Enlighten your senses! Go for a night ride on your bike…
We all love to enhance our senses. Night rides make you depend on your other senses to make up for the darkness. You can go alone, with a friend or a group, with your pet, dog, with music or portable player. When? Pick your season. Bundle up if it’s cold. Throw on some shorts if it’s hot.
There are lots of interesting opportunities. You can go on a shop ride with your local bike shop (LBS) and meet some new friends. Pedalpalooza in Portland, Oregon is just one of many festivals around the world that have night rides. The photo above is from Burning Man, where people decorate their bikes and ride across the playa.
You’ll need some lights on your bike. Believe it or not, many places require lights for night riding. Here in Gainesville, FL, you’ll get a $55 ticket if you ride at night without lights. It makes sense to have both headlight and tail light, because imagine how invisible you are to drivers in broad daylight. At night, you’re a moving target coming and going, so lights both front and rear are essential for safety.
The lights above all came from Craigslist and eBay. Those Superflash lights from Planet Bike are some of the brightest for the money. I found them used on Craigslist for $10 each. The round light came all the way from Hong Kong via eBay and only cost a few bucks. It’s so bright you wouldn’t believe it. REI and other outdoor stores stock lights you can wear on your head that point where you look. I got mine for $5 used on Craigslist! My favorite is the NiteRider, not shown, that I picked up used from a local on Craigslist.
The last time I was in Portland, I spotted these gorgeous, fragrant flowers one night. Imagine how good they smelled! These days, you can grab some photos easily with your cellphone or a little camera you’ve taken with you.
You’ll have enhanced hearing because you can’t see as well. You’ll ride along and be completely alert, listening, smelling, feeling the air, feeling the ground as you roll along. It’s fantastic.
I rode down a trail in the woods the other day at dusk. The sounds of kids playing came from about a hundred yards away. I heard what sounded like squeals of delight. But, as I got closer, I realized it was night owls calling to each other. They come out as the sun sets and it’s eerie!
Where should you ride? You might be coming back from late errand or from a dinner or even the pub. Just keep some lights on your bike or in your backpack. I take mine off when I park my bike. The kind I have snap off and on. Trails are great, especially paved ones. I prefer quiet neighborhoods if I’m not around a trail. Of course, it’s wonderful to take a bike out in the country and just cruise around after the sun sets.
The air seems thicker, cooler and full of smells at night. It’s a perfect way to wind up a hot day. There’s also usually less traffic if you’re on the street.
There are some GPS apps out there that you can take with you either on your smart phone or as accessories for your bike. One of my favorites is called EveryTrail. I like it because it lets you map your ride, take photos and accumulates all sorts of stats like how far you’ve ridden, how long it took, your speed, elevation and then you can post it to their website or to your own.There are tons of GPS apps out there: iMapMyRide and RunKeeper are two others I like.
You’ll see stars, too. pUniverse is one of my favorite software products. It’s an app I run on my iPhone that helps me identify what stars, planets and constellations I see in real time. You can point your GPS enabled smart phone at the sky and read the names of those gorgeous stars. It’s so much easier than using charts and maps.
What would you rather do: be invited to the party or throw the party yourself? You can ride solo, join a group, or organize something yourself.
Also, you don’t have to make a big production of the ride. Once you’ve got everything arranged, you can hop on your bike anytime. 10 minutes works for me. 10 minutes or a couple of hours. It’s all good.
My favorite night rides are when the moon is full. Some places have bike polo at night! Others have velodromes you can enjoy. Think about taking a bike vacation. Imagine Tuscany at night on a bike… That just feels good to think about.
Riding a bike anytime helps you clear your mind, digest your meal, and relaxes you in ways you might not experience indoors. Riding offers a different perspective on things you know well. Your neighborhood looks different at night.
Some people think reflectors aren’t cool, some take ‘em off to look cooler. I think anything you can do to be more visible is cool. Light colored clothes are also a good idea. Gloves help protect your hands from vibration when riding. Also, your hands instinctively go out to protect you when you fall. Gloves will help prevent nerve damage in your hands if you fall. Padded bike shorts are nice, too. You don’t have to have all these accessories, but it’s smart to consider them.
Enjoy and please pass along your riding tips and experiences.