Night Rides – Illuminating Another Way to Ride

A photo of the author riding his mountain bike on a ridge above the city as the moon rises.
Full moon above the city that never sleeps, Las Vegas.

Night ride season is here! For some of us, we don’t have the means to go for a morning ride or lunch ride on weekdays. For some of us, we can’t bike to work mainly because we’re scared of getting hit by cars because there are no bike-specific lanes to get to and from work. For some of us, we’re stuck inside the office all day in front of a computer, and we look outside the window and it’s nice out. Yeah, it kinda sucks. 

And for some of us, like myself, living in the desert means this time of the year is just about to start to slowly get warmer as the season goes on and the only thing we have got going is either ride early in the morning or at night. 

The gym is nice and all, but we all know being outdoors is way better. As a cyclist, you know you’d rather be outside cranking those pedals. Getting rowdy on singletrack or getting your heart rate max’d out as you pedal down the winding road as the gentle wind runs across your face – it’s the best feeling. That feeling of being free. 

I hit the gym every now and then but I find myself more on my bike for the reasons I mentioned above. I really just love riding my bike. I bring my bike to work and hit the trails after work at least two to three times a week. Sometimes I ride with a group, other times I ride alone. Yes, alone, in the dark. 

The author's bike leaning against his desk at the end of a workday.
Coworkers don't mind a dirty bike in the office.

Why alone, you may ask? I’ll get more into that later… 

But, aren’t you scared in the dark? No, not really. I know my trails. Getting to know your trails is very important. I don’t suggest riding new trails, or overly technical trails, especially at night time. 

What if something happens? Hmmm, I haven’t really thought about that stuff. My mind is completely free of worries when I’m out there alone. Most of the time the only thing I ever think about is what am I gonna eat for later. Rice over chicken adobo? Damn, I can already smell it! In N’ Out? Chick-fil-A? Poke bowl? Tacos??? Ohhhh…I might not be able to finish this blog!

My rides are usually between an hour to two hours long starting from around 6:30 p.m. after work. Sometimes it’s an easy ride, sometimes I go hard but most of the time I’m just out for a ride. I have a go-to trail network that’s easy access from work but I don’t ride the same trails every time. I like to keep things interesting.

What lights I’m using? I suggest using two lights; one on the helmet and one on the handlebar. On my helmet, I have Lupine Piko 4 1200 Lumens that I bought four years ago that I still use to this day and NiteRider Lumina 1100 Lumens on my handlebar. I suggest investing wisely on lights if night riding is something you see yourself doing more often. I had several $30 ones from Amazon in the past – they didn’t last long. 

The best way I learned how to mount the light to the handlebar is cut a small piece out of an old inner tube just enough to wrap around the handlebar, then place the light mount on top of it and then secure it by tightening the screw. This technique prevents the light from moving up or down when the trail gets rough, and it also prevents your fancy carbon handlebar from getting scratched. Point the handlebar light to an angle where your eyes are on the trail, the same goes for the helmet light. Pointing the lights too high or too low give you poor visibility, which isn’t what you want when riding at night. And definitely wear clear glasses to protect your eyes from dust and bugs. 

A detail photo of handlebar mounted light.
Wrap that bar with a piece of old tube for better mounting.
Using a plug to repair a tear in a tire.
Flat sucks. Don't forget your essentials!
Repair tools and supplies to deal with a mechanical on a ride.
The MUST HAVE essentials for just about any ride.

What’s in my pack? First off, let’s start with the bike. One of my bikes has a water bottle holder, and the other does not. Both bikes have a spare tube, CO2 canister and tire lever strapped on the downtube. I usually am a minimalist and carry just the essentials. When I have my PEARL iZUMi Cargo Bib Liner Shorts on, it’s awesome because it has three pockets in the back – it can carry just the items I need to bring with: phone, a couple of Honey Stinger waffles, water bottle filled with Skratch Labs hydration mix drink, and toolbag (made by Backcountry Research) about the size of a wallet. I wear my DaKine fanny pack sometimes – the one that can carry a water bottle – when I want to look cool like my friends.

What’s in my toolbag? Specialized multi-tool, Gerber Dime multi-tool, Genuine Innovation Tubeless Tackle Kit and CO2 inflator, chain link, mini-bottle of chain lube, and chapstick (because I like to forget my chapstick in my pockets and my washer really likes it when I do that). It’s also worth noting that my spare derailleur hanger never leaves my pack whether it’s a short ride or long epic rides. 

What’s my favorite riding gear? The new PEARL iZUMi Summit shorts! They are sold in two versions; shell only and the other that comes with a liner. There had been a few times when I totally forgot my pack and toolbag at home. The new re-designed Summit shorts have its pockets so that if you stash your phone inside it when you sit on the saddle and pedal, the phone is behind your thigh and feels a lot more comfortable pedaling than when it’s on the front. It’s pretty awesome.

A group photo of several mountain bikers in the night with lights on.
A regular Thursday night ride when I get out with friends instead of solo.

There are times when I ride alone I just want to get up the hill and just hang out there, unwind and watch the city gets brighter as the night gets darker while I take a shot or two of whiskey off my flask. Those times have taught me how to be creative with my iPhone. Every now and then I get “dope shot, how did you take that?” I take pictures just for shits and giggles…because why not? I carry a mini tripod sometimes, and other times I just place my phone on top of a rock with the water bottle as support – put it on a video mode or timer, no special settings, just have it focus to capture the nice backdrop with the right angle. The best views are often found in wild places at the strangest times. The most amazing thing I’ve witnessed while I was chillin’ at the top of the hill one night was when lightning and thunder started going off all over the valley. It was pretty crazy, kind of scary but it was definitely a sight to see. (Check it out below)  

Night rides are my way of recharging myself after a busy workday, and I also like to think that it’s made me tougher mentally. Going back to why I ride alone at night, not taking anything away from group rides because they are equally fun, we all need our “me time.” The one hour or two hours I’m riding solo after work hours is when I feel most free, where I’m only worried about me, or not even worried at all, where my mind just wanders and just be on its own. I find it very soothing being out there alone with just the sounds of crickets around. I’m sure there other creatures out there looking at me like I’m crazy or whatever, but it doesn’t bother me at all.

So, let’s go–or you go–on a night ride but don’t forget to charge your lights.

 

The author riding as the sun sets on a day in the desert.
I've never met a sunset I didn't like.
Rate this story:
1 Star2 Stars3 Stars4 Stars
3 votes so far
Loading...

When Randy was 10 years old, he'd wake up at 4 a.m., hop on his bicycle and sell fresh baked breads from his aunt’s bakery to neighbors in rural parts of the Philippines. He enjoys solo mountain bike night rides whenever possible after working all day at the office. He thinks the best rides are the unplanned rides; the adventure rides, the ones where you don’t know what to expect. Randy's favorite trail is Gridley in Ojai, CA.

Ambassador

One thought on “Night Rides – Illuminating Another Way to Ride

  1. Night rides are the best! Even if you do your usual trail, it can such a nice change. The bar mounted and helmet mounted lights are crucial. The brighter the better. I can imagine in Vegas, the night mob scene is where it’s at. Now for some of those bomb foods you went on about

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.