MTB Night Riding Guide

160MTB night riding guide

The evenings may be getting darker earlier, but that’s no reason to stop mountain biking. In fact, it opens up a whole new (albeit less well lit) world – night riding! Rideability gives you the low-down on what you need, what to expect, and how to get started.

1. Find a buddy to ride with.

It is recommended that you always ride with someone when MTB’ing at night. Firstly, it’s much more fun. Secondly, it’s safer and more sensible than riding alone. Just be careful when you stop for a chat; if you have a light on your helmet and you turn to look at your riding companions, you could end up dazzling them. If you do choose to ride solo make sure someone knows exactly the route you are taking and don’t deviate from the planned route. It is less than ideal to crash in the dark and no one knows where you are.

2. Route planning

When planning your route it is important to consider the following things.

  • The technical difficulty of trails should match the ability of riders.
  • Exposure to the weather should the weather change quickly.
  • Access to and remoteness of the trail network and route (important should you require assistance off the trails).
  • Support capabilities, such as vehicle support.
  • Available communication systems and level of phone coverage.

3. What to pack

Some great tools are the Garmin connect App – live track (for tracking) and Emergency+ app – has a 000 call function and gives exact location (latitude and longitude)

What to pack in your pack
What to pack in your car
  • Tweezers – are great for thorn punctures or bee stings
  • Band Aids – for blisters, small cuts, and holding largerpieces of flesh together
  • Sterile 4×4 Gauze or Kerlix – great for larger wounds, scrapes
  • Ibuprofen or Pannodol – to reduce pain until you can seek definitive care
  • Duck Tape or Medical tape – to secure bandages, splints, and fixing stuff
  • Benadryl/Diphenhydramine – for severe allergy attacks, or as adjunct treatment for anaphylaxis
  • Epipen* – if you suffer from anaphylactic reactions
  • Triple antibiotic ointments
  • Water purification tablets – for longer rides where you may run out of H20
  • Zip ties – for splints, temporary sutures, and everything in between
  • Emergency Contact information – critical if you are unconscious – RoadID is great!
  • Emergency Blanket – when riding in colder, wet conditions
  • Whistle – to signal for help if you become lost or incapacitated
  • Extra batteries – keep an extra battery in your pack for your cell phone and Go Pro
  • Derailleur Hanger – they all eventually break, and it’s probably the most inconvenient time on a ride
  • Something reflective – Alfoil or old CD
  • Everything you keep in your bike first aid kit
  • Kerlix – a wrapable bandage for almost any major wound
  • ACE bandage – for sprains or holding ice packs in place
  • Coban – like an ACE bandage, but sticks to itself. Great for bandages, splints
  • 4×4 bandages – these are great for larger wounds, punctures, etc.
  • Medical Tape – to hold bandages
  • Sling – for shoulder dislocations, AC tears, claviclefractures, etc.
  • Aluminium foam finger splints – small ones pre-cut and formed for finger fractures
  • Water – for dehydration, and cleaning wounds. Store in a BPA-free container.
  • Alcohol pads – great for quickly cleaning small wounds, removing adhesives, etc.
  • Betadine or chlorhexadine – the preferred solutions for sterilizing wounds after irrigated with water
  • Rubber gloves – if you have to work on wounds, particularly on riders you may not know and want to avoid bloodborne pathogens.
  • Ice packs – purchase chemical packs that you break and become cold in minutes
  • Razor – helpful to shave hairy parts to clean or repair a wound
  • Scissors – great for cutting clothing, thick bandages, splints, etc.
  • Matches or a lighter
  • Compass – helpful if you are lost.
  • Oral rehydration tablets – to use in conjunction with water for mild to moderate dehydration.
  • Flashlight – in case you arrive at your car after dark with a medical emergency. Pack extra batteries.
  • Snacks/gel shots – nice if you’re hungry, but sugar can treat hypoglycaemiaPersonal medications – always have a small supply of any pills you need for acute or chronic medical conditions.
  • Phone charger
  • Multipurpose tool – for cutting, crimping, and everything else
  • Personal hygiene items – to clean wounds, or freshen up for an after-ride beer
  • Hand sanitizer – t o clean hands and wounds if nothing else is available
  • Extra cash – for petrol, water, phone, etc.
  • Maps of areas you frequent
  • Extra set of car keys – to store outside your vehicle if you lose yours on the trail
  • Extra clothing – to don if you arrive back at your car hypothermic or become stranded in your car during inclement weather

4. Light it up

Good lights used to be heavy, expensive and last only an hour or so but bulb and battery technology means that you can now get lightweight, convenient and reliable illumination that offers you more brightness than a lot of car headlamps. Designs vary; some are a single unit with integrated battery whereas others have a battery you carry on your bike or in your pocket. Brightness varies a lot too, as does the weight. It all comes down to how much you want to spend as prices range from $100-$1000!

There are loads of light reviews about in magazines and websites. It’s definitely worth reading up before you spend.

Some people use one light mounted on their bars whereas others opt for an additional, smaller one on their helmet. Having a second light offers a few important advantages:

  • you can see round corners before you turn your bars which allows you a bit more warning about what’s to come next
  • you can easily see what you’re doing if you stop to fix a puncture or raid your pack for provisions
  • and most importantly, you have a back-up if for any reason your main light fails.

On the downside is the cost of a second light and for some, the extra weight on their helmet.

Other than lights, in theory it’s no different from riding in the day yet it feels much more exciting. You’ll probably go much slower but it seems loads faster, everything rushes up on you when you can only see as far as your light beam. Watch out for wildlife you would not normally see!

5. Stay relaxed on the bike

When first starting night MTB’ing, riding rocks and roots can take on an extra challenge. It is important to keep nice and relaxed on the bike so if you hit something you haven’t seen you don’t go flying. It’s a good skill to have anyway and riding at night makes you really practise it.

6. Layer up

It is worth taking an extra layer with you. If you do have to stop for a puncture you find you get cold much quicker than you do in the day.