Riding the Night Train – Tips and Tricks for Cyclocross Training at Night

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An oldie-but-goodie, we’re taking a look back at a great piece on training and riding at night. Now that the weather is warming up a bit, there’s time for those longer, dusky rides after work, since you aren’t battling to get home before temperatures dip into frostbite territory. And as summer hits, who doesn’t love that those night bikepath interval sessions? But if you’re heading out after dark, there are some things you should think about. For example, when you see glints of light reflecting in front of you, it might be a raccoon. Or a mountain lion. Either way, be aware.

Training, racing, or cyclocross practice: You'll likely need a good light to extend your season. © Cyclocross Magazine

Training, racing, or cyclocross practice: You’ll likely need a good light to extend your season. © Cyclocross Magazine


Days are shorter and our lives are busy. How does training time fit in to a day with already too few hours? Even Michael Birner’s three-hour training plan featured in Cyclocross Magazine’s Issue 7 is constrained by limited sunlight. You can train indoors on a trainer, or train in the dark of night. Most of us know the tedium of trainers. Night riding can be a great alternative to staring at basement walls, but the idea of being on the road in the dark is intimidating to the uninitiated. Thankfully, new headlight and clothing technology make the night train safer and more comfortable than ever.

Considering your personal safety is paramount. Visibility, of the route and to motorists, is a priority. Course choice should consider obstacles not only on the trail, but in the surrounding area as well: crime rate, homeless encampments, etc. Be sure you reconnoiter the course and area in the daylight hours. Train with a partner and always be aware of your surroundings.

The Workouts

If you have long stretches of unimpeded road nearby, power intervals are a good night workout. If there is a grade, hill repeats, or over/under steady state intervals are possible. Nearby features such as these can give you the freedom of the road, without the risk of being miles form home in the dark if things don’t go according to plan.

James Alan Coats powers through the night but has National Championship-winning bike skills. Most of us need lights. © Cyclocross Magazine

James Alan Coats powers through the night but has National Championship-winning bike skills. Most of us need lights. © Cyclocross Magazine

If you have a cyclocross course available, race-pace laps over varied terrain are invaluable, and in the dark your skills are enhanced by the mere fact that you will learn to look beyond the texture of the track and flow better over the course.

The Equipment

Use tough tires: changing a flat in the dark is no fun, and in urban areas you can be vulnerable. Consider tubeless with sealant or sealant filled tubes and pay attention to tire pressure to avoid a pinch flat.

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