Go Mountain Biking… at Night!

10 feet in front of you… that is all that you can see of the trail you’re riding on. Other than the stars and the moon, everything else is pitch black. Flowing over the rock gardens, with scrub oak flying passed you, makes it feel like you’re out on a PR paced ride. Even the Coyotes were out having a blast, howling in the night. Was it scary? Yes. Was it nerve-racking? Yes. Will I be doing it again? Hell Yes!

Last week, my buddy Bill and I made plans to go out for a night ride at some point here in Park City. With busy schedules, we finally were able to plan a ride for this past Wednesday night. Since Bill was a veteran night-rider, he had all the appropriate lights one would need to venture off into the dark with their bike. This proved to be much needed. I, foolishly, was prepared to head out on the trail with a hiking headlamp on my head and a camp flashlight duct-taped to my handlebars. Turns out, that setup would have been essentially useless. 

With a fancy, Lupine headlamp secured to my helmet and its power cord connected to an external battery tucked away in my pack, we headed out from the trailhead. Bill, on the other hand, had a super-mega-lumin headlamp attached to the front of his bike that made it seem like we were riding in the daylight, when, in fact, the sun was fully set and it was getting pretty dark. Our trail of choice was the local trails in Round Valley called Rambler & Ramble On. These trails aren’t too technical, don’t require much climbing, and are generally cleared of overgrown brush on the trail (i.e. ideal for a night ride). But that doesn’t mean it’s not a great trail to ride.

Right away, the added effect of riding at night turned a casual XC style trail into an epic ride. Normal, boring pedaling sections turned out to be exciting and demanding of all your focus. You couldn’t see beyond your headlamp’s reach, so even the easiest of rocky sections would surprise you, forcing you to react with precision to navigate the trail. Turns and bends in the trails would come, what felt like, out of nowhere. And a low hanging branch seemed like an obstacle thrown at you in the dark like in American Ninja Warrior.  Even the birds and rodents that frequent the trails at night gave us an extra bit of test to avoid.

I’d be lying if I said it was 100% awesome and I wasn’t nervous for a good portion of the ride. Around every corner, I was expecting to run into a moose, or at least a deer. We tried to keep our conversations going the entire ride to make animals aware of our odd presence this time of night, but you could only say so much until the silence returned. The last thing I was expecting to run into were coyotes, but even that was too much to ask. 

Just after reaching the far side of our planned loop, we started to hear the howling. One by one, joining in the group howl like a pack of wolves howling in the night. By our estimates, there had to be anywhere from 6-10 coyotes no more than a 100yds downhill from the trail we were on. Luckily, their attention was fixated on something else. Judging by shrieks and yelps coming from their location, that pack of coyotes were tearing apart another animal. It sounded terrifying and definitely not friendly. That quickly put me on edge for the rest of the night.

Luckily, we climbed our way up PorqUclimb and away from the pack of coyotes and were back to fun riding again. We reached a high point, and pointed our bikes downhill on NowhereElks. This part of the ride was unlike anything else I’d ever ridden, even though I’ve ridden this trail plenty of times. The layer of darkness honed in my sense of focus on just the trail in front of me, forcing me to react to every turn just in time. I couldn’t tell which way the track turned in front of me, left or right, so as I gained speed on the descent, I was in full downhill mode on what is normally a pretty relaxed Blue trail. Eventually, we made it down and without any scars to bare, which nowadays is a sign of a successful ride.

Heading back to the cars, I felt a new sense of adventure. No longer are night rides, hikes, or runs just something that happens when you take to long to finish, instead, a different way to experience those same activities. It was epic, and with the proper light source, I highly recommend it! I can’t wait to do it again and explore Park City’s epic trail system in a completely new light… pun intended. 

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