The Dying of the Light

Riding back from the Bigtown Cycle Campaign AGM last night, I found myself wondering how I could have been extolling the joys of night riding barely more than six months ago. As the nights draw in, I’ve twice had to ride back in the dark from various events recently and I’m finding the experience increasingly testing. In particular, for whatever reason, I no longer feel confident that I’m able to read the road surface in time to avoid the worst of the potholes. Mostly this doesn’t matter, because I have ridden the road home so often I know where they all are, but in places I’ve found myself forced to brake going downhill to stay safe (a crime against momentum) and even lost track of where I was on the road on some of the twistier bits. It’s taken me back to the days before I got my lights properly sorted out and riding home in the dark meant gambling on there being a full moon.

The problem may be due to my light set up – the way the bracket is mounted, the front mudguard casts an unfortunately phallic shadow onto the road ahead which certainly doesn’t help matters. I’m also wondering whether the light itself – which is, after all, 10 years old – might simply be dimmer (do LED lights fade with age?). And then there’s the worry that the problem is my end – that I’m seeing less well in the dark. I’ve always had terrible eyesight, and I know that your night vision can deteriorate with age, although I had hoped it wouldn’t be happening quite yet. I’ve noticed that the issue is actually worse at dusk or as I’m leaving the bright lights of Bigtown, rather than when it’s fully dark, which suggests my eyes might be taking longer to adjust. Either way something to get checked out at my next eye test which is due in a month.

Matters aren’t helped by the fact that I’m currently nursing a sore knee – possibly due to tripping over my Brompton on an escalator in our haste to catch a train in Brussels (in fact, now I come to think of it, almost all of the injuries I’ve had in recent years seem to have been Brompton related; it’s possible the bike is out to get me).

General decrepitude is one thing, and probably to be expected as I advance further into my fifties. But when it starts affecting my ability to cycle, then it’s a bit of a problem. Hopefully the knee will sort itself out, and a new light will restore me to happy night cycling. But if not, perhaps my e-bike – and varifocal – years are coming sooner than I’d hoped.

3 Responses to The Dying of the Light

  1. Paul says:

    I’ve got a few years on you, but in my experience the brutal truth is that you steadily lose confidence in, and become more uncomfortable about, night riding/driving. In my case it’s mainly about driving, which I avoid like the plague now, although the lights are more powerful and potholes are not so much of a problem. Generally I only cycle roads I know well, which are lightly trafficed, and I know where the potholes are, so I’m fine with night riding and poor lights aren’t really an issue.
    Possible cause in my case is cataracts – still early stage and no need yet to operate but they give me “monocular double vision” so in some circs, notably looking at objects against the sky eg birds or planes, and some low light situations, I’m seeing double. Have you seen an optician lately?

  2. Andy in Germany says:

    “almost all of the injuries I’ve had in recent years seem to have been Brompton related; it’s possible the bike is out to get me”

    Sounds extremely dangerous. I hereby volunteer to take your Brompton to Germany before it’s too late.

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