As my training ramps up and I spend my evenings on the roads of Yorkshire I’ve had a lot of time to think about my ride in September and all that it will entail. All sorts of things float through your head as you potter around the countryside – Which bike do I use (aero or climber)? Do I need to add new parts to said bike? Do I take a big saddle bag? Have I got the right clothing and if not what do I need to buy? What should my training plan look like over the coming months and finally have I completely lost my marbles signing up for this thing in the first place?!
At this present moment in time there are only 2 things that are constantly playing on my mind about the whole thing. These are:
- The weather
- Riding into central London in the dark after 16+ hours on the bike
One on these I can’t control and the other I can kinda control.
The ride distance isn’t a concern right now (I don’t know why I feel like this as it should be absolutely terrifying), but the idea of the dark London leg of the ride make me break out into a cold sweat. There are so many variables to consider:
How fatigued will I be?
How many hours will I have spent in the saddle when I hit London?
What will my concentration levels be like?
What if I’m riding solo and not in a group?
What’s the traffic going to be like?
Do all London drivers hoon around like an episode of ‘Wacky Races’? (joke!)
I very rarely ride in the dark and so, with this in mind, this week I decided to ride two of my cycling clubs midweek socials. Although the clocks have finally gone forward here in the UK the sun is still setting at about 8pm and so by 8:30/9:00pm it’s dark and you’ll need lights and your wits about you as you ride home.
Two pretty obvious things resonated with me when I was thinking about the rides afterwards. Granted these may have stuck in my mind because I’m such an ‘after hours’ novice, but at least if I address them now I’ve got plenty of time to sort them or work on them.
Firstly being in a group when riding in the dark gave me so much more confidence and took away the majority of my first night nervousness.
Riding home solo after the ride along a couple of unlit roads certainly sharpened my senses, but I was acutely aware that I was constantly fretting about traffic and fidgeting with my light. Light pointed at the ground to light my way and oncoming traffic may not see me, pointed at oncoming traffic I can’t see the road in HD and the inevitable pot-holes until I’m on top of them or falling into them. I am actually considering taking 2 front lights on the ride in case I end up riding solo, one to have on constant beam pointed at the floor and the other to flash at oncoming traffic. It may seem like overkill, but I’m thinking the more I look like a coastal lighthouse the better!
Riding solo at night without the security of other riders you suddenly feel so much more vulnerable and exposed. Your rear light is a red beacon in a sea of darkness and you are constantly wondering if the driver of the car approaching from behind has actually clocked you and will give you enough space.
Strength in numbers is definitely the key and if I can get into a group on the approach to London it will certainly make me feel more at ease entering the capital (and put my Mum’s mind at rest as, to be honest, I can tell she’s worried about the whole thing). A group can work as a ‘presence’ on the road and as a result the group rides with more confidence and authority which means they are predictable in their actions to other road users. It also has the added advantage of keeping people alert with formation riding and chat which will hopefully prevent any mistakes or accidents.
Secondly I really need to make some additions to my cycling wardrobe!
I have nothing in there that has an form of luminosity or reflectiveness and to my point earlier about being a ‘beacon of red in a sea of darkness’ this isn’t helped if the majority of what you are wearing is black. So it’s time to find a gilet and a jacket that will leave other road users in no doubt that I’m there and light me up like a Christmas tree.
So it’s time to spring clean the closet and it’s out with the black and in with the hi-vis pink/yellow/green!