Opinion: Extend Your Mountain Bike Season by Buying a Light

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!