Part way into my 2nd ‘off-season’ as a cyclist and I really don’t want anything to do with the ‘off‘ part of that phrase. Cold-turkey symptoms clearly kicking in with pangs of anxiety attacking on dark Friday evenings at the realisation that the weather is going to be too cold/wet/windy to enjoy a weekend on the bike and that, shock-horror, I actually have to find something else to do for the weekend. Pure panic sets in and in no time I’m worrying that in the space of a month or two I’ll have lost my form that I spent hard work building up throughout the spring and summer months. My muscles are already aching through lack of use. I can’t have that!
So to keep my inner chimp that much happier, I suggest to my club members that given the reasonably warm-ish evenings (once you’ve 5 layers on and spinning a happy 100rpm), the increasing number of high-vis and high-tech lights that are available on the market, and of course not forgetting our well lit cycle paths here in the Netherlands, that we head out for a night-ride.
Now, getting on the bike, in the dark, and completing 50km is not something I would have considered this time last year. And it’s not because I think it’s unsafe (more to come on that), but more because I wasn’t so bike crazy!
To me, the idea of getting out in the dark, only the immediate road ahead visible, seemed like a great exciting adventure. After all, there’s only so much flat land you can look at here before you get bored. At least riding in the dark would require a little more concentration!
It’s probably no surprise however, that the majority of club members responded as if I’d asked them to jump in front of a train. It ‘sounds scary‘, ‘ooh it’s too un-safe‘ or, it would seem, some of them actually know how to participate in an ‘off season’. Luckily however, another fellow English person, maybe as crazy as me, volunteered to pick the route and accompany me. And that there, is key. Identifying our route in advance, we were able to flag any obstacles or parts of the route that may cause an issue.
Getting on the bike last Monday evening, I didn’t really know what to expect. But being well prepared, I enjoyed it much more than I thought. It was a little odd at times cycling through pitch-dark country lanes, not able to even identify the animals in the adjacent field and unsure if the dog barking ferociously at us is locked up, but the whole experience was much easier than I’d thought it to be. The roads were pretty empty, and the cars that did pass us (thanks to a lot of lights between the two of us), did so with great care; some in fact refused to even pass us – imagine that!
I not only enjoyed my night ride, but I managed to get 50km of cycling in during the week, that I didn’t think would be possible without sitting in a gym or bare room staring at a wall or DVD. So, why not mix it up and get out there and try it too?
Want to plan a night ride? Here’s my tips on keeping it safe and enjoying it.
1) Plan the route – know your intended distance and pick a route you’re familiar with or know well. Identify in advance any obstacles i.e. blind junctions, corners, road furniture and make sure everyone is aware of the intended route. Maybe plan a couple of ‘get out’ short cuts or train stations that you can easily get to if you need to cut it short. And of course, be extra vigilant in making calls – forget pointing – you need to be vocal about any little thing that could easily cause trouble.
2) Don’t go alone – as tempting as it may be, going out alone isn’t the best idea. The more people, the more visible you are to others and the road to you. Plus, if you happen to get in trouble (try fixing a puncture in the dark!) 2 is better than 1. However, don’t forget that too many bodies can also be a hazard.
3) Be prepared – I’ve already mentioned the dreaded puncture, so bike maintenance is key. But, should things not go your way, make sure you carry a phone with plenty of battery to last the ride, and enough money for that emergency lift home should you need it.
4) Be bright – this goes without saying really, and I hope I don’t have to go into detail. Lights, lights, more lights and reflective clothing. It can be surprisingly dark on the rural roads than you might expect, so a good headlight or even a helmet light is best (those shadows can give you the eebie-jeebies if you’re not careful!)
What kit did I use?
Lezyne Macro Drive Front Light – this is a very powerful headlight but also has 5 settings you can flick between – so dimmer on the lit roads to full beam on the dark country roads. It lasts between 2.5 – 3 hours, so I supported this with a couple of small LED lights, turning off the headlight when it wasn’t needed. What’s great about this light, is the built in USB for charging.
Lezyne Femto Rear Light – nice and small, I was able to hook this light onto my saddle bag with ease. As it is small, it’s easy to slip it off and into
your pocket when you leave your bike/ no longer need it.
According to my friend – it’s nice and bright!
Riding since Feb 2011 Hayley is a 30 year old female who loves adventures. If she’s not on one of her many bikes or in the water on a bodyboard/surfboard, then Hayley is probably out looking for something new to keep the adrenaline pumping!