Team Athletic Mentors

How Mountain Biking Has Enhanced My Life

February 15th, 2022 by JoAnn Cranson

By: Elizabeth DeFauw

Hello! My name is Elizabeth DeFauw and I am 17 years old. I am a junior (11th grade) in high school taking online courses from Home School Legal Defense Academy (HSLDA) and Memoria Press Academy. Homework fills, 8-10 hours,  of my day with studying, quizzes, tests, and several various homework assignments. It is not fun to study but…  my free time is always amazing! I spend my precious free-time cycling, skiing, seeing my amazing friends, reading Scripture and praying, or hanging out, playing games with family. I absolutely love to be active in almost any sort or fashion. Before I got hooked on biking, I had tried multiple different activities and sports, such as Krav Maga Israeli war/self-defense, dance, swim team, and such. None of them can be compared with biking (and skiing).

I am currently a Varsity rider in MISCA. I started racing in 2020 for Huron Valley United Racing and achieved 2nd overall in Junior Varsity and advanced to Varsity in Orange Krush Cycling Club for 2021 season. I earned podium twice in Varsity, 4th in Heritage Park Race and 5th in the Milford Time Trial. I won the fall 34 miles Lowell Classic, which was my first gravel race. It was a super muddy but absolutely amazing race!

Lowell Gravel Race

I was prompted twice to join Team Athletic Mentors and did. I am excited to be a part of the group, especially after meeting everyone officially and personally. I hope to continue to develop as a rider, achieve goals, and inspire others to pursue their passion. Team Athletic Mentors has already encouraged me to train harder! I will do my best to contribute and encourage the team I am now a part of and represent.

4th Place Finish

How I Got Into Mountain Biking:

Note: During this time, in 2020, the covid-19 lockdown took place. This stopped several activities I enjoyed because of their restrictions.  This made life extremely isolating, difficult, “inactive,” and kind of depressing since everything I used to do and the people I used to be with was stripped away. However, as I have learned, the conclusion of my former life was for a new and good purpose. 

I was introduced to mountain biking in July of 2020 during one of the two usual family week-trips to the Upper Peninsula. We met up with a few longtime friends and they invited me to go riding with them on the Point Trail in Copper Harbor. At first, I was a bit nervous because I had only ridden a few trails in the Lower Peninsula, and I knew they had been riding for years. All anxiety altered into exhilaration and a feeling of freedom at the start of the flowy downhill. The trail was decently technical for a “first ride,” but I managed almost every section. I threw any potential fear behind me (I do not remember being afraid once) and dove right into anything thrown at me. We reached the end of the Point Trail (half-way point for the trip), ate, and looked for agates (I am a rock-hunter).  We continued our journey back to town. It was mostly uphill going back. Endurance and solid effort were required, but I thoroughly enjoyed the feeling of endurance and proceeded onward.  After the ride, I felt on fire (both figuratively, and, for my muscles, literally)! I completed 20 miles that day. We also went riding the next day and, afterward, was encouraged to join MISCA, which I did with much enthusiasm. I was driven from then on, feeling like I had something to strive for; something I could put my passion and competitive nature into.

Biking is more than a sport to me. It significantly changed my lifestyle and mindset for the better. Through cycling, I have met amazing people (some of which I would consider to be good friends) and have had some of the best experiences of my life! It has inspired me to  push myself to go beyond my limits to achieve goals. This is not just confined to athletic goals, but also career and personal goals. I was determined then, but I feel all the more determined now.  I’m looking forward to an incredible 2022 year!

 


Catching up with Eli

November 8th, 2021 by JoAnn Cranson

By:  Elijah Garris

Hello, my name is Elijah Garris, but most everyone calls me Eli.  I’m in the 8th grade and currently attend Muir Middle School in Milford MI. In the 2020 cycling season I started to practice and race for my scholastic team Huron Valley United Racing. It was such a great time racing with my friends that I go to school with. I won the overall Middle School State Championship with 5 firsts and 1 second place. That following winter I snowboarded a lot with family and friends. My Dad set up a trainer in the basement so I could spin once in a while.

