Night Riding

I quickly get changed into my cycling gear and prep my bike. I had only just gotten through the door after a long day of working, and I was eager to experience something different. Wanderlust consumed me, brought on by the mundane repetition of work. I craved the feeling of having the air whip across my face and the sense of freedom had taken hold. It had turned 1730 in the evening and the darkness was already setting in. The rapid change prevented the negative thoughts that usually pervade my awareness when I consider going for a ride during the dark winter months. The fragility of my mindset can let the fear of riding solitary in the dark overwhelm my passion for cycling. Everything within me is screaming to go out and ride, but my doubtful mind wins every time. I live in a semi-rural and popular area which can become busy, especially during peak commuting times. Similarly, the bleakness and total darkness on the surrounding hills are also apparent.

“It’s safer to stay at home because it’s getting late.” It tells my body.

That’s why it’s called the rational mind, right? This battle arises frequently and I sometimes feel stifled and imprisoned by its adventure-aversive state. I usually feel pulled into two opposing ways. I crave adventure and experience something new, and yet I like to feel safe. I’m sure I’m not the only person who experiences this?

Having fumbled around looking for my bike computer, I was standing outside with my bike. I had made it. There’s no turning back now. I set off and was soon racing down the main road. I felt that wind and the invigorating sensation that soon settled me into the ride, somewhat feeling foolish that I had those negative thoughts. This was the first time in a while that I had gone out on my road bike and wow, what a feeling it was! The responsiveness is outstanding, and this is something I missed while I have been riding a cheap gravel bike. I felt the demands and stresses of the day being carried away with the wind lapping around my body and face. I was becoming once again accustomed to the nuances of riding such a bike since having mostly experienced the cheap gravel bike over most of the winter months.

I turned off the main road and entered the back lanes that lead up into the hills. The second phase of the ride that I feared now, I find myself once again readjusting to the blackness and the absence of street lighting. The awareness of vulnerability rose within my consciousness, causing me to focus on the present moment. Maintaining a healthy mindset and recognising that nothing threatening was happening, I needed to be vigilant and aware of my surroundings. I continued to ride, and the terrain had now become more challenging as the gradients of the hills became steeper and steeper. I began dancing on the pedals and, with the power of pushing down on them, my back wheel started slipping. The roads were wet, and the gritter had recently passed through to prepare for the frosty morning. This was a sign that I had to proceed with caution, while during limited lighting there could be ice patches or slippery road surfaces that I may not notice. Those hills are high enough to cause a difference in the temperature.

Large solitary houses pass by as I continue wondering who lives in them and what jobs they do. Those houses turned into farms with far-reaching fields that disappeared into the black soup of the night. A continuous howl erupted, drawing my attention to pinpoint its location. It was a dog on one of the farms. My mind conjured up images of the Sherlock Holmes film, ‘Hound of the Baskervilles’. I pushed on, unwilling to stop until I reached the peak of the second hill. I approached a T junction, and I used this opportunity for a brief water break. I looked around at the fields, the silhouette of the trees in the distance, the fresh air cold but invigorating and inspiring. Apart from the lights on my bike, the moon was the only other object that reflected down on the spot where I was. The stars glistened in all their glory, and I stared towards Orion’s belt. I marvelled at the wonders of our universe and the position in which our Earth is placed. A humming drew closer and the beam from a car’s headlights broke my state of contemplation. I watched as the car set off from the junction, leaving me once again in the now-familiar darkness. I had succeeded. This darkness that I was so afraid of had now become my friend, my companion on this bike ride. I set off homeward bound, and the journey was ending.

With fatigued legs, I felt more invigorated and was pleased that I had overcome that rational mind, which had in the past prevented me from similar experiences. As I reflect, I realise that my cycling awareness has broadened somewhat. The light that was emitted from my bike light caused me to be a little disorientated and my imagination played a part in completing the scenery to understand where on the road I had progressed to. Those doubts will most probably arise again when I decide to go out on another night ride. But over time, those doubts will subside. In the meantime, it is about putting my focus on pushing those doubts away and not letting them become too powerful and preventing me from what I want to achieve. 


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