Mountain bikers have been riding at night since the earliest days of the sport and today, most riders have at least tried night riding once. We mined the Singletracks trail check-in data to see what insights we could gain into night riding and put together this quick infographic to share our findings.

Of course, having data like this just raises more questions for us. Like: Are night rides 2 hours, 15 minutes long (on average) because that’s about how long most light system batteries last on high? Or, are light companies designing their products around the average night ride times?

We were also surprised to see that riders in the sunbelt states tend to do less riding at night (as a % of their overall rides) compared to riders who live much farther north. I suspect part of the reason is that many rides in places like Utah and California are logged by MTB tourists who have all day to ride and little need to squeeze in a night ride. Also, summer days tend to last longer in northern locations which means a ride that starts at 8 or 9pm might not even require a light! [We chose to identify “night rides” as those that start between 8pm and 5am, though depending on location and season, this may or may not be the case.]

What surprises you about the night riding data presented above?

# Comments

  • musikron

    My night rides are closer to midnight to two am. Riding at five in the afternoon pre dusk or five am at dawn does not qualify as a night ride in my book.

    • Jeff Barber

      Agreed, we tried to be pretty restrictive in terms of the hours that would qualify as night riding. Starting at 8pm, (depending on daylight savings and latitude) a 2 hour ride will probably at least require a light by the end of the ride. I’m thinking we should back up the morning times to 4am to be sure the start of the ride requires a light.

  • delphinide

    So, a couple of observations:

    -AWESOME infographic!
    -My night rides usually start right after DST around 5pm. I would love to see data on the percentage of folks who start riding after DST (even though November was not as popular as Jan/June)
    -Kudos to the minority who ride diamond and double diamond trails at night. I am one of them, but I suspect my ride time is more than 17% slower than my daytime averages. Also, most of these are not legal, I just happen to get caught…ahem…accidentally on the trail after dark πŸ™‚
    -Utah and NM not into night riding? Shameful. You guys have some of the best trails in the world.
    -I suspect (purely speculation) that the Southerners don’t ride at night because it is not really a cultural thing and because a lot of trails are closed at night. Spending most of my life in the south, people looked at you funny when you mention riding at night…that is changing now of course. Are there geographical data about who doesn’t ride at night becaues of lack of access?
    -Ironically, my intermediate level trail times are usually the same or faster at night. Maybe it’s becaues I can’t see the dangers of the trail.
    -Any info on who rides solo vs group rides at night? Mine are a mix.

    • Jeff Barber

      Ah, that would be interesting to know if people ride solo or in groups at night. I personally never ride solo at night–I’m worried if I go down it’ll be a long time before someone finds me. πŸ™‚

    • John Fisch

      I probably do more solo night rides if for no other reason than not everyone has lights.

      While I’m not so much worried about going down, the heart rate is definitely up as the brain automatically decodes every rustle in the bushes as a mountain lion. Of course, it’s always just a bird or a squirrel, and if it was a big cat, I’d be done for by the time I knew what hit me. But what logic tells me and how I react are often two different things!

    • fundude1963

      Just beginning to ride a MTB this year (Niner JET 9), very timid at first.

      “Ironically, my intermediate level trail times are usually the same or faster at night. Maybe it’s becaues I can’t see the dangers of the trail.”

      Absolutely 100% agree! Things I could see that freaked me out during the day I normally run through or run over before I realize it at night. I’ve got more balls at night, that’s for sure. Slower on the trail (I don’t want to hit that tree), but faster on the hazards.

    • Greg Heil

      Paul, interesting to say that you think night riding isn’t culturally ingrained in the South. In my experience, I know WAY WAY more people in the south that night ride than I do out here in Colorado. Seriously, everywhere I’ve gone and lived in Georgia there’s been an organized group night ride, and all of the even moderately-serious riders own a light. Out here in Salida, the night riding culture is almost non-existant.

      I think the South lends itself to night riding more than Colorado, for three reasons:
      1) It’s so much warmer there, even through the winter, that when daylight really drops off this time of year, it’s pretty easy to strap on a light and just keep riding. Here in CO, it can get really dang cold at night, with wider temperature swings and cold winter weather.
      2) Here in CO, the views are so good from even the most mundane of trails that it seems like a travesty to miss them in the dark. In the South, most of the time you’re just riding through a deep forest… after you’ve seen the first thousand trees, you start to lose interest in the view. So really, you feel like you’re missing out on less at night.
      3) During the summer months, the temperatures are so much hotter in GA that riding late at night or very early in the morning are the best ways to beat the heat. Here in CO, even if it’s hot, it’s not humid.

  • Greg Heil

    However, it’s worth noting that about 95% of the night rides that I do & did in GA aren’t included in this data, because we’d usually start riding at the same time every week, regardless of the time of year… Usually about 6ish pm. It’s just that when the daylight hours shorten, those rides turn into night rides. But due to the way the data was collected, those rides wouldn’t be included here.

  • mtbikerchick

    I have to confess I’m one of the 45% who has never been on a night ride. I love to ride after work in the spring and summer, but those rides, obviously, happen when it’s light until 9 at night. This time of year in Western Colorado the sun is setting at 4:58. As soon as it goes down it’s cold and all I want to do is go home and do something inside…by 8? Forget it. I’m on the couch!

  • fatlip11

    That’s why I love this site, great information all the time! Unfortunately, I don’t really know of any legitimate local trails that allow night riding here in the ATL area, maybe a night riding database?

  • Fat_Polly

    I love riding at night and try to get out one or two nights per week year-round, weather permitting. Most of my rides are solo.

    Some things that work well for me.
    1. I try not to park at the trailhead. Instead I look for a lit area with some traffic. Why? Some of the trails may not be night legal and I think a lone car at a dark trailhead invites breakins.
    2. Avoid areas where people congregate to party, more relevant on weekends. Things can get wierd when bright lights and intoxicated people mix!
    3. More pressure in tires and at least one spare battery.
    4. My wife always knows where I am going.
    5. Elbow and knee pads for warmth and protection.
    6. A space blanket in case things really go awry, never needed but good for peace of mind.
    7. Warm, dry clothes for post-ride.

    Have fun and be safe and smart!

  • fatlip11

    WOW! Thanks Greg, I hadn’t seen that before, that’s awesome. I did a double check and learned that Blankets is open till 11:00pm. I thought it was dawn to dusk only. Perfect!!!

    • Greg Heil

      No worries man, glad to be of help!

  • tholyoak

    I live in Utah, and I’ve been night riding a few times. But only in the summer, when I want to ride but didn’t get time while the sun is up. I can’t imagine doing it in January here.

  • thisisatest

    The first part of this infographic is frustrating – I think the first pie chart the call-out % is referring to the dark area, while the other two are referring to the light area, but it should be consistent (interesting data, just not super consistently presented #paperreviewerproblems). Otherwise… night riding is one of the few options out here in the PNW. As long as you’ve got a few buddies you’re good to go! Rain and mud guaranteed πŸ™‚

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