. Or, hang up the wheels and miss out on hours of glorious saddle time.
Sometimes it’s a depressing thought with the time change and the nights closing in. However, night riding can also be relished as one of the most rewarding experiences you can have on a bike, and especially when riding with a group. Riding in the dark heightens your senses, improves your skills and builds awareness. Switching up the training regime can freshen your attitude, spark some fun, and maintain fitness.
The trick to capturing the benefits is to make the time change and night riding work for you. Develop strategies that support your cycling while embracing the darkness. Here’s how!
A Well Lit Bike
Visibility is critical. Outfit your bike with a good light system. You will want lights for the front of your bike. Consider having multiple lights for the front of your bike. One on your helmet so you can shine side roads and traffic and have a second light on your handlebars so you can see at least 10 ft. or more in front of you. For the rear of your bike, opt for a rear red light- particularly one that blinks. A blinking red light is much more likely to get the attention of a passing motorist who might otherwise not notice you.
For those who need a really bright headlight check out the NiteRider Pro 1800 Race on the BikeParts.com website. Designed for mountain bike racing, and with 1200 lumens you can expect to get about 1 hour and 30 minutes of run time. At 700 lumens you should get 3 hours, 400 lumens yields 4 hours, 200 lumens 12 hours, and 80 lumens 25 hours. It takes about five hours to fully charge the four cell Lithium Ion battery.
A Well Lit Cyclist
Purchase cycling apparel that is visible. There are options to choose from including vests and ankle bands. Also, reflective tape is a good idea. 3M makes black reflective tape that is great to put on black wheels. You do not notice it during the day and it shows up white at night. And, as the temperature drops, it’s hard to know what to wear when it’s 50 degrees and sunny outside versus 30 – 35 degrees and cloudy. Riding in transitional weather can be a challenge! But, with clothing that is versatile, lightweight, and easy to pack down, you can find a cycling wardrobe that works for you. Watch our video, How to Dress for Winter Cycling to get ideas.
Riding in the dark makes the riding of any technical section immediately harder than in the day. It takes a good while to overcome this, so don’t set yourself a task to ride the most demanding trails you have. Ease yourself in as the nights start earlier and downgrade your expectations. Remember, you will inevitably ride and travel more slowly than in daylight. With that being said, be mindful that your route doesn’t exceed your lights battery capacities.
Experiencing mechanical difficulties in the cold and at night is not fun! A well maintained bike is a fun bike to ride. Yet, for some, bike maintenance can be a chore. Having the right set of bike components and tools can make all the difference. When prepping your bike for for the colder temps and night riding, there are several things you want to do to keep your bike in good working order. A good thing to always do is to wipe down and inspect the frame. As the weather changes, rain, snow, ice, and road elements pose different cleaning challenges to your frame and bicycle parts. Consider using a stiff, soft-bristled brush to knock off any chunks of dried-on mud that may be on your frame or wheels. Then, follow that up by taking a rag to your bike, wiping it down generally all over to get off any remaining dust or dirt.
Also, remember to lube your chain and cables. As unglamorous as chain lube is, it is a necessity for winter riding. It will keep your bike parts in working order and squeak free! There are many lubes to choose – wet vs dry lube. As conditions vary, you may want to have a couple of different choices on hand. Finally, since you can’t see what you are rolling over in the dark, it’s a good idea to frequently inspect tires, wheels, and brake pads. Check that there is adequate air pressure in the tires. Check that there aren’t any cuts or nicks in the sidewall or tread of the tires. You’ll want to make sure the brake pads are not worn. And, remember to inspect where the brake pads hit the rim; they should contact the rim evenly on both sides and not rub the tire in any way that may cause a flat.
Here’s where the rubber hits the road: the time change can mark the end of the season or bring on a new adventure. Embrace the challenge and make night riding work for you!