And if you can, should you? And what do you need?
Here I am, waiting for a friend, in the dark, all alone. I only have one light on my handlebars tonight, so I see what is in front of my bike, but that is it. At every weird sound, I swing my bike left and right to see if some monster lurks in the dark. No luck, a 26kg e-bike is not exactly easy to use as a giant flashlight. So I need to calm down and accept that if some serial killer has nothing better to do on a Thursday night than stalk a lonely mountain biker, then that is it for me. I hear some more noises I can't identify, stressing me out, but eventually, my friend arrives. Salvation!
He is entirely unfazed by the dark and is all happy and cheering.
Yes, I know, I am a big baby.
Here we go, my first night ride of the year.
Although I get freaked out initially, I know those rides in the dark are magical, and I don't want to miss them.
Riding at night is about as peaceful as it gets. You usually don't have to worry about hikers, other riders, or dogs, so you can blast as fast as you dare down the trails.
After a warm-up lap on some easy trail, we wondered if we could jump our bikes at night. So we headed to our favourite jump line and had a go. Let me tell you, jumping your mountain bike at night is the best! It is a bit scary, but if you ensure your lamps are well-fitted to avoid any unpleasant surprises after lift-off, you are good to go.
Now that we have established how awesome it is to ride in the dark, it brings us to my next point:
What do you need to ride an MTB at night?
Well, for starters, you need light, a big one. And ideally, you would need multiple lights, especially if you ride in unknown terrain.
Let's start with the obvious one, a headlight. There are many options out there, but I can make this one easy. You need at least a 4000 lumens strong light that lasts a long time and that you can fix on your handlebars. I use a Hope R8+ light, and I love it. When you put that thing in full brightness, you light up the trails like it is daytime. It's amazing.
You will also need a tail light if you intend to ride on the road to the trails. I ride with an inexpensive, flashing red light on my seat post, which is excellent. It does the job, and it lasts a long time between charges.
You are good to go with this, but I recommend using a light on your helmet for extra comfort. It makes it a lot easier to see ahead of you in tight switchbacks and if you need to look anywhere that is not directly in front of your bike.
Where do you ride your MTB at night?
You will only need a little time to get used to riding at night, so you can go all in and dive into a new trail; however, having done just that for my first night-MTB ride, I don't recommend riding blind on new trails at night.
Here is what happened. We went for a session near a friend's house. He has some mellow but fun trails nearby, so it should have been perfect. But although these were only mellow trails, I missed a turn in my excitement. I lined up for what looked like a small drop and luckily decided at the last second not to jump blind (sometimes I am smart like that) and discovered that if I had, I would have crashed a couple of meters lower in a lovely rock garden that was unrideable. So what happened? Well, predictably, I missed a tight switchback and went off trail. Of course, this can also occur in the daytime, but it will happen more often at night.
So start easy, go to your local trails, discover them at night, and enjoy the ride. It is worth it.
I hope I have convinced you how awesome it is to ride at night. It requires a little investment, but you can also use those lamps for other purposes. Or at least, that's what you can tell your significant other if they ask why you are spending all your money on your bike once again.
Have more fun on your bike, and be a night rider!