9 Apr 2007

Night Riding

Night riding is different and fun - and we have done night riding on the Colorpress 24 and 12 hr and on the Baviaans. For night riding it is very important to have good lights, and to ride a bit slower - except if you are young and fearless as some of the people on the Colorpress 12/24 hr were.

There are a whole range of lights available for night riding, although it is difficult to get some of the good (and expensive) lights in South Africa. Common brands appear to be Cat Eye, Night Sun, Night Rider and BLT. We use NightHawk lights - the older digital emitter on the Baviaans and now the new K2 digital emitter as well. These lights were excellent.

The main problem with night lights are the power (or light produced) and the battery life. Many of the Halogen lights give excellent light - up to 30W. But, these lights usually only last 2 or 3 hours, and are not suitable for a 6 or 12 hour night ride.

The more common lights are High Intensity Diode (HID) systems, which give longer burn times. The older NightHawk digital emitter is equivalent to about a 10W halogen and has a burn time of about 8 hours using Lithium AA batteries (which can be replaced during the ride if necessary). The new K2 digital emitter produces 20W for just under 5 hours or 10W for just under 12 hours using a rechargeable battery pack! That’s more than enough to get one through the night.

Although more expensive, the digitally controlled lights are far superior. Conventional lights get dimmer as the batteries loose power, but the digitally controlled lights keep a constant brightness throughout the ride (but shorter burn times) - it's not much good to have your lights only half as bright halfway through the ride!

Another factor to take into account is whether the lights should be mounted on the handlebars or on the helmet (or both). A handlebar mounted light provides a stable view of the track in front of your front wheel - but does not let you see around a bend until you have taken the bend! A helmet mounted light allows one to scan from side to side. Most riders use both handlebar and a helmet mounted lights. An 8 LED DuraStar headlight is a good option for a helmet mounted light.

Another tip - single track and jeep track riding is more difficult than dirt roads at night. Remember, try to get around in one piece - we had some hard falls on the Baviaans and on the 12hr!

Some useful information on night riding and on bike lights can be found on the
Biking Hub and MountianBikeAZ.

But - if you are still confused about what light to get, you could
make your own, or even try one of these.

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