I used to have a lot of problems with night mountain biking. But over the past year, I’ve definitely turned to the Dark Side. It was around this time last year that a guy named Harry who found me on Facebook and some of his friends dragged me into signing up for the Kona 24 Hours in the Old Pueblo. I gave in because I have a hard time saying “no.” Here’s why I changed:
1. I found good, cheap lights. Most of Harry’s crew was hooked on the MagicShine GMG-900 light system. The guys all promised that I could get a good night riding system with a helmet light and a handlebar light for about $200. It’s easy to spend double that on similar lights. They were right. I love riding with these things. They’re simple to use, and the company has updates on the way (I’ll post more about that in the future). So there goes the cost obstacle. I was also seeing a lot more of the distinctive green glow of the MagicShine power buttons. At least 10 other riders were sporting them. The secret is out! Check ‘em out at Geomangear.com.
2. Since I had lights, I started riding at night more. And I sought out group rides like the McDowell Mountain Regional Park “Mountain Bike in the Moonlight” series. It’s very social, with more than 100 riders hitting the trails before enjoying some free cylindrical meat objects compliments of Slippery Pig Bikes. I’ve run into some old buddies like Bill from Adventure Bicycle Company and some of his long-time customers. Since I used to work there, it’s always very cool to see them – and I will tell anyone looking for a bike that you want to buy a bike from a guy that you’ll run into on the trails.
The park has done these night rides for years now, and it was the first government entity to sanction and host night riding. They have people sign on and off the trails to keep them safe, and it’s a good time for everyone. There is no better way to get into night riding than a Mountain Bike in the Moonlight session. Fact.
3. I love creatures. I’ve been seeing roadrunners in the twilight out at Papago Park – always one of my favorites! At McDowell, I’ve seen all sorts of kangaroo rats. And they are very cool little creatures with their big ol’ tails and hopping gait. It’s definitely a treat to see them – which you won’t in the day time. I may have seen some other rodent – it had an even longer tail with a big bottlebrush of fur on the end. I don’t know what it was. And after the Aug. 27 night ride, park supervisor Rand Hubbell spotted a young California king snake cruising through the dirt parking lot at the Competitive Track. He scooped him up to give us all a close-up view of this beneficial little creature – it eats rattlesnakes and is immune to their venom. Rand then dropped him off in a good spot in the desert so he could resume his king snake activities.
4. It makes old trails new. Seriously, you have less visibility. Everything happens in a relatively narrow cone of light. You can’t really goof off on the harder trails. I got a reminder of that last night – I know the Long Loop at the Comp Track pretty well … and I was about to descend into a chute I knew ended with a short, steep climb. And I couldn’t remember whether I was still in my big ring. I knew I’d need the middle, so I risked a glance at my gear indicators, which said “middle all the way.” When I looked up, I was about to start the descent – but the right side of the trail where I was had a nasty little erosion gully – just enough to catch front wheels and throw you to the floor. So I tried to ride through it – brakes off, letting the bike buck and kick through it. But that front wheels got caught, and I got pitched into a creosote bush. I was scraped up a bit, but I was back on the bike moments later. No harm – just a reminder to always mind your situation and don’t sweat the small stuff like what gear you’re in!
If you’re thinking about trying your hand at night riding -especially if you live in a place with broiling-hot summers- take my advice: Give yourself to the Dark Side.