Night riding season is here! Working full time while living in the desert of Las Vegas means that this is the time of the year when it’s about to start getting warmer, and riding during the day won’t be an option. As the season goes on and the days get even hotter, the only time to get out for a ride will be early in the morning or at night.
The gym is nice and all, but we all know being outdoors is way better. 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 at the end of the day at least two or three times a week. Sometimes I ride with a group, other times I ride alone. Yes, alone, in the dark.
The Mental Side of Riding at Night
People often ask if I’m scared to ride alone 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 stuff at night, but revisiting familiar terrain in the dark can bring a new element to the ride, while still feeling within your comfort zone.
What if something happens? I usually try not to think about that stuff, as I want my mind to be 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—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 network of trails that’s close to my work but I don’t ride the same trails every time. I like to keep things interesting.
Light Up the Night
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. Investing a little extra on lights for night riding if it’s something you see yourself doing more often (or, you routinely commute in the dark). I’ve tried several $30 ones from Amazon in the past – they didn’t last long.
To mount the light to the handlebar, I 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 at an angle where your eyes are on the trail, the same goes for the helmet light. And definitely wear clear glasses to protect your eyes from dust and bugs.
I’m a minimalist and prefer to carry just the essentials. Both of my bikes have a spare tube, CO2 canister and tire lever strapped to the downtube. The PEARL iZUMi Cargo Bib Liner Short is awesome because it has three pockets in the back, perfect for small essentials like my phone and a couple of Honey Stinger waffles. I also usually bring a water bottle filled with Skratch Labs hydration mix drink, and always carry a compact repair kit (made by Backcountry Research) about the size of a wallet.
For tools, I carry the Specialized multi-tool, Gerber Dime multi-tool, Genuine Innovation Tubeless Tackle Kit and CO2 inflator, chain link, mini-bottle of chain lube, and chapstick. It’s also worth noting that my spare derailleur hanger never leaves my pack whether I’m out for a short ride or an epic adventure.
A Different Kind of View
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 get brighter as the night gets darker, while I take a shot or two of whiskey off my flask. Every now and then a friend will ask “dope shot, how did you take that?” I take pictures just for fun…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 watching a lightning storm splintering across over the valley. It was pretty crazy (kind of scary) and definitely a night I’ll remember. (Check it out below)
Social rides with friends can be equally as fun, but on my solo night rides, I’m out there for a different experience. Night rides are my way of recharging myself after a busy workday, and I also like to think that they’ve made me tougher mentally. The one hour or two hours I’m riding solo after the work day is done is when I feel most free, where I’m only worried about me, or not even worried at all, where my mind can just wander and my thoughts are my own. It’s soothing to be out there alone with just the sounds of crickets around. I’m sure there other creatures out there watching too, but it doesn’t bother me at all!
Night riding has a lot to offer but if it’s an experience you want to seek out, here’s a few words to the wise: don’t forget to charge your lights.