The days may be getting cooler and shorter, but that should’t be an excuse to stop riding over the winter months. Riding at night is a great way to get out on a winter's night and keep training and fitness levels up through the winter. It can also totally change a riders perspective on a trail that they may know really well in the daytime.
Two trails that are great for both winter riding and night riding are the Redwoods trails in Waikari and the Big Easy at Signal Hill. These tracks hold up the best in muddy, wet winter conditions and they drain relatively well so are not as slippery. They are also fun and relatively cruisy for a wide range of abilities. Even if you are an advanced rider, riding these tracks at night is still exciting as the darkness adds a completely new and fun dimension to it!
Of course riding at night means you do need to take into account some extra safety precautions. Tracks can feel really different in the dark and nightlights can reflect off features such as rocks and roots differently, making it hard to get a true sense of their location and size.
If you are new to night riding, it’s important to slow down and get used to the feeling of riding through the dark. You cannot see as far ahead as you can in the daylight and this can affect your perception and spacial awareness. Even if you are an experienced rider, tracks that you know well during the day can feel very different at night time!
It’s essential to be prepared when heading out for a night ride and lights are an absolute must, as well as your usual safety gear like a helmet, good gloves and knee pads. Reflective clothing is also a good idea, especially if you are riding on roads to and from the trails. Reflective clothing or accessories make you much more visible to other road users.
It’s also a good idea to bring extra layers of clothing, as temperatures drop in the evening time. If you are stopping for a break before your descent you can cool down quickly and its hard to warm back up. Carrying a spare light or battery pack, first aid kit, spare inner tube, and pump etc is always good practice too - just in case!
When it comes to kitting yourself out with lights, we recommend a helmet mounted light. This gives you maximum vision and allows you to see around corners better than just solely a bar mounted one. The ideal light set up is to run a handle bar mounted light and a helmet mounted light, but this can be quite a hit on the budget, so if you are just running one always go helmet mounted first!
When it comes to choosing a light, lumens (or brightness) is the most important factor. Specific night riding lights are much brighter, with lumens ranging from around 800-2,500. The higher the lumens, the brighter and more powerful the lights will be. Some brands of night lights will also have a 2-cell or 4-cell battery option, with 4-cell having a longer lasting battery charge allowing you to go on longer rides.
Night lights range in price from around $125 up to $700, so there is something to fit with every budget. At Bike Otago we range a few different brands and one of our favourites is Zero. This is a brand we have been working with for years, and they have two main options: A 900 lumen light for $125 or a 1,800 lumen light for $169. Both of these options come with handle bar and helmet mounts and a wall plug-in charger.
We also stock Gemini which is is our more premium brand with prices starting at $249. They offer a few models at various lumens and battery cell options. A popular model that we range is the Gemini "Duo" model which offers dual LED's of 1,500 lumens and is an exceptionally lightweight night light at 68 grams. It also comes with a handlebar mount, head strap mount, helmet mount and wireless control unit (mounted to the handlebars).There is a 2-cell and 4-cell battery option, and we have the 4-cell option in store. The total cost is for this is $375.
If you need help setting up your bike for night riding, then come into Bike Otago and have a chat to our staff. They will be able to find the lighting system that’s best for you and meets your budget.