Night rides - lonely on the trails? By heck it is; like the M25 out there.

Night riding in Surrey.

TN mooted the other week that he'd like to try a night ride, but would be uncomfortable going out alone. Fair play; I figure I'm in a minority in doing solo night rides and that most people at least double up. So last night we went out and what a cracker of an evening it proved to be. Sure the trails are still rat shit, but the air was clear, no rain and on the golf course TN gave me an astronomy lesson, him being an astronomy teacher.

Poor batteries.

We didn't stray far; the golf course really. Why not? Well TN's knock off Chinese Magicshine ate batteries that's why. He came out with a partially charged unit, and I figured this may well give us enough time to give him a taster of night riding around here. It lasted about half an hour, so I gave him the fully charged unit for my head lamp.

This is a C and B Seen four cell unit that normally lasts me two, three hour rides before needing a charge. Indeed after just over an hour using this battery TN asked what the blue on his head lamp signified. I've never seen blue on my lights, let alone red! Boy did his lamp burn power. I'd chuck that one and start again.

Indeed I'd chuck it for another reason; it just didn't seem to give out a decent beam. Looking at it, it sure seemed bright enough but out on the trail it was massively outclassed by my Gemini units. Even on my low settings I had to turn my light off to see if his was working. His got him out, gave him a flavour of night riding, but my opinion being that subconsciously they give no confidence.

For a start if planning on going out for more than an hour he'd need to carry a spare battery. It would be interesting - actually it wouldn't, it would be boring but you know what I mean - to try his battery on my lights. I'm guessing his headlight unit munches batteries and that his is probably fine; just get a better headlamp during the summer sales.

My night time pack is also substantially different to the one I take out during the day. Quite often my day pack will consist of keys and money. That's it.

I'm not a fan of carrying stuff.

Yet the night one? Padded gilet, spare long sleeve top, food, water, inner tubes, tools, first aid kit, two spare emergency Lezine bike lights, a torch, whistle, and rare for me, a 'phone. I hate 'phones. It's quite a substantial pack, and this is in addition to a bar mounted light, helmet light and two four cell batteries. I'm even considering the purchase of a spare two cell battery for those "just in case" moments that very rarely happen.

Busy trails.

My my, wasn't it busy out? Apart from us two we saw a jogger fully lighted up and a further four cyclists. Just in our little area, so there must have been far, far more people at large. Kind of nice to see but I bet the homeowners along the Downs get a little hacked off.

And, hate to say it, but going back to paragraph one, where people don't ride solo because if something happened, they'd not be found. Really?  Here in Surrey I've yet to go out of an evening where I've been the only one abroad.

Anyway, moving on. TN mentioned that he'd been accosted over at Leith Hill by an homeowner last Sunday. She'd asked him to ride somewhere else. At the time he wasn't even riding, just removing bikes from the rack so as to get under a tree that was balanced above the road. Really these people are cocks aren't they? I live right in town but don't stand there asking people to shop somewhere else because parking is a bit tough and the town busy.

Of course there is always the odd negative to consider, and one is being minging at ten pm on a Thursday night. Bike covered in mud, as is your lower half. And don't for a second think that because you got muddy Sunday morning, that this will be any different.

Nope. It's worse.

Why is night riding so odd?

You see riding at night you often have little idea what is up, or what is down. Gradual slopes all look flat. So, if gradual slopes look and feel different, what do you think mud looks like? It looks like normal trail that's what. You're concentrating so much due to limited vision and being out when Vampires and Wearwolves are, that those little mud patches you normally avoid are hit at normal speeds.

Puddles appear out of nowhere.

You fall off, and instead of sidestepping that big bog to the side, you go right into it simply because you can't see to avoid. It's all great fun in a splashy kind of way, but you and bike look shite when you get back. The joke being that I will go over my bike with a bucket of water and brush, yet in the cold light of day it looks as though some nutter has sprayed it with liquid goo.

Seeing as how we're talking cleaning....

Cleaning bikes.

My notion is that kit comes first, me second, so my bike always gets cleaned when I get home. I've started to use one of those 5 litre pressure washers that have turned up in garden centres. I think they are used for treating fences, but are great for treating muddy bikes. You know the type; plastic container that you pressurise by means of a little incorporated pump.

My regime is simple.

Get home, spray off the worst of the mud with 5 litres of cold water. Remove the chain and soak in neat FS-1. Then spray the bike with dilute FS-1 from Fenwicks. Go and have a cup of tea. Fill the container with hot water, then go over the bike again until all of the mud has gone. Repeat the hot water fill, but this time for my legs and shoes. Then remove chain from FS-1 and clean under the tap with hot water. Drape said chain over handlebars, whilst I go and have that much needed shower.

I used to use a bucket, brush and garden hose. However the hose always had small holes in it and was just annoying. Plus using the hose meant a million litres of water all over the place and a soaked patio. Now I use at most ten litres.

Yet again the PACE RC303 was my chosen bike, and yet again TN asked if it was a new rig even though it is a good five years old now, built around an older but unused frame. Look at my bike closely and you see a whole load of battle scars; from the chamfered rear mech, scuffed pedals, dinged brake levers and rims with little chips.

The frame itself has great chunks missing from rock strikes, falling down ditches, and being a general dick of a rider. PACE really make cracking looking bikes, but looking at their website it seems as though they've retracted and have nothing for sale right now. There are some new bikes coming, so I'm wondering if they've gone all 650b on us? For the record, in near 6,000 miles on the 303 I've had no frame issues at all and it is my default go-to ride.

It was a cracking night to be out, it really was. If you want to give it a go, don't hesitate. Just be wary of how reliable your lights are, and take two batteries. I really enjoy night riding, and have done so for twenty years. Don't let the dark stop you getting out.