9 top tips to make the most of the off-road night riding season
Motivation for riding in the dark lacking? In the depths of winter, night riding is the only option for most of us, tied to the desk during the day. Night riding is the obvious answer for some winter miles, but it's easy to struggle with the motivation needed to get out during the darkness, so we've rounded up nine some top tips to help you on your way.
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While it's easy to start with good intentions, after a long day at work, you might find that your motivation is flagging when it comes to leaving a nice warm house. That's why setting yourself up to succeed is the aim of the game.
Get a group together
It's much easier to ensure you get out if you're going in a group. Firstly, if you decide to be a quitter then you'll be letting your buddies down, which is often the nudge of motivation needed to get out of the house.
Secondly, riding with mates is always more fun, especially when you can share stories of near misses in the pub afterwards - and going to the pub afterwards is also more fun with your mates. It's a virtuous circle.
Lastly, it can be all spooky and scary in the woods at night, so having riding buddies means whatever lurks in the darkness is less likely to get you. Oh, and if you have an accident, you'll have someone to get help and not have to lie there 'til someone comes along in the daytime, but it's mostly about keeping the trolls/goblins/werewolves away.
Get your kit sorted out in the morning
Coming back from work, stuffing some food in yourself and then getting prepped for a ride usually means having to hurry. Save yourself some stress and get all your riding kit laid out, ensure your bike is good to go and your lights are charged the morning before you go riding so you aren't running about like a headless chicken and getting stressed in the evening.
Charge your lights when you get back from riding, not before you go
Talking of lights, it's a good idea to get into the habit of charging your lights up when you return from you night riding session. It's easy to do when you're sorting out the rest of your kit and it means that even if you forget to charge the lights the morning before you go night riding, they're likely to still have a good bit of charge in them.
Make your dinner in advance
For the poorly organised, eating enough before going night riding can be a bit of a pain. Eat too late and you'll be feeling sick, don't eat enough and you'll suffer the dreaded bonk. Make life easy by making something in advance you can quickly heat up before you go riding, giving it enough time to settle - microwaved leftovers are king here.
Other good ideas can involve having a big lunch and then just a small snack later on before riding - this also frees you up to justify have some chips down the pub later on...
Double up on lights
We're going to cover night riding lighting setup in-depth at a later date, but if you can afford it - and there are now many cheap options out there - then it's always best to run a twin light setup.
There are a few reasons for this, but having one light on your bars and one light on your head makes a lot of sense. Your bars tend to point in the direction of travel, but that's not always where you'll be looking and need lit up. Using a light on your head means you can see 'round' corners, but using a powerful and heavy light on your noggin isn't very comfortable. That means it makes sense to put a more powerful flood beam light on your bars for area illumination with a lighter, more focused spot beam on your head.
Having a second lightweight light not fixed to your bars means you can see what you're doing in case of punctures and mechanical issues - or just sharing out the jelly babies. Even a small mini head torch that you can chuck in your pack will do if the budget is super tight.
Start before it's dark (if you can)
Hurling yourself out into the pitch blackness of the night on a chilly night can often feel quite a challenge so if you get started in the light - even if it's fading - then you'll get more riding time as well as there being a bit less of a mental leap to get going. Making sure you're organised with the tips above will help you achieve this no end...
Dress for how cold you'll be when riding, not waiting about in a car park
It's easy to wrap up way too warm when you're hanging about waiting for people to turn up or just when you're getting your bike prepped. What usually follows is an extremely fast warm-up followed by loads of sweating and then a rush to get off a load of layers, most of which are now horrible and damp for when you do actually need them.
It's worth having one nice thick insulated jacket to wear while you're waiting and then stuff in a bag just before you set off - yes, it might be a bit nippier right at the start, but it'll save you peeling off loads of layers as you warm up. If you have to stop for whatever reason, then it's super easy to put your cosy jacket on and be warm straight away, rather than having to add loads more layers.
Remember a rear light - and put it where it can be seen
It's easy enough to forget about having a rear light if you're bashing about the woods, but it's essential to have on any road sections, so don't forget it. It's worth mounting it to your rucksack, not your bike too. It'll be more visible, less likely to fall off when you use your dropper post and will make it easy to find your bag if you take it off for any reason.
Don't drown your mates with light
It's easy enough to get carried away by the lighting arms race, but remember that when you're riding behind your mate with your new Fusion Reactor Bike Sun (TM) 5,000 lumen light, you're basically going to effectively be putting all the area in front of them in shadow.
That's because it makes it harder for them to see due to the high contrast between your bright light and their less bright one, making spotting obstacles much harder. Just knock your light down to a less bright setting, save the battery and use their illumination to see ahead instead.
If you've got any other top tips (from choosing a pub that's happy with smelly bikers and will put some chips on for you to anything else) then do let us know...
"The night riding season". So, 365 nights a year then given that it's dark at the end of every day.
It is so much fun hooning about in the woods in the dark.