Mickey Cranks Cycling Club – Naughty Night Riders
This article has been cobbled together to introduce those newer riders in the club, who may not be aware that the club has a hardy bunch of determined cyclists (“nutters” the uninitiated would say) who ride weekday evenings all year round.
If you have joined the club since April, you will hopefully be aware that the main club rides take place on Sunday mornings with up to 6 (or 7 if you include MTB in the Winter) groups heading out from HQ (Mickey Crank’s Shop) at 9 a.m. throughout the year. You should, hopefully, also be aware that there are club rides on Tuesday and Thursday evenings, again leaving from HQ at 6.30 p.m. What you may not be aware of is that these rides do not stop once the nights draw in and the clocks go back. That’s when the Naughty Night Riders (NNR) come out to play.
The NNR were the brainchild of Steve Heath who will again be leading the majority of the rides again this year. Steve has been leading the rides for the last three winters and has seen attendance grow from three or four hardy souls over the first winter to a dozen or more on busier nights last year. So, what are the NNR all about? What does it take to become a nightrider? Well read on and I will try and answer some of the more common questions and dispel a few myths.
When do the NRR meet?
There are usually two per week. Tuesday’s ride is a flatter route with a hilly ride on Thursdays. They start at 6.30 p.m. and are usually finished by 8.30 p.m.
There are, occasionally, special night rides organised on an ad hoc basis. This year we did a 100 mile ride through the night in July. There was also a fancy dress ride at Halloween last year.
How far do the NNR go?
The distance is typically between 25-30 miles depending upon terrain and those attending. The routes are normally repeated weekly in order to try and get to know where the worst potholes are. Main roads are avoided where possible but there are one or two ‘A’ roads, mainly on the way out from, and back to the shop.
Will I be able to keep up?
The rides are tailored to those attending. If there is a clear gap between the fastest and slowest riders, then two groups will be organised so everyone can get what they want from the ride. As a rough guide, if you can cycle 25 miles without stopping at a pace of around 15 mph average then you will cope easily.
If this is a little beyond you, then come along anyway and build up your speed and endurance over the winter without the need for boring, lonely sessions on the turbