Tuesday, November 27, 2012

the night belongs to lovers

Sometimes I get so exercised about lighting and terrain and cooler weather and increased risk of accident that I forget a critical key fact about bicycling at night:  It's fantastic and I love it. 

My commute home, after dark, effectively has two parts. 

The first has all the excitement of surfing on two thousand wild buffalo during a stampede.  Christmas is coming and gigantic herds of Californians are making their awkward way to Costco and Bed Bath & Beyond, they low and bray unhappily as they struggle to make a left turn into the Sea of Parkedasses.  The otherwise ordinary guy driving the dented Subaru Outback makes an abrupt right turn without signalling as he finds the inspiration for an extreme REI run. 

Despite having more lights than a Hanukkah display I periodically hit rocks and bits of broken car in the road that I'd otherwise be able to steer around and this throws me from one side of the lane to the other and because bicycling at night gets me all excited anyway these bumps are punctuated with me shouting nonsensical stuff like "yee-haw!" and "suck it, Brocade routers, suck it!" 

The air is cool and invites excess and the dark wraps around you like a mantle and for the 50 minutes it takes me to get home in traffic the ride can feel like a non-stop party complete with drunk bouncers and a hot guy to meet up with.

Part the two of my ride is far quieter because the cars have been pruned away by Bryant St.  The ride goes from a 24/7 party where some of the people are on acid and have guns to sweet and soft and majestic and sleek as a penguin diving beneath the ice. 

I notice the sound of my bicycle more once the cars are out of the picture, especially the soft and satisfying trill of the chain rolling across the gears.  In the evening, the wind drops off and this contributes to the (mostly false) feeling that I am going supremely fast, the cool air sliding affectionately around me as I pedal towards home.  If before you were surfing maddened buffalo now you are racing along in the company of silent and sympathetic grey wolves.  You are the night and the night is you, everything but a bit of metal frame stripped away and your body the engine that drives the perfect machine. 

The second part of my ride ends when I meet up with the Contraption Captain and we circle each other happily and talk and then  pedal the last leg home together, going over the happenings of the day and pointing out the funniest of the car antics and planning our evening.

People ride their bicycles for many different reasons, all of them equally legitimate.  One reason I like to ride is the sense of possibility that comes from bicycling, from being fast, from the act of setting yourself free. 

Every ride home is good.


  1. I enjoy riding in the dark - well, for an hour or so. It used to bother me when I rode 1.5 hours in the dark to get to work.

    1. I think I appreciate the variety. All dark all the time would make daylight bicycling a treat. Mostly, every year I get in a twitch about the safety aspect of night riding and then I'm surprised at how much I enjoy it after all the sturm und drang.

  2. Great post! I like when the positive happy chafed comes out sometimes. Night rides are magical but too cold to go out after dark for me. 26 F right now just 3 hours past sundown.

    1. Thanks so much. That motorcycle accident really brought me down for several weeks.