The Expert: Mark Hendershot (Santa Cruz Syndicate) is a man of many talents: organic farmer, floor-covering expert, pedicab business owner. But where the 44-year-old Grand Rapids, Michigan, native truly excels is on the racecourse—especially the 24-hour kind. Over the past nine years, Hendershot’s been a consistent podium finisher in the World and National Solo 24 Hour Championships, effectively scratching out a place among the elite of the endurance world. His secrets? Confidence—and quality lights.
"When I first started, the equipment was junk," he says. "It was a common occurrence for your lights to go out on the trail." Today’s high-end lights have all but relegated sudden darkness to the history books. The key to successful night rides now, Hendershot says, is knowing how to use your lights—and your head. We caught up with Hendershot before the national championships to hear how he does it.
Set Your Light Right
The ideal light setup combines a helmet-mounted spotlight and a bar-mounted unit with a broad-coverage beam. But if you can afford only one, a helmet-mounted light is better because it directs the light where you are looking. Mount it close to the center-top of your helmet. “The higher you put it, the more stable it’s going to be,” says Hendershot, “which means it won’t fatigue your neck as much over the course of the ride.”
Look Where You Want to Go
Your light—like your bike—is going to follow your eyes, so look ahead, not down. “Your helmet light should be aimed at least eight feet ahead,” says Hendershot. The final adjustments depend on the condition of the trail you’re riding—which you should plan for well in advance. A first-timer? Stick to a trail you know like the back of your hand so you can test your night vision on known obstacles and corners.
Keep Your Perspective
Artificial light sources create shadows that skew your perspective on obstacles. Two keys to success in technical situations: knowing about the weird shadows, and saving your highest light-output setting for when things get rough. “The switch to high will give you more confidence,” says Hendershot. “You’ll think, ‘This is great!’ even if the difference is minimal.”
Be Confident—and Day Dream
Night-riding success comes down to confidence and a good attitude. “If you think you can do it, then you’ll do it,” says Hendershot. “That’s the most important thing. You need to stay positive and think about fun things. I think about sex and tattoo designs. For me, that just works.”
Enough theory, see it in action !