Late December. With only a few hours of daylight and long hours of darkness, it is easy to be seduced by that warm cosy seat by the fire or that comfortable sofa in front of the television. Low temperatures also conspire to deter us from getting out there on the scooter. But there’s a whole magical world out there in the night, when lesser mortals stay indoors watching soaps on the goggle box.
Riding your scooter in the dark is an amazing experience. All you need is a decent set of lights and somewhere to ride. Everything is quieter in the dark, fewer people are around and all manner of wildlife comes out to play. But before you set out into the night, a few thoughts about preparation.
Firstly, you need a decent set of lights and you can find more on that subject in the Articles section above, so I’ll not repeat myself again here. Also make sure your batteries are fully charged or will have at least enough power to last the duration of your scoot. My preference is for two front lights, as you get more light and also have a spare should one fail.
Next, plan your route and tell someone where you are heading, how long you will be away and approximately when you will return. I would usually ride the route beforehand during the day as there are often things that are easily missed at night. A good example recently was some steps I encountered suddenly one night on a long downhill footpath. I only just spotted them in time otherwise I would have been airborne without a parachute. Even with street lighting, and my own lights, they were very difficult to see in the dark. If I’d scooted this route previously during the day I would easily have noted them.
Another consideration is clothing. The temperature often drops during the night and I always carry some extra clothing to cater for this, usually another t-shirt or a pair of leggings. You can always remove clothing if you get too warm but you cannot add extra clothing if you don’t have any! Reflective clothing, arm bands or whatever is often recommended at night but as I tend not to scoot on public roads it’s not something I bother with.
At night, your perception of place and distance can be different. Objects often approach faster than you might think. Distant lights might not be so distant and closer than they appear. I’ve often seem lights approaching that appeared to be a vehicle but were actually aircraft coming in to land. Sounds also seem to travel further at night and what appear to sound close by might be some distance away.
I’m often out on my scooter at night, scooting some of the woodland trails I’ve found locally while cycling and while I have an excellent knowledge of these trails, spotting changes in the route, or entrances and exits, is not always so easy at night. Coniferous plantations are particularly difficult as one trail junction can seem like any other. I’ve solved this issue by placing small strips of flourescent tape at these junctions, usually on branches or the like. My lights reflect from the marker making spotting the route change so much easier. I always carry a few inside the tool kit.
The golden rule I follow for scooting at night is to go slow, take your time and plan ahead. You may not be able to see much beyond the spread of light in front of you, so take it easy. One final thing to do and one I do often. Simply stop occasionally, switch off your lights and enjoy the scene. Wait a while to allow your eyes to adjust and you will be amazed at how beautiful it is, and usually just how much you can see in the dark. In urban areas, with an overcast sky, the reflected light from street lighting is often enough that you won’t need your own lights, same under a full moon. Enjoy.
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