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Night Rider 101 (Without David Hasselhoff)

The True Beginners Guide to Riding at Night

We had a great group of riders for our weekly Tuesday night ride. What did you do?

It’s that time of the year where we lose sunlight and many retreat from two wheels, and head into the gym for the #winter. Because of the unique situation we are in with C-19, some #gyms have permanently closed. If they are open, you may need to make an appointment, have long wait lines, or be required to wear a #mask while working out.

You already own a mountain bike. There is no need to put it in your garage and let it collect dust next to your vinyl record collection just because we are loosing light. This article will help you get started with learning how to ride your #MTB at night.

For those of you who just purchased a mountain bike during the pandemic, I know exactly what you are thinking, “Wait, you ride your mountain bike at night... in the woods? Are you nuts?!” I said the exact same thing the first time my cycling friends invited me to ride at night with them. After quite a bit of convincing, I tried it, and instantly was hooked.

You just purchased your first MTB and you are making riding part of your daily routine. Practicing and keeping up with your skills over the winter will make you a much better and faster rider in the spring. You can maintain your fitness, and increase your skills over the fall and winter.

No, we don’t duct tape flashlights to the handlebars. You would be shocked at how many times I’ve been asked that question. I’ve even seen a few people try it. There are lights made for for cycling. You can find cheapies on the web starting as low as $40 for something that is sort of, kinda, almost OK, to a decent light for around $100 and I’ve seen them go up to $1300. (Dude, $1300 just for a light? That’s more than what I paid for my bike.) I didn’t say you need to buy that light. I’m just giving you the range of prices. Relax!

I will tell you that you will need two lights. One for the handlebars and one for your helmet. “Dude, I don’t need two lights”, you might be thinking. Let’s say you get separated from your friends on the ride, and one of your lights breaks or the battery runs out. What would you do without a back up light? I’m tellin’ ya, you will want to have two lights. Another reason you will want two lights, is you can turn your head and look in advance so you can clearly see and be prepared to execute a proper turn.

“So what lights do you use?” I’m deep into MTB riding, I like night racing, and I see the value of the higher end lights. I ride as fast as i do in the day, as i do at night. I’m currently using a Lupine Wilma on my bars and a Lupine Pico on my helmet. I still have a cheap knock off light as a back up, and if someone forgets a light, or a new rider wants to try night riding, they can borrow a light.

“Dude, that cheap light for $40 looks like the exact same design as your $600 light and it’s got more lumens. Um...BTW, what the hell is a Lumen?” The definition of a lumen, according to Merriam Webster, is: a unit of luminous flux equal to the light emitted in a unit solid angle by a uniform point source of one candle intensity. Basically, more lumens is a brighter light. That cheap light might look the same on the outside, but it’s ‘night’ and day different. (See what I did there.)

Most companies measure the brightness of their lights in lumens. But, every company measures their lumens differently than the next. There is no real standard that companies rate their lumens. So the Chinese knock off of my light may say it’s rated at 5000 lumens on the box, but it may only be 1/3 as bright at my brand name light that is rated at 3000 lumens. They tell you it’s 5,000 but it might be 1,000 or even less.

Even if you buy two of the same knock off Chinese lights, they could have different connectors, different brightness levels, a halo effect, shorter battery life on one unit vs the other. It might not work though it is new out of the box (Yes, I had that happen). You get what you pay for. Most bike shops have a loaner program so you can try it before you buy it. You can also ask your friends if they have extra lights you can borrow. Bottom line... For your first night ride, save your cash, borrow 2 lights.

German Engineering, top level quality control, high quality parts, CNC machining vs stamped metal, it meets CE, UL and other certifications, multi-decade excellent reputation, weighs less, and it feels solid in your hand are just some of the reasons why it’s a great light. But no question the big one is reliability. You can tell the quality of the product instantly. If you have $6,000 bike, spending $600 on a light shouldn’t be a problem.

Do not ride alone! I can’t emphasize this enough. You’re going to try some thing for the first time at night, in the dark, alone? It’s probably not a good idea. Ride with a group of friends who have been night riding. They can help you get started. I also host a ride every Tuesday night in Camden County College. Then, there’s always a #Facebook group. Many FB groups host night rides in your area. Just tried doing some online searches.

In our next night riding blog (201), we will focus on the more advanced night riders and speaking with Gretna Bill who is the official Lupine L Lights North American dealer. His insight will be key to helping you: identify what makes a good light good, beam patterns, halo effects, color temperature, and many other features for the advanced rider to select a light.

Ride at night and ’Challenge’ yourself.

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