Love mountain biking here in Squamish? Know the trails like the back of your hand? Try it in the dark. Here are 5 reasons how mountain biking at night, or “night riding” makes you a better person.
When you can only see the dirt fast approaching, it is as if all mental focus is narrowed to the present; our senses are heightened and our skills sharpen with the increased attention to detail. If only this same focus could be as easily applied to day-to-day life: no regard for the path behind or what’s around the bend, just living in the present.
A by-product of intense focus, mental endurance is best tested climbing the infamous slow grinding hill up to the Half Nelson trailhead; its gradual inclination up the mountain looms in the distance during any given day ride. The dreaded vision triggers the legs to quiver, the lungs enflame, and the heart sink. In the dark, however, the long toilsome ascent hangs in the air as more of a question of “Am I there?” or “Is this the hill?” With a lonely glowing orb of light surrounding you, the only thing to do is hammer on the pedals one foot at a time. Perceived distance is disarmed. Before you know it, you have climbed the hill – and it didn’t feel that bad.
I’ve come to trust my skills a bit more while night riding. When I come screaming into a corner with only a bright night light on my handlebars, I instinctively lean deeper into the corners to extend the beam of light further into the exit. This deeper lean means I trust my bike (and myself) enough to finally feel the grip of the tires along the dirt wall and the power of centrifugal force thrusting me into it’s apex, shooting me out with equal speed as entrance. I surprised myself: “I can ride like a pro!” Well, it was a skill-builder, anyway.
Note: if you’re going to wear only one light while riding, wear it on your head for safety’s sake. It is much easier to look through the exit of a berm when it is illuminated by the turn of a head, rather than having to follow the bike’s steering radius around through the corner.
Revitalize a mundane trail – the one you know too well – by riding it in the dark. Shifting our paradigms of long-held conceptions creates new neural pathways in our brain and fires up important personality traits such as openness. Who knows what might happen when you see something in a new light (or lack thereof)? You might start to form new perspectives in other aspects of your life. Talk about enlightenment.
Whether it’s a fear of the dark, [mountain]lions or bears, getting lost, or just simply a fear of the unknown, it must be conquered in order to reap the satisfaction of a night ride. A solo night ride is a Rite of Passage for any self-proclaimed “mountain biker” as one transforms a hobby into a lifestyle; it ceases to become something you do and becomes something you are.
For me, being alone with the woods and my fears was a very powerful experience – all senses piqued, adrenaline surged a little higher, and true flow was mine. The line one must walk between fear and accomplishment is the path to feeling alive – to escape routine, comfort zone and to test our mettle.
Ready To Try? Heres How to Get Started
Here are the 5 essentials for night riding:
- Headlamp. We recommend settling on a helmet-mounted headlamp if you’re going to bring just one light. The handlebar mounted lights are great, but they don’t allow one to look through the berms (or wherever you will end up) as your bike is moving around underneath you. Something with at least 700 lumens should be plenty for the trail. Don’t forget to charge it 100% and/or bring a spare battery.
- Hydration pack. You will need to carry the emergency repair kits (for bike and human) and store some water and snacks in case you get lost. The woods can look unfamiliar at night, so be prepared to spend the night if things go wrong.
- Multi-tool. Just as important as a multi-tool is the knowledge to use it. You might need to fix a chain, a flat, etc. out on the trail so be sure you have the tool and the know-how. Also be sure to include a spare tube and tire levers to change a flat.
- Extra Layer. Pack a warmer outer layer for the descent or changing weather conditions. Even as you sweat out the demons on the climb, you will need to ensure you can stay warm and dry while at the top during nightfall.
- Cell Phone. Most people ride with phones nowadays – for music or the classic behind-the-handlebar Instagram. However, you will need a way to call for help if anything should happen. Similarly, make sure you tell someone where you will be and around what time you expect to be home. Don’t isolate yourself out there.