Tips for riding through the night

I’m planning on doing a 400km ride with nearly 10,000m of climbing in the next few weeks on the yorkshire moors - in the UK - non stop ( no sleeping).

I’m still working out the timings of when to start - Early in the day to get a solid start OR late in the day so i’m fresher for the night section.

I Have attempted to ride through the night before - and to be fair my body does not like it. from midnight it just starts to shut down.

I did a night last night and as the temperature dropped ( it got to 14 dec c ) and i added more layers i just felt i could not keep properly warm. I never got cold… but its a fine balance while trying to carry on of not over heating and sweating vs been a tad chilly.

Having completed my experiment i know i need to change my cycling top… but does anyone have any tips… I’m hoping i won’t be alone for the proper ride which hopefully be more enjoyable

As someone who has worked night shifts if I were doing this I’d start mid afternoon so I’m as fresh as possible when I’m flagging at 4am.

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Here are a few tips that I’ve gleamed from multiple full overnight rides.

  1. Abstain from Caffeine as much as practical, UNTIL well into the over night. If you start in the morning, feel free to have your usual morning coffee or what have you, but don’t do any extra and then avoid it completely(watch your gel’s and drink mixes) until well into the overnight portion. I would recommend carrying a large dose(maybe a couple of pills/something equal to a couple cups of coffee, caffeine content of gels won’t be enough)

  2. The night is LONG. after riding in the dark for just a couple hours, it will feel like it’s been at least twice as long. Not much can be done to combat this. A riding partner helps. If you are able, music is helpful as well. Otherwise, prepare yourself mentally for this aspect.

  3. As you’ve experienced, the overnight is cooler than what you expect it to be. Temp fluctuations can be large. Expect big swings from the top of hills to the bottom of river/creek valleys. Relative Humidity will likely rise as the temps cool, so expect to get damp. If it’s a summer overnighter, a lightweight, long sleeve wool shirt is quite helpful and generally doesn’t take up a lot of space.

  4. IMO, unless you are talking about starting right at sundown, I would get as early as a start as possible. your average speed at night will likely be significantly slower than your daylight speed. Regardless of how fresh you are. You will be more cautious descending and cornering. Take the benefit of the daylight to get as much distance covered as possible IMO.

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Definatly going to take a spare merino wool long sleeve top for night time - so i feel fresher.
arm warmers and gillet / water prroof did not cut it

Any niggle in the night did seem to be magnified.

I did have music for some sections where its safe to do so… and that was better.
Luckily i like my own company :slight_smile:

How many hours do you think you’ll actually need to complete?

I know I don’t do well between 4:00-am and 5:30-am. If possible, I’d try and start around dawn and avoid the wee hours that usually leave me struggling…

I’m hoping fewer than 24hrs…

It’s a stupid challenge i’ve made up as a race got cancelled… My local cycling club has an annual challenege of riding 52 hills on the yorkshire moors ( in England ) … I’ve a route for all them in one go :rofl:

I’m aiming for an average speed of 20km / 13mph. all of the hills are step 20 - 30%

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Most Audax UK 400km events (and 300 and 600) start at 6am but there’s the occasional 400k that does it differently. I haven’t tried other than 6am for a 400k - as another mentioned, you will cover ground better during the daylight. It becomes a lot harder to make good progress at night, it’s harder to judge speed and gradient and you need to be more cautious on descents. Wildlife hazards are greater at night.

A short nap can work wonders. You might be really flagging at 3am, if you can find some shelter (e.g. a bus shelter, church porch or similar) and nap for 20-30 minutes then this can freshen you up. One trick is to take some proplus or a caffeine gel before the nap and then it will start to kick in when it’s time to wake up.

It can get down to low single digits temperature (Celsius) on a clear night in summer. Mitts might be fine by day but you might find them insufficient at night. For the 400k I recently did in Wales I had a merino vest base layer, 3/4 bibs, long sleeve Rapha Brevet Jersey, and I had warm gloves which I swapped to mitts during the day. You might find 3/4s are too warm by day - so leg warmers might be a better bet. Knee warmers can be insufficient overnight.

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I’ve a limited experience of overnighters for longer events - 200km on an MTB is doable in well under 24hrs but for me 300km is definite 24hr+ territory. So…

One ride of 280km starting at 4am and riding until the finish I took 31hrs. A month later I did a 300km ride but with a 90min power nap at the 200km mark and finished in 29hrs.

So for me the evidence points to a short nap being beneficial. Being off-road it wasn’t just overall speed that improved but on the latter ride it was obvious in my bike handling between the end of the first day and the following morning that it had done me good.

Clothing wise: go for flexibility, arm and leg warmers rather than a long sleeved top and long or 3/4 bibs.

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This may be a useful thread about a similar ride my wife did:

21 hours, 11,000m, 446 km.

ETA: High doses of caffeine help a lot. :slight_smile:

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Get at least two night rides in before your attempt. Use one to test what you think is right, wrt gear, lights, fueling etc. Use the next one with any changes made.

From a mental aspect, I find doing a full day work/family etc and then heading out at 10/11pm for 4-5 hours. The sleep monsters normally hit me from 1am and last until just after 3am. I have found that dealing with that weird patch and knowing it’s doable makes the night aspect less fearing. Getting something to eat and drink around 2am helps a bit. Guess that’s the sugar and caffeine kicking in. Getting comfortable with the uncomfortable helps.

Having layers helps. Ventilation helps too. Riding with sweaty cold undergarments is not ideal. Using two types of gloves gives your hands three options to change texture. Finding newspaper to tuck in under the jersey helps if windy. And to soak the wet wicked away sweat that is struggling to ventilate.

