As daylight savings falls back, and the weather gets cooler, we find ourselves in a dilemma in the fall and winter: Should I just ride indoors on the trainer? Should I adjust my work schedule to ride early morning or just before dark? Should I skip riding during the week for the season? Or should I get some lights and ride at night? We mountain bikers know that even a few weeks off the bike sets us back, health-wise. To stay fit, we have to keep riding. So if you’re not the type who enjoys a stationary bike and want to continue your pre or post work regimen, you’re gonna have to get some lights and find some places to legally ride at night.
Relearning the Trails
If you’ve never gone mountain biking at night, you’ll find that your familiar trails become a whole new world. Riding at night takes more bike handling skill, good night vision, and confidence in your equipment. Many times while riding downhill even your lights will not illuminate as far as you need to see and you’ll find yourself needing to put more trust in the bike. You’ll certainly have less depth of field, and shadows cast on the terrain can play tricks on the mind. Additionally, other people’s lights can blind you or distract you from the trail. So before taking on any trails, you should become accustomed to night riding by riding on the streets in dark areas. For a lot more advice and tips about riding at night, check out this website.
County and (Most) State Parks are Closed at Night
Unfortunately, all Orange County Parks and most state parks within Orange County are closed at night. One exception in the state parks is the San Clemente Singletracks. Getting caught in most parks after dark equates to a misdemeanor trespassing violation, which carries with it a hefty fine and possible jail time. You also risk having your bike confiscated, or at least, impounded. When in doubt, stay out. Lack of signage is no excuse!
Legal Places to Ride in Orange County
Fortunately, there are a few places in Orange County to go mountain biking legally at night. They include:
If off road riding at night is not your forte, you can also ride any designated bike path such as the Santa Ana River Trail, the Mountain to the Seas Trail (outside of the parks), and the Aliso Creek Trail.
In addition to the public areas of Orange County, there are also a couple areas managed by the Irvine Ranch Conservancy that do guided tours at night on their lands (Limestone Canyon and Bommer Canyon). Check their events calendar for upcoming night riding opportunities.
Of course, to ride at night you’re going to need lights. It’s a wise idea to have two lights: one for the bars and one for your helmet so that you can see around corners. I recommend SpokeGrenade lights.