As I wrote previously (see below) I had my best cycling summer in over a decade in part thanks to the pandemic.
Now I have another Covid-related two-wheeled win. Because the virus freed me up to explore getting back into cycling stuff I hadn’t done in a long time, I got looking at my ancient Nite Rider lights.
For the uninitiated, these things came out back at the turn of the century to allow mountain bike riders to hit the trails… in the dark!
Stupid, right? That’s what I thought too – until I was forced to try it. You see, back at that time, a few buddies of mine and I decided we’d sign up for a 12-hour MTB race in the north Georgia mountains, near where I lived then. It began at noon, so it didn’t take a math wizard to figure out a couple of us were going to have to ride in the dark. I prayed it wouldn’t be me because I thought the concept of nighttime trail riding was idiotic. But peer pressure prevailed and I joined them for the race.
None of us owned lights, but helpfully Nite Rider was there with a rental booth. We got a two-light unit to put on the bike, and a single beam for the rider’s helmet.
And we started the race.
It was fun, trading off laps as the day wore on, about 45 minutes each round so never too exhausting, and with five on our team, we got plenty of rest between rides.
But as you might have guessed, when darkness came on and I reviewed our rotation situation, I realized I was going to ride the last lap. One of my pals would have to use the lights on the penultimate lap, and then I’d have to take over and finish it all up.
Gotta say, it freaked me out some. But what are you gonna do? When the time came, we quickly switched the lights from the other guy’s bike and helmet to mine, and off I trepidatiously went.
And it was glorious! All the shadows and distractions of daytime trail riding were magically gone, with the beams brightly lighting exactly where I needed to see. I was around the course in about the same time as in daylight, and the only problem I had was from having the two-beam light on my bike on its highest setting, so its battery died halfway around. No problem, since my helmet light was plenty bright enough.
I was hooked. I got my own matched pair of single-beam Night Riders and spent the next couple fall/winter/spring seasons tearing it up in the dark on our local trails around Conyers, Georgia, where I lived at the time. That included the 1996 Olympic course, so we’re talking about some pretty gnarly stuff here. I loved it.
Then I moved away, and shortly afterward we had the first of our two sons. We no longer lived where trails were right nearby, and I no longer had time for long trips to find the closest ones. So I focused on my road riding, and the lights resided with my shop equipment in the garage. And got packed up and unpacked and banged up and abused through five moves.
So when I started thinking that maybe I’d give night trail riding a go again after my glorious Covid cycling summer, I had serious doubts about whether the lights would still work. They’re about two decades old now and took a beating from my abusing them in both my riding all those years ago and our moving around since. Heck, I didn’t even know if I’d find all the pieces!
But I did. And in the late summer, I plugged the two batteries in to recharge. And then plugged the lights in. And turned them on.
And they shone out just as bright as they did down in Georgia all those years ago.
I had to do a little mechanical improvising, because the handlebar mount was designed for a 1” bar, and we’ve now moved on to 1-1/4.” But hose clamps and electrical tape are marvelous things…
I waited eagerly for Daylight Saving Time to end. And then for the wet weather to break up. Marvelously, we were gifted unseasonably warm weather toward the end of last week. I mounted the lights to my bike and helmet and headed off to my favorite local trail last Thursday.
It was every bit as glorious as I remembered.
Despite being newly back to night riding, I turned my two laps in just seven or eight minutes longer than my regular times during the day.
I’ll say this, though – my lights are plenty bright. But there were other riders out there with modern gear, and holy cow, those ones are amazing. They might as well have the sun right in front of them.
Still, I gotta give a plug for the good folks at Nite Rider. Two decades on, and those babies worked like a charm.
It’s good to be back. Now to make hay while the snow’s not flying.