The St. Charles County Parks hosts rides

Night riders

The St. Charles County Parks hosts monthly Friday Night Mountain Bike Rides for adventurous cyclists

By Brett Auten

It is an enticing twist on an age-old activity.

The St. Charles County Parks are encouraging folks to load up their bikes, grab a light and helmet and hit the trails for some night riding. 

That’s right. Mountain biking in the dark. 

With the help of the St. Louis Area Mountain Bikers (SLAMB) and Gateway Off-Road Cyclist (GORC) a new season of Friday Night Mountain Bike Rides in a St. Charles County park will take place each month for the remainder of the year. 

And before you can say, “no way,” Karen Einig, a member of both SLAMB and GORC, said the word danger shouldn’t even cross your mind. 

“It is not even scary,” Einig said. “As long as you have sufficient lighting, everything will be great.”

Einig said riding a trail at night is like riding a different path and many riders describe it as peaceful and others as adventurous. Riders can go at their own pace and do not need to complete the entire trail system. And, there is always the out-and-back option (turn around and return the same way you started).  

Ed Gengenbacher, of St. Peters, is also a SLAMB and GORC member. He has been doing nighttime riding for a handful of years, and he too likes the variety of riding after dusk brings. 

“When you ride the same trails things start to become predictable,” Gengenbacher said. “This makes things unpredictable. It’s a different vibe.”

Also, as it creeps closer to summertime and the mercury on the thermometer rises, nighttime rides give relief to our Midwest heat.

“This can extend your ride time a little bit, and you can be the daytime temperature a little,” Gengenbacher said. “(Nighttime) is an extra thrill. Also, you’re likely to ride with different people that you don’t usually see. It’s open to everybody. You don’t have to be an expert on a mountain bike to ride.”

The Friday Night Mountain Bike Rides are free, open to experienced cyclists and offer an opportunity to ride the area’s most popular bike trails after hours.

Each ride typically lasts three hours; however, the length of the trip is dependent on the environment and trail conditions, the number of riders, ability levels, and number of volunteer leaders. The rides begin at the trailhead of each park and signage is posted along the road to direct participants to the starting location. Riders must wear helmets and have a 600 lumen light to participate. Children under 18 years of age must be accompanied by an adult.

Riders have two options. They can ride in a group that comes with a leader or venture off on their own. Either way, a “sweeper” from SLAMB or GORC will hang in the back for even the slowest rider to make sure that every cyclist makes it through the trail and no one is left behind.

“Anyone who wants to be lead, just ask and we can hang out with them,” Einig said. “Usually, you see different groups break out, and riders in the various groups typically ride at their own pace but stop periodically at forks and turns to regroup.”

Einig added that Indian Camp Creek and Broemmelsiek are better for beginner riders than Matson because of the more technical features that Matson offers but Matson is perfectly fine for experienced riders new to night riding. She also tipped her riding helmet to STCCP.

“St. Charles has been great for hosting these,” she said. “Not a lot of counties offer opportunities like this. St. Charles County Parks is very progressive in having programs like this.” 

Registration is not necessary but encouraged. Attendees must sign in and out upon entering and leaving the trail. Additional items to bring along include a helmet (which is required), water bottle or hydration of some sort, and a cellphone. Also, glass containers are not allowed on the trail or in the parking lot.

Those planning to participate should check the Rainout Line on the STCC Parks website, or call 636-707-0011, before the start time. Heavy rain, even days before the event, can make natural surface trails unusable. 

For more information, visit: Gateway Off-Road Cyclists (GORC) www.gorctrails.com and St. Louis Area Mountain Bikers SLAMB www.meetup.com/St-Louis-Mountain-Bikers, and of course, www.stccparks.org and click on the activity registration link.

CUTLINE: Photos by Ray Rockwell