I was anxiously waiting for spring so I could get back on my bike. Early summer this year I started racing the Michigan Championship Point Series. The first race at Hanson Hills was incredibly hot, the next two were raining and miserable. I ended up racing 5 of the 7 races and won the 14 and under category overall. During this time Kellen Caldwell and his dad Dan suggested I apply for Athletic Mentors. Looking up to Kellen I was super excited to apply. Coach Terry Ritter surprised me at the Pontiac race that I would be part of the team. I ended the summer with the Ore to Shore race in Marquette MI. One of my favorite races for sure.

Once school started our MISCA race season was happening. Our team would practice 3 times a week and I would go out another time or two on my own. I started to jump in on a Tuesday night road ride with a cycling group near my house. I came out of the 5th race as Michigan Advanced Middle School Champion. But, there was one more race left at Cannonsburg. I was in a situation where if I didn’t race I would have held the title. If I raced and took 2nd to the 2nd place holder I would lose it. There was never a thought about not racing the final race. Unfortunately, I came in second that day. I was ok with the outcome because I gave everything I had that day and he wanted it just as bad as I did. I’ll be riding in the JV class next year as a Freshman.

As a team with Athletic Mentors we got a chance to race in the Barry Roubaix gravel race. We won the youth team competition with a prize of $1000. It was fast and fun. I enjoyed being part of such an amazing group of people. The team tent was busy and there was just a lot of positive energy. Can’t wait for Barry next year. I just recently raced Peak 2 Peak which was a lot of fun also. I have the Lowell gravel race coming up and have been training on the gravel. Lately I’ve been meeting up with fellow teammate Collin Snyder for a weekly group gravel ride. This is for getting ready for my first Iceman.

After Iceman I plan to spin on the trainer, ride outside if possible and snowboard with friends. I’m signed up for a bike mechanic class this fall, which I’m super excited about. I’m thankful and proud to be a part of Athletic Mentors. I’m looking forward to our team rides and coaching that is provided by our coaches. Most of all, can’t wait to roll up to the line in 2022!


Lessons From the 2021 MiSCA Season

October 27th, 2021 by JoAnn Cranson

By:  Joel Bretzlaff

I’m a member of Athletic Mentors Junior Cycling Team.  I participated in the Michigan Scholastic Cycling Association (MiSCA) is a youth-only race series that takes place in the fall, offering a variety of categories for racers in 1st-12th grade.  They focus heavily on getting more kids on bikes, but also offer extremely competitive high school racing.  This season I raced in the 9-10th grade category.  I have been racing in MiSCA since 2016, and I always look forward to this chapter of my race season.  For the MiSCA races, I race under Orange Krush Junior Race Team.

Race #1: Heritage Park – This year, the season opener took place at Heritage Park in Adrian, Michigan, on August 29th.  The course was quite tight, and cornering was the most important skill to have.  The first sprint start of the year is always the most hectic, and I rode into the fourth position as we entered the woods.  I noticed that the leader was starting to open up a gap on the next two riders in front of me, so when we broke out onto a two-track climb, I seized my opportunity and passed the second and third riders.  From here, I was able to get onto the wheel of the leader.  We held a ~10 second gap for the first two miles of the race.  Eventually, as we approached the longest climb of the course, I moved to the front and broke away from the pack.  Over the remainder of the first lap, I extended my lead, which was over thirty seconds as we crossed through the start/finish area.  Nothing changed over the second lap, where I pulled out another thirty seconds and took the win.  This race taught me how to ride during a breakaway.

