On the Night Ride

By CJ Rudy

Essay: On the Night Ride

Mar 3

(2022) Here in the northeastern United States, we prepare for the archaic time switch where the clocks are moved ahead giving everyone ‘an extra hour of daylight.’ It only seemed appropriate to mount the lights after a long day and head out into the dark countryside for the eerie experience of nighttime riding.

We are lucky to live in an area with a band of rural roads perfect for after-hours exploration. Tapping the old standby route used when time is short during daylight, it was with anticipation to experience it behind the spotlight of a cycling light. There were moments of anxiety, peace, and curiosity while surrounded by darkness. Riding at night has been a remarkable addition to the cycling experience.

Admittedly there were early moments of anxiety as the route had to pass through some neighborhoods and access secondary roads for brief distances. Once a major road was crossed, the farm roads came one after another. It is here that the roads normally perceived as flat revealed anything but. Every bump in the road was magnified by its shadow. Bouncing around the imperfections, the contrast of road detail glowing in front of the bike while navigating a tunnel of darkness humbled the standard outing. Anything could have been in the woods and farm fields, including a skunk who was caught off guard in a roadside ditch but luckily took no further action.

The route rolled past normally bustling houses. The shades were shut where lights were still on. Lights were off completely in many houses, reflecting the late hour of the ride. Two deer were confused by the lights and moved away from the road. Nearly ten miles in and no cars had been seen. After a few more turns, the anticipated Sweetbriar Road was accessed, a paved throughway amongst open land and sparse housing. Every glance over the shoulder featured the red blinking of the tail light and twinkling stars of the moonless night. Here and there the air grew colder. 

Eventually cars coming the opposite direction were encountered, but their confusion was obvious. Nearly every car approaching came to a stop, attempting to decipher what was in the oncoming lane. Even a police cruiser went out of its way to inspect this blinking entity on a country road. One car gave me the right-of-way, possibly thinking I was a motorcycle. 

The route looped back to the neighborhood in a peaceful way. The ride did not set one single speed record, but it hit the spot after a long day and long season of indoor riding. The lights might be stowed soon once the clocks are adjusted. Or maybe they will get used more to girdle the brief summer evenings straight through to morning. Either way, a night ride is an experience worth exploring to see standard routes from a different frame of mind.