Adventures in Riding in the Dark

Since I was on-call this past weekend, it menat I had to be near a networked PC … that also meant no miles this past weekend.  Plus, since it is Thanksgiving weekend, I most likely won’t be able to get much riding in.  So, how do I get my mileage back up?  Well, thanks to the advances in light and battery technology, that provides more options for cycling.  Night riding … as long as I have available lighting, I can forseeably continue riding until it’s time to sleep, as long as my battery holds out.

I’ve got a pretty good system.  On my handlebar, I have a NiteRider MOAB, which is advertised to last about 10 hours (realistically, I’m guessing 4-5 hours).  It has 3 different modes, varied due to intensity of the beam.  The point being, this is bright, and can literally light up a completely dark street.  Then, I have a small blinker that I can mount on my helmet.  This way, I can direct the small beam at a particular section of the road if I see a particular dark area.

There are many viewpoints on the light on the helmet, ranging from it being bright enough that you don’t need a helmet light, to it being obnoxious to shine the light at a driver.  But my point is that no light, mounted on a handlebar, will allow you to see everything on the road.  If you are on a completely dark, unlit street, and it has a sharp turn, you obviously can’t see the contour of the road if your light doesn’t show you that.  The handlebar mounted light will only show you a beam in the direction of travel you are going … it will not show you possible turn you have to negotiate.  With a helmet light, you can direct the beam at a particular section of the road to prepare yourself for whatever obstacle you are approaching.  Okay, rant over.

Monday, I led a ride through Los Altos Hills, and Ben led a ride Tuesday from Los Gatos through Saratoga.  Both were great rides.  The Los Altos ride went through some steep grades, including Mora, Altamont, and Quinhill.  Riding through areas you ride through all the time in daylight is very different when riding at night.  It is very different riding, not just because of the lack of daylight, but also since you don’t know what’s up ahead, you are just focused on riding and climbing.  It makes routine riding an adventure, and exciting.

Quinhill was different … I had heard about this hill, but never climbed up it … so this was the first time we climbed it, and it was in the dark.  That was pretty cool … it was short, 0.2 miles, but steep, maxing out at 19%.

The temperature levels varied greatly, depending on if you are in a deep canyon, or if you are in an enclosed area, draped by trees.  I didn’t have a thermometer with me, but at parts it felt like around 50 F, but in the canyons, it probably dropped to 40 or even lower than that.

On the Los Gatos ride, this was all new territory to me.  Ben led us on a great ride through some expensive mansions are Los Gatos and Monte Sereno.  Not knowing any of the streets … eh, it’s in the dark, so it really didn’t matter anyways.  One time, we were riding on a street, and heard some ruffling on the side of the street.  I thought it was some local walking or hiking, but I was later told it was a deer.  Holy crap!

Eventually, the ride went back to Saratoga, and it went up this really steep climb, Villa Oaks, which eventually bleeded out to Mt. Eden.  That was a 0.8 mile climb, with the grade peaking at 18% … it ranged from 12-18% for a good 0.3 mile, so this definitely gave me a workout.  I gotta try this road out again when it’s light out … just wonder what type of views there are in daylight.

Descending through Mt. Eden, the temperature dropped like a rock, as soon as we passed the intersection of Mt. Eden and Stevens Canyon.  It’s a good thing we were climbing so that it could bring the body temperature up.  I only wished my Garmin had a temperature sensor, so it could track temperature through the different parts of the ride.

As far as pictures are concerned … this is in the dark!  So sorry, no pictures.  But I do have elevation profiles, but I guess that’s not as exciting.  I hope my description helps.

Los Altos Hill Ride:  30.2 miles, 1967 feet climbing.  http://ridewithgps.com/trips/6816

Los Gatos – Saratoga Ride: 40.6 miles, 2361 feet climbing.  http://ridewithgps.com/trips/6826

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