BY JASON NORMAN
PHOENIX, AZ—For nine years Arizona’s Slippery Pig Bike Shop has been hosting night mountain bike rides, with much of its longevity and success owed to the climate it calls home.
“It gets busier as the temperatures rise,” said Eric Angermeier, owner of Slippery Pig in Phoenix.
But Angermeier didn’t start the ride solely because of sweltering temperatures. “It was a way to get my employees out [on bikes],” Angermeier said.
It’s also a great way for consumers to test out night equipment.
“Lots of them have never been on night rides,” Angermeier said. “They get to try the lights they might buy.” Angermeier estimates that he increases light sales by 25 percent by holding these rides.
After the rides, many of the riders “immediately come back for the light. It makes customers for us. And it brings the whole pressure sales down,” Angermeier said.
He mainly stocks NiteRider lights but also offers some Light & Motion models.
And if you think night rides are all about the dirt, think again. Night—or early morning—road rides are gaining popularity for those trying to beat the heat.
Swiss American Bicycles manager Gary Kuettel said his shop has been hosting its “Tuesday Night Loops” for five-plus years.
“It started out as just a team ride,” said Kuettel, whose parents own the shop. “Now we’re up to 25 riders. It’s been a pretty consistent ride. It’s been a good way to generate business.”
Night rides can also draw casual riders looking for a social outing.
In Northeast Ohio, Century Cycles’ Peninsula store hosts a fun ride on the Towpath Trail in the Cuyahoga Valley National Park.
“We have some people on mountain, some hybrids, some fixed gear—anything you want to ride,” said Scott Cowan, owner of Century Cycles. “We get a lot of families that come out.”
The first ride this spring attracted 96 riders, while last year they maxed out at 160. Either the night riding is really good, or it may have something to do with where they unwind from their ride. It just so happens that Century Cycles’ neighbor is the famous Winking Lizard Tavern, with enough beer choices to satisfy any thirst.
It should come as no surprise that NiteRider is a favorite among many retailers considering the San Diego-based company was the first to come to market with lights in 1989.
“We work really hard to promote the whole night ride culture,” said Jack Gresmer, president of NiteRider.
Evidence comes in NiteRider’s 25-foot trailer that’s cruising the country in search of 24-hour events. “This is our way of giving back to the industry,” Gresmer added.
Blackburn brand manager Sean Coffey said the more mountain biking grows overall, the more night riding will take off.
“Lights are getting better, lights are getting more affordable,” Coffey said.
Light & Motion sales manager Eric Squire said it’s amazing how many more retailers are doing night rides to highlight their light selection.
Just four years ago, Squire spurred Winning Wheels—located in Monterey, California—to support a night road ride. What started as just a few people has grown to upwards of 30 in the summertime.
“It’s really helped us with sales,” said Hector Chavez, owner of Winning Wheels, of these Tuesday night road rides. “It’s really become a fixture.” These night riding participants not only buy lights, but they’ll buy “anything from a tube to dropping their bike off for repair,” he said.
Paul Kiehne, NiteRider’s outside sales rep for Arizona, said the shops that do the best job with night riding are the ones that live it.
“I have a lot of retailers who are really behind it,” Kiehne said. “The guys that are really good at it get out there at least once a week.”
Shops like Adventure Bicycle Company in Mesa, Arizona, have been hosting mountain night rides for more than 15 years.
Back when the shop opened, riders would use Cat-Eye 5-watt lights, maybe two of them. “Not sure how safe that was,” said Bill Morrison, owner of Adventure Bicycle Company.
A whole lot has changed since then. Now lights generate more than five times that illumination, and more than ever people are joining their local night rides to train for 24-hour events.
“Typically people will get out there for the first time with a $100 light,” Morrison said. “Then after a few months they’ll upgrade into something that’s $300 to $400. There’s usually a progression.”