The Night riders. A shadowy flight into the dangerous world of men who do not exist… Okay, maybe not, but there is Goofy Mark and a host of others who push their mountainboard riding past sunset and into the dark. Mark takes a break from Bonnie & Devon to bring news of the crusade…
So what do you do when daylight hours are getting shorter and you have no time in the day to go boarding due to work & family commitments?
Do you pack away your prized possession in a crate of straw for it’s winter hibernation? No! it’s just time for…
Gnarly Night Boarding!
Myself and my riding bro Mutley were not going to let the dark winter evenings stop us riding our local spot – Cleeve Hill. So we set about figuring out a way to ride at night. We soon found that it is not just as simple as taking a torch with you. If you want to get out riding at night and don’t want to waste time and money figuring out what to use, then read on……
Let there be light
We spent about 3 months of trying various types of flashlight, from Maglite style to custom built ultra bright red LED, all the way through using glowsticks and home made LED markers, to try and find something suitable.
The red lights were pretty good as they preserve your night vision, but there was one major drawback. We were riding largely on grass, which because it is green, just appeared featureless and black by the red light. Markers worked (and looked amazing from the top of a run), but required too much setting up.
It became apparent that ideally we would like about 10 metres of good illumination – minimal stopping distance. Normal torches could not deliver, so after consulting some Mountain Bike sites (for research purposes only!), we came across some mega powerful, and not too expensive candidates…
A little more trial and error with a couple of different flashlights and I have arrived at one of these:
It has a fairly dispersed beam, which is still bright enough for distance illumination. This I prefer to a brighter spot beam, because I found the ‘tunnel’ effect from spot beams was very strange and made me feel a bit weird. Although it’s rated at around 900 lumens I don’t think it actually is, but as a guide around 500 lumens should give adequate light to ride by.
Mutley has ended up with two much smaller lights of 250 lumens each, and run on specialist rechargable batteries for extra brightness. They have a narrow-ish spot beam, but he has them mounted to the sides of his helmet in such a way that it spreads the light.
Helmet mounting is a must; it means the light is shining where you are looking. Because my torch is a lot heavier I have it mounted on the top of my helmet, to neutralise the weight. I found that a couple of cable tie wraps through the ventilation holes is all that is required – I didn’t like the idea of bolting anything to the helmet as it would weaken it and the bolt might end up in my head in the event of a stack!
Why am I freezing my nuts off in the middle of nowhere – in the dark?
Because of the challenge! Mountainboarding is worth the effort, whatever the temperature, place or time.
One of the big benefits of night riding is that it allows you to rediscover an already familiar riding spot.
The good thing is that you know the runs, know the danger spots, and know when you can nail it. But its different in the dark, you are forced to concentrate your reactions within your personal bubble of light, desperately using all your senses to find the next landmark that tells you where you are on a run, whilst reacting quickly to the terrain as it suddenly appears in front of you.
When combined with the typical conditions of winter, like wet mud, heavy rain and ice, you get a ride which will challenge even the most competent of rider’s board skills.
Danger, Danger, high voltage!
Neither of us is into taking un-necessary risks, so we take all the normal safety gear, we don’t ride solo, and we never ride something we haven’t ridden in the day.
The procedure is similar for scouting the run, but extra attention is needed to mentally log the landmarks, things look different by torch light! This means that when they appear a few metres in front of you can react immediately.
When it comes down to it there is no reason for night boarding to be any more dangerous than riding in the day, as long as you are sensible and minimise the risks.
Ultimately you don’t need to ride as fast to get a good adrenaline rush. It also improves your riding, particularly your reactions, and speed control techniques.
Infact, I would argue that the improvements in riding ability carry through to riding in the day and therefore make you a better, safer rider generally.
We are not alone
There are other riders doing this of course, in different ways.
Roger S has been riding with a standard head torch for a while now, relying largely on his freakish freeride instincts rather than powerful lights -“Ultimately my aim is to ride without any lights at all, just relying on my other senses and my reactions” says Roger; Whilst in Whinlatter, Roger and Mutley hit the Osprey run in the wee small hours: tearing it up a couple of times on their NoSno’s, and avoiding the wrath of the park rangers under the cover of darkness…
Then there is the Hales Superbole crew who have a floodlit area so they can freestyle the night away, check the photos of one such evening here.
Ireland’s AIMBA did a similar thing too, see their photos here.
Photographers Arran Heath set up a night shoot with Alan Ride the Hill n crew sessioning it, while the Dirt Monkeys shot their super tasty ‘neon noodles‘ well after dark too, using glow sticks, torches, flash guns, and street lights!
In France the Douce Offensive have taken some amazing photos (including night sessions) that you can drool over here while over on the other side of the pond, the Dirtheads & MBS crews have been night riding for years; jamming it over fires and the like…
Even Remolition’s own Dan Wilson & Smilie night ride too and are reputed to sometimes go wolverine on the local golf course when the moon is full (get back-copy of ATBmag issue 29 dec 04, for the details of their first expeditions…)
Hopefully this has inspired you to get out there one night and give it a go – it’s an awesome experience that will push your riding skills to the limit. But don’t take my word for it, get yourself some mighty powerful torches and go blaze up your local riding spot.
Want more advice or to share your experiences with us, join in the chat on Surfing Dirt
Also check out more of Mutley’s Night riding photos in the album on facebook
Words by Goofy Mark, all photos not labelled by Mutley, Alex S-J, & Dan Wilson.