Who’s Afraid of the Dark?

October 28, 2018

Afternoon sunshine

As I ran through the unusually detailed pre-ride briefing for our Halloween ride this afternoon, it did occur to me to wonder why we (I) decided that the best route for an after-dark ride would be one that involved a mad, twisting, endless descent on frankly pretty crappy surfaces, when something flatter would probably be a whole lot safer. I *think* the original logic was that it was a good spot for bats and it’s away from the lights of Bigtown, so a chance to enjoy the stars. Either way, after three years, it doesn’t matter because it is rapidly becoming the traditional start to our winter ride programme and – the odd safety-related qualm aside, I really wouldn’t have it any other way.

cyclists in the dusk

There’s just something about riding in the fading light, with the tail lights of your companions (hey, I’ve been doing a lot of digging and lifting over the last few days, and someone needs to be at the back … besides, I was carrying approximately a kilo of gingerbread as a warming mid-ride treat) twinkling ahead of you like a string of animated fairy lights.

bike lights in the dark

And there’s also something else about navigating that mad, twisting, endless descent with no sense of where you are or how far down you’ve got – just keeping going round each bend, and concentrating on keeping the bike rubber side down.

And then there’s the stars, which were fully out by the time we were on our way home, and just filled the dark sky, a sight which never fails to amaze (best not to look up at them for too long though – the potholes on the road back were something else again, indeed I may need to check my wheels tomorrow to see if they’re still round).

Perhaps best of all is the fact that eight bikes with serious lights on them on a dark country road must look like an alien landing to anyone not expecting them. At least that might explain why the tiny handful of drivers we encountered mostly came to a complete stop to let us pass.

So it was another successful outing, cementing its place in local cycling tradition, and I can only apologise to future ride leaders for foisting the mad venture on them in perpetuity.

wheel shadows in the dark

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Lanterne Rouge

October 30, 2016

With the clocks going back this weekend our cycle campaign celebrated with an after-dark Halloween ride – a blast around the reservoir and up and over a hill to return in time for a drink in the pub. It can be a depressing time of the year – the moment for many when they put the bike away for the winter – so we decided instead to embrace the dark, get out the bike lights and celebrate riding anyway.

To be honest, we haven’t had great turnout for our winter rides in recent years, so we were pretty pleased to have seven of us gather at the start (actually two starts – we have joined forces with the local CTC member group and, knowing that nobody ever reads any instructions, ever, it was easier for each group to stick with its traditional start point and then join up than to try to convey to everyone that we were starting in a slightly different part of Bigtown from normal especially as it was already at a different time and on a different day from usual). With a slightly more experienced crowd than usual – you know it’s going to be a slightly faster ride than our regular pootles when you hear a chorus of feet clipping in as you set off – the main problem for me was keeping up while also maintaining my ability to chat, which to me is key to an enjoyable group ride.

After a pause for a spot of bat detection – it was a wonderfully mild evening for the end of October and they were still out in force, which was good because so were all the insects – and another pause for halloween cookies and a chance to admire the ‘view’ at the top, we then faced the descent. I’ve ridden in the dark before, and now that I’ve got decent lights, I find it a pleasure rather than something to avoid. I’ve even ridden in a small group at night, but I’ve never hurtled down a winding descent on a narrow road with nothing to see but the blinking back lights of my companions and the five metres of tarmac ahead of me, guessing the the twists and the turns, no idea where I was or where I was going other than around the next corner, and the next, and the next.

It was incredible. Lord knows what we would have done had we met a car, but we had the hillside to ourselves and the quiet and the dark were just amazing. It felt like we were out at midnight (it was only about half six) just because it felt as if everyone but us was sleeping and only we were up, whizzing silently through the night.

The plan was to return to Bigtown for a celebratory drink, but as this would have meant an extra 7 miles for me to get back, I peeled off early to tackle the climb up to the house. It’s starting to loom a little large in my mind, that hill, especially after two quickish hilly rides in two days. My legs, especially, have been telling me all about it ever since I got in. I’ve obviously got into a bit of a comfortable groove with my cycling, back and forth to Bigtown without really stretching myself at all. It might just be time to start doing a little bit of exploring of the slightly more challenging roads that surround us.

happy halloween


Halloween Horrors

October 29, 2015

One of the joys of going away is wondering just what will have happened to stuff in your absence. I have been growing mini ‘jack be little’ pumpkins in the greenhouse thinking they would be fun, or at the very least delicious, to have around halloween.*

So it turns out, if you slightly damage one just before you go away and leave it in a quite humid greenhouse, you come back to the Miss Havisham of pumpkins … which is quite scary enough as it is, without any additional carving

Halloween pumpkin

Now what to do with the rest of the crop?

mini pumpkins

And a touch more autumn colour from the Japanese maple in the walled garden, just because

Japanese maple

* for those muttering to themselves about how they used to carve neep lanterns when they were kids, rather than any of that rubbishy American pumpkin nonsense, I can recommend this thread in what is increasingly only nominally a cycle forum.