Don’t Let The Short Dark Days Keep You Inside

All across the United States the clocks have changed and you are likely getting into a new routine based around the darker evenings.

You get out of work, drive home jamming to your favorite station on Jango, cook a nice dinner, and then sit down on that cozy couch and press the power button. After all, it’s dark out now and has been since you left work at 5, so why not?

But I’m arguing that question—Why not?—goes both ways.

TL:DR; Just because it’s dark out does not give you the right to join the ranks of the lazy! You have activities you love, goals you want to achieve, and fitness you need to maintain. Darkness does not mean quit all those things. Really, you shouldn’t want to!

Just enough light to keep it interesting

What you need to do in these dark times (and I mean that literally) is motivate yourself to still get out there. It doesn’t have to be in the evening, you can get out for dark, early morning activities as well. The point here is that darkness cannot stop you.

Find Your Motivation

Everyone is motivated by different things and wants to achieve certain tangible goals with what they do. For me it’s to maintain my cycling fitness by continuing to ride, as well as doing some cross training in the form of running, XC skiing, snowshoeing, hiking and anything else that may pop up that day.

I think the easiest way to keep at it is to figure out what those motivations are: staying fit, keeping sane with a good work/life balance, getting some fresh air, hanging with friends, or whatever else it may be for you that’s makes you get out there and feel alive.

There are some really cool races that require competing at night that you and some friends are thinking about signing up for. The Ragnar Trail for instance, is a 24-hour team trail running relay race, and it will really help if you go in with a little prior experience crushing miles in the dark!

So what are your reasons for staying up and getting out? Need help? Try making a list of why you ride, run or do something else, and then try to look at each bullet point and ask yourself this:

Can you still do this in the dark?

There are very few sports where you may have to answer that with a “no.” So if you’re coming to terms with venturing out into the night, you’re going to want the right light.

Making The Night Bright: Lamps Recommended By Activity

Since I doubt that you have the eyes of an Ocelot, and can spot a mouse scurrying across the trail 30-feet in front of you in the dark, you’re going to needs some lights. Your activity choice will make a difference with the lighting gear you’re going to want.

A small selection of lights to get you started, what works for you?
Road Biking

For road cycling I would recommend a red, rear blinking light, and a front light that’s handlebar mounted. If you are riding in rural areas or down roads without street lights, it’s a good idea to have at least 300 lumens.

This will allow you to see major obstacles and also keep in the sight of drivers. If you want to see more of the action coming your way get something a little more powerful. I recently bought a NiteRider Lumina with 950 lumen boost and it’s bright!

Mountain Biking

Mountain biking requires a little more power to light up the trail, with all the rocks, roots and trees that you will encounter along the way. I would say a minimum of 800 lumens handlebar mounted and another light of similar power on your helmet.

This is nice because the light will track where you turn your bars but your other light will track where you look, it’s the perfect combo! A trick when using multiple lights is to have one with a wide floodlight type beam and another with a more narrow far reaching beam. This will allow you to see more of your surroundings while minimizing the dancing shadows that will be constantly shifting throughout your ride.

See where he came from and where he’s going
Running

If you’re running around your city or on the sweet trails near your house, get a head lamp! Princeton Tec makes some great options. One that I have been using recently both on road and in the woods is the Ptec Sync.

The Sync is light weight and has multiple brightness options. It even has red if you decide to stop mid run and cook a nice Hungry Hikers Murray’s Hurried Curry on your GSI Pinnacle camp stove that you whip out of your pocket at just the right time to impress your buddies, because again, why not?

Also while running on the streets I like to wear an illuminated arm or leg band because I don’t want my run cut short by a car slamming into me. I assume you feel the same way.

The darkness ahead
Snowboarding/Skiing

I used to do many a skin up Ajax before or after work and the Princeton Tec Apex Pro more then lit my way. There are tons of great options that fit helmets and beanies alike, it’s just important to have something with enough power to light up a good 25 to 30 feet in front of you so that so don’t miss any of those hidden features.

One of my favorite dawn patrol* runs on the board was skinning up Ajax and then strapping in to ride the Bingo Glades after it snowed all night.

*”Dawn Patrol” is the act of getting up extremely early, sometimes before sunrise, to go surf, ski, or partake in some form of outdoor activity with high gnar factor.

I can distinctly remember the powder turns and sinking into the cold dry snow that night. The beam of light illuminating the flakes still falling from the dark sky above. It almost felt like they were falling in slow motion, combined with the stillness of the landscape I was immersed in. But aside from the magic of the moment, the lamp served to light up the trail ahead, keeping me out of tree wells and away from downed branches or any other sketchy spots along the ride.

Done with a gnarly night skin, what goes up must come down…
Hiking & More

Hiking, climbing, mountaineering and the like, also require a nice head lamp and once again you have many options. Pick one with the battery power and brightness you want for the activity.

If you’re crossing Mount Rainier’s Ingraham Glacier, you want something bright enough to see the route and the crevasses that you will criss cross on your way to the summit. You don’t want to be there with a dull light unknowingly hiking towards the side of a thousand foot drop covered in rock and ice. In cases like these, good lights can literally light your way to safety and keep you alive. It is not something that you want to skimp on!

Join The Dark Side

Darkness transforms a familiar landscape into something unusual and mysterious. Your local riding loop will feel brand new the first time you ride it at night with lights. Getting out there after the sun sets changes everything.

With limited sight, distance obstacles come up quicker than they normally would and your reaction time needs to keep up. I love going into the unknown, into the cool, crisp air void of any light. With the darkness comes a stillness and calmness you do not seem to get when the sun is out.

The activity, even when pushing yourself becomes relaxing and you can easily reach a zen like state of concentration and focus. With night also comes nocturnal animals you may not used to be seeing.

When you’re in the forest you can expect to come across more deer, little guys like raccoons, possums, and maybe hear some owls. They only enhance the experience, so even if they startle you, try not to jump and just realize that you startled them in their home first.

With less of a sight-line, let all of your senses work for you. Go sans music and enjoy the rustle of the leaves, the crunch of fallen branches under your feet, or tire tread on the dirt, and take in the little noises of all those creatures.

There’s so much inspiration and interesting experiences waiting for you after sundown, so make sure you don’t ever quit because of the darkness. Channel your inner vampire and get out into the night. Be the one ruling the Dawn Patrol and Nightly Gnar in your town!

Ryan Sarka
Ryan Sarka

Cycled across the entire U.S. A mountain biker, climber, snowboard mountaineer, triathlete, and engineer. Founding member of Between The Peaks.

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