1. Prepare - Its cold, gloves, lights and gear are a faff; so get yourself sorted before you leave the house. There is nothing worse than standing around in the cold while you wait for your riding mates to mount their lights, wearing their big heavy gloves and swearing at the fiddly mounting bolt.
2. Strap it down! - If you have cables, saddle bags, rear lights or anything that is remotely loose, it is guaranteed (sod's law) that it will fall off. You will never find anything in the dark, so tighten it up, strap it down, and do it up!
3. Head or Handlebars - If you are navigating you will need a head lamp. Make this your least powerful light, as the map will kick up so much glare it will be impossible to read, and ruin your night vision. If you are not navigating put the most powerful light on your helmet as you will be able to see further up the trail, and ride faster for it.
4. Protect your batteries - If your battery pack isn't waterproof, put it inside your back pack or saddle bag, and inside a waterproof bag. If it is inside your bag, zip tie the cable to a strap in a way that if you took your bag off before your helmet by accident, you won't strain the cable connections.
5. Carry spares - Spare gloves especially. If your hands get wet either from sweating too much or from falling in a river they will get cold very fast. Only dry gloves will cure cold hands. Also when gloves are wet they are more likely to tangle up the liners and make it impossible to get that last pinky finger back inside your glove. Also carry a spare light. Something that at the very worst you could walk of the trail with.
6. Be seen - Chances are that you will hit a road at some point in your Mountain Bike ride. Even if it is a short section cars can still hit you. Make sure at least a couple of people in your group are carrying a red rear flasher, and that they ride at the back while on the road. Ride close together so that cars can pass in one manoeuvre.
7. Observation - In the dark you will have a very narrow focus for navigating. So observe and try to remember any detail you can to refer back to the map. Tracing your path back with this information from you last known location, will be an easier relocation method in the dark than using the terrain you can't see around you.
8. Take a compass - Without a landscape as a reference it can be easy to become disorientated. A compass will see you right. Don't hesitate to get it out to check it. Keep it to hand in a pocket. It doesn't need to be amazing quality, just enough to get you and the map aligned with North.
9. Hyperthermia - If someone crashes or breaks their bike than the situation can rapidly become an emergency due to hyperthermia. If you are wearing wet kit because of going through puddles and streams this can happen in minutes. Carry a spare warm jacket, or take a survival shelter like the Mapdec LESS.
10. Don't ride too close - The beam from your lights will cast a shadow of the rider in front. This can be really disorientating and can make the sides of the trail brighter than where they are trying to ride. Stay in the ready position and bright lights can make the trail much more 2 dimensional than it actually is.
Photo: Alamy, Selfie!
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