Night Bison ride report
I never heard of this ride before, but noticed someone posted it on the Oak Park Cycle Club email list serv. Seeing that it was a night ride right away peaked my interest since we don’t tend to have too many organized rides around here.
The ride is put on by AxleTree which is an advocacy group and event organization for North Central Cyclery in Dekalb IL. The ride is basically an organized, yet not supported ride that goes through gravel farm roads just south of Dekalb. The ride kicks of at 7:56pm which is when the sun sets that day. There’s no entry fee, although a liability waiver must be signed! The ride is listed as 50+ miles, which I fully understood why after we missed a turn!
Having friendly & familiar faces would make this ride more enjoyable! I was joined by Paul & Bill from Oak Park & Lake & Harlem cycle clubs so we decided to carpool out. On the drive out from Oak Park, we started to see some thunderstorms in the distance. I was almost certain that we were going to end up riding at night, on the gravel, in the rain, and with the tallest rider getting struck by lighting.
I almost didn’t do this ride because my “trusty” Nightrider flight wasn’t lighting up the day before! I had charged it, and all indications showed that it charged and was ready to go. I hadn’t used this light in about 3 years since I use to race 12 hour mountain bike races, but figured it worked the last time I used it so it should power up this time. WRONG! The backup LED lights lit up, but not the main HID bulb which would of lit up the road! Disappointed, I has to ride with my little Nightrider MiNewt mini light which I mounted to my bars. According to the website, you get 2-6 hours light time; mine only lasted 1.5 hours so another fail for Nightrider! Thankfully Paul had the same light as a backup, so he let me use his battery to get me thru the night.
There ended up being maybe 80-100 people at the start, which was far more then I expected! It was a picture of mountain, cross, touring and fat tire bikes. Needless to say it seemed like we were in company of a rowdy group! Our goal for the ride was to average a comfortable pace of about 15 mph. The first hour we ended up a little fast, covering 18.5 mph! It was exciting to be out at night and the weather was perfect, about 70 degrees! Oh, I forgot to mention that Paul and I did 52ish miles in the morning as well, so this first hour put some pain into our legs.
I wasn’t able to get any pictures from the ride, simply because it was nightime, and pitch dark out there. But picture this, for the first 2 hours or so we were treated to a great lightning show in front and to the east of us. Those clouds I pictured above, were producing some great storms high up, so half the sky was lit up with that, the other half to the north and west was perfectly clear and with no city lights you could see all the stars in the sky. It was perfect!
After about mile 35 my back started to ache, I lost some steam – by this time we were heading away from the storm so nothing to look at – and was just ready to get home. Then, out of no where this extremely well lit up front lawn had somewhat of a pit stop. This guy living in the middle of nowhere, decided to spend his night in front of his house with some refreshing iced Gatorade, pretzel and cookies. I think one of his friends was riding so he thought he could provide some support. It was great!
Again the ride was basically gravel farm road after farm road with very minimal turning. We rode basically a long rectangle to the south, heading east a bit, then back up north. Other then one maybe mile section of actual farm / grassy / corn section was was pretty slick and woke me back up, it was pretty straightforward.
A few takeaway lessons. You should have days where you just ride your bike for fun, and if you can, at night! It really makes you appreciate the ride, and without lights you really don’t have time to focus on power, heart rate or anything else. Just have fun! Another lesson, karma is a good thing. Paul ended up dropping his Garmin on a bumpy section of road, while Bill lost his cell phone in the above mentioned grass section. Both basically seemed 99.9% sure they would never get their things back, but with the help of some friends Bill found his phone, and someone found the Garmin and carried is back (while it was still recording!) back to the bike shop where Paul was able to rescue it. So thank you much to the people who found and returned this, and make sure to pay it forward!
With that, we ate some pizza back at the shop, and got back on the road to head home and get some sleep. Good night!