By John Ray
During the summer, daytime heat chases riders off the Greenway faster than a timeshare salesman after your tax refund. For now, though, it’s still spring; the days are just perfect for riding, and the early mornings and late evenings have lost most of their bite. So I thought I would get a jump start on a little low-light riding, specifically at night. While there are many things common to all dimly-lit biking situations, some are specific to night-riding, especially in a college town.
Let’s start with the no-brainer: lights. they’re essential; in fact, it’s ‘agin the law (at least in Fayetteville) to ride in the dark without ‘em. But it’s important to remember bike lights are not the same as a car’s headlights. They’re not as bright, and they don’t light up brighter when you mash the brakes. So first, don’t assume you’ll be seen because of them and second, slow down. You might reach the speed of a car on a sweet downhill, but you won’t be able to see as far ahead as you would if you were in one.
Your interactions with other denizens of the road, both animal and human, are different at night. When I’m hiking in bear country I often wear “bear bells”, I want to be heard way before I’m seen. It’s the same with biking at night. So make noise, sing, ring your bell — whatever it takes to give even more warning than you would before dark. And never assume that the squirrel, or runner, or gaggle of college students weaving its way down Dickson Street will behave in anything like a logical manner. Slow down, take your time and give extra berth to whomever, or whatever, you encounter.
Also make sure you pack an extra layer, maybe some warmer gloves in your bag before you set out. It’s easy to forget how quickly the temperature can drop and shivering, numb hands and feet are a real buzz kill. So is an insect or branch in the eye. I invested in a set of Smith biking glasses years ago that have three different interchangeable lenses, one of them is clear. This is one of those things that might sound like an extravagance, but believe me, the price of the gear versus not having to make a trip to the ER to have a bug or stick removed from your eye is a bargain.
While they might require packing a bit more gear and riding at a little slower pace, nighttime excursions are well worth the effort. After dark, the road seems too narrow and the surroundings close in tighter all while the sky infinitely deepens. Submerged in the darkness, but far from drowning, we glide underneath the calm sky surface and fill our lungs with the night.
Grace and peace, y’all,