Thursday, September 15, 2011

Add a bright light to the emergency supplies in your mountain bike pack for safety

Roberto Negron on top of Mars Ridge, Sun Valley area

Roberto and Mark Anderson check out the Sun Valley Adventure Map
CatEye EL-135

MiNewt.250 cordless
Hi all,

Well, we all do stupid things once in a while or have unforeseen mechanical breakdowns in totally remote places when we're out trying to enjoy the great outdoors. And then you find out just how prepared you are for adversity or emergency.

I had a little incident last Friday night that revealed a weakness in my emergency equipment cache in my Camelbak pack. Four of us had been slogging up Eves Gulch Trail on mountain bikes for WAY longer than expected. I found myself cresting a high ridge divide between Adams Gulch and the Warm Springs drainage, some 2,000 feet above the valley floor, and it was well past 8:30 p.m. Darkness was settling in. Great.

And I didn't have a light. Never thought about bringing one! We were out for a "before-dinner" ride with Roberto Negron, who owns a condo along Warm Springs in Sun Valley. We wanted to drop over to the Warm Springs side of the mountains to complete the loop. Roberto had never gone this way.

These things happen when you're doing exploratory rides, but the rest of us didn't realize we were doing an exploratory ride until we were in a pickle. I was just cruising along with the group -- Roberto, Mark Anderson and Jim Hine -- and didn't really think to put up a fuss. We all were shocked at how many switchbacks we had to climb in Eve's Gulch to reach the West Fork of Warm Springs. We just kept climbing and climbing.

Finally, we crested the ridge, and realized we were even with the tops of the mountains around us. Oh boy. It's going to be a LONG way down. We found the 4WD jeep trail that descends the West Fork. Initially I was psyched because typically a road is easier to navigate than a narrow singletrack, even in the dark. But it turned out to be a particularly gnarly 4WD road that had larger-than-baby-head mobile rocks in the ruts and no decent tread to ride. Mark Anderson started to whine about the darkness, and he typically never complains about anything.

"I felt it was really dangerous," Anderson says. "When it's that hard to see in the dark, you fall off your bike and you lose your confidence. I just didn't realize how bad it would be without a light."

And then Roberto pulled out a CatEye Opticube LED light, mounted it on his handlebars, and turned it on. Cool! The light was bright enough to illuminate the trail so Roberto could see where he was going and Mark rode next to him. I rode behind Roberto ... I couldn't see much, but my night eyes were better than Mark's. Jim Hine was like a cat. He took off ahead of us and relied on his night eyes. I thought we'd find him in a ditch somewhere with a broken collarbone.

Eventually, the 4WD road gave way to a much larger dirt road and the agony of negotiating that nasty thing went away. A full moon came over the ridge, and we could see fine on the way back to Roberto's condo.

But a lesson we all learned was the importance of carrying an emergency light in your pack. "I'm going to put one in my Camelbak and never take it out," Mark said.

I'm going to do the same thing.

Roberto's light is a CatEye HL-EL135. I bought one at George's for $22 yesterday. It runs on two AA batteries. That's an inexpensive piece of emergency equipment. We all carry an extra tube, Allen wrenches, patch kit, first-aid kit, snack food, etc. I also carry a space blanket in case I'm stuck overnight in the woods. Now you know you need a light, too, if you didn't already.

Actually there are many different lights available to choose from. People who are regular night riders typically have a beefy light with a hefty battery pack. A friend of mine, Brett Magnuson, told me he carries a NiteRider MiNewt.250 for emergencies and for 24-hour racing. Those units look really compact, light and spiffy, but they're a little more pricy, $130 retail. Obviously Brett has multiple needs for his light -- racing and recreation -- so it's worth the money to him.

Feel free to look around at Boise's bike shops or online to find the right emergency light for you.

I must say that even though Roberto took us on a wild goose chase, he certainly made up for it. He had bought ribs for us earlier in the day, and two of our ride buddies who skipped out on the "before-dinner ride" grilled up the ribs with tons of BBQ sauce at the condo. Needless to say, we were starving when we arrived, and we gobbled down the ribs like cave men. A cooler full of beer quenched our thirst. And then two more days of riding lay ahead.

It's all a big adventure!

P.S. If you climb Eve's Gulch, just turn around and go back to Adams Gulch on the singletrack. The descent into Warm Springs sucks day or night.

1 comment:

emergencylights home said...

Another informative blog… Thank you for sharing it… Best of luck for further endeavor too.

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