Nighttime riding, fear and loathing.

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pistonbroke
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Nighttime riding, fear and loathing.

Post by pistonbroke »

With the impending change to daylight saving time and naturally shorter days, thought I'd canvass opinion and coping strategies regarding riding in the dark.
I find myself avoiding riding into the darkness, even on semi competitive events where doing so would definitely improve my position. I much prefer alpine starts so in effect riding out of the darkness. I realise it's an irrational fear and could be overcome by training myself into having a routine to find all the stuff necessary to transition between riding, eating and sleeping and just get used to the reduction in awareness of my surroundings caused by peering into the pool of light in front of my wheel.
There's no denying it, the dark worries me. Falling off and not being seen for hours, animal or axe murderer attack, mechanical failure are all things that a grown man should not give a second thought to but when riding long days in unfamiliar areas, I get this rising sense of dread as it gets dark and I haven't sorted myself out.
Anyone experience similar? Any ways of dealing with it?
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Cheeky Monkey
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Re: Nighttime riding, fear and loathing.

Post by Cheeky Monkey »

Not really, sorry :cool:

If you have a preferred riding routine and it works for you maybe stick to it? I appreciate that might not fit with other intentions.

If the world is getting on top of me or I'm getting twitchy, the fear, massive nerves etc I've found a handy way to get a bit of calmness is "square breathing". It's ridiculously simple but can be quite effective. Look it up on Google if you want to know more. They aren't for everybody but if it works ... :grin:
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Richard G
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Re: Nighttime riding, fear and loathing.

Post by Richard G »

Stupidly powerful lights, two of them.

When I used to run a single light on my bars I had much the same issue, but running a light on my helmet and a light on my bars helped a lot with the "pool" thing. Sounds to me like you'd prefer a light with slightly more spread on your bars too (and leave the helmet light to more spot duties).

But yeah, other than that it's just getting used to it, and you know, avoiding the wolves.

As for falling off and not being found for hours... two lights randomly pointing out of the side of a hillside is likely to cause passers by to investigate. Probably moreso than just ending up half buried in tussocks in the middle of the day. :lol:
Last edited by Richard G on Mon Oct 12, 2020 9:47 am, edited 1 time in total.
middleagedmadness
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Re: Nighttime riding, fear and loathing.

Post by middleagedmadness »

Not sure it’s a fear of the darkness but more the ingrained feeling that I should be asleep late night/early morning , which is strange as for 30+ years I’ve worked nights off and on and been on call when working days so lack of sleep or being awake when I shouldn’t be is the normal , but I still have a little apprehension when night starts to set in , but once it’s gone dark I enjoy it more than day riding as I’m on my own and the world has gone to sleep . Worst time for me is dusk especially if riding the roads as people are still about and usually rushing to get home
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RIP
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Re: Nighttime riding, fear and loathing.

Post by RIP »

Richard G wrote: Mon Oct 12, 2020 9:46 am Stupidly powerful lights, two of them
Reckon that's the ploy, then it's pretty much daylight anyway. And ride at walking pace, enjoy the different sounds and sights of the darker side. Sorry to be contrary, but love dark winter rides :-bd .
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Scud
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Re: Nighttime riding, fear and loathing.

Post by Scud »

I really enjoy riding in the dark, i do tend to fall back on a collection of regular routes though and don't try to much that is new, i leave that for weekends, but the dark often means you have thoughts to yourself, less traffic and where i live it turns into a nature ramble, often see deer, barn owls, a road near me at this time of the year is always covered in frogs, badgers etc.

Also good time to ride in a group, motivates you all to ride the worst of the weather and drag each other out
shutuplegs
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Re: Nighttime riding, fear and loathing.

Post by shutuplegs »

I get the same thoughts, I think part of the issue is I tend to get more ‘inside’ my own head at night as there is less to look at and these thoughts rattle around in there.

Things that help me:
-more powerful lights that I have confidence in
- thinking back to other times when I’ve ridden in the dark, fixed a puncture in the dark, fallen over in the dark etc etc and it’s been fine!
- thinking about the cool things that I’ve seen while night riding. I once had an owl follow my light beam and was swooping around trying to hunt small startled things.
- stars*, take a second at a gate or other stopping point, turn your lights off and look around at the stars you get to see while everyone else has gone to bed!
- riding an event actually helped me on the BB200 this weekend, I felt that it was more legitimate to be out.