Race #2: Addison Oaks – On September 12th, MiSCA traveled to Addison Oaks, a wide open, fast course with many straightaways.  I went into this race as the series leader, and I led into the woods after the final sprint.  On the first climb, I allowed someone to pass as I did not want to set the pace.  I drafted the rider in front for much of the first lap, but as we reached a pavement section, two riders behind me powered around the leader and I and pushed the pace until we re-entered the woods.  This placed me in fourth position, and I was doing everything I could to get around the two riders in front of me and get onto the leader, who was beginning to pull away.  I got around one rider, but couldn’t get around the other until the grassy start/finish area.  At this point, I was very worn out, and started to lose position as the race went on.  I ended up with a fifth place finish and learned the importance of positioning, due to the amount of energy I used just to move up a couple positions in the trail.

Race #3: Merrell Trail – One week later, we traveled to Grand Rapids to race at Merrell Trail, a race with long climbs and technical descents.  Off the start line, I noticed that my drivetrain was skipping gears, so I dialed back my pace on the long, grassy opening section.  I entered the woods in fourth position, and the leader was already pulling out a major gap on the first long climb.  We quickly caught up to the rider in front.  On a tricky corner, I slid out and nearly ran into a tree, but I got back to the leaders.  The four of us started to open up a gap, then the first rider crashed and the other two and I got around him.  Eventually, the leader started to pull away, and after some attempts, I moved into the second position and began to chase.  When we came to Sawtooth, a ridiculously technical downhill section, I completely closed the gap.  I rode the wheel of first place until we came to a long climb near the end of the lap, where I was dropped.  As I came through the start/finish area, I was informed that I was behind by ten seconds.  I worked to pull this back over the second lap, and completed this comeback on Sawtooth.  The race came down to a sprint finish, but I wasn’t able to overtake my competitor, and was second by 0.4 seconds.  I now know just how much of an advantage leading into a sprint can offer.

Race #4 Bloomer Park – With the Bloomer Park race quickly approaching, the rainfall was coming down hard.  On September 26th, it was clear that the race conditions were going to be a disaster.  The start/finish area was a complete mud pit.  Even though I struggled in the mud on the wholeshot, I led into the woods.  One rider held onto my wheel, and third place was about 10 seconds back.  When we came to Art’s Lungbuster, a four minute climbing segment early in the lap, I slid out in the mud after clipping a tree with my handlebar.  I couldn’t clip in for a few seconds due to mud on my cleats, and by that time, the third place rider had already caught up to me.  The two of us worked hard to close the gap to first, but it was clear that it was an impossible task.  As we came through for our third lap, the rider I was with overtook me.  I held his wheel for half a lap, but ended up slowing down and landing a third place finish.  After this race, I further understood the importance of riding a clean race.

Race #5: Milford Trail Time Trial – The October 10th stop of the MiSCA season was a time trial this year due to trail and field limitations.  Racers were sent in series standings order at fifteen second intervals.  I pushed hard off the start line, trying to catch up to the rider in front of me.  As the first lap went on, it was all I could do to keep them within my sights.  I pushed on the second half of the lap, and came through the start/finish area with a six second lead.  However, by this point, I was completely gassed and my pace slowed.  I knew that my race was now about holding off the third place rider.  As I broke out onto the final sprint, my teammates informed me that the race for second was close, and urged me to push it.  I sprinted with all I had, and ended up 0.3 seconds ahead of third place.  This race taught me that some days are not meant to be and that risking more positions to try and ride for a win is not always the best idea.

Race #6: Cannonsburg Ski Area State Championships – For the state championship race of the 2021 season, MiSCA selected Cannonsburg Ski Area.  This course is jam-packed with brutal climbing throughout the course.  My category was only completing one lap, so my strategy was much different going in.  Due to time restraints from camping the weekend of the race, I did not have an opportunity to warm up, but still fought my way into second position during the wholeshot.  After five to ten minutes, I was finally feeling warmed up, and the pack was thinning out behind the leader and I.  Two riders were still holding on, but one of them dropped off at one of the large climbs about twenty minutes into the race.  I was in the middle of a pack of three as we continued to ascend our way around the ski hill.  Nearing the final sprint, I almost went off the trail on the last corner, and lost about 1 second before we broke out of the woods.  The end of the race included a 200 foot grassy climb straight up the hill, and wet, tight switchbacks all the way down.  When the climb opened up, I made my move and overtook the race leader.  I pulled with everything I had, but one racer was still on my wheel at the top of the climb.  At one point during the descent as I was trying to recover for the very end of the race, I was almost overtaken, but I held onto my lead and took the final sprint.  This race taught me the value of allowing another rider to control the race and sticking to a plan.

