Feed on

I got invited to go nighttime trail riding. His wreck was Friday morning, when he was coming home. On Saturday afternoon, I went on the usual group ride with the Acme group, and they reminded me of an event I’d forgotten all about, the Full Moon ride out at the Lawrence River Trail.

I hadn’t planned to go on that ride originally. I didn’t have a good way to get out there before the car was wrecked. I have to all but completely disassemble my mountain bike to get it into the car, and I don’t really like putting it in the New Beetle because my bike pretty much generates its own force field of grime, and that car has a fabric interior. As it turns out, Sarah, who was spearheading this ride, had extra space on the roof-rack on her car. I called Todd to be sure he was doing okay, and to let him know I was thinking about investigating some dirt, and he said, “see you later,” and settled down to a quiet evening of frozen pizza and World of Warcraft.

Now, I’ve ridden trails before, and having grown up in the country, know from rural, and I’ve ridden at night plenty, but, I’ve never combined the two. Sarah lent me a NiteRider light, and wow. Wow. If I had a spare $500 lying around, I would totally have one of those. Holy mother of cow, that thing was amazing. And totally put my little glorified flashlight Planet Bike headlight to shame. Granted, I knew my Planet Bike one wasn’t any great shakes–I just have it for visibility to others, not for seeing by. The NiteRider, you can see by, for real.

Anyhow, there were about 15 of us out there in Lawrence, rode out to a lookout over the river, built a small bonfire, toasted some marshmellows, some folks drank some beer (I didn’t because I’m a total lightweight and a klutz, anyway) and then rode back.

It’s been a while since I spent any time out in the country, and even longer since I rode a bike out in the country, and I’d forgotten how quiet it is. The group was mostly pretty low-key as we rode out to the point, concentrating on not destroying ourselves on any unseen roots, rocks, and washouts. During the daytime, I’m like, “eh, roots, whatever, go fast enough and they kind of smooth out,” but at night, I was a lot less bold. In the daytime, I look quite a ways on ahead of myself and try to plan out the easiest route with the least mud, the smallest rocks, and so on, but at night, it was harder to plan ahead like that. My light, while very bright, was aimed too low, I think, so I didn’t have a very long range of sight, and stuff to either side of me was pretty much a mystery. Add to that, that I had never ridden that trail until that night, and you’ll see I was up to a little challenge.

It was so cathartic, though, in its way. I lost myself in simply following the trail and not ramming my bike headfirst into a tree or going off the side of a bank or in some other way causing myself bodily harm and my bike damage. All I heard mostly was my own breath, the sound of my busted seat squeaking, and occasionally, the buzz of the freewheel whenever I was coasting. And a particular rattling squee whenever I got leaves in my spokes. It was really great to get out of town, and just ride, and just think about riding. Not think about what to do with the car situation, what to do about stuff at work, personal obligations, whatever.

For a lot of years, a bike has been my biggest source of stress relief. When I was a junior high kid, nervous about the prospect of moving up to highschool, I rode miles and miles on an old Schwinn, hoping that my physical strength would lend to my emotional strength, and that life would seem less scary. In highschool, when things were rough, I’d ride after school, after track practice, 10 or 15 miles, just to have some time to myself, without having to be “on” for anyone, without having to be on the defensive, without homework obligations, just time where all that was going on was seeing how fast I could get the old Huffy going, making my lungs and legs burn, and working out all of the frustration of the day. When I started college, and I had to learn a whole new life, meet so many new people, navigate my way around, and my whole life was unfamiliar, my nightly rides were my anchor. Turning pedals is the same no matter where the wheels are rolling. I think that’s part of the reason grad school was so hard for me. I didn’t have a bike to take out and get away from my troubles. When I moved down to Kansas City and started bike commuting, I found that it made a shitty job a lot more bearable, and I find, in my first winter as a year-round-commuter, that it is helping alleviate my seasonal depression.

Just getting away for an evening, having a good time with friends, and spending some quality time on a bike was the tonic I needed. That night out was like taking a deep breath and getting ready to sort some shit out. Sometimes, you just need to take a little time out to be irresponsible and frivolous for a bit, so you can ready yourself to dig in and take care of business.

Oh, and as is customary for me, I fell off my bike and broke some shit.  Nothing that serious, just a fender I hadn’t thought to remove before I took the bike offroad.

Busted fender and ratty seat. This bike is pure class, with a capital K.

On the way back from the river overlook, I hit something in the trail, I don’t know if it was a knobby root or a rock or what, but it stopped my bike dead in its tracks, and I fell off the back of the bike and snapped off my mudflap with my right shin. I managed a small cut on said shin, a large bruise on my right hip, and, of course, a busted fender. Three layers of masking tape and two of electrical tape, and it’s almost as good as new. Oh, and I got a flat on the way out to the overlook. I managed to pick up a finishing nail in the parking lot, and about 3/4 of the way out to the overlook, I heard what sounded like a flat tire, but I wasn’t sure, because we’d been riding in really clay-ey mud, and so the tires sounded sucky and felt smooshy, but I stopped to check, and sure as shit, my back tire was as flat as could be. If there’s one thing I don’t love it is changing tires at night, but at least it was my mountain bike, the tires of which are easy to get on and off. My road bike, it would be hell. The Schwinn is do-able, but with much cussing. Plus, on the Schwinn, there are no quick releases, and once one has had QRs, it’s really easy to get to like them. I always have a wrench with me, just in case, however.

Leave a Reply