Cycling in the dark

Cyclocross Noir

Almost 3 years ago to the date, I ventured out on my first night ride in windy and flat Amsterdam . I’d not long been cycling (you can tell by the passion in my writing) and was itching to get on the bike at any given opportunity and loved every second of it.

This was also around the time a CX bike was playing on my mind. Having moved back to the UK 4 months later I finally managed to source a CX frame small enough to fit petite me and had it shipped over from Belgium after finding it on the Dutch version of gumtree (I went to great efforts!).

Although I’m surrounded by some interesting terrain to play with – Swinley Forest, Windsor Great Park, the Thames Tow Path and many many a bridle path – you’d think I’d get out on it more than I do. But it would seem my road bike is still my favourite child and go-to machine; especially on nice long summer days. It’s also no secret that I’m very much a social cyclist. I’d much prefer to share the road with fellow cyclists and so my motivation to get out and explore unfamiliar territory often dwindles, especially when there’s a lack of other CXers in my network.

Cycling in the darkBut, thanks to the ever friendly local cycling community I was finally able to enjoy a very interesting ride last night. A member of Strava, I recently noticed a few CX rides appear in my feed so pinged the athletes a couple of comments which soon turned into an invitation to ride. And so, after putting it off for the past 4 weeks; rain, wind, work commitments… and any other excuse going, I gave in, dusted off the bike, charged the lights and met Martin and Simon for a CX Noir adventure. Meeting at 6.30 on a November Wednesday night outside the Toby Carvery in Windsor, this wouldn’t be a ‘normal’ ride. It was pitch dark.

Night vision

CX is challenging in the day light as it is, having to quickly assess and react to mud, grass, puddles, branches, stones etc. But add the dark and it’s another experience all together. Our route would take us along the Jubilee River to Dorney Lake and back along the Thames into Windsor again. Windsor Cyclocross Route

To start it took a while for my eyes to adjust, especially following the tail of Simon and his bright pulsing rear light but I was soon spinning the legs and enjoying the flow of the ride and change of terrain not really knowing what’s up ahead. I always say it isn’t a CX ride if you don’t come off; although to be taken out by a “bike friendly” gate (I say that in inverted commas as they are evil!) and to fall into a bramble bush is pretty ironic; having cycled over branches, traversed muddy sections and through a horrible horrible marsh that took me to my fitness threshold (if anyone wants to get fit quick – ride up and down this a couple of times a week!).

Having not been on the bike for a few weeks, it was no surprise that two-thirds of the way through and 7.30 at night I was starting to bonk; so I said thanks to the guys and peeled off to take the road the rest of the way home (again, the roadie in me won!). Although I’m always put off by the safety hazards of cycling in the dark, especially on my own, it soon occurred to me how peaceful cycling at night is and the enjoyment  of my night ride back in 2012 came flooding back to me.

If you’re looking for an excuse to get out on the bike, don’t let the dark put you off, regardless of the terrain. Think I may give MTB Noir a go next!

My Kit:
On the front – Lezyne Micro Drive – this is a great re-chargeable bright 100 – 200 lumens light, but it only just survived the 2 hour ride.

On the back – the ever faithful See.Sense light. Amazing piece of light and movement responding kit.

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