Lights are on but is anybody home?

I have never been a huge fan of night riding. Some of this is my engorged lazy gene which goes all 70s shop steward when presented with a plan for dark, cold and wet. And, after five years of spending many unpleasent evenings disadvantaged by bicycle in the Chiltern Mudhills, my default position – between October and March – was hibernation.

And when I did venture out, my rubbish co-efficient was at least a double multiple of standard piss poor performance. I couldn’t see much, and when somehing big and robustly static loomed into view, I engaged target fixation and shoulder charged it. Between that, pedalling to make progress downhill, and steering rarely troubled by the position of the ‘bars, it was sort of, well, rubbish really.

This position was troubling to the Malvern Movement* who extolled the joy of those with “something of the night about them“, and promised an abundament of fun for those listing lycanthropy and bat worshipping in their list of hobbies. ALso, since this 45 sq/km of hillage is surrounded by a million trail users – many of them with red socks and humourless expressions – daytime riding can sometimes be nothing more than a physical and verbal slalom.

And yet I was nowhere near convinced because I know the truth of the myth behind disk brakes. They were in fact invented by a rider of the Chilterns whose ‘V’ brakes had reduced the rotation of his wheels to naught, his previously racey steed now weighed one hundred pounds**, and his very passage was nothing more than an illegal transit of national park moist soil.

It didn’t end well, last seen he was rocking quietly and sobbing gently, with crayoned designs cast around his unkempt self, and his only friend a bottle of DOT.4 from which he was carlelessly drinking. Yet after a few timid rides through the maw of a black night, I found barrelling through a shallow tunnel of light on the heart thumping side of invigorating.

So last night we celebrated the upcoming Winter Solstice with a great ride topped off with Sloe Gin and Mince Pies. The Malverns are nothing more than a glacial sponge so really reward four seasons riding, even if the cheekiness of woody evening bridleways sport a frisky combination of off-camber, slick roots and a gradient best described as plunging.

A topographical situation perfectly constructed for a trio of mildly inebriated mountain bikers missing a set of co-ordinated limbs – last seen upstream of “oh go on then, another swig won’t hurt“. It could have, but when my foot out moto sytle inevitably delivered more tree than trail, the giggling of a rapidly descending drunken idiot could be heard for miles around. Followed by the metally slither of the bike he had previously been riding.

Night riding now is something I am really going to miss when day time hours finally outnumbers those of the night, although dry, dusty and warm will be significantly more welcome. Unlikely but welcome.

In the meantime, I’m taking Snugtrousers(tm) out to play silly buggers in the dark, happy in the knowledge that very few other people are.

* Not a difficult bowel evacuation, more a bunch of very nice people I met off the Internet. Which has to be the first, and possibly a last time that could happen 😉

** Spookily, about what the bike was now worth as well after being ground away by the incessant Chiltern gloop.

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