Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Bicycles in the Dark

Just the other day I was riding home from an evening event. It was about 8:45 p.m. and while the sun had set, the night sky wasn't quite entirely dark. The day had been quite hot and I was looking forward to the relief of riding after the sun had gone down, if for no other reason than to cool off and actually enjoy being outdoors. Have we already hit the hot summer temperatures? {sigh} For a brief moment, I panicked about not having lights in my bag, but then remembered I had thrown them in a few days prior should they be needed. I strapped the headlight and taillight on and went on my way. About a quarter of a mile into riding I realized I don't do a lot of night time riding in the summer months. I suppose the same is true for most of us since the sun doesn't set until quite late in the day.
*Image source here
Although I was certainly enjoying the ride, I had a brief moment of concern as I started thinking about all the obstacles I knew were in the bike lanes on my path home. I ride the same path several times a week, but it's always during daylight hours (when I can see the debris and obstacles in my path). I thought to myself that I should hurry while there was still a bit of light to be able to see the road.  But, just as this thought entered my mind, I saw the flashing lights of the train tracks in front of me, and the cross arms coming down to block the road. Instantly, I knew it would be dark-dark by the time I reached the debris-spotted portion of the bike lane.

I made it home in one piece, safe and sound without incident, but it did make me think about folks who regularly ride in the dark (both the morning and evening hours).  Do you ever worry about hitting something you simply don't see in the dark? Have you ever struck anything that caused you to wobble or fall? While potential debris isn't going to keep me from riding, there is a very small part of me that does wonder what would happen if I hit the wrong spot. I try to go slower during these hours, but I'm not sure slowing would necessarily prevent a run-in with an unseen pothole or giant boulder in the path. The biggest thing I've hit has been a decent-sized rock, and that almost caused a tip (of course I'm incredibly klutzy as it is, so I'm probably not the best judge of such things). I'd love to hear your experiences or how you have dealt with potential unseen road debris.

5 comments:

  1. I bike at night on a weekly basis (daily in the winter), and between street lights and my headlight I haven't hit anything unseen. I haven't worried about it lately because my route is also very familiar, and I know where the breaks are in the pavement. If you're that concerned about missing something as big as a pothole, I think you need a much better headlight.

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    1. I definitely don't have the best vision, but it's even worse in the dark. While I might see a pothole, it probably wouldn't be until I am right up on it, so I think this is where my concern comes. You may be quite right though - perhaps a better/brighter headlight would do the trick. :O)

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  2. Hidden road debris and unpredictable wildlife are what drove me to eschew the standard 1 or 2 watt headlights and escalate to a 600 lumen mama. Before I got my personal miniature sun, though, I rode fairly slowly along the surface street area which I knew had a pothole and loose gravel and tried to keep my speed down on the pitch-black section of the trail. That's pretty much the only thing you can do if you don't have the equivalent of a car headlamp on your bike.

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    1. Ha -->"personal miniature sun." I love it. Perhaps it is what I need. I suppose I have hesitated to buy yet another headlight as I don't ride very often in the dark... but - maybe it should be something to consider.

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  3. That's why I greatly prefer bikes with integrated lights: half the time I can't keep track of my lights and it's always a burden when I ride my bike with clip-on lights.

    Like you, I don't ride much in the dark during the summer, but all the time in the winter, since the sun has set by 4:30. Luckily, the city is never very dark, but riding at night in a smaller city, like Nashville, I am always worried about what I can't see on the road in front of me.

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