“Oh its a long long way, from May to December. But the days grow short…..when you reach September.” ” When the autumn weather…..turns the leaves to flame. One hasn’t got time …..for the waiting game.” This Kurt Weil lyric rings in my head as this time of year rolls along. Tonight I brought out the lights for my mountain bike and used them to finish the ride. In not too long a time, we will need the lights for the entire ride but for now, it is rather enjoyable to ride in the evening with just a jersey and shorts.
A few posts ago, I spoke about riding at night in the 24 Hours of Canaan. This 24 hour team mountain bike relay has become an extremely popular competition since Laird Knight first started Granny Gear Productions in Davis, West Virginia over 20 years ago. For those of you who remember, the bowels of West Virginia can become pretty desolate at 4 o’clock in the morning. As the race progresses, the field spreads out and oftentimes you are riding by yourself and hearing and seeing things in the woods. I remember coming up on the section called the “Moon Rocks” and seeing a marshall who was decked out in a long poncho with a staff by his side. He looked just like the Grim Reaper as I rode by his campsite and fire. He didn’t say anything to me and it seemed a bit spooky as I rode up on to the rocks and continued a night lap in Wild, Wonderful, West Virginia. I had similar experiences in the 24 Hour races at Seven Springs Mountain Resort in the Champion Challenge. Backwoods Westmoreland County can be pretty remote as well as the race spreads out and those familiar trails can become challenging and unfamiliar with only the bright beam of the light to guide your way. You are pedaling along following your beam and all of a sudden someone comes up behind you and freaks you out. I suppose I did the same thing to others as I came up on them. But being the guilt ridden hell guy that I am, I always gave them polite notice and slipped by them in a most proper way. ” On your left, thank you, have a nice ride.”
Competition using your lights was a lot of fun and the adrenaline rush of a race together with dark woods and single beams of light became the hallmark of very enjoyable and challenging race experiences in the mountains of West Virginia and Western Pennsylvania. But the most fun riding with lights is just what I did tonight. Riding with friends on trails that look totally different at night illuminated by a single beam of light. I have always been a proponent of riding with a light mounted on my handlebars but a lot of guys use a helmet mounted light as well. Personal preference, I suppose, but the dual beams seem to be more efficient. I can remember first riding with lights in 1987 at our local park where I still ride today. If you refer to my post on North Park, you will be reminded that we have 42 miles of trails in a park that is 10 minutes from my house. But these trails at night look different and it is always a new challenge riding them with the lights. In 1987, we were persona non grata with the County Police and the horse riders. I can remember hiding with the lights turned off while we were chastised on the bull horns coming from the police cars and thinking to myself,” Hey- just go get a coffee and another jelly donut and leave us alone.” The horse people were polite for the most part but I did get into some conversations with some of them about how these were horse trails and not to be used by bikes. I politely responded that I pay my taxes too and the conversations went south after that. Today, it is a whole different story with lots of folks riding mountain bikes on the trails and in the fall and winter, you can see streams of riders with their lights illuminating the trails in a chain of lights that seem miles long.
In the picture above you can see two guys. John Staab is my friend who you might recognize from my post on snowshoeing. John is a fun guy who loves to be outdoors and on his mountain bike. Last year was the first year that he rode at night and he became an instant expert on Chinese lights that you can order from Amazon. He is a real fan of night riding and has marveled at how it has extended his riding season. He even said to me tonight that he likes riding at night even more than he likes riding in the day. Amazing!! The other guy is none other than the Lord of Lumens himself…Bob Bannon. Robanco@verizon.net. If you ever want expert advice on riding in the winter with lights, Bob is your man. He knows all about lights, lumens, batteries, and can fix almost any lighting system. Besides that, he leads rides all over our region all year long. No matter what the weather is brewing. Bob is the smiling gent with the chin warmer.
The night is another world. You are riding behind a beam of light and you hear all kinds of wildlife that you can’t see. Sometimes you see eyes and you wonder what is looking at you. I have turned corners and looked straight into the face of a rather large buck. When it is real cold and you are by yourself on the trail at night, you start to hear and see things. It can be a little un-nerving but exciting at the same time. Remember, I was in two horror films- right? But other nights that are drenched in moonlight can be some of the most memorable riding nights that you can have. The night air smells different, the trails look different, and the comraderie of riding with a group or the peace of riding by yourself in the moonlight or the solitary beam of your own light is a great experience. Why let the summer fun end? Get some lights and take back the night!!! Thanks for reading.