Night Rider: How MTBing at night can be so fun

Night mountain biking

Recently I have read many articles in various magazines and other publications about the total awesomeness that is night riding. This type of riding is especially awesome when you live in a hot area like Arizona or a relatively hot place such as Salt Lake City, where I live. Summer temperatures recently topped out at more than 100 degrees, which makes for a miserable mountain bike experience at high noon.

There are some pretty sweet benefits to riding at night, some obvious and some not so obvious. Here are some of the things I have found about riding in the dark.

You may be slightly scared.

If you have never ridden your bike at night in the mountains, let me give you a couple of fair warnings. You are going to see and hear things that you have never experienced in the day. Everything casts a shadow at night (I hope this is not news to anyone): trees, bushes, rocks, bugs, yourself. At some points in my riding I thought I was living all of my worst nightmares as a kid. Also, your light becomes an insect magnet; the night brings out more critters in general. But all of that said, it is so much fun and so worth it!

Powerful headlight

Get a good light!

Unless you eat a bag of carrots every day, you are actually a marsupial, or you have Superman-like vision, you are going to need a light. Not one of those little flashing LED lights that you slap on your handlebars; I’m talking about a serious headlight that has some real illuminating power. Riding in the mountains at night is extremely dark, and having a good light or even two is almost literally a difference between night and day. I would suggest getting a light that has at least 500 lumens (one lumen = one candle). I use two lights: the Serfas True S500 and the NiteRider Lumina 700.

It's a lot cooler.

This can be applied both literally and figuratively. The temperature of the air is much cooler at night, especially away from all the concrete and brick that just absorbs the heat like a sponge. You don't have to worry about the risk of heat exhaustion, sunburn or smelling like sunscreen all day. Plus, riding at night makes you cooler than other people. You just wait to hear people's reactions after you tell them you went mountain biking last night.

Night riding requires increased kills.

Riding at night means it's a little bit harder -- no, a lot harder -- to see what's coming up ahead of you. Your point of view is significantly limited, so roots, rocks and other obstacles have a way of jumping out in front of you. This means your reaction time is cut down to just that: reaction. You get no time to really find a great line, so you just have to take what comes your way. If you push yourself, you will be surprised at how quickly you can react on the fly (just don't push yourself to the point of injury, please).

You'll get a perspective change.

Even if you ride your favorite trail, the one you've ridden 1000 times, riding at night changes things in a big way. Change is almost always more fun, so the trail you know so well becomes the trail you've never ridden and the new trail you need to master. You'll be amazed at how different things look when the sun goes down.

Other riders are friendlier at night.

For whatever reason, bikers seem to be happier at night. Maybe it's because it's not so hot. Maybe it's because it's something new. In the end, I guess it doesn't really matter why, but it sure is contagious! On the way down recently, I met a guy who had his light fall off. I stopped to help him get the light back on and we rode the rest of the way down, which just added to the fun I was already having. Also, every rider I passed said "hi," or "enjoy your ride," or some other similar phrase.

Mountain biking is fun. That is why those of us who already do it try and do it as often as we can. It is also why those who don't ride want to try it out when they see pictures or hear our stories. I guarantee you riding at night will add new life into your mountain biking experience and leave you with a big old grin on your face.

Greg Shaferby Greg ShaferGoogle+Greg is a product specialist at He is an avid cyclist and ladies' man.