I finished the season with a second place in the series, and I can’t wait to race Varsity next year!


Training in Athletic Mentors Youth Triathlon Program

October 13th, 2021 by JoAnn Cranson

By: Sean Siems

Hello, my name is Sean Siems. I am 13 years old. I go to St. Augustine and I’m in the 8th grade. I started doing triathlons because my dad introduced them to me when I was around 9 or 10.

In the past, training wasn’t something I gave much thought to. We always just raced. All of that changed this year!

This year I had the opportunity to join the Youth Triathlon Team at Athletic Mentors. Our goal was to train for and race the Grand Rapids Triathlon super sprint distance and Athletic Mentors private race at Gull Lake. The coaches at Athletic Mentors set up a Youth Triathlon Program for us to follow and also held group training sessions at various locations depending on which discipline we were focusing on that day. We had coaches swim, bike and run with us in order to keep us safe in the water and on the road. They also encouraged us to do our best and helped push us along.

As it turns out, training for triathlons is just as fun as racing them. I have done five triathlons. The first three were the Shermanator. The fourth one was the Grand Rapids Triathlon. The last one was the AM triathlon at Gull Lake where we raced with adults. So far I am enjoying triathlons and I hope to keep doing more in the future and eventually do an Ironman.


Training for Life from a Young Triathlete

October 11th, 2021 by JoAnn Cranson

By Kellen Siems

Hello, my name is Kellen and I am in the 7th grade. I have done 5 triathlons and I’m on the Athletic Mentors Youth Triathlon Team. I play soccer, tennis, and I swim and ski.

I do triathlons because my parents want me to be active. They also help me to be more athletic, which makes me better in the other sports that I play. Not to mention, it’s also a lot of fun!

My favorite triathlon was the Grand Rapids Triathlon. There were many members of Team Athletic Mentors there both racing and cheering us on. It was a pretty big race so I was nervous. My brother and twin sister are on the team too, so that helped. If you have ever raced anything before then you know that as soon as it starts, all the nervous feelings go away. All that’s left is to focus and enjoy the race.

My goal one day is to do an Ironman and be fast. I also want to be able to do triathlons more easily. That will come with more practice. Most important though, the training involved in racing triathlons will help me lead a fit and healthy lifestyle.


Joining a Triathlon Team at 12 years old

October 8th, 2021 by JoAnn Cranson

By: Brie Siems

Hello, my name is Brie Siems. I am 12 years old. This year I completed my first season on the Athletic Mentors Youth Triathlon Team. After a long delay due to the pandemic, it was nice to finally be part of the team. Although I have raced many triathlons already, this year was my first experience with a structured program geared toward racing.  As a group we trained together as well as followed a plan individually throughout the weeks leading up to our race. Our training included the usual swimming, biking and running but also some exercises to strengthen our core.  This year the Youth team raced the Grand Rapids Triathlon. We focused on the super sprint distance because we are all pretty young still. The distances were 200 yard swim, 6 mile bike and 1.5 mile run.

My 2 brothers are also on the team. The nice thing about racing with a team is that although triathlon is an individual sport, being part of a team helps us all to be our best. It is also nice to see teammates before and after the race and to cheer each other on.

I love to do sports and activities too. Some of the sports I did this year are soccer, tennis, swimming, skiing/snowboarding and cross country. I have been playing piano for 6 years and love it!

