Mammoth 24-Hour Enduro Race, California. Photo: Mammoth Mountain.

If you ask me, mountain biking season isn’t over ’till the fat lady sings. And I don’t listen to opera, so that means it’s time to break out the lights.

Actually, I’ve already been riding with lights this season, thanks to the curse of the ever-shortening fall daylight hours. With the time change on November 3rd, the daylight hours at the end of the day are going to get even shorter. The only way to fit in an after work ride during the week will soon require (if it already doesn’t) a quality mountain bike light.

In Jeff’s previous article titled “10 Reasons to Mountain Bike in the Dark,” just one reason of the 10 was to “extend your season.” But after thinking about, it I’ve decided I need to harp on this point a little bit more.

In the Southeast, night riding is a thing: most everyone owns a light, because this time of year is gorgeous and, well, everyone night rides. And if you live in the Southeast and don’t own a light, after you finish reading this article, you need to buy one.

In fact, even if you don’t live in the Southeast but you call yourself a “mountain biker” and don’t own a light, you need to buy one, too. After my recent move to Colorado, I’ve been very surprised by the number of people who either A) don’t own a decent light, or B) own a decent light but just don’t use it.

I’m not sure what the difference is between Colorado and Georgia. I don’t know if the temperatures are just that much colder at night here in the Rockies (they aren’t in Salida), the onset of downhill ski season is causing riders to hang up their bikes (maybe in Summit County, but not in Salida), or if the darkness just doesn’t provide the same awesome views that riding during the day does. While maybe the last point might be a decent argument, if you call yourself a mountain biker, just hitting the trails is reason enough to ride, even if you don’t have good views to gawk at.

The time change still hasn’t happened yet, so I haven’t done a full-blown night ride lately (ie beginning after dark), but packing a light has effectively helped me extend even the rides that start during the daytime. Lately, I’ve been hopping on the bike after work and logging a solid 1-1.5 hours of riding in the daylight before switching on the light and finishing the last hour or so in the darkness. Even now, if you want to ride any more than an hour in the evenings after work, you’ve gotta pack a light… so that’s what I do.

What’s your excuse?

While some of the nicer brands such as Niterider and Light and Motion undoubtedly produce fantastic, high-quality products, I hear some riders complain about the prices for some of the high-end light sets. But if price is a barrier, bright lights from companies like Magicshine and Lumintrek can be found for $100-200.

With many mountain bikes retailing for thousands of dollars, an extra hundred or two so you can actually use your bike in the fall is nothing. Even if your bike only cost $500, what good is it to you if you can’t ride it for half the year? Scrape together some pennies, skip a few 6-packs of beer, and buy yourself a light, dang it!

# Comments

  • dgaddis

    NiteRider has some killer lights for under $200 these days. in fact, the last few years they’ve been increasing the light output but reducing size, weight, AND COST.

    • jeff

      5200 lumens… and 5 minutes of battery life. 🙂

    • AJ711

      I didn’t buy the 5200 lumen light, but I did pick up (3) 1800 lumen lights for $25 a pop. Toss in a helmet strap, diffusing lens and maybe one other thing and the purchase wasn’t too bad off Amazon.

      I should have the whole thing wired up and in place tonight, and I’ll test it next Tuesday at a group ride. Many trails around my area won’t allow night rides unless it is previously sanctioned, so hoofing it alone can’t be done.

      Just turning things on and walking around a dark house, the lights are definitely bright. Hopefully I’ll get a chance to compare them to name-brand equipment, but for now, I’m happy with the purchase. And if I find I don’t like night riding, it isn’t too bad. If I do like it, maybe I’ll pick up a better light next year. We’ll see what happens.

    • CrispyMTB

      Cheap lights are great for trying out night riding. Ive gotten a bunch of my riding buddies set up with two lights for around $65. If their lights last one season, it is worth it to avoid dropping $300 only to find you never use them.

    • jeff

      Unfortunately no one has found a way around the physics of battery powered lights. 🙂 Every light set is going to be a compromise between brightness, battery life, and portability. You can crank up two of these variables but the other is going to suffer. The fourth variable, cost, seems to be less of a factor these days as the tech improves.

  • shawnskee22

    Totally agree with you Greg. Even over the summer it comes in handy since the midday temps in Texas are 105+ a lot of times. Riding at night is an escape from the heat and a great way to get in some exercise. We even had some midsummer dusk races that we did where the final 2 hours of racing was in the dark. Those were some of the most fun races I’ve done!

  • k2rider1964

    I’m a huge fan of night riding and ride every thursday night after work on a solo ride. I’d go at night on the weekends too but none of my riding buddies are down for that so we usually do the early morning saturday rides.

    Like others have mentioned, there is NO reason to spend big $$ on a light set-up. My chinese cheapo Cree-style light works better than my $300 baja Designs light. I have had ZERO issues with the cheapo light systems. It’s bright, has a great battery life and has been bullet-proof.

  • CrispyMTB

    I live in the Philly suburbs. We only have 3 trails we can night ride. Two are actually Philly parks were we can ride until 10pm.
    I have 2 magicshines that are my primary lights. I have about $230 invested in them. This year I picked up 2 unbranded lights on eBay for $32 per light. My lights shipped from Illinois and I had them in three days. I have other friends who order cheap lights that shipped from China and they waited over a month to get theirs.
    I use my extra lights as loaners when leading beginner night rides. If I end up not getting one back i won’t cry about it.

    • CrispyMTB

      Here is the link to the light I grabbed on eBay. Comparable to my 900 lm magicshine. The reflector has the orange peel texture so it casts a nice even spot wide enough to light the trail. Be careful of light with smooth reflectors, some of them cast a very tight spot that isn’t that helpful for lighting up the sides of the trail.
      As far as battery life goes. I’ve used it on medium for close to 3 hours and the battery indicator never switched off from green.


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