Tuesday, December 17, 2013

The Winter Nights

It is still autumn but it feels like winter.  I leave before the sun rises and arrive home after it sets.  Perhaps too much of my brain is dedicated to night vision for I seem to thrive in the darkness.  Despite the miserable conditions, night riding is something I enjoy in this extreme climate.

My memories of riding in winter and the lessons they taught are permanently imprinted on my brain.  Back in the day, circa 1988, we did not have lights.  Winter was the safest time to go mountain biking at night.  There was usually snow on the ground.  White is trail, black is tree.  Hours spent in the greenbelt up in Waterloo with Ron Prunty.  Often we would increase the difficulty by adding psychotropics.  Just one thing to remember, white is trail, black is tree.  Still holds true today, the rule not the need to increase difficulty.

So my commute is now double what it was last year.  More time to reflect on it as I try to keep my mind off the body numbing coldness that fills the void as Earth's tilting denies us a longer hug from the Sun's love.  Fresh snow is the best as long as the total is less than 3" for most of my bicycles.  Fresh snow is usually accompanied by lingering clouds which not only keep the temperature a tad bit warmer, say 24F instead of 4F but also reflect back the light pollution and thus help illuminate the ride.  Sometimes while out on the trail I will shut off my lights.  Add a full moon and there is little reason to use lights unless others are riding nearby or it is time to play in traffic.

Remember the rule?  Rule #2 applies after the city plows the trail.  Black in between white is trail, all other black is tree and white is off trail.  Clearly defined borders.  Much easier to stay on the trail at night since the edge of the trail is now delineated by frozen water.  Ice is another story so I keep my lights on until familiar with the conditions.

This phenomenon is helpful at a very bad section of the Walnut Creek trail.  After Grand Ave heading north toward Center St there is a section of trail that parallels the creek.  At the place where the trail is closest to Walnut Creek there is a terrible blind spot created by a security light across the water at some sort of industrial warehouse business.  As I approach this place the light blinds me and I am forced to slow down and avert my eyes until it no longers interferes.  No matter what light set up I have I am forced to look down and keep my eyes on the edge of the trail.  During the summer everything is black.  The trail, the grass and the border between the trail and the grass.  BUT in winter with snow on the ground it is now black and white and much easier to keep the bike on the trail surface proper and avoid running off it and into trouble.

All I ask is that the temperature stay in the 20s during the coldest days/nights and a little bit of snow to help me move about in the dark.  Things improve in April.  4 more months of this bullshit.

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