I started doing triathlons because my parents wanted me to become an athlete. My dad also does triathlons so I guess it was only natural. My dad actually said that when my brothers and I are 18, he would be watching us do an Ironman triathlon. I joined the triathlon group here at Athletic Mentors to help myself become a better athlete. Currently, I go to school at St. Augustine Cathedral School. I am doing this strength and conditioning program to help myself become strong and better at running. I am looking forward to becoming a better athlete


Racing and Riding as Part of a Team

September 29th, 2021 by JoAnn Cranson

By:  Jonathan Meyer

My name is Jonathan Meyer, and I am going into my junior year of high school and have just joined Team Athletic Mentors. Prior to this, the only team I raced with was my Lake Orion High School team, which is only really in effect during the fall season when the Michigan Scholastic Cycling Association mountain bike race series takes place. Outside of this time, there is not much support or action from the high school team, so for the most part I was alone, outside of my parents. That being said, I still enjoy being a part of my MISCA team very much.

Shortly after starting my sophomore year, a member of Team Athletic Mentors that I raced with during the school season recommended that I apply to the team. I thought, “Sure why not? It would be nice to be part of a team for the rest of the year other than the fall.” After that I filled out and submitted an application, and then had an interview for the team with Mr. Terry Ritter. After that I attended the team zoom meeting and then my first race as part of the team!

The first race I did was the Dirty Thirty gravel race, and despite being a brand-new member of the team, everybody was really friendly and talked to me before, during, and after the race. It was really cool!

Then, after that, I participated in my first team event other than a race, which was a youth development team ride beginning at Kensington Metropark and riding to Island Lake Recreation Area. During this ride I got to ride with and get to know many of the other juniors on the team better, and it was really fun! Usually in the spring and summer I have to do all of my rides alone. But now I’m on a team with riders that are similar speeds and even faster than I am! It’s much more fun and exciting than riding alone.

I have participated in ten races this year as part of Team Athletic Mentors, but one of these stands out above the others: The Cowpie Classic gravel race. I had been looking forward to this race for most of the preceding month, and when the day came, I felt well prepared and ready to race! During the race director’s talk before the start, they informed us that there were heavy storms in the area the night before, and racers should watch out for fallen branches and debris on the road. With that in mind, the race started and I managed to stay with the lead group all the way going into a section through a farm and the woods where I dropped my chain after hitting a big hole at the bottom of a downhill. Despite that, I caught back up to the front of the race besides a small breakaway that went up the road.

Throughout the race, all the way up to about mile 30, we kept seeing small pieces of tree or branches on the side of the road. At mile 30, I was in a group of about 20 other racers including Mr. Ritter, Ross DiFalco and Jared Dunham. The group crested a hill and started going down a large descent at about 25 mph. This road was covered in branches and leaves, and right in front of me, as I would learn in about 3 and a half seconds, there was a very big log in the middle of the road. It was about five inches in diameter. Before I knew what was happening, I had hit the log and had hit the ground and slid about ten feet from where I originally impacted. Mr. Ritter said that after I hit the log there was a loud cracking noise, which I later learned was my rim breaking. After I crashed, Mr. Ritter, Jared, and Ross had all stopped to see if I was okay. Mr. Ritter waited with me until my dad got there to call for help, and Ross waited with me all the way until we walked to an intersection where I could be picked up by a family friend. The support I received in the race before the crash, after the crash, after the race, and resolving the complications that occurred as a result of the crash was incredible. I am very grateful for the help of all my teammates and Team Athletic Mentors as a whole to get me and my bike patched up again after my crash.

Team Athletic Mentors has also provided me with the resources and coaching to improve my riding and help achieve my goals in the sport. Recently, I have started learning and training with Mr. Ritter as my coach and I am very excited to see where that takes me.

In summary, from my time as a member of Team Athletic Mentors I have learned that with your riding and your racing, teammates first and foremost can provide vital support and encouragement, and also add an extra element of fun and enjoyment to your time on a bike, or anywhere else for that matter.


Mackinac Island Swim

August 31st, 2021 by JoAnn Cranson

By:  Dawn Hinz

What do you consider a “long” swim? Anything over a mile? How about 2 or 3 miles? Or have you ever done a point to point swim? Is it crazy to swim 8.2 miles around Mackinac Island? Yes it is. Crazy, exciting and beautiful!

