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The Night Rider

The Night Rider


With the clocks going back an hour does anyone make use of that extra hour to go cycling, running or swimming or were we all so grateful for the extra hour in bed.  Up until 3 weeks ago my household would have been able to savour a lay in if we could wangle it but then along came the early bird, 12-week-old pup Roo (aka Roo Dog, Roo-baix,or Oi!) and while she has settled quite well, can fetch, retrieve and high five, it’s my ankles that are under attack whenever I leave the house.  She is partial to the sight of me in lycra, chasing me and my wheels as I dance about on both feet to avoid her fangs as I am making my way out of the door, but now that the evenings are drawing in and we start to wake up to dark mornings and early evenings what are the options to fit in riding time during day if commuting isn’t part of the work ritual and riding is only possible during the day on weekends?  Use the rollers, the turbo, do nothing or bite the bullet and head out for a night ride. 

As we head into winter my friends are swapping their summer bikes for their winter ones, some are changing their tyres to something grippier and thinking about upgrading their tech. The men’s debate about leg hair, to shave or not to shave is back up for discussion as the winter tights come out, with a dedicated few holding on to the very bitter (pun intended) end and staying loyal with the shorts because they’re a hardy bunch in the fens!!  Some are taking time out and swapping the road bike for running, some are doing cyclocross and some of us are still hooked on getting out one last time before the weather changes for the worse. Night rides are now on the agenda but riding in the dark doesn’t have to be as bad you may think.  As long as you have your lights, helmet and good reflective kit as a start, like the advert says Be Bright, Be Seen. Think Road Safety!

 Rachael with two friends riding their bikes

Riding has been so much fun and it’s been quite an adventure to head out in the dark to meet up with my Chatteris Cycling Club buddies on a Tuesday GTG ride. The GTG has a “proper” name, its inoffensive, sweet but brilliant, and I am sworn to the secrecy not to give the name away which also has had me chuckling when it pops up on the club page with people guessing what it could be, Gin Tonic Group??  Each week the group meet outside the local church and with flashing lights and reflective kit we all head out of town with the beep beep to start the Garmin and the occasional silence of the one who forgot to press anything.

 Rachael in her Primal Cycling Clothing

I find that riding in a group in the dark seems to disguise the effort I am putting in.  I’m not sure why, maybe it’s psychological because I can’t see what’s ahead in the distance even though I know where I am and know the route like the back of my hand.  A couple of things about riding in a group at night is that the roads around you are well illuminated with cycle lights and if like me, you ride around one of your regular loops you kind of know where there are any major potholes, cambers or any static hazards you would expect to see in a day time ride. The other thing about riding in a group whether its day or night is also about putting trust in your fellow riders and them in you when sitting on to their back wheel and part of the trust is to be each other’s eyes and ears.  Riding at night within a group makes it that little bit easier in some respects when alerting your ride buddies to a vehicle approaching as you can see the lights in good time. It’s also a game of trust when we are leading or sitting on the wheel relying on them to point out the potholes or whatever hazard there may be coming up imminently (this time of year its veg off the back of a lorry). Luckily everyone I ride with is well versed on the etiquette of group cycling from pointing out a pothole to checking the wind direction and moving off before clearing their airways. 

With all of the storms and tail end of the hurricanes these last few months a few rides have been cancelled and only braved if it’s a gentle blustery one.  My kit choice for being comfortable and warm has mainly been my onyx wind proof jacket, electric shock arm warmers and onyx leg warmers. The pattern of the electric shock arm warmers stands out and there is a decent amount of visibility from the wind jacket with the large ‘Primal’ logo on the back as well as the logo and reflective material on the leg warmers. I have recently added to my kit another new favourite being the Blue Chime Heavyweight Jacket and the Pompon Maska and both have been perfect at blocking out the cold air as we head out of town on to the open fen roads. 

On the most recent night ride 8 of us rode out on to one of our usual routes, it was a warm and yet windy but keeping tight we were able to work together well and ride safely, it also helps knowing each other’s ride style.  What makes night riding great is seeing so many other club riders zooming past in their pelotons sharing the road and oddly in the dark they look like UFO’s as they approach in the opposite direction in their bunch.  Spotting one team heading towards us at a fast pace was greeted with a hello from the GTG ride leader Leigh who also races with the pack who were heading our way but my eyes were fuzzy trying to even work out the blurred faces as they zoomed passed in to a strong fen headwind.  Now, at this point I will just say that I know I’m probably a bit boring going on about these headwinds all the time in my blogs but they are a thing, there is even a Strava group called The Cambridgeshire Wind Conspiracy and in a recent edition of Cycling Weekly, one rider wrote in to say they thought it would be easy cycling in the nice flat fens but never factored in the 20 miles of head wind, utter misery!  So back to the night ride, with the UFO now passed by at speed and into the extreme headwind, we headed into a cross tail wind along the Forty Foot Bank which is a 6-mile-long stretch of river road which consists of… a river which is about forty feet wide and very deep and nothing much more than flat farmland.  With a tail wind almost behind, it was our final stretch home. This is a route which is normally a “free for all” for one last blast and one that pops up on my Garmin as a starred Strava segment. The cross-tail wind helped push up the overall speed as myself, Anita and Karen (on a recovery ride from her half marathon) grouped together as the guys split off and the front and tail lights are just a pin spot in the distance as we pushed ourselves to get to the bottom of the Forty Foot stretch, with a number of PR’s and overall achievements at the finish. I was glad that I had gone out and made that choice to ride in the dark leaving my good intentions of leaving the rollers with a pup intercepting my indoor workout to a rainy night.  A week later thanks to the back end of Storm Brian and a braving a late ride with Fatboy and Garreth I managed to achieve a QOM on one of the starred Strava sections along the river.  Pushing 29 mph for 6 miles in a strong tail wind was a great feeling and it was only just making me feel like I was putting in a hard effort without sounding pretentious. While riding along this stretch it got me thinking about the abilities of riders to race at these speeds as standard without the aid of Brian and the need for them to maintain their power in training all year round for racing in events.  Do they prefer the rollers or the turbo or biting the bullet and getting out on a night ride and I got to ask that question at the Six Day London but I will save that for next month’s blog.

 Rachael in her Primal Europe cycling clothing

One thing I want to add to my indoor training, once set up properly, is Zwift in particular the Primal Friday night Crit. James Smith had blogged about Zwift earlier in the year and having tried it a few times before at events it’s on my bucket list.  In the meantime, I want to also try the RideSocial app in a bid to prepare myself for 2 sportives in November.  I had used the RunSocial app while training on the treadmill for the London Marathon in April this year which was a selection of mixed virtual and reality routes that distracted me enough to run sections of a chosen place in particular the VLM route. RideSocial is very much the same thing and you can download the app onto an iPad or on to your mobile phone and you can even use it with your virtual reality headset if you have one!!!  I can just see myself now with a VR headset cycling my way through a chosen route on….. the rollers!  I say rollers because I have more chance of staying upright on that than on a turbo having demonstrated a small domino effect earlier in the year in a Turbo Tuesday class when during a sprint stage my back wheel popped out of the stand and I gracefully floated to the floor, still clipped in and in a state of uncontrollable silent laughing.  So, until next month if you ride indoors make it epic!!! If you ride at night, be bright, be seen, be Primal and keep safe!!!