Despite our recent wave of warm afternoons, summer is indeed finally coming to an end here in Wānaka. With the diminishing sunshine and the imminent daylight savings upon us, we are officially entering one of our favourite riding seasons: autumn!
Our transition to autumn brings cooler days for riding and tackier dirt and yes, less light, but fear not! Just because it’s getting darker earlier doesn’t mean it’s time to hang up your chamois and call it for the season.
Night riding is an epic way to experience the Bike Glendhu trails in a way you’ve never experienced them before. Bike Glendhu is open every Thursday until 8 pm for your night riding fix and of course, the Thirsty Thursday apres.
If you’re haven’t given night riding a crack yet, you’re in for a treat. Here are a few tricks and tips to help you confidently tackle your first night ride at Bike Glendhu.
Photo by Ross Mackay
1. Light it up
There are a few things that are crucial to a pleasant night riding session and the most obvious perhaps is good lighting. If you haven’t done this before, it’s time to ditch your tramping head torch and invest in some powerful purpose-built lights. There are a few things to consider when you’re choosing your bike lights, one of the most important factors being lumens.
Lumens are a measure of the total amount of visible light (to the human eye) from a lamp or light source, or in easier terms, it’s how bright your light is. The more lumens, the more trail you’ll be able to see.
A good night riding light should have at least 1500 lumens increasing 1,000 lumens per trail grading increase. So, if you normally ride light blues, start at 1500 lumens and if you upgrade to dark blues, consider a light that has 2500 lumens. The more advanced the trail, the more light you’ll need to safely navigate down.
When you’re purchasing your lights, have a look at the run time which will give you an indication of how long your lights will last.
Our go-to lights at Bike Glendhu are the X-Cell BL2100U High Power Front Light. They provide heaps of light for night riding without breaking the bank. They can produce up to 2100 lumens and can run for 2 hours on high, which is plenty of time for your post-work, pre-beer rides.
2. Double up!
If you’re nervous about riding in the dark, a great option is to double up on lights. Many riders will have one set of lights on their handlebars and one set of lights on their helmet. The helmet lights move with your head so allow you to look around and survey the surroundings while the handlebar lights keep the trail in front of you illuminated.
Having two lights also gives you better security if one set of your lights goes flat.
3. Dial Your Layers
One of the things we hear most frequently when we talk about night riding is the discomfort that comes with riding in the cold. Managing your heat when the sun goes down is a skill but it’s an easy one to master.
We personally always keep a merino layer (or another insulating synthetic layer) next to skin. Try to avoid cotton as it doesn’t insulate well and if it gets wet (i.e. sweaty), you’ll feel even colder. A good merino top and chamois will be a great base layer to start with. From there, add layers depending on how cold it is and how much you feel the cold. Someone who gets cold easily will likely want a thicker insulating top over the merino baselayer (this could be another, thicker merino top or a fleece top). People who normally run warm might be fine with the one layer of merino. It’s a good idea to bring a wind shell for your night rides to help cut the sharp wind on the downhill. A lightweight wind shell will help keep you warm without sweating you out like a full-on rain jacket might.
Lastly, don’t forget your extremities! Bring warm gloves and a thin beanie or ear warmer and nice warm socks. In the autumn, the nights are cooler and the dew starts to set early in the evening so even if it’s not raining, you might find yourself getting wet on the trail. If you’re sticking around for apres, best to chuck in a few warm, dry layers in the car to change into whilst you’re enjoying your beer.
Photo by Ross Mackay
4. Give your mates some space
Once you’ve nailed your lights and dialled your layers, you’re ready to ride! Night riding is pretty different to daylight riding so take your first lap nice and easy. Even trails you’re super familiar with will feel a bit foreign in the dark.
A good rule of thumb with night riding is to ditch the ride trains. If you’re riding with mates, give them plenty of space before you drop in. Often people think that riding close together will double the light on the trail but it actually ends up casting a huge shadow for the rider in front and can lead to patchy visuals and a higher risk of crashing.
5. Preserve your battery life
Nothing good lasts forever, and unfortunately, that’s true for maximum lumens too. If you ride with the highest power of lumens, you risk depleting your battery life quicker especially if the temps are cold. To make sure your lights see you through to the end of your ride, try dimming your light when you don’t need maximum power.
Stopping for a chin wag with your mates? Flick it on lower lumens. Heading back up on a slower climb? You don’t need 2500 lumens for that. Your brightest light setting should be reserved for the faster and more technical descents. It might take some getting used to but adjusting your lumens based on the trail will help save your power and soon it will feel just as natural as dropping your seat post or locking out your suspension.
Photo by Ross Mackay
Night Riding at Bike Glendhu kicks off on Thursday, April 7th. You can purchase your night riding lights here or we will have a few sets available to hire on a first come first serve basis.