As it happens I quite enjoyed the darkness during the BB200... kind of.

*may not apply...
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Re: Nighttime riding, fear and loathing.

Post by redefined_cycles »

I have this fear too Duncan...

I find the stupidly powerful lights strategy helps. Not got one on the helmet but when using my lumenator I had enough spread to be calm and just get my head down. Then I swapped over to the niteCore and the dread almost came back (hence I'll be upping the Lumenator to an Exposure or similar at some point)...

I also find that once your out everything works out nicely (I also recite the Ayatul Kursi which is the most powerful verse of the Quran and used for protection and we're taught that nightime travelling - not alone as such but that's another story - is shorter as Allah reduces the distance... no help to you, sorry but is one of my strategies all the same!)...

Lastly, I think knowing that you're not one of those that the 'all the gear, no idea' rule applies to does help somewhat. As does, 'when I get tired or need to sleep I'll just find a spot n bivvy/pitch up' strategy...

Not sure if any of thats any help (or even makes sense :smile: :o )
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In Reverse
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Re: Nighttime riding, fear and loathing.

Post by In Reverse »

Richard G wrote: Mon Oct 12, 2020 9:46 am Stupidly powerful lights, two of them.
That makes it easier for the murderers to see you and follow you though. :shock:

I'd recommend listening to a podcast Duncan. Might help to keep you grounded, keep your mind occupied and stop your thoughts wandering off into unwelcome places.

The night-time riding is genuinely my favourite bit of the long events. Rolling along in the dark where you can't see anything outside the circle of your light, you haven't a clue where you are or where you're going and all you have to do is keep turning the pedals until you're too tired to do it any more - I find it very cathartic. :-bd
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Re: Nighttime riding, fear and loathing.

Post by Bearbonesnorm »

Love riding in the dark, especially all through the night ... not something I do that often but really enjoy putting myself in the little bubble of light and being swept along by it.

I tend to view night as I do day - there's nothing out there in the night (of any threat) that isn't there in the day and in truth, I'm the scariest thing out there 24 hours a day :-bd
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Re: Nighttime riding, fear and loathing.

Post by PaulB2 »

I'm not great at night time navigation so that's always a bit unnerving. Having to change a puncture in the dark was a nightmare and led to me getting a helmet light. All that said, if it's a route I know then trundling along in the dark is quite peaceful.
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Re: Nighttime riding, fear and loathing.

Post by jameso »

Interesting topic ... I'm with you on the Alpine starts PB. I love early mornings on trips but don't really get into the 'riding through' thing. I've done it a few times but it seems to negatively impact the daylight riding - you need to sleep some time so may as well do it when it's dark.

There's a weirdness to night-time riding that I like, maybe it does come from a dash of natural fear of the dark or exposure. I've had a few road tours across northern France where the wind turbines across the open countryside create an odd feel to place. War of the Worlds or The Iron Man, something like that. You're being chased. You ride past houses and envy the warm glow within but would still rather be where you are. Their safety makes your exposure seem more real? Sometimes it gets wet and a bit shitty, even more real. I think I like feeling confident or in control in those situations, it's rare that cycling gives you that feeling, or tests whether you deserve to have that confidence. I'll get bored of it by 1am though. Riding in the dark just gets less interesting for me as the hours go by, almost as if many of the sensations that motivate speed are gone.
I see the positives, the stars and being out there in itself, though tbh I get that from a bivi too - love falling asleep looking into the stars. I have had a couple of really good full moon rides into the small hours. that really helps as you see a lot more. Used to love full moon night scrambles in Snowdonia.

Sort of related.. I was inspired by distance racing when Mike Curiak and Pete Basinger were making news, then Matt Lee. Back then it seemed that efficiency and a sort of Alpinism-by-bike approach won races. You rode well and rested effectively. Matt Lee talked about the benefit of natural rhythms over very long events. Sleep deprivation was used as a tactic but hadn't gone as far as it has done now. Even John Stamstad's first GDMTBR ITT took him 18 days and he was well known back then for coping w/o sleep. I guess my loss of interest in ITTs or that kind of event / side of things in general might be related to the celebration of sleep deprivation among the winners - not that I don't respect what they do, I just don't aspire to or want to do long hours in the dark. I know what it can get like and maybe it's like being an inquisitive teenager with some magic mushrooms - once or twice might give you a new perspective, repeating it gets weird.
Fascinated by the mental aspects of it all though for sure, would love to know how Sofiane Sehili deals with it and what motivates him to ride like that.
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Re: Nighttime riding, fear and loathing.

