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09/25/07
This Fall’s First Night Ride
Filed under: general, rides
Posted by: The Cyclofiend @ 6:21 pm

Had the first longer nighttime ride last evening.  Full day at work, followed by an evening meeting with non-cycling folks. Knew that the meeting would run through dinner time, but it took longer and then morphed into an interesting political discussion, so I didn’t get back onto the road until just about 9 pm.

The first reaction of others is one which frequently pops up, “Do you want a ride?”  This voices the inherent assumption that I’m riding for a reason other than I want to.  It’s common, and marginally understandable.  To many folks, not driving means giving something up.  It’s not the case, of course, but you don’t want to brush those offers off too rudely (and there may be a future time of rain, cold and weariness when I do accept), so I thank them, politely decline and say, “it’s such a beautiful evening.  The moon is almost full and it’s a nice warm night.  It will be wonderful.” 

And it was, by the way. Stunningly so.

Which led to, “Do you have lights?” I smile and assure them I do, voicing “I’m not a freakin’ id-jit, y’know!” in my head. This is not their fault either. “Bright ones,” I add. They have no way of knowing that my main light is probably brighter than their car’s. They also aren’t used to seeing the average recreational, gram-counting, team-kit-wearing, oh-so-serious rider with a headlamp on their bar, making the  bike….hmmm…what’s that phrase?…”useful.”

And that became a two part harmony of  “How do you go? Not on the roads? What about the crazy drivers?” Here I have to be a little careful, lest I unwittingly insult them by including by inference with poor drivers.  So I sound confident but supply little actual content, assure them I do have a known route and there’s little traffic.  They say goodbyes with a little worry around their eyes and I throw on some kneewarmers and call my wife to let her know I’m running late. Then I’m away into the night.

I have to drop down a moderately longish hill, with virtually no overhead lights.  Here, the biggest danger is spooking a well-fatted deer, and I look for the telltale blips of green - eyes reflected in the long range beam of the Niterider 15w. Once past their typical foraging areas, I notch the light down a bit and let the reflections of moonlight grow in intensity. Reaching the flat I ride for several miles before an approaching car creates a cyclist shadow.  It’s quickly off center to my right, so I know that the car has seen my trusty old VistaLite LED rear light, bounced back a bit more from my reflective surfaces and given me more than an adequate amount of room.  So far, we’re the only two people cruising on this Monday night.

It’s a shame, because the conditions are perfect - cool enough to be toasty warm with a light top and wind vest, plus the aforementioned warmers. I’m running the Dawes, and the fixed gear spin seems smoother and easier.  Might be picking up a tailwind. The last right I did was the Sunday’s CX trail ride on the Quickbeam, where I spent a fair amount of time getting bounced around and breathing hard. So, this was like buttah…

I work my way up the urban “flat route”, and see a few more cars as I roll through the towns. Most restaurants are closed for the day, and others are already sprucing up for tomorrow, picking up stuff outside and seeing if they can get out the door early tonight. Outside of one of the few real bars, a solitary woman stares off into the distance and smokes a cigarette and some lazy jukebox warbling leaks out through the open door. Seems like a sad way to spend the night, but that’s just my inference.

Then all that’s behind me, and I’m cruising up through neighborhoods, flickering glows of football and another Ken Burns documentary seem to be a consistent thread. Slipping silently through the dark on this wonderous night has an almost illicit feeling to it.  I hear birds and bats, the distant hum of traffic and the hiss of my tires.  It seems both directly connected and wonderously apart.

A light catches me downtown, and I have to wait for cross traffic before peeling away for one last little climb.  Up ahead another blinkie appears, the red dot dancing a bit and hiding behind parked cars more than I’d feel safe doing. As it grows closer, I realize it’s off-center as well - one of those single LED barend plugs.  Within light-shadow range, I flap my hand over the bulb, so they realize I’m approaching.  I say, “hey there” upon reaching them, but get no response.  Going past I look over and give a head nod, but it doesn’t even seem to warrant a look. Under a striped knit cap, there may be the white trace of a couple of earbuds, so there ya go.  Other rhythms on the brain, maybe.

The rest of the ride rolls nicely. The crazed drivers are not to be found this evening.  In fact, few drivers in total during a 45 minute jaunt. Thank goodness for spectacle team sports and public television.  I arrive home tired from the day, but invigorated by the ride. My two “girls” wait impatiently while I shower and then agitate for an evening walk, so I get to enjoy the moonlight once again before bed.

Two Random Thoughts From the Next Morning -

The crows are beginning to actively harvest for winter, along with most of the other animals.  But, the crows - superbly smart birds - have been plucking walnuts from the local trees and dropping them into the roadway.  If they are bored, they try this several times, hoping to crack the shell.  If they are patient, a morning commuter will drive over them and they drop down in a bunch to enjoy the spoils.  They seem to do this in waves, and as I walk the dog in the cool of the early morning, you can hear them retreat to the tallest trees, chatter and caw, then find a nice tree over the roadway to begin the game again.

How hard is it to make bread tall enough so that it sticks up out of the toaster after it has popped?  I mean, I’m not always hovering around the toaster as breakfast comes together in the morning.  I may poke my head in from the other room or may whisk by it on the way inside from taking the dogs out back.  If the bread is tall enough - and on my current loaf it is not - it bobs up over the contour of the chrome and I know that it is ready. On the other hand, this means that I have an opinion about toast.  This, I find mildly unsettling.

3 Responses to “This Fall’s First Night Ride”

  1. MAF Says:
    Nice piece of writing. It harkens back to your earlier entry on ignorant drivers who pose a danger to everyone including themselves but really captures the essence and pleasure of riding for a purpose, night or day. It’s just the type of relief I need this morning after nearly being killed by a middle school teacher late for school who just had to overtake me and turn right onto the side street (going about 30 mph). this amidst a sea of pedestrian students and a few cyclers. At least I would have checked out doing something I enjoy! Thanks for the entry and keep up the good work.
  2. The Cyclofiend Says:
    Thanks MAF! Be careful out there - schools and malls are Extreme Danger Zones in my book. Glad you came through it unscathed. - Jim
  3. Jim G Says:
    Carlos has been itchin’ to do a(nother) mixed-terrain night ride — you should hook up with him! ;)