Monday, November 9, 2009
Night Riding: Don't Give Up Your Weeknight Rides
OK, it pretty well sucks that it gets dark by 5:30. As the season winds down,so does my riding as the days and my weeknight rides get shorter together. After a few evenings of finishing up in the dark, I change the batteries in my blinkies and eventually get out my headlight. This usually happens after a few very dark rides through the woods along the trail, the result of my failure to fully appreciate the fact that 6:30PM is NIGHT TIME! And then the time changes and...BOOM! suddenly it is dark when I get off of work.
I had an especially harsh transition this year as we returned from the Grand Canyon just in time for a week of rain and the later-than-usual time change. I find it hard to head out when it is already dark, but it can be very gratifying.
Tonight, I decided at a little before 6:00 that I needed to ride. I usually drive to the trail at that time of day as it's just minutes by car and rush hour in the dark isn't my favorite time to ride my bike through town. I parked on Main in Argenta and as I entered the park at the sub, a group of riders flew by. I chased them down and found them to be a bunch of 6-7 guys, most of whom I know. We headed up Fort Roots, then up to the BDB where the guys finished up their ride. I headed back down the Trail and soon encountered a skunk ambling along, and then another. I am very deferential to skunks. We had just been discussing the best place to be positioned in a paceline that has a hostile encounter with a skunk.I've given it much thoughtful consideration and figure that the first rider will only startle the skunk, the second rider will serve for target acquisition and the third or fourth rider will likely have to ride home alone. Yet another reason to ride in the front!
I also saw three buck deer along the trail in Burns Park. We see many deer, but I don't see many bucks along the trail. All three of these guys were solo and had pretty good racks. As I crossed the wooden bridge by the launch ramp, a fearless bunny blocked my path. I actually had to stop and shoo him along, the silly rabbit. He's supposed to at least act scared.
It is beautiful along the Arkansas River at night and our winter temperatures are often mild enough for riding. While a light is necessary, it doesn't have to be the expensive flamethrower you would demand for blasting through the woods on your mountain bike. If you are on the River Trail, you can get by with a simple $40.00 LED headlamp, like the Black Diamond Spot shown above,and a couple of flashers. I have a handlebar mounted LED light that cost about $100.00 and have started putting the headlamp on my helmet. This allows me to have light both in the bike's direction of travel and wherever I'm looking.
If you get on on the road, the flashers are important, as is reflective clothing. Street lights may allow you to see fine, but being seen has to be your priority. A couple of patches of ScotchLite can make a dramatic difference when it comes to being seen by drivers. Only a few of my jerseys have reflective features, so I try to grab one of those when dressing for the dark.
If you've never ridden at night along the River, then you will likely be surprised by the number of folks that you'll see along the way. And be careful, as many walkers and runners foolishly have no lights or reflective gear.