Pace definitely decreases at night. I would start 5am and have the majority of the ride in your waking hours. Who sleeps well before a big event anyways. Make sure you get good sleep the night before the night of the race. That sunrise really uplifts the pace and makes you grateful for the early start.

Don’t be afraid to stop and breathe. And eat. 400km at once is not done everyday. So take the pressure off and be sensible to your sensations.

Ride with photochromatic lenses/glasses. Having dry eye at night is unpleasant. And it keeps the bugs away from your eyes when riding with a helmet light. Make sure you have at least two lights, one on the bike and one off the bike.

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If you really want to pull an all nighter I would start around 9pm or so. You still have some daylight left and are not too tired in the dark.

I did a couple of 400k, without any climbing, and started around 4am to 5am. The sunrise gives extra energy, but still at the end I was sooo tired. I would not like to ride in the night in that state. Therefore I would start just before the sun sets to have the most fatigued part during daylight.

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Do you have to ride at night? How long do you anticipate this taking you to complete?

When I’ve done 400s, I usually start sometime between 4-6am (first light in summer ~430-5), letting me finish by 8-10pm usually.

If your anticipated total time is 20h or less, I would personally just start in the early morning.

Have a think about the route you plan to ride. Many A Roads (that you wouldn’t touch in the day) are deserted overnight, allow you to make good progress, and have 24hr services on them. For instance overnight the A170 Thirsk to Scarborough you’ll have pretty much to yourself. Find a 24hr services in Scarborough, then pick up A171 to Whitby , find another 24hr services, then continue on A171 to Gisborough.

Thus A roads for overnight progress and 24hr services opportunities. Then switch to B roads and minor roads during the day.

Remember that 11C at night will be colder than 11C in day as no solar radiation to warm you. As above it can get down to low single digit Celsius overnight even in summer.

The more fatigued you are the colder it will feel. There’s something to be said for a sunset or later midnight start and complete the overnight sections whilst reasonably fresh. A 24hr services coffee or hot chocolate stop at 3am and by time you get going again the first light will begin to appear in the east to help stave off the dozies you’ll likely have round that time.

Carry a heat reflective silver bag. If you suffer an un fixable puncture or mechanical you can at least survive poor weather / the night uncomfortably but not hypothermic… Head torch to see what you are doing when fixing any overnight mechanicals.

Have a proper plan for water and food resupply along your route for overnight and day time.

One final tip. Don’t try and drive straight after a 24 hour outing on your bike. Once you stop riding the fatigue comes quickly. Hopefully you’ll be back home at the end. If not plan to sleep at least 3-4 hours, preferably longer, before attempting to drive

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There some great pieces of advice in here: The photochromanic lenses, abstaining from caffein/coffee for a couple of weeks prior to the event, start the ride late in the evening so you are not too fatigued when the night/early morning sets in, convincing a friend to join in, etc.

I have ridden the Norwegian race Jotunheimen Rundt a few times, a 430 km race that starts at 9 p.m. and takes the participants around Norway’s biggest mountain range, with a lot of the really high speed sections being ridden around 2 to 5 p.m. In my attempts, I have gained some interesting experience that may be useful to share:

  • No coffee 14 days prior makes intake of coffee, Coca-Cola/Pepsi and Red Bull extra potent (but the first few days without coffee gives me severe headaches - addicted!?)
  • I start to hallucinate at night if I am really tired, to the point where I see double - in 2019, I knew I was in a group with two pals, but I counted four, and I could not tell who were real and were «ghosts», so I held a few meters distance to them to be safe. I made sure to tell the guys about my predicament so that they knew what was going on. After an hour and some serious food intake, I was fine again, but had it continued, especially when car traffic started again, I would have stopped immediately. Take away: keep replenishing energy, and stay safe
  • Snacking every few minutes (mini marshmallows being my favourite) helps, especially if you start thinking «let me just rest my eyes for a few moments» while riding
  • A friend to talk to really helps time pass. Perhaps call a friend/spouse/family member and keep the conversation going
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Another night shift lesson: you’ll eat more than you think when tired.

God knows why and it’s taken me a bloody age after moving away to loose the weight being awake at 4am added.

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seen as your local - CWCC 52 Climbs v3 | 403.0 km Cycling Route on Strava

its not a circular route in the normal sense. Its the Cleveland Wheelers 52 hill chlalenge - just i’m doing in in go rather than 1 year :rofl:

Sadly there are hardly any 24hr garages in the middle of the moors. Plenty of cafe’s during the day though.

Luckily i’m starting from home almost

In which case maybe pre place a water / food stash somewhere along the route that you’ll hit overnight. Mark its position on your gps so you can find it at 3am!

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Cheers for all the tips - they are wonderful.
I quite like the experimenting as well to see what works and whats does not - my ride last night failed, but thats OK as i have learnt from it in a safe way, rather then been stuck some where dangerous

20 years ago I used to race the 24hr mtb races in the UK as teams… but now older i’ve started doing longer events.

I’m working my up to attempting the dales divide (coast to coast to coast in the UK - 660km ) or the all points north in years ( ~1000km) to come . I may as well - my FTP is not going up and i’m becoming more of diesiel engine

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I did a 400 in May and carried full sleeping kit (bivi, mat, bag) because I was very worried about fatigue. In the end the night right was the most enjoyable part. Stopped at McDs at 11 pm, had a burger and a coffee and after that the road required so much focus that I didn’t feel tired until I’d finished.

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