Night Rider

My friend and colleague, Jim, invited a few of us out last night for a spot of night time mountain biking. Let me say that again: mountain biking, on dirt tracks, in the dark. :)

It was every bit as insane as it sounds. It’s pitch black beyond the reach of your bike lights. I’d swapped the road tyres for knobbies, since unlike the others, I only have one bike that I use for everything. Four of us cycled straight from work over towards Studley Park and some singletrack that was rumoured to exist over that way. We hit the cycle path for a while before finding some singletrack that followed it. Not more than half an hour into my first stint at actual offroad mountain biking in about 10 years I was following the others along a goat track on the side of a hill. Apparently there was a serious dropoff directly to the left that ended up in the Yarra… eventually. One great thing about cycling in the dark is that you can’t see things that would scare you. You can’t look down. I really want to go back there during the day so I can see just how insane what I was doing really was.

After that 10 minutes of sheer terror, the standard tracks felt positively spacious. I wasn’t quite treadling along at breakneck speeds the way Jim was, but I kept up pretty well. Hell, I was damn proud of myself at a few points, such as successfully navigating a steep down and up combo that foiled Simon, the hardcore street racer. Not bad for a first timer. By the end of the night, I was locking the rear brake and sliding, getting air off the occasional bump, and bailing off the bike path because I thought I could see something interesting offroad. The combination of adrenaline and endorphins was obviously having an effect.

I’m amazed there were no major injuries. I got away with a slight graze on my right leg from an early off while I was getting the hang of traction on gravel. Everyone else got by with a few nice bruises and the odd scrape. Jim’s bike was probably more injured than the rest of us, with a couple of stops required to tighten a loose crank and some quick repairs of 4 or so detached spokes.

One drawback of the whole deal is that you’re so busy keeping yourself alive that there’s no time to take photos. There’s also the very real possibility of major damage to your camera. I have a little idea floating in my mind, though, of getting a lipstick camera and a small video recorder in a pack. I’d love to see the reaction from other people watching what we were doing.

Thanks to Jim for exposing me to this craziness. I’ll definitely be in on the next expedition, but for now I think I’ll go and check that my medical insurance is paid up.

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