The winter nights are just as much fun and the stoke is pretty infectious, because I'm finding the benefits are noticebly more that just riding. The most important being that I don't waste winter, I don't waste time. Winter is still a valuable time and even after work their is time for some winter fun. The darks nights mean that my bright triangular beams of light become a personal domain, your own little world and what's seen in that zone can be pretty special. So far in just a four weeks I've had Barn Owls and Buzzards take off in front of me, and then they're prey, the small little voles scurrying across the trail. On the climbs you can use your wondering gaze of a helmet light to spot the eyes of the wildlife like the foxes and rabbits, or the haunting purple eyes of the ponies that reside on our hill. Catch a glimpse of these and five pairs of eyes are looking back at you, it's a little bit 'Stranger Things'.
Feeling pressure to fit a ride into a busy weekend during winter is also tough, especially when you have a family, football duties with your teenage son, dog walks, shopping etc. Spending family time to keep the balalnce could mean no long endurance rides but I've realised that embracing the post-work night ride means I'm not so fussed about desperately riding on the weekend or at least don't feel as pressured to, I can actually make way for some surfing.
Then there is the confidence boost, or belief in your riding ability. How fast can you actually ride at night? Can night riding actually improve that ongoing mistake we often make of not looking down the line? Can we become smoother riders? Personally I'm finding it's helping my riding in so many ways. Doing the climbs I'm really focussed and maybe a little more powerful, and not being a great climber I'll take any improvement. On the descents i've felt more controlled but have yet to see if I'm as fast as I've not done the same session in the daylight yet. Having no distractions outside of that light zone, just the pitch black, focussed solely on the area within that brighness, is making my riding feel smoother with a real sense of flow and movement.
On my first session of the winter, the smile and hoots came out when I'd done a run. On my own, on a dark hill, with none of the boys there, I found myself hooting out loud, the sense stoke 100% real. The only way I can describe it, or relate to this feeling was surfing a perfect wave, on a perfect session, where you finish that ride knowing that every move you made was perfectly in sync with the wave, and the wave just led you the way it wanted to, and when you kick out at the end there is a huge grin on your face and when you paddle back out for another, your mates know. Billabong the Australian Surf brand had a motto 'Only a Surfer knows the feeling'. That's how I felt that first night and every night since. Night riding is an absolute blast and if you haven't tried it, get some lights and get out there.
As for lights, I'm sure there are some super expensive all singing all dancing set ups running into the hundreds of pounds, like Exposure and Hope and one day I shall make that purchase. I thought I'd go the cheaper option for now, and bought a set of lights from Planet X for £12.99 (reduced from £25) and so far I am absolutely stoked with the 700 lumins. I'm running these on my bars alongside a Lezyne 1000 Lumin light on my helmet. Having a light on your helmet is essential as your looking at corners when your bike is looking staright, believe me if you haven't tried it please do. Combining the two lights, the amount of light in front of me is superb and with 1.5 hours on full power for each light (not fully tested on the Planet X ones yet) I have more than enough for a fun filled evening.
Myself and my wife have also begun a regular Thursday night cruise around here in the Wild West, just getting some miles in on the quiet back lanes and it's just great fun. Safety wise you can see any car coming, if any and riding two a breast is no issue and we can happily chat and seek out the wildlife with the head torches, and with bright rear lights and a bit of hi-viz we can be seen from both directions. My wife has two 1000 lumin lights on her bars, again from Planet X at £24.95 each. I've got my eye on another Lezyne light for my bars, but if the ones I have now last unitl spring, at £12.99 I'll get another set. We've also bought some for my son, so this week he has his first intro to a night session on the trails and that's another blog!
All I can say is that if you ride, get some lights and don't waist winter. On a clear chilly night, or a foggy overcast one, what's not to love.....ahhhh...a dirty bike and a dark evening when it needs cleaning. But that's a small price to pay for a big ol' smile, some winter exercise and the feeling that winter will not just pass you by sitting in front of the TV.
Enjoy the Ride.