Night Moves – Riding After Dark

By Ali Goulet

Night riding, sure you’ve heard of it, you probably know some people who do it but are you experienced? If you’ve never watched the sun completely set while still being miles from home or lost your bearings on a familiar trail, it’s time to. Sure it’s a cliché but riding at night is like experiencing your favorite routes again for the first time.

With the advancements in battery and LED bulb technology, the cost of getting into a lighting system has dropped significantly. Thankfully, the lumens (light) to dollars ratio has also improved over these many years. Years ago if you wanted to see anything, you had to invest a minimum of $500 in lighting products that barely did the job. These days you can get a 600 lumen light for a measly $100 and get a whopping 2000+ lumens for merely $500. To put this in perspective, you need around 350 lumen just to ride at night, add more lumens as speed increases or when off-roading. With that being said, having 2000 or more lumens is what really makes a night ride, visibility will be at a premium and enjoyment goes hand-in-hand with that.

Riding Dog Lake Trail at night
Eric Kramer riding the Spine on the Wasatch Crest Trail in the dark. Photo by Ali Goulet

Recommended light set-up would be to have two lights, one handlebar mounted and one mounted on the helmet. I will usually put my most powerful light on the bars, illuminating the trail or road just in front of my tire and extending forward from there. I would position my helmet light to slightly overlap with the bar light coverage while extending a little bit further.

The advantage of having two lights being, the bar light will generally be lighting the path in front of you while the helmet light will allow you to look through corners and focus in on any obstacles.

When picking a light system, you get what you pay for and what you get with a reputable brand are luminescent consistency, build quality, reliability, warrantee and shut-off warnings…nobody wants an unexpected total lights out scenario while riding. My favorite brand is the California-based Light and Motion.

Dual-beam headlighs for bicycle
Will uses a dual beam light. Photo by Ali Goulet

A quality lighting system, when properly cared for will give provide years of use without issues. Allowing you all the benefits of riding in the dark. Beyond being downright fun, a lighting system will allow you to take advantage of the times when daylight is at a minimum. Also allowing you to beat the midsummer heat…if you’ve got a little night owl in you. More of an abominable Snowman? Winter is another great time for night riding, many local trails either receive enough foot traffic or are groomed perfect for Fat and Plus tire bikes. Not to mention, snow reflects light, giving you more visibility.

Nighttime is the right time for whatever your bi-wheeled activity is, road biking, fat biking, mountain biking or even regular old urban city biking…after dark even the most mundane daylight paths take on a whole new vibe… So get at light, pedal in the dark, you can thank me later.

Mountain bike night riding
Desolation Lake on a night ride. Photo by Ali Goulet

Night riding tips –

Conservation is key: Set lights to their low settings while climbing, save full power for the technical and descending sections of your ride.

Use the buddy system: Sure you can ride alone but if you get abducted by aliens or mauled by a mountain lion, you’ll want someone to alert the authorities.

Be prepared: You’re not likely to come across others at night, So make sure to pack a jacket if necessary and at least some basic repair necessities.

Extra lighting: If you have a camping headlamp or any other packable lighting you should bring ’em, as your mom always said “better safe than sorry.”

Fall/Winter Layers: Layers are especially important at night, shed layers as activity increases, add layers while resting or descending…as needed to balance sweat vs. temp.

5 Trails for night riding: Most any trail will make for a fun night ride, I do suggest starting with a familiar trail. Here are 5 to consider:

Bonneville Shoreline Trail

Corner Canyon

Road To WOS

Round Valley

Bearclaw Poppy


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