… when you turn out the lights at which point song lyrics and riding reality diverge. While AC/DC rock on with “while everything comes into view”, my personal world was essentially pitch black and silent. Except for the horrible sound of tyres sliding on wet roots and some associated whimpering.
This was a day which had started badly, then spiralled ever downwards leaving me desperate to crush the unenlightened in a pedal revolution. But it is hard to unwind your mind and plot vindictive revenge when the first obstacle acts as an organic off switch.
The trails were in that transitional state between grippy and slippy, while the trees were still resolutely bone breaking hard. I caressed the first with a shoulder before juddering to a desperate stop. Some cable fiddling later convinced me my darkened days were behind me – which as a belief system lasted about as long as a wine gum.
When the lights died again, so nearly did I – this time bouncing off a tree which at least had the beneficial effect of slowing my progress to a somewhat larger drop to my left. When the going gets tough, the terminally cheesed off go home and that was my strategy, until Martin generously halved his own lumen count by insisting I took temporary ownership of his helmet light.
Funky little Exposure Joystick thing with a buddy attached. The dead weight on the bars was at least twice as bright but since it wasn’t working, I wasn’t complaining. Well not more than usual anyway. Martin’s reward for his selfless sacrifice was a flat tyre which split the pack, and led to some comedy communication failures due entirely to only one person actually having a phone about their person.*
My enlightened status was dependant on a tiny battery Martin admitted he’d never tested to destruction. So most of my riding was spent with a well focussed torch on my head and absolutely no idea what was going on left or right of that. Or whether it was about to get permanently dark again.
Which puts the whole Lumen Arms Race into perspective. Most of us started riding with 2/3rds of bugger all fading to yellow after less than an hour, after which we navigated by memory and bruising. So while Tail End Charlie was the only option, if I didn’t want to be thrown into a megawatt shadow, there was a certain nostalgic rush riding at the limit of an ickle light. Slower it may have been, but less fun?
I’m not sure that’s right because one much loved section of singletrack felt so different with sufficient illumination to enjoy it, but not enough to turn it into daylight. And taking it easy was absolutely the right approach since my entire evening seemed to suggest a better way to spend my time would be programming A&E on speed-dial.
Really it was if I couldn’t quite decide where to crash; “ooooh nearly, no let’s go a bit further, no that doesn’t count you’re still on the bike, hang on slamming testicles is merely a coping technique, sorry you’ll need to try harder“. I was trying pretty hard discovering helmet lights are ace for showing you where you’re pointing, but not entirely stable on a head wobbling about on wibbly trails.
The final descent probably had my name on it, so – if proof were needed that God Loves me sometimes – when my chain snapped in a way suggesting it only had a future for harvesting powerlinks, I gave up and dug out my pumping skills** to roadie it home. Martin punctured again, which if karma means anything would suggest I’d have been medi-vac’d off that hill with a spatula had my mechanical not saved me.
I’ve bought one of those Exposure jobbies mostly for being able to find my way round the Forest in darkness, but also because some old school/anti nightsun riding may call. Look at it this way; shitty, cold winter night, force yourself out, might as well throw in some naked terror because misery works better in threes.
Ask me how I know.
* That’d be the one doing the texting. I’m sure Alexander Graham Bell felt the same way before he’d shed’d the second unit.
** The bike ones I learned from Tony Doyle, the dogging area is on the other side of the Malverns. So I’ve been told.