Post by Lazarus »

Fear of the dark is not really that rational - though we all have it to a greater or lesser extent. In terms of risk the reality is I would see more people on one summers sunny commute home[ about 6 miles through a park many perceive to be “ full of junkies”] or night ride than in a lifetime of winter night riding . Personally I think it’s the safest time to ride as there is just no one about in the middle of nowhere at -2 up a hill.
After 20 + years of night riding/walking and living in remote areas with no street lighting in all that time I have - unless they were also cycling- bumped into two people . One of them I knew [long story] and the other was walking his angry mad dog at night [ it was actually fine with me but was barking before i could see it]
I don’t know how you overcome your fear – group rides?
Finally remember there is nothing there during the night that was not there during the day – its just now its awake and hungry :wink:
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Re: Nighttime riding, fear and loathing.

Post by redefined_cycles »

PaulB2 wrote: Mon Oct 12, 2020 10:55 am I'm not great at night time navigation so that's always a bit unnerving. Having to change a puncture in the dark was a nightmare and led to me getting a helmet light. All that said, if it's a route I know then trundling along in the dark is quite peaceful.
Message to self... must get (a lighter) one (as my current one is a nitecore and would be too heavy.. so I dont keep up there)
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Re: Nighttime riding, fear and loathing.

Post by jameso »

Fear of the dark is not really that rational
No, not rational now but instinctive to us all. Takes far longer for our instinctive brain to evolve than the time taken for our environment to have changed - a point I hadn't appreciated until reading something about why so many of us have a need for leisure time outdoors. So the caution in the dark is as basic as the need to not be in a modern work or city environment.
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Re: Nighttime riding, fear and loathing.

Post by Lazarus »

Agreed and fundamentally humans rely on the sense of sight above all others so when this is removed or greatly reduced we[most of us] feel vulnerable even though there is nothing out there to harm you in the UK , except other humans.

Basically your ratinal mind needs to beat the " inner chimp" and i assume group rides and experience are the way of doing this
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Richard G
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Re: Nighttime riding, fear and loathing.

Post by Richard G »

One thing I really love about riding in the night... I can't see the hills.

For some reason I settle on a much more manageable pace when I just assume that the hill I'm on will go on forever.
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Re: Nighttime riding, fear and loathing.

Post by ScotRoutes »

It's hard for me to understand the problem. Though always being a city-dweller I was taken camping (including what we'd now call wild camping) as a bairn and when a wee bit older that would include evening walks. Some of my favourite memories of my father include walking through the dark.

When I was heavily into motorbikes I loved night riding. That could be either the enjoyment of a twisty road, vision confined to my bubble of light, or the "romance" of turning up at some services, lit up like an oasis.

Walking and cycling in the dark has therefore always been natural to me. Riding through the night also brings that lovely dawn awakening. If weary that is a real boost.

Oh, I also think you can have too much light and it can ruin the experience. There's a balance between having enough to be able to see where you are going and too much that it blots out all around you. In fact walking and, indeed, running, is actually better as you aren't needing so much light.
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Re: Nighttime riding, fear and loathing.

Post by psling »

jameso wrote: Mon Oct 12, 2020 11:46 am
Fear of the dark is not really that rational
No, not rational now but instinctive to us all. Takes far longer for our instinctive brain to evolve than the time taken for our environment to have changed - a point I hadn't appreciated until reading something about why so many of us have a need for leisure time outdoors. So the caution in the dark is as basic as the need to not be in a modern work or city environment.
Interesting, if basic, take on this:

Even though it sounds like a childish thing to believe, our fear of the dark is an evolutionary trait that we picked up to survive real-life predators stalking the night. Researchers have hypothesised that this innate fear stems from a point of human history when we were nowhere near the top predators we are today. Humans only really became super predators with the advent of technology, which wasn’t that long ago.

Before tech, our ancestors were constantly on the look-out for predators that wanted nothing more than to chow down on human sandwiches. To make that even scarier, most of these predators hunted at night - a time of day when we are especially vulnerable to attack because of our relatively poor eyesight.

