Written By Amanda Wilks

Photo Credit: Dean Scott via Vital MTB

Mountain biking at night may not sound like an activity for those without a healthy sense of adventure and bravery, but there’s something oddly freeing about riding your mountain bike after the sun sets. Trails empty out, the air rushing by your face is your only companion and you have the opportunity to see some of your favourite trail destinations in a whole new light in a mostly literal sense.

Before you hop on your bike and take off for the nearest trail, however, you should consider some of the trials and tribulations that might befall you during a night ride.

Without natural light, extra preparations are required to ensure your outing is more enjoyable than dangerous and there’s no guarantee you’ll be able to adapt to your usual stomping grounds during the evening hours as well as you do during broad daylight. With that in mind, here are five essential suggestions to keep in mind for your next night cycling experience.



Mountain Biking At Night

1. Portable Lights Are a Must

Skipping a headlight or a head-mounted lamp for your ride may seem like the way to go for afternoon rides, but as the shadows grow longer and the sun dips behind the horizon you’re setting yourself up for a bad experience if you aren’t prepared to light your path. Mark Hendershot, known for solid finishes over the past decade in marathons that often go overnight, is but one of many proponents who repeatedly state the importance of owning proper mountain bike lights.

Not only is your light of choice key for keeping the road lit, your choice of battery can make or break the length of your ride, too. Ensure the batteries for your chosen light are strong enough to properly power the light and won’t give out halfway through your planned run. It’s also wise to carry a flashlight and electrical tape: if you should crash and ruin a light, you’ll have a backup to tape to your bike frame until you make it back to civilization.

2. Eye Protection Is Still Key

You might wear sunglasses during the day, but why bother at night? Unsurprisingly, eye protection is an often-overlooked portion of mountain bike safety yet is no less important than the rest of your pads. Finding appropriate biking glasses can help deflect debris kicked up by your bike tires and deflect stray tree branches alike, ensuring you won’t leave your trail with less sight than you had before you began.

3. Don’t Start with the Hardest Trails

It might feel strange to downgrade from a high-difficulty technical course to a smooth and even ride meant for biking beginners, but exercising restraint when picking a riding path is one of the most crucial ways to come out of your night rides with a positive outlook.

Many of the finer details picked up by the human eye during daylight hours can be easily lost as daylight wanes. Even the best headlamps available can’t match the wide reach and effective illumination of the sun, unfortunately.

Once you’ve learned how to properly judge distance, depth and shadow while riding at night, feel free to return to your regular trails. Just ensure the trail you go to is actually open after night falls or you might risk a fine.

4. Temperatures Drop Faster than You Think

Summer riding can be a warm, borderline uncomfortable experience, but even balmy summer days can lead to nights that are unexpectedly chillier than one might think.

Preparing for evening weather means finding warm clothing that isn’t bulky and might require a few test runs before you fit into a riding outfit that you find comfortable enough to wear for your entire trip.

In a worst-case scenario, simply bringing a second outfit more appropriate for colder weather can get you through days where temperature swings are more extreme should you find yourself out riding most of the day.

5. Ride with a Buddy

It’s not just good advice for mountain biking at night: ride with a friend whenever possible. Not only will you get to experience the camaraderie of sharing a hobby with someone you enjoy the company of, but you just might thank yourself later should you take a nasty spill while out in the dark in unfamiliar territory. Even having someone around for not so serious crashes can help keep you calm during situations that might elicit more panic when backup is not immediately at hand.



If you’re looking for a way to broaden your riding horizons, going out for a mountain biking excursion after the sun sets is one of many ways to shake up your exercise routine and explore the finer points of your biking technique.

You might learn a thing or two about controlling your momentum or just experience a beautiful sunrise after spending a long, calm evening under the stars with only the hum of your tires against the earth beneath you to keep you company.


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