Wednesday, November 11, 2009
In the dark
Knitters, I apologize in advance. Stay tuned for a forthcoming knitting related post.
These last few days I've been getting back on the bike after a round of flu. My strength is sapped and my time/speed sucks, but I'm moving again. However, things have changed.
What I have loved during this spring/summer of cycling has been experiencing the seasons again. Spring was so lovely, with ducklings wandering across the path, leaves budding... I could smell green grass and moving water. As summer approached there was a new thing to revel in every day, though some parts were infuriating (three times large black dogs nearly removed chunks of me), others kept me motivated day after day (the cyclist who, as he passed me, said: good pace. I was a new commuter then, struggling along with my heavy cruiser).
Suddenly it was fall. There was a morning where, deep into thought, I suddenly snapped into the moment and was completely disoriented. Leaves had fallen, and in that second I couldn't recognize my surroundings. It was the strangest feeling, and I was almost afraid for a second or two. Everything was different.. instead of smelling sweet green things, now the scent of dry leaves and smoke became common.
The time changed, and I realized that I had to rethink the whole commute. Parts of me are now too cold, so I knitted a helmet liner that would cover my chin, neck and upper chest. My tights are no longer sufficient, so I tried riding in jeans (fail), and now I'm considering some kind of wind pant to put over the tights. I have the right jacket, the right gloves; I've changed from riding in sneakers to wearing ankle boots.
It's dark. Doesn't sound like much, but I'm telling you, riding in the dark is a whole new ball of wax, a completely new skill set (which I currently don't possess).
HOME ROAD became impossible [for me] to [safely] navigate downhill... The first dark evening nearly scared me to death as I flew down the hill unable to clearly see the pavement, cars whizzing by my left elbow - stupid driver trying to rush out of a driveway before I crashed into the side of his car. Never again will I repeat that, so over the last few days I've been trying new routes. Last night I hit pay dirt, and found a combination of side-streets that were quiet, lit and.. all gently downhill. It was amazing. I coasted approximately 15 blocks before I had to put my foot to the peddle. After dozens of rides in raging winds, dozens more slogging up HOME ROAD, I feel like I've earned that free-ride. Problem solved.
Lighting also became an issue that isn't completely solved. I had purchased a really sweet headlight and thought that it was all I needed. Grossly incorrect. It really is quite effective at letting me be seen by those approaching, but that's about all it does well. I couldn't be seen from the side or from the rear, and more importantly I couldn't see where I was going. Curves suddenly appeared. Ninjas on the path (unlit walkers & runners wearing black clothing.. can't see them until the last moment, and it's difficult to perceive if they are approaching or retreating).. leaves or rocks? Potholes or raised pavement?
After a great deal of research and a trip to MEC I decided that I was going to 'go circus'. Now only a blind person could miss me. I currently have the same headlight, but BFML ordered me a serious replacement (I noticed last night that approximately 3 out of 4 riders have replaced their headlight with something much brighter). I have a flashing red light on the back of my bike, and another on my backpack. We installed some sparkling wheel lights that make me visible from the side, and also.. well, make me happy. It's like Christmas tree lights on my bike. I have a flashing white light on my helmet to top things off. I kind of love that one because it makes street signs light up/flash. My jacket, helmet and ankles are plastered with reflectors. All circus, all the time.
So, there I was, last night.. riding along the pathway through Shouldice park when I noticed that the tops of trees had lights skimming along them, to and fro. It struck me that I had a bicycle behind me on the path, and that the rider had a helmet lamp.
The rider never passed me.