Experimental music, photography, and adventures

Fantastic nighttime trail ride; interesting road ride

Thursday, November 15th, 2007

Mountain Biking at Brown County – last night

My mountain biking buddy Dave and I met at Brown County State Park last night at a little before 7:00 pm. When we arrived, I was surprised to see some other cars in the lot. I shouldn’t have been surprised; while not a lot of people ride at night, we certainly aren’t the only ones who do. It took us a few minutes to get everything ready.

A few words on lighting: I used an LED mini Maglite mounted on my helmet with velcro zip ties as usual (see my past post on how to do this), and my CygoLite Hi-Flux 100 light mounted on my handlebars. Dave used two flashlights attached to his helmet. He used to use duct tape but is now a velcro zip tie convert. The flashlights he uses are not Maglites, and while they are about as bright as mine, they seem to be less durable as they have been becoming less reliable over time. The switches don’t always work well anymore and sometimes they’ll flicker when we go over bumpy sections of trail. I think it was worth a little extra money for the Maglite brand lights, which have given me absolutely no trouble.

Once we got our stuff ready to go, we headed out. Dave wasn’t feeling too well, but he was hoping a ride would help him feel better. He had a headache and was trying to fight off the cold that’s going around in his family. The first mile and change is climbing but it’s pretty gradual. Still, it certainly got our hearts pumping. I felt a bit sluggish since I haven’t ridden much recently, but once I got warmed up, I felt a lot better.

In fact, I rode a lot better than I had last week. I did pretty well climbing but the descents were a lot smoother this time. I’m a little more accustomed to night riding now and I think that’s what made the difference. I was able to anticipate the twists and turns of the trail, flowing over it smoothly and only braking when absolutely necessary. I modulated my brakes better, too, slowing myself just the right amount when necessary, rather than braking too hard and slowing abruptly. I also did better hopping logs, taking more speed into them, shifting my weight and letting my momentum carry me over them. Last time, I approached them too tentatively and while I still made it over them, it was a lot rougher and less graceful.

Once we reached the connector to the Aynes Loop, we decided to ride the connector trail out and back but not the whole Aynes Loop. It was a good way to add an easy mile or so to our ride as that’s the flattest section of the whole trail system. After that, we rode the North Tower Loop in the opposite direction. Dave asked if I wanted to take the lead (he almost always leads) and I took him up on the offer. I was both excited about it and a little nervous. It’s a lot easier to follow someone than to have to try to follow the trail without any help. It’s often very difficult to figure out which way the trail goes at night, especially in the fall when everything is covered with leaves; everything just blends together in the small area of light in front of you.

I soon felt more at ease as I realized that I could mostly see where the trail went and even when I couldn’t, I am familiar enough with these trails to anticipate what’s coming next. I did have a little trouble finding a good pace; I didn’t want to hold Dave back but sometimes ended up riding too fast.

This was the best part of the ride for me as all I could see were the woods in front of me and sometimes the trail. Sometimes I couldn’t see the trail at all but could see where someone had cut out part of some logs to make room for the trail. We climbed for a while and were rewarded with a twisty descent in what we call the “Wapehani” section, as its whoops and turns remind us of the Wapehani mountain bike park in Bloomington.  I kept my speed up, leaning into turns and throwing my weight around more than usual in the turns but also in straight hilly sections, bombing down hills and pulling my bike up under me when going over rocks and mounds, floating over them rather than hitting them like dead weight.

Now we had more climbing to do and we kept a good pace, enjoying this opportunity to drop the intensity for a few minutes but looking forward to the next burst of speed. The wind was really picking up, blustering and swirling around us and blowing leaves back and forth almost looking like schools of fish traveling unpredictably but as one. As the climb intensified so did the wind and we rode steady into it for the rest of the climb.

But soon, we were treated to more great downhill riding as the trail followed the edge of several ravines with near 180-degree switchbacks at the end of each. As we followed the contours of the land the trail alternated between being banked in our favor and off-camber. At times it was very banked and the leaves on the side of the bank made it impossible to see where the trail was. We were riding on faith, trusting that the trail wouldn’t let us down. It was tough to tell where the trail was but having ridden here many times before we just kept on riding and soon enough the trail became more visible again. The banked switchbacks allowed us to keep our momentum through the tight switchbacks and we continued to pick up speed. Out of the corner of my eye I saw a large bird fluttering into the air from a tree. I couldn’t tell what kind of bird it was but I’m thinking it must have been an owl. It was beautiful, whatever it was.

The trail flowed down into a valley and across a creek and we started the climb up the other side. This gave us a respite from the intense focus we had to maintain during the fast descent. But coming up was one of our favorite sections of trail, the connector back to the parking lot. I took it faster than I usually would at night this time around. We pretty much know every twist, turn, and hill on the way down, or so I thought. I came flying around a turn and got out of the saddle to climb a small hill and almost went left where the trail goes straight. I corrected my mistake — no harm done — but I nearly went flying off the trail. We had an exhilarating trip back down to the parking lot.

Road Riding – Tuesday Night

I did a night road right Tuesday night. I did a modified version of the Water Works route, which is one of my regular training routes. I headed out Smith Road and things were a little dicey from the start. Smith Road is not a high-traffic road, but it’s not an empty rural road, either. It had just enough traffic to be a little scary at night and to drown out my headlight, but it’s not urban enough to have a lot of street lights, either. Once I got out past Smith Road, things got better as the traffic thinned and my headlight was fairly sufficient at this point. I also had a blinking light that made trippy strobe effects as I rode, mostly on my feet and pedals, freezing them at various times in the pedal cycle.

Handy Road was great, with almost no traffic. It’s a pretty easy road to ride on, although I couldn’t see things like potholes, cracks or sand very well. I was really glad I had put wider tires on my bike, because I went over a lot more rough stuff than I would during the day simply due to a lack of light. But my new tires soaked it up pretty well and gave me fantastic traction nonetheless.

On my way back I decided to take Sare Road instead of Smith Road. This turns into College Mall Road and goes by the mall; normally I try to keep my riding rural as much as possible, but at night everything is different. This worked a lot better; Sare Road doesn’t have a lot of traffic but does have a lot of street lights. College Mall Road is four lanes (total) but not very busy at night, so I had a whole lane to myself. I cut across behind the mall, although I could have safely taken 3rd Street since there was so little traffic. I think I’ll have to ride different routes in the winter staying close to town to take advantage of the street lights and other city-generated light.

2 Responses to “Fantastic nighttime trail ride; interesting road ride”

  1. MRMacrum Says:

    Night riding can be a blast. I found out though that there is a reason the hi falutin lights cost so much. They enhance the experience so much more than the jury rigged set-ups I tried to use 20 years ago. What I especially like about night riding is you can ride a trail you know like the back of your hand in the light of day and it will often become a completely new trail at night.

    Nice write up.

  2. furiousball Says:

    I have some GREAT trails behind my house through the woods that I definitely need to get a hi falutin light (as MRMacrum mentions above) so I can get out there and enjoy it.

Ear to the Breeze is proudly powered by WordPress
Entries (RSS) and Comments (RSS).