The event starts on the shoreline in front of the Grand Hotel and then goes clockwise around Mackinac Island to Mission Point Resort. (Optional to swim around marker buoys near the harbor to make up for not being allowed to swim through the harbor itself.) Water conditions could be wavy and rough or flat, cold or not as cold but crystal clear and rocky. You could stand or reach shore quickly if you wanted a standing break.

A storm blew through the night before the race bringing 4-6’ waves but luckily calmed down by race start. Lake Huron was an enjoyable 68*. 237 swimmers entered the water two by two. Miles 1-2 had a gentle head on current. That current increased over miles 3-4 and then disappeared for miles 5-8, except the last 350 yards from finish. There it pushed you to the final buoy and I had to dig deep to make the final surge back to the finish line. Garmin officially recorded 13,532 yards, about 1000 yards shy of 8.2 miles. Views of the Island were beautiful and you could use various points to sight. The crystal clear water allowed you to see all the rocks and boulders and old logs beneath the surface, along with numerous tiny fish. Oddly enough M-Dot had road construction in the middle of our swim course. They were unloading rocks from a barge at mile 3.5 to repair the road that goes around the Island.

Training for this distance meant swimming 10,000+ yards, broken over 3-4 swims weekly since February with a lot of emphasis on technique. It also meant getting into open water by late May to acclimate to cold water. Long continuous swims started in June at 2 miles and increased mile by mile up to 7 miles in August. If I could go back I would add a few 3 mile pool swims in before hitting the open water.

Are you up for the challenge of a distance swim? There’s actually a few in Michigan. Swim to the Moon offers distances from 0.5 miles to 10,000 yards through a few connected inland lakes. Mackinac Island Swim can be taken on by individuals or relay teams. The Mighty Mac Swim across the Straits of Mackinac will hopefully return in 2021. It’s a 4 mile swim but is more like swimming 5+ miles due to the currents and there is no bottom to touch for a break. 

If you do take on a long distance swim I recommend starting with technique improvement. Bad form over miles and miles could cause a major injury. Follow a solid training plan or work with an experienced coach who can improve your technique and give you an individualized plan. Also, swim in conditions that closely match your event and practice your nutrition.  Happy Swimming, Coach Dawn 


Rebuilding After Injury

March 14th, 2021 by JoAnn Cranson

By:  Christina Vipond

The risk of injury is common for athletes and many who mountain bike have their fair share of stories to tell. I learned so much about cycling and racing in my rookie year with a few minor injuries to talk about. The season ended with a fun ride of the Iceman No Cometh, the nicest weather ever for the non-event The next day, I was mountain biking with a friend when my back wheel slid out on dry leaves and down I went. It should have been a non-incident, unfortunately, my left arm was extended when I landed and I heard bones breaking. The doctor from ER reported the X-Rays showed a shattered head of the humerus in my shoulder. The doctor even suggested that given the extent of the injury I might need a total shoulder replacement.  Although the news was devastating, I tried to be optimistic, telling myself “at least it is the first day of the off season.”

A follow up appointment with a shoulder specialist and sports medicine doctor gave a more positive outlook.  The shoulder was not ‘shattered” as the ER doctor described, but the head and upper shaft of the humerus was broken in three places. Surgery took place five days after the break. During the surgery it was revealed that the rotator cuff had been torn and where it attached to the humerus, that piece of bone had been broken. A plate and 11 screws were used to put the bone back together and the rotator cuff was repaired. The doctor was optimistic and said I could be back on the trainer in three weeks. Even with the optimism,  shoulder injuries are known to take a long time to heal and I knew that race season started in just over 4 months.

Recovery has different stages and doesn’t always follow a linear path. Proper nutrition is important for athletes and even more so during recovery. I immediately received advice on the best nutritional approach for healing the bone. A diet high in protein,Vitamins C and D, magnesium, calcium and potassium was recommended.  As for the arm, the first three weeks focused on resting with as little movement as possible. A sling kept stabilized, great for healing, not so great for everyday tasks that had been taken for granted.  Sleeping was difficult due to the sling and fear of rolling onto the shoulder. 

At the three week mark, I was finally able to get on the trainer.  I had been wearing tank tops because they were easy to get on and off.  Sports bras were impossible to put on and even harder to take off so I bought front closure sports bras. That was still a challenge with one arm. I learned from watching YouTube videos that I could hold one side with a door jamb while using my right hand to fasten it.  I had to get used to wearing glasses while on the trainer because I couldn’t put contacts in. Even putting the heart rate monitor on required a couple of tricks (the door jamb trick worked well for the strap too). Training rides started very easy and with short durations but it was nice to return to a form of normalcy.

Four weeks after surgery I was able to start taking the sling off, begin range of motion exercises and gradually add weight training. This was exciting but also frustrating.  Atrophy happens so fast, and rebuilding strength happens so slow. It was nice to have daily encouragement from teammates during this stage. Some days felt like huge gains had been made, but others felt like three steps backwards had been taken. I continued to be diligent with nutrition, arm exercises and increased time and effort on the trainer. 

Two months after the surgery, I saw the surgeon again. He took X-Rays and checked the strength and range of motion of the arm. He then said,“I have one question for you, what is your secret to healing so quickly?”  I told him, “It’s easy.  Proper nutrition, treating rehabilitation like training, and support from friends.” Maybe said differently, I never stopped thinking or acting like an athlete in training. The arm isn’t 100 percent yet but it is strong enough to start the season. I have come to recognize the road back as a journey.  While I am not at the final destination yet, I am within striking distance.  I will use this season to get the rest of the way there. 


Night Riding Tips

October 2nd, 2020 by JoAnn Cranson

By Ross DiFalco

As the days get shorter and cooler, you might find yourself coming home from work in the dark without the ability to ride outside. Instead of relegating yourself to the indoor trainer, you do have another option. You can learn to ride in the dark. For the uninitiated, riding in the dark may sound crazy and scary, but it doesn’t have to be.

Where to start

You will need a good set of lights. I recommend getting a helmet mounted headlight with an external battery. If you have a spare helmet, I find it beneficial to keep the light mounted so it’s one less hurdle. Get one with greater than 1000 lumens that can run for a minimum of two hours. When you test a light, it might seem bright, but while you are riding it will seem much less so. Brighter is better, with a long beam distance being very important. You also should have a backup light on your handlebar for a “just in case” moment. There should be two rear facing lights as well. I like a very bright seat post strobe light and a helmet strobe light. The name of the game is being seen and being able to see.

Once you have your lights and have charged them, it’s time to select your bike. If you are like many cyclists, you probably have a bike for every niche around. For night riding I highly recommend using a mountain bike. Having flat wide handlebars, an upright riding position and wide tires/suspension all act as a pothole security policy. Potholes sneak up on you and it would be bad to crash in the middle of the night. If in case you do crash, ride with your phone charged. Before you head out the door, tell someone where you are going and how long you will be gone.

Let’s get riding!

Choose a route that has minimal traffic, and preferably slow traffic. I really like riding through neighborhoods, dirt roads, paths, and rail to trails. I avoid riding on sidewalks and roads with minimal shoulders. It’s very similar to riding in the light, those areas tend to pose the greatest risk to cyclists. Do be aware that a bright helmet mounted light can blind drivers so be cognizant of where you look. Another word of caution, deer are much more active at dawn and dusk. Watch out for deer that might hop out in front of you.

Take it slow, get used to the feeling of riding in the dark, and enjoy the differences. I am a cyclist that loves to get outside and be in nature. If I can ride longer outside and avoid my trainer, I will gladly do so. If you are like me, give riding in the dark a try! It’s an exciting feeling to glide through the night in the chilly fall air.

 



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