the winter months with the time change and shortened days can be hard on a training
schedule, but it offers the perfect conditions for a adventure racing discipline
most of us under train for Night mountain biking.
The mountain biking leg of most 24 to expedition-length adventure races will happen
at night. It is important that you practice riding at night because it is much
different than riding during the day. Night mountain biking is different in several
different ways. First, your vision is limited only to the area illuminated by
your lights. Normally, you can see on both sides of you and far in front of you
including around corners. But, during the night, you can see very little to either
side of you and your vision is limited to just a few yards in front of you. The
light during the day is very even. But, at night, there are moving shadows that
make the woods look like they are moving around.
best time to practice is during the fall and winter months. There are more night
hours and it gives you jump start to staying in shape for the spring and summer
races. The ability to do physical training by night riding allows for workouts
to still be scheduled after work (when it's already dark) and to offer a stimulating
experience, unlike riding on an indoor bike trainer. Plus, to do well in races
and to help avoid injury by crashes, it is important to practice night riding
before getting into a race. Starting off you will bike much slower than you normally
do during daylight hours. Remember that you can't see things coming you're your
vision is limited to only what is in front of you. One goal should be to improve
your reaction time. You need to be a quick as possible to react to the quickly
changing terrain. You need to become as good as possible to changing your like
very quickly. And, the only way to get better is to PRACTICE!
The only additional equipment you need for night riding is your lights. The best
setup is to have two systems of lights-one for training and one for racing. The
first system is made of rechargeable lights (compare
Bike Lights) and would be used for practice rides and may be used for races.
They are powerful but can be heavy and have limited burn time (2 to 4 hours).
Recent developments with HID Metal Halide bulbs and super-light rechargeable Lithium
Ion batteries has improve both the burn time and weight issues. These rechargeable
lights are great for training ridings because they are very bright and last for
the duration of a typical night ride. For racing you may need a system where you
can replace the batteries to achieve the duration of burn time to make it through
a race. The most common brand for this type of system is made by Cat
Eye. The Cat Eye uses regular batteries, usually AA, and for racing it is
best to use long-lasting and light-weight Lithium Batteries. For your lighting
system it is best to have one light mounted on your handlebar and one light on
your helmet which could be a regular headlamp or a biking helmet light. You will
also need a blinking red tail light that will go behind your seat post and is
required in most races. One question that racers have is whether to bring extra
batteries with them. That is up to you. One issue to consider is that colder batteries
do no last as long as batteries used in warm weather. The best advice is to test
your racing system during practice to see how long your batteries will last given
different riding conditions.
Night riding during the
cold weather is always more comfortable with some full finger gloves, biding tights,
headbands for your ears and neoprene booties that ship over your shoes (these
keep water, mud, and cold air off your toes, keeping them warmer). No matter how
cold it is during your ride, after the first few miles you will most likely feel
very warm except for your fingers and toes. Not all parks allow riding at night.
Just be sure to double check your riding area. If you find that things are freezing
up on your bike, you will likely have only 1 gear and no brakes. This could be
a "new challenge" but one that is better avoided until you are good enough to
handle it. It may be best to wait until the weather is a little warmer.
best advice I can give for getting started or back into night mountain biking
is to start off slower than you normally do, especially on downhills. With a good
lighting system, proper riding clothes, and a bide that stays together, you should
have a good time working your way through the dark woods during the night.
our section on
Prices & Features of Night Riding Bike Lights
practice, practice, practice. Good Luck!