Last night's La Mesa Night Ride was a first for me. I have been riding at night before but not on the trail. These night rides that I did years ago were training rides in Ateneo and UP. The closest to a trail night ride that I did was at the back of the high school and in the paved parking areas using my rechargeable Cateye headlights. That was it.
Judging from the last three blog entries, I'm sure you know how excited I was with this whole thing.
So how was the ride, you ask? In one word, it was AWESOME! I was biking in La Mesa for several years already but this one is really different. Pun intended, I saw La Mesa in a whole new light!
From the Tower 11 parking area, we pedaled our way to the lake. We took the fire road first to get us accustomed with riding in the dark, but from the lake the route we took was almost all singletrack going back. (Click here to see the map)
Below are some of my learnings from this wonderful ride:
1. Make sure your lights are secure. The handlebar-mounted lights that I borrowed from Victor got knocked out of focus when we hit the trail. Good thing I have my back-up Niterider Ultrafazer ready or I would have been biking with just the helmet-mounted lights. I managed to correct it when we stopped to rest.
2. A helmet-mounted light is a must. At first I thought having two handlebar-mounted lights were OK, but hitting the trail for the first time made me realize how very important helmet-mounted lights are because they move with your head, and therefore give light to the area you're looking at. Come to think of it, if it was a choice between a handlebar-mounted light and a helmet-mounted one, I'd go for the latter.
3. Always have back-up lights. After I was able to secure Victor's light, I was riding with it and my helmet-mounted light the whole time. That is until it ran out of charge going up to Tower 5. Good thing I can turn on my battery-operated Niterider Ultrafazer with just a flick of the switch.
4. Keep a whistle handy. Actually this tip is applicable even for non-night rides. Someone from our group crashed on the downhill stretch less than a kilometer away from the parking area. We were shouting at the people in front to stop, but they couldn't hear us. Good thing my whistle was readily accessible and so I was able to get their attention before they disappeared into the dark.
5. Get ready to hammer. Riding at night is less tiring because of the cool weather. Here's the downside: because it's dark, riders tend to stick to the wheel of the person in front of them so as not get left behind. We were like roadies drafting at each other's wheel in the singletrack, and the pace was surprisingly faster than what it was at daytime!
6. Bring batteries. You may have a 400-lumen headlamp that can turn night into day, but if it's out of charge you're not going anywhere. Even if you have back-up lights, make sure you bring extra batteries.
7. Make sure your bike is in tip-top condition. If you think it's hard to fix a flat or a chainsuck during daytime, it's harder in the dark.
8. When it comes to lights, what matters is the performance more than the brand name. The Php200 to Php300 headlamps bought from Ace hardware, DIY and True Value were surprisingly brighter and more dependable than the more expensive Cateyes! I can't believe I'm saying this but I love the Sonca helmet-mounted light!
Overall, the experience was wonderful. And I thank Manu Sandejas of Knobbies bike shop in White Plains, Quezon City for organizing this. Now I'm looking forward to doing more night rides this year.
Were you part of the La Mesa Night Ride? Share your experience, too!