Cold Weather Night Riding Tips

Riding mountain bikes at night in the winter

Winter just came on with a vengeance here at Jet Lites WHQ in Reno, NV. Night rides a few weeks ago were a cool 60 degrees, and this week temps are in the 20′s during the DAYTIME! With the change in season, and the impending change in daylight savings time, comes a necessary change in riding gear. Here are a few tips for continuing your after work ride in the cold dark nights.

Get a light

Yeah, you knew we were going to talk about lights.

Brighter is better, but only if it comes from two sources. We disagree with the latest mountain bike light article that just came out in Mountain Bike Action Magazine, which advised only one light and placing that light on your handle bars. Lights these days are super bright and powerful, but putting all your lumens in one basket isn’t what we prefer. Bar mounted lights are nice because you get the shadows that let you see in 3D, but they leave you blind to what’s behind that log and around the corner. Helmet lights let you see around corners, but flatten out the trail. Best to get a lighting combo kit that gives you both. We happen to sell those…

If it’s freezing, and you’re riding alone, we advise carrying backup batteries. Out lights use high quality Lithium Ion batteries manufactured by Panasonic that are durable and reliable, but If your ride goes too long or you have a mechanical, having an emergency battery could save your skin.

Get a water bottle

Hydration packs are awesome. Not only can you cary water and tools and tubes without weighing down your bike, but you can usually squeeze in a beer and sandwich as well. But when you ride in the cold, that water pack will make you sweat, and that sweat will become a giant reservoir of unpleasantness in the cold.

For night riding and cold weather riding, use a saddle bag or rear rack for your gear and a water bottle for your juice. Then concentrate on sweating evenly throughout your entire body.

Get a vest

At every 24 hour race we go to we see novice cold weather riders suiting up for 45 degree night laps as if they were heading out for a polar expedition. What we find is that until it gets below 40 degrees all you need is a base layer, knee warmers and a vest. Add in arm warmers and insulated bibs as the temps drop.

BUT REMEMBER THIS: If you are warm when you start, you will sweat when you get warmed up. Once you sweat, you will get cold. Once you get cold you get slow, and that makes you colder and pretty soon the wolves are picking your carcass clean.

Get some shoe covers

Not the aero covers you use for TT’s (whatever those are), thick neoprene shoe covers that cover your whole foot. You can get some insulated thick snow clipless pedal shoes, but that will really cut into your burrito budget. I have a pair of nice warm covers and use my regular riding shoes. Your feet can never be too warm. But if they are too cold you spend the ride wondering if you’ll have to start cutting off toes when you get home and that just ruins a good ride.

If it’s too warm for shoe covers, try duckt taping the vents on your shoes. This blocks air flow and looks awesome.


The best thing you can do to train for 24 hour races, particularly 24 Hours in the Old Pueblo this February in Arizona, is train at night. Just getting used to riding hard in the dark and sorting out your cold weather gear will get you ahead come time for your night laps in the desert.

What is your favorite cold weather night riding gear?

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