Have you ever raced in the dark? To some people the challenge of night riding is too good to pass up, but to others it may seem crazy. We have been doing some research into the subject and want to give you some real tips from riders who have raced at night and some handy things you can do to make sure you and your equipment are good to go!
Night riding brings some challenges to racing that are not frequently faced in normal daylight hours. The aspect of lighting, batteries, temperature, eating when your body is usually asleep, keeping focused when your brain is usually resting and more!
So where do we start?
The first important thing that you can do to adequately prepare to race at night, is practice in the dark at home. The more time you spend out on the bike at night, the more you will know about how to get yourself going for race day. Use the time you have wisely and make sure that you try and re-create the race as close as possible, so that you can have everything ready and backups if needed.
Practice the actual course if you can. If you know that in a few months time you are headed to a specific location, go there early and do the track in the daytime. Try to focus on all of the sections and keep in mind safe places to pass, drink and recover. Wait until sunset and have another go.
Add a day to your travel
Make sure that you are at the race a day or two early and use your time to practice the course and have a day sleep before the race. A well-rested mind and body are the keys to being at your best come race day. If your race starts at 6pm, try and time your travel to the race with 1 day extra. This “rest” day is crucial to getting some practice on the course and using the middle of the day for sleeping/resting. Shift workers who frequently complete night shifts are encouraged to try and rest during the day before their shift, so that they can work to their full potential when the body is normally asleep.
Nutrition & Hydration
Get your nutrition and hydration sorted. Some people may find it hard to eat and drink when their body naturally wants to be asleep or the temperature drops. Your natural body processes like hunger and urine output decrease at night so keep these factors in mind. You still need to hydrate and fuel appropriately to your exercise intensity. If you can practice eating and drinking during your night rides, you will know what your body can handle. Avoid caffeine and salt tablets. This will cause a big shock to your digestive system when it is in hibernation mode. You may find you will get gastrointestinal upset and not be able to finish the race. If you fuel and hydrate properly you should have the energy to power through without these. If you need a pick-me-up and are a regular coffee/tea drinker, these may be more forgiving.
Clothing & Safety
Getting the right clothing for the location is important. Google what the low and high will be and bring extra. You can always push down some arm/leg warmers or take a jacket off if you are too hot, but being too cold can really bring your race to a halt. Appropriate eyewear is still important in the dark. Clear or yellow tinged glasses are usually the preferred option. Normal safety glasses are generally inexpensive and are a good option for a first timer.
Everyone has a preference with lights but generally speaking a light on your helmet and one on your handlebars is usually standard. At most races you will not be allowed to race if you don’t have a back red flashing light due to safety reasons, so make sure that you have one and make sure they are all fully charged. Most people try to have a spare of each so that if they are participating in a longer race, they can quickly swap them out and keep going ( or if you are Jason English, have them set up on a spare bike and keep riding). Practice with different configurations of lights as some may get quite heavy on the helmet, and others may not give you the spread of light that you need.
Bring a support person
Night racing is hard enough, let alone trying to do all of your bottle changes, feeding, light changes and general maintenance. Having someone as your ” pit crew” is more valuable than gold when you are racing at night. Knowing you are supported from the sidelines and someone is there to help you when the motivation is low, will always be a good thing! They are a really good person to keep you informed with placing during the race also, as the dark gives you that added element of not knowing where anyone else is during the race. Making sure your support person feels loved and has all of the right food, warm clothing and shelter is equally as important.
“Always smile and be happy to your pit crew even if you wanna die” -Ben Jacka ( Multiple 24hr Racer)
This is so important. They are there to help you and have given their time and forfeited their sleep to be there for you. Never yell or be angry with them even when you are feeling low. Not only will they most likely never help you out again, but you will look really silly to all of the surrounding competitors and support crews.
PCS coaching is lucky to have trained some fabulous 24 hour athletes who love competing in the dark. Throughout this process we have learned a lot and spent hours fine tuning their training needs. If night racing or 12/24 hour racing is something that gets you excited but you feel you may need some structure and mentoring why not schedule a breakthrough call through this link and we can discuss your goals. Book A Breakthrough Session – PCS Coaching
High Performance Mountain Bike Coach
My speciality is helping serious and recreational mountain bikers break through plateaus to attain higher levels of performance so that they can get fitter, faster, stronger and win more races!