I often think that the night is more alive and more richly coloured than the day.  Vincent VanGogh

In the winter, night falls early.  That’s when a few hardy folks pull the bucket of lights, Velcro straps and batteries out of the cupboard and start charging.

A group of about five of us transform from regular daytime people into dark shadows on bikes with bright spotlights on our heads and handlebars and enter the woods.  Wherever our lights don’t shine is a black void; wherever they do makes the forest look like a movie set.  Others riding ahead look like an otherworldly sequence of lights moving through the forest in a chain, like “Starlink”, the Elon Musk satellites.  Animals must think we are hunting for food.

But it isn’t hunting at all – except for exercise, companionship and fun – all the ingredients needed for keeping humans happy – that and the after ride beer.

In the dark you are very reliant on your lighting system, adding another element for possible equipment breakdown – besides the usual derailleurs, brakes, tires or chains.  Unless there is a moon and clear sky, the forest is pitch black making it a real challenge to find your way if your lights go out.

When your sense of vision is restricted, you become strangely more aware of your own body and the sound of your breath, like you are riding in a quiet darkened room.  I’ve ridden up steep rocky hills without even noticing as all I saw was the lit up back tire of the person in front of me.   Sometimes when I am stopped on a forest trail, I will purposely turn out my lights just to get the feeling like my eyes are closed, when in fact they are open – which is a kind of freaky feeling in the middle of the forest.

While we would prefer the ease and comfort of riding in daylight, night riding gives winter another dimension, like the rare occasion when a thick cover of hoar frost on the vegetation and ground becomes a sparkly psychedelic world under our spotlights.

When you are night riding, the short, dark, cold days of winter lengthen with more possibility of companionship, fun and adventure.