Chasing Shadows: The Wonderful World of Night Riding 

Introduction 

 Mountain biking is a year-round passion for many of us but what about when the darkness of winter is starting to limit our bike time? Well, one solution is to embrace the darkness and get out at night. What if I told you there’s a secret world of riding that unveils itself under the cloak of darkness? The world of mountain bike night riding is a unique experience that adds a whole new dimension to your winter outdoor adventures. In this blog post, we dive deeper into all aspects of night riding including the connection it can give you to the natural world without forgetting the important practical stuff too! 

The Dance of Shadows and Light

As the sun dips below the horizon, your bicycle transforms into a beacon of light piercing the darkness. The world around you becomes shrouded in shadows as twilight gives way to darkness. Now the trail begins to reveal itself in fragments, illuminated by your bike’s powerful beam. The interplay of light and shadow creates an intricate dance, turning ordinary trails into mesmerising labyrinths. Riding at night allows you to explore the mystical side of nature. The pleasant little trail you know so well is transformed into the extraordinary.

A Solitary Symphony

Night riding, even with friends around you, often takes on a solitary quality, where the sounds of the forest become more pronounced. You hear the rustling leaves, and the ghostly hoots of the owls. You see the reflected eyes of nocturnal creatures This all gives an immersive and almost otherworldly experience of the night. In this tranquil solitude, you can disconnect from the chaos of daily life. You find yourself immersed in the melody of the forest or hills at night. 

A Sense of Timelessness

Night riding has a way of slowing down time. The familiar trails you ride during the day take on a quite different character under the cover of night. Riding through moonlit forests and over starlit moors imparts a sense of timelessness. You can lose yourself in the sheer absorption and beauty of the experience.

The Cosmic Connection

 The night sky takes on a whole new significance when mountain biking. Take a breather and turn off your lights. On a clear night, away from town and city light pollution, you can see the celestial wonders above. Thanks to our dark skies here in North Wales, there’s plenty of opportunity to stargaze. You don’t need to be an astronomer to appreciate the vast expanse of stars, planets, and galaxies above you. If you can spot a few of our well-known constellations and planets it can really add to the experience. Yes, it does make you feel small and reminds you of your place in the universe. 

 Overcoming Fear and Embracing the Unknown

Night riding requires you to overcome anxiety and embrace the unknown. The darkness can be intimidating, but as you ride through it, you learn to manage your fears and your confidence builds. This can be a transformative experience, teaching you to trust your body position and ride more by instinct and feel. It can help you focus on the pressure you are applying through your hands and feet. You now can really feel the terrain under your tyres as you have limited peripheral vision and so less distraction. 

Building a ‘Creatures of the Night’ Community

While night riding often has an element of solitude, just you and your pool of light, it can also be a communal experience. Joining a group of like-minded riders for a moonlit adventure can foster a powerful sense of camaraderie and shared excitement. The experience of riding together under the stars can create lasting bonds with fellow riders. Not only this, but the added security of being in a group can lessen anxiety and silence that occasionally persistent ‘what if…’ voice!  

 Conclusion 

 Night riding is more than just a thrilling activity; it’s an opportunity to immerse yourself in a rarely experienced aspect of the natural world. The play of light and shadows, the symphony of night sounds, and the cosmic connection are all part of the profound experience. It challenges you and connects you to the wild, allowing you to discover the beauty and magic that only the night can unveil. So, don’t just ride the trails during the day; explore the mystical world of night riding. Let it weave its enchantment for the few hours that you leave the world of day and artificial light behind.  

Practicalities 

Lights:

You need lights of course. Ideally, one on your bars and one on your helmet. There is a huge choice at a range of price points out there. Your budget will dictate what you buy ultimately, but before buying, I’d recommend reading this excellent round up by Alex Evans at BikeRadar. 

https://www.bikeradar.com/advice/buyers-guides/best-mountain-bike-lights/ 

Preparation:

  1. Always ensure you have another torch in your vehicle and in your backpack. It’s incredibly easy to put things down in the dark when you’re getting ready before you turn on your bike lights and lose / forget stuff. 
  2. Fit your lights onto your bike and helmet before it gets dark and then tweak the final position before setting off. Make sure you have the correct tools to hand for last minute adjustments. Your lights need to shine as far down the trail as possible without reflecting into your eyes. It’s a balance and you’ll need to find that sweet spot.  
  3. Tighten all attachments thoroughly. There’s nothing worse than your light slipping down or coming off mid-ride!
  4. If you need to ride on the roads to get to the trail, then ensure you have a rear light on your bike too. 
  5. Clothing and shoes with reflective strips are also a good idea. Drivers, and your ride companions will be able to see you more easily. 

Planning & On the Trail:

  1. Stick to familiar trails as the darkness can be incredibly disorientating. 
  2. Keep it short until you get used to it. Time passes much more quickly than you think when you are fully absorbed and focused.  
  3. Beware of hitting jumps! There will be a black spot and you’ll literally be flying semi-blind. The solution is to get your mate to shine their light on the jump, illuminating it for you. Teamwork is crucial in the dark!  
  4. Don’t point your lights right into your friends’ faces… you’ll temporarily blind them and ruin their night vision.  
  5. Have a great night out!