Way back in February I mentioned the joys of night mountain biking. This is where during the winter months you put on some warm clothes, get some lights and go off-roading at night. As a keen mountain biker I find winter rather depressing as it gets dark by about 4pm during the week and that pretty much negates any mid-week biking and by the weekend it’s normally snowing or something. However, a friend came up with the idea of night biking and a lot of fun it was too.
The only drawbacks as I mentioned in February are gates, cows, flat light (no depth perception – you couldn’t tell if the rocks ahead were large or small) and the extreme cold where all your gears stop shifting and your chain blocks up with ice. Well, I’ve found a cure to three out of four of those problems. I’ve bought some seriously bright lights, Fireball lights to be precise. They won the editor’s choice in a recent issue of “What Mountain Bike” magazine scoring 9/10 and while they’re rather expensive, I decided it was worth the cost to do some biking over the coming months.
So last night I went out with a couple of friends to test them against the pitch blackness of a Yorkshire November. I had a 20W flood and 20W spot which seemed roughly equivalent to a car headlight. I used the flood for most of the time and blasted the spot on as well for the downhills. They were superb! You could spot gates, cows, sheep, puddles or anything else from a fair distance and in fact your field of view isn’t much different from daylight biking (in that I could see as far ahead as I’d look during the day). I could also see depth and be able to pick a line through rocky sections, know when a ditch really was a ditch and avoid shocks from before like when that small bump actually turned out to be a pointy boulder. The lights were so bright that if the three of us were within a few metres of each other there was enough light to go around. When I fell off on the final descent the lights were so bright that I could actually see where to put my hand down and avoid landing on some painfully sharp rocks! Luckily it wasn’t cold enough to freeze my chain so I didn’t need to test drawback number four.
What I will say for those of you out there thinking of getting some spotlights and going night biking is to forget flood lights. I’m going to use two 20W spots from now on (and maybe a 35W one for a laugh now and then) and point one just in front of me and the other further ahead. When on the climbs I’ll use the near light and put the far one on for the fast stuff. The spots cover a huge area and you can even get away with one for downhills if you want to conserve power, but two is like Daylight II if you need it. I’ll bring my camera next time and get some photos – I didn’t realise there would be enough light for night photography but there is, amazingly. Oh, and the other thing I’ll say to anyone considering night biking is Do It! It’s a lot of fun and makes great use of the long nights – plus it’s far more fun than trying to find something decent to watch on the TV.