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Archive for the 'Night' Category

Evening ride

Friday, August 29th, 2008

Velo Orange sent me a bolt to replace the one I broke in my attempts to install the VO Fluted Fenders I bought from them (free of charge, at that). I installed the rear fender and rack the other day, but hadn’t had a chance to do a test ride. So last night I set out to do just that.

Unfortunately, I didn’t get far before I hit trouble. In my attempt to shift to the smallest gear on the cassette, the chain got stuck. I thought it had overshot the cassette and gotten wedged between the cassette and frame. I fixed it and started riding again. I tried shifting to that gear again, and the same thing happened. At this point I realized that the bolt I used to attach the fender was too long, and the chain was catching on the bolt. I hadn’t gone far so I just rode home to fix it.

I didn’t have a shorter bolt, so instead I put a nut on the bolt before screwing it in. The nut acts as a spacer. This worked perfectly, and I decided not to shorten my ride plans. I did, however, grab an extra light on my way out the door. This later proved to be a wise move. The ride that followed was truly fantastic.

Picture this: you set out riding from your front door. Within a couple of miles, you find yourself in the middle of nowhere and stop for a moment to check on your fenders and make sure nothing’s coming loose.

Long Haul Trucker, now with both fenders and a rear rack

Fender, with leather washer, from Velo Orange

You follow the road through many twists and turns and reach a long, steep descent. You pick up more and more speed, the wind making your eyes water as you hit 42 mph. You squint to see and hit the brakes so you won’t take the turn too fast. Your bike feels incredibly solid through all this, never once out of control.

You ride along the valley for a few minutes, then tackle a big climb. After some more twists and turns you find yourself back at the highway. You turn to ride further from town and turn on your rear light so approaching motorists can see you. A deer runs into the road and you hear her hooves clicking on the pavement. She sees you coming and she and her friends freeze. Once you get too close for comfort, they bound gracefully into the woods.

Brown fields

The next few miles are mostly downhill, with a few easy climbs and the road twists back and forth as you gradually descend. A couple of steeper hills let you pick up some speed and throw your weight into the turns. A bug flies up your nose and while you manage to get it out, whatever it was released some kind of smelly chemical in your nose. You hack and sneeze and attempt to get rid of the smell. Ultimately you give up and wait for it to go away on its own.

You look behind you and see a beautiful sunset, the sun illuminating and adding pigment to the overcast sky. You forget about the bug pheromone up your nose for a moment.


You turn onto a back road and are about to let loose down another hill when you see the valley where you are about to descend is filled with dense fog. You slam on the brakes, losing your momentum, but you simply must capture this sight.

Foggy valley

You turn your other lights on, it’s getting dark and you want to make sure you will be seen. Your eyes are adjusting to the darkness though and you have no trouble seeing the road, although visibility is limited with the fog.

Cows and fog

You get a glimpse of Lake Lemon and pull off the road to get a better look. A bird with a wingspan as long as you are tall takes flight and swoops into the distance while you stand there dumbfounded, temporarily having forgotten how to use your camera. The bird is gone but the lake itself looks beautiful and a broken dock adds a bit of mystery to the scene.

Broken dock on Lake Lemon

You ride through more fog and while the temperature is dropping, you still feel very hot from the extreme humidity. You cross a creek, but it’s a blur. It’s dark, and you’re traveling at a pretty good clip.

Crossing a creek

You come around a bend and Lake Lemon opens up before you on both sides. You ride across, and marvel at the fact that while you’ve seen this lake dozens of times, it’s never looked quite like this.

Coming around the bend

Lake Lemon, shrouded in fog

You linger at the other end of the lake to take it all in for a little longer.

The trail trestle over the lake

Trucker by Lake Lemon

You begin the long climb out of the valley, and attempt to race the fog. You climb above the fog line and look back, seeing the fog beneath you. As you ride on, the fog catches up with you and envelopes you again. For a while you still think about trying to make it home before it gets too dark, but you realize it’s already pretty much there, and furthermore, you are enjoying riding in the dark. You wonder why you don’t do this more often. You switch one headlight from blink to solid mode to help you see. A few cars go by but there is plenty of room for them to pass. The roads are quieter at night.

Riding in the dark

Blink … blink … blink …

Darkness has almost completely fallen

You reach the highway again and realize you still have a good 20 minutes or more of riding ahead of you. But there aren’t many cars and they all give you a wide berth. You savor the experience and see a few more deer on your way home.

The night sky

You arrive at home, tired, but content. You vow to do more night rides (and next time mount that better light on your bike).

A night ride, and a cool commute

Friday, November 30th, 2007

Last night was a good night for a road ride. I had some questions I needed to answer, such as: how cold could my feet possibly get in an hour at around 30 degrees? And, how dark is it on Moore’s Creek Road at night? As it turns out, the answers are: very freaking cold; and incredibly dark — really too dark for the lights I have. I’m not afraid of the dark, really, but it was kind of creepy being somewhere that remote. I’m pretty sure I passed within three feet of a deer (or something!) but I could only hear it shuffle around in the leaves and snort a little bit. I went right by part of the lake and couldn’t see it at all. I would have stopped to let my eyes adjust but I knew I’d get too cold if I did that.

I really need some booties or warmer shoes and some better lights. I find it interesting though how much more comfortable I feel riding through town at night, even on the busier streets. This ride reinforced the need to devise some good around-town routes. Still, it felt great to ride.

I know this is nothing compared to the weather that a lot of other cyclists are dealing with right now, but I woke up this morning to find it 23 degrees with a windchill of 15. Not insanely cold, but the coldest it’s been so far this year, and cold enough that I needed warmer gloves, and once again my feet were cold. It was a beautiful morning to ride to work, though, and smirked as I rode past vacant cars idling to warm up and wait for the defrost to kick in. I wore a scarf and that worked better than I expected. I arrived at work feeling invigorated.

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.

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