Cycling in the Dark

It sucks. I hate it it. It’s the worst. I do not do it — unless I am stranded and the alternative is hitch-hiking, which I really do not do because my fear of crazy rapists in cars outweighs my fear of crazy rapists lunging at me from dark street corners.

At Cal, there was a guy on the triathlon team, a grad student who was pretty fast, who did all his cycling in loops around the Oakland Airport at night. Until that point it had literally — actually literally, not figuratively literally — never occurred to me that people would ride bikes in the dark. After that it appeared only crazy people rode their bikes at night. Why? Because you need to SEE to ride your bike and you can’t see in the dark.

I don’t know what riding in the dark looks like to all the early morning commuters and late night athletes, but this is what it looks like to me most of the time:

Isn't your bike light so good.
Isn’t your bike light so helpful.

Things that suck about biking in the dark:

  • Not being able to see what you hit before you hit it
  • Not being able to see potential murderers or bears that lurk in the shadows
  • Not being able to see the skunk before it tries to spray you
  • Getting a flat, but not being able to see to fix it
  • The cold
  • The dark

Things that don’t suck about biking in the dark:

  • Getting where you need to go (hopefully)

When we lived in Sacramento after college I didn’t drive, so I biked everywhere. In the winter, I routinely biked three miles on the dark, unlit bike path through the woods from the pool/gym to our house. It was shorter than biking on the road, but way, way sketchier. One time, on my way home, a helicopter with search lights started circling overhead looking for a missing fugitive/alleged murderer. After that I took the longer route on the lit road.

This morning I got up at 5:45 to bike to the ferry, take the ferry into the city, and bike from the ferry to work. Apparently, it’s been a month since I biked to the ferry at 6:25 a.m. Apparently, it’s dark at that hour now. And, apparently, if you accidentally close the garage with your gloves inside as you try to find lights so that you can bike in the dark, you should take the two extra minutes to go back upstairs and re-open the garage and get the gloves, because it is cold in the dark at 6:25 a.m.

Pretty much everywhere that has tips about cycling in the dark says: wear warm clothes (sort of check), make yourself visible (sort of check), have lights (check), look straight ahead — otherwise your lights point at not what you want them to point at (check), don’t do anything sudden or stupid — cars can’t see you in the dark either (god, I hope, check).

Every now and then someone asks me to go mountain biking in the dark, which sounds like a terrible idea and always makes me think of the Ben Stiller story about night mountain biking. Amazing: