Night Riding Essentials - Here's What You Need

Most Wednesday nights I run off to the mountain for some night riding. Night riding may be my favorite time to ride simply because there isn't a time constraint on the ride time. I can ride for as long or as short as I want, which isn't the case for most daytime rides because of family or work commitments.

I love my family and my job, but because of my responsibilities I can't easily make time to ride more than 2 hours (including drive time) during the day. 

This is why I love night riding, work is done, my kids are in bed, my wife is happily enjoying a night on her own with a glass of wine and a craft project or chick flick, and I'm free to stay out and ride as long as my light's batteries last.

In many ways night riding is similar to day riding; however, you have to do a little more planning and preparing. From many nights of mistakes, I've learned a thing or two about what to take to for a successful night ride. So here it goes:

  1. First off, it's best to ride with a friend at night. You'll appreciate the added safety and camaraderie.
  2. A nice, high-lumen light - Nite Ryder lights are awesome (lightweight, high-lumen, many options) - preferred mounting location is on my helmet
    • I recommend a light with about 700 lumens, you can get away with less, but in this situation, the more the better.
    • Charge this the night before your ride, to make sure it is fully charged and ready to use - dead batteries halfway through a ride are miserable.
  3. A second light for increased visibility and backup - second light is mounted to my handle bars if I already have a light on my helmet
  4. A third flash light/head lamp stored in your pack or gas-tank bag. This is purely for emergencies, where you need to walk with your bike back to your car/home.

Yes, that is three lights, to some, it may be overkill, but for the one night you crash and smash your light or your battery randomly fails, you'll be glad you have a backup light to get you out of the woods!

  1. Glasses with clear lenses - I try to always wear protective/sunglasses, but they are paramount at night. When riding at night there are more bugs, spider webs, etc. that can get in your eyes and the last thing you need on a nighttime decent is a bug in your eye.
  2. Water - bring enough for your ride and if you drive to the trail head, bring some for the ride home
  3. Basic Repair Kit - fixing mechanicals during the night can be a little bit more tedious because of the reduced light, which is why a back-up flashlight is nice, but the most important tip to remember when fixing a flat or other mechanical on a night ride, is to be organized. Tools can get lost a lot easier at night, simply because it's dark out there!
  4. Basic Medical Kit - this is good to have on every ride
  5. Reflective clothing isn't mandatory, but it is nice. In the situation where you're stopped and have turned off your light to stargaze and your buddy is catching up to you, he/she will be able to see you from a distance as your clothes reflect from their light. This is purely a safety measure.
  6. Clothing appropriate for the season - pro tip: it is always cooler at night, especially in the mountains, so plan to bring a layer for added warmth
  7. Post ride refreshment - this could be the water I suggested or a nice craft beer to celebrate the ride with your friends! Always remember to bring some to share, too.

As you can see, most of night riding essentials deal with keeping safe. Being able to see is obviously your number one concern. 

In addition to more time flexibility while riding at night the added joys if stargazing, nocturnal animals, and making my regular trails seem new again are just a few of the reasons why my neighbors will continue to give me funny looks as I load up my bike gear and head for the trails at 8pm!

If you have any suggestions or good night ride stories, I'd love to hear them. 

Create a great adventure!

-Kyle