Night Riding

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Riding around the university after midnight last night got me reminiscing about how much I used to ride and even train at night. When I was in high school, I worked at the local bike shop, Gran Sport. The shop started in the early 70’s, when the European bike boom first got rolling. Before then, you pretty much had a choice of a Schwinn or a Schwinn.

Anyway, by the time I was working at the shop, I was already into racing. I liked to ride with my friend, Ed Bauman, who pretty much managed the shop. The shop closed around 6, but we were never out of there before 7:30. It was one of those shops that people just kept hanging around way past closing hours. Customers and employees.

After daylight saving times ended, it got dark at 5:30. So by the time we were riding it would be pretty much pitch dark. We’d just ride around town a lot of the time. We used to do these time trials over at the university, a criterium on sidewalks around the bell tower. We would time our laps and do them all night. I think that is one of the reasons I learned how to corner well early on.

But sometimes, maybe twice a week, we would train out in the country. No lights. It was never more than 30 miles. The weird thing about it, at least it seems weird now, is that no one in an automobile would bother us the least. No honking, no yelling. On top of no lights, we never stopped for a stop sign or stop light. And no one cared. I guess it was the era where everyone rolled stop signs on bikes, I don’t know, but it never crossed my mind to stop.

We’d see police pretty often. Sometimes when we were done we’d stop at Dunkin Donuts and see police there. It’s true. Anyway, the most, maybe, a cop would say would be something like, “You know it is a lot safer riding with lights at night.” And there was a law, I’m pretty sure, that said you have to have a light on your bike riding at night. I think the police were a lot more lenient back then. It wasn’t like they were always out to get a hold of your license, looking for outstanding warrants. It was a time of common sense, even though riding out on the county roads at 9 or 10, without lights, doesn’t fit that category.

Riding around yesterday, I didn’t have any lights. Our roads are so horrible, it is dangerous riding around without being able to see that well. It is amazing how easy it is to forget how great the roads used to be compared to now. They just got incrementally worse, year after year until they are like they are now. Potholes most of the year and cracks running parallel to your wheel everywhere. You have to be pretty heads up at night to not have an issue here in Topeka.

I think that is a funny thing about life. When change is slow, you don’t notice it as well. I was watching some of the presidential debate last night and they were talking about the price of gas when Obama took office less than 4 years ago. They both used the number $1.86. It caught me by surprise. It seems way too low. I swear I can’t remember that at all. Gas less than $2 only 4 years ago? Strange.

Anyway, now, we have a huge selection of lights that are awesome. I don’t really own any, but I know they are out there. I don’t even have a blinky light. I’m not too worried about getting smashed by a car when it is dark out. There are too many other things to worry about.

Both Friday and Saturday nights in Tulsa, the races are at 9 or 10 pm, under the lights. I like racing late, when it is dark. Everything seems to come at you faster, making your decision making process that much more important. I will enjoy that aspect of the weekend, but the rest might just be a suffer-fest and for sure a reality check.

I went over to the cyclocross practice tonight and did the first real efforts I’ve done in over a month. We started out with 10 starts of about 200 meters. That hurt me. But, after that we did a short loop, with a hill and a set of barriers in it. It was less than 2 minutes long and I only made 2 before I pulled the plug. I had that asthma like feeling in my lungs, along with that taste that goes with it. I was still coughing a couple hours later. That wasn’t a good sign and not good for my mind. I know it’s early, but I already feel behind. Funny how that is.

These are the lights from when I first started. A leg light, which everyone owned, but they never worked, and a Wonder Light. The Wonder Light had a plastice bar mount that clamped onto the handlebars. I found these in the basement. Didn’t seem to locate the bar mount, but I know it’s there somewhere.

11 thoughts on “Night Riding

  1. VCScribe

    Used to train with my buddy Bill Porter after work at Arlington Schwinn Cyclery (Dallas-Fort Worth) when I was in HS in the ’70s. On tubulars. No lights. No helmets. Never an incident with cars. What kind of delusional freaks were we back then?? Wonder Lights worked. Most other things were crap.

  2. Joey Mesa

    There’s a lot of good bicycle lights on the market now. The “bang for the buck” factor is WAY better now than it was even 3 years ago. The set up I’m using right now is a 500 lumen LED headlight, and a nice blinky tail light. The whole thing retails for less than $200 and pretty much rivals a car headlight. I generally commute 20-25 everyday year round to work, and I actually feel the safest when it’s dark and I have the lights going. You definitely don’t blend in with the background so much.

  3. Stanley

    Grew up in downtown Charleston, SC. I used to sneak out of my house at night and ride my bike with no hands on the handle bars at high speeds along the Battery. Come to think of it, I never stopped at intersections either as there were few cars out. Peaceful with the moon and the water. It was worth the risk of getting in trouble for sneaking out!

  4. peter

    I remember training with yhose Wonder lights at night in Rock Creek Park on summer nights after work in the local shop around Washington DC too. They worked sometimes. I think that I finally took one apart and got my soldering iron out. After that it was on all the time…

  5. Mike

    When I was in the AF stationed at Spokane WA (1990 -93) My buddy and I would get off work at midnight, grab some grub at the chowhall and then make the seven mile or so ride downtown on our mtb’s. We’d ride all over Riverfront Park practicing trials moves in the outdoor ampitheater and other features of the park. Around four o’clock in the morning we’d roll back to base. I’m sure the gate gaurds thought we were nuts! If I remember right we ran battery powered lights and blinkies on the back.

  6. Denny Thiel

    I remember following my brother on the cinder trail between campus and downtown here in Ames. It was really dark, no moon, no streetlights. He had on one of those leg lights. Totally black except for that little light going up and down ahead of me. The longest few hundred yards I’ve ever ridden.

  7. Noel

    I remember getting bored and going down to the mall back in the early 1980’s and doing “Crit Corners” after most of the shops had closed. I also used to run laps around the subdivision too. After 10:00 most nights I had the roads mostly to myself. My brother gave me piles of NiCad batteries from avionics equipment his company worked on and I hooked them up to a headlight from a generator set. I never had to recharge them, just take a fresh set from the pile.
    The local mountain bike heads used to gather ever so often to ride up and down the parking garages in downtown Wichita. I tried it once. The climbing up was fine, but I didn’t have the skill or nerve for ripping down thru all that concrete at full speed to keep up with them.

  8. e carter

    Riding the Lawrence river trail after the leaves fall and with a full moon is one of my favorite rides ever. The trail glows white, and the only sound is of tires on sand. We used to take beer to the end, have a fire, and then ride out. Good memories.

  9. wheelman61

    It’s a good thing you worked in a bike shop. I remember that those Wonder Lights used a unique square battery that was short-lived and expensive. My brother and I used to ride illumination free from one end of Minneapolis to the the U of M campus on the other side of town.

  10. Mike Rodose


    Get a blinky light! Don’t roll without one. At least on the ass-end of your bike. They make rubber-bandy style. Maybe turn it on at all times. Why not?

  11. Larry T.

    Ed Bauman? Whatever happened to Ed Bauman? Still remember the days working with Ed on those TdF tours back-in-the-day when the only American winner was competing. We’d see Trudy now and then, most often on the final day in Paris. Was just looking at some old photos the other day and saw one with Ed…time flies


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