Get Illuminated

Melissa Cronin's picture

Biking after dark.

Riding at night seldom begins in the dark. The ride starts in the evening, but as the days get shorter, it concludes after nightfall. Sometimes, shit happens, and two flat tires and a broken chain later you're picking your way back to the car by the light of the crescent moon and the toy of a headlamp that was only intended for campfire games of Cards Against Humanity. But somewhere along the way, in the dark, it becomes obvious that this misadventure is kinda fun and would be oodles more fun with better headlamps and good friends who like to laugh and get a few cheap thrills. A new creature of the night has been born. 

Night Biking, Bozeman Biking, Bozeman Pedal Project

Riding at night is a total hoot—the eyes of mice never looked so big. The trail you've ridden 1,000 times during the day becomes an amusement-park ride by night. The one trick to having the most fun in the safest way is to illuminate the adventure with decent lamps. I prefer to ride with two lamps blazing, especially after I had two old lamps tank on a steep techie section of Shafthouse.

My first night ride happened when a group of my crazy friends decided we needed to have a team for the 24 Hours of Moab, a overnight sufferfest in the desert. None of us had ever ridden in the dark, so we wanted to practice. After strapping a light to each of our helmets, we headed out into the wilds of Big Sky, at night. All seemed to be going well until a skunk sauntered out of the tall grass 100 feet ahead of us. I screamed like I was auditioning for a role in a horror flick. I spent the rest of the ride being a smidgen jumpy because as everyone knows, skunks are freaking scary... right?

Night Biking, Bozeman Biking, Bozeman Pedal Project

Now that I've tamed my inner screamer and realized that two lights makes all of the difference, riding in autumn has taken on a new dimension. I'm no longer hesitant to start an evening ride at six or seven. I know at some point I will be digging my lights out of my pack and firing them up. That darkened part of the ride, after the sun has set over the harvested fields, holds a special peace. I ride in a tunnel of light, as my friends' shadows stretch out in front of us into a wild, dark place.

Aside from being really fun, night riding also ups both my mountain-bike street cred, and my libation-assisted barroom banter. No one interrupts a story when the theme of the night ride is “moonshine.” Or there was that one time I might have thought the glowing eye of a black angus belonged to the biggest blackest bear in the world...

Night Biking, Bozeman Biking, Bozeman Pedal Project

So, you've read this blog and now you're ready to roll at night. What about the lights? Once upon a time there was only one choice for bright lights and that was the NiteRider brand. Now there is a large selection of good choices. NiteRider still makes a good product, with the Lumina series being my top choice. These sturdy, lightweight light/battery combinations can be charged with a USB cable and car adapter, or via a wall plug, which is quite handy.

I mount the NiteRider lamp to my handlebars and wear a Supernight on my head. The Supernight is a little less convenient to charge because it has to be plugged in, and the battery is heavier and connects via cable, but it's about $60 cheaper than the alternative. After "beta testing" the Supernight, I would recommend getting two—one for the bars and one for your head.

Mel Cronin rides with the Bozeman Pedal Project (BPP), a women's bike-advocacy and social-riding club, and is actively involved with The Dirt Concern, a local bike- and trail-advocacy group working toward International Mountain Biking Association membership. Stay tuned to their Facebook page this fall for updates, and look for a new BPP website in October.

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