Stranger in the night – dipping a toe into the dark
There’s a lot of buzz about night riding at the minute – what with the massive national increase in cycling since the summer of Wiggo and the Olympics, participation has skyrocketed both on and off road. With our balmy, breezy summer evenings, cycling through August, September and even October is perfectly do-able, but the switch to Greenwich Mean Time rather spoils the party unless you’re somewhere lit. That’s where quality lights come in – but quality can be pretty pricey. If you’ve never done it before, how are you going to know whether it works for you without taking a punt on a bunch of expensive kit. What you need is an understanding shop and an agreeable light manufacturer.
Luckily for me, I live not too far from such a shop. Run And Ride at Hednesford are literally right on the doorstep of Cannock Chase, which gives them access to miles of trails, and they took it upon themselves to hook up with Exposure Lights to put on a tryout evening – the incredibly accommodating Exposure sent along a massive crate of their finest off road light sets, and Run And Ride invited the world to pop up to Cannock one chilly November evening, where they would strap on some serious lighting kit and lead you on a night foray.
I chucked the bike in the back and packed some cycling kit in the car that morning, and headed straight up there after work. Even early on there was a decent turnout, and it was simplicity itself to get signed up. As a nightriding newbie, I put myself at their mercy as to what to try out, and was both startled and pleased to be given a Six Pack to try, a self-contained handlebar mounted light that lit up the trail not unlike a police helicopter search light. I was impressed.
Once everyone was sorted, we were split into fast and steady groups and set out for a trawl around the Chase. Having not ridden off road at night before, it was a fascinating experience – the nature of the visibility makes you hyper-focused on the spread of light before you, and it all seems much, much quicker, the flickering of shadows on uneven ground keeping you on your toes the whole time. I loved it – I can definitely do the winter cycling thing, which has opened up another six months of riding for me. Happy days.
Six Pack is an incredible bit of kit – a single unit with the battery included, on full power it’ll kick out 1800 lumens for about three hours, with medium (up to 10 hours), low (up to 24 hours) and flash settings, the indicator on the back will change colour to indicate the remaining charge, and it’ll drop itself down through the modes as it reaches the end of the battery to make sure there’s always a bit of get-you-home light in there. Riding with the Six Pack alone was great on straight or flowing tracks, with the beam plenty wide for most occasions, but when we got into the nadgery stuff, very tight and twisty, I found myself turning into corners blind, my eyes tracking the path round the next corner before I needed to turn the bars. If you only ever rode on fast, open trails, the Six Pack would be great on its own, but if you’re likely to face any tighter turns, I think you’d have to go for a helmet-mounted light as well.
I learned a lot that night – I had a great 12 mile ride out on a Thursday evening, and I found out that riding needn’t stop because the light goes. I even found a great new shop – it must have taken a lot of time and effort to organise, and thankfully they had a good turnout to reward their efforts. The staff were friendly and approachable and incredibly helpful (one poor chap in front of me had his chain snap when he got out of the saddle at speed, resulting in a big swap one way, then a big swap the other way, ending in an oddly graceful flying W into the ferns – thankfully he was fine and one of the Run And Ride crew had the chain back together, (oooo, I’m going to say about 90 seconds after the crash happened, impressive stuff), and there was no hint of a hard sell afterwards, just good banter and useful advice. There’s a reason why people are both proud and protective of their local bike shop – that’s another thing I learned, too.
Massive thanks to Run And Ride and Exposure Lights for a great evening and an extra six months riding a year!
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