Night rider

15 01 2016

When I first landed in the west coast on my feet, I congratulated myself with a brand new road bike; Columbus SLX frame, chromed forks and stays, Shimano 600 components (predecessor to Ultegra), Mavic wheelset.

It was a handsome ride.

But it was the 90s and mountain bikes were king. Most of my buddies preferred mashing trails on fat tires than long rolls on pavement out to the Fraser Valley.

So I joined them: bouncy rides over the cross country trails on Burnaby Mountain long before they were pocked and eroded by heavy downhillers, gruelling ascents and harrowing descents on the North Shore mountains, a jaunt or two out to Vedder or up to Squamish or Whistler. for a few years, the road bike gathered dust, a piece of kinetic sculpture leaning against a wall in my living room.

Some of our favourite rides were speedy rips along the numerous trails out at the UBC Endowment Lands. We could spend hours there, criss-crossing, looping around, reversing direction. The variety seemed endless.

We rode there in the rain, in the snow, in the heat. And when all of us finally acquired lights, we rode in the dark.

Bouncing over roots, mashing loamy trails, skipping through rock gardens takes on a different character when all the world just beyond the cone of your headlight is darkness. Your concentration heightens; is that a shadow or a rock? The sounds from the blackened forest startle and delight; coyotes howling, a mouse skittering, an owl swooping.

Pausing to take in the skyline lights.

Pausing to take in the skyline lights.

At our peak, we did these night rides two or three times a week, even through winter, usually followed by a beer and nachos at a pub nearby

But as our lives progressed, the night rides became less frequent. The winter ones pretty much ceased altogether. People moved away. Priorities changed. A busy workday became more tiresome; it was easier just to stay warm at home and watch TV.

My last night ride was three years ago; Little Ring was just a few months old and when I returned from an evening of cycling indulgence, his crying and fussing had worn Princess of Pavement out.

With time on my hands, energy to burn and Little Ring not so little anymore, it’s time to bring back the night rides

There’s not as many of us anymore; but the feeling of freedom, the cold air burning the lungs, the fearless barreling into the gloom are just as they were. So were the coyotes, howling at the sliver moon.

It’s good be back on the trails.

Introducing Little Ring to the trails at UBC.

Introducing Little Ring to the trails at UBC.