This means that it was super important for our ancestors to stay safe in the middle of the night. If they didn’t, they’d die. Over the years, this nightly fear became instinctual, and we still experience it today as a form of mild anxiety.

According to Andrew Tarantola at Gizmodo, a 2012 study by researchers from the University of Toronto in Canada claimed that this anxiety isn’t a full-blown panic reaction. Instead, it’s kind of like a lingering, foreboding fear that keeps us on edge, which is exactly what our ancestors needed. This type of anxiety is your body’s way of keeping you on your toes in case you need to 'fight or flight' yourself away from danger.

Being afraid of the dark is, in essence, a fear of the unknown. We can’t see what’s out there and it freaks us out because our imagination fills in the worst possible thing. For ancient humans, it was lions and other predators, and in today's big, predator-free cities, it's monsters.

We create monsters because they fill that predator void. A great example of this is how horror movies work: good ones never directly show you the monster because your imagination makes something way scarier.

As early human civilisations slowly morphed into the city-loving societies we have today, our fear of the dark remained. Only it’s a bit strange now because most of us don't need to fear the dark, especially when we have lightbulbs
[read high powered bike lights in our case], phone screens, and TV sets that, for better or worse, make darkness a choice, rather than inevitability.
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Re: Nighttime riding, fear and loathing.

Post by ScotRoutes »

Being afraid of the dark is, in essence, a fear of the unknown. We can’t see what’s out there and it freaks us out because our imagination is
Which is maybe where our experiences play a part. I have no fear of the dark because I know there's nothing out there to be scared of. It feels as comfortable and familiar to me as being out in the daylight, just different.
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Re: Nighttime riding, fear and loathing.

Post by fatbikephil »

Generally not been much of a problem on road and I overcame off road fears after buying some decent lights so that I could see what I was about. Going through very remote landscapes I've no issues (eg. the Cairngorms) but I'm slightly nervous about farmyards etc (even on an ROW) mainly due to my overwhelming desire not to annoy or frighten other people or get set on by their dogs......

Start out on trails you are very familiar with and build up to ever more remote places.
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Ray Young
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Re: Nighttime riding, fear and loathing.

Post by Ray Young »

Night riding doesn't bother me but I'm not a great fan as there is no view and that's one of the main attractions for me. I'm also with htrider, I don't like going through farms at night.
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Re: Nighttime riding, fear and loathing.

Post by benp1 »

In general, you're the one everyone is worried about. A nutter out on their own, in the dark

I regularly spook myself in the dark, but I'm usually able to rationalise it by saying it's all in my head. Funny noises, movement, shapes in the dark, tree stumps that look like people, pair of eyes glaring back at you, getting chased by animals, owls taking off right in front of your face.

Night riding is my main time to ride, I have 3 kids and a puppy, rarely have much free time in the daytime so I get out in the evenings, when I can, for a ride as the kids are in bed. I can't remember the last time I saw another cyclist in the dark (apart from on relatively busy roads), that's one of the best bits about it

I did have a crash a couple of months ago and gave myself a talking to, stupid thing to do and if it had been bad then I might have been there a while... depending on where you are though the same thing could happen in the daylight

I don't like riding with blaring lights, I usually ride on the low 24hr setting on my exposure lights, but do turn them up for quick bits
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Re: Nighttime riding, fear and loathing.

Post by ssnowman »

I used to work near Epping Forest and regularly rode there after work in the dark, mainly on my own. My work colleagues all thought I as mad. On my very first night ride, my new Lumicycle Halide light failed and I got lost and had to find my way back with a tiny headtorch, but that didn't put me off, I just bought a Joystick as a back-up light.

The only slightly scary moment, was once meeting a horse and rider coming in the opposite direction without any lights (I don't know how you'd mount lights on a horse or a riding helmet).
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Re: Nighttime riding, fear and loathing.

Post by Cheeky Monkey »

ScotRoutes wrote: Mon Oct 12, 2020 12:18 pm ...

Oh, I also think you can have too much light and it can ruin the experience. There's a balance between having enough to be able to see where you are going and too much that it blots out all around you. In fact walking and, indeed, running, is actually better as you aren't needing so much light.
I agree. Decent lights are great but the "night-into-day" ones stop the experience being quite as unique as it can be. Though of course, if you've got the heebie-jeebies then I guess you might not hold the same romantic view of night-riding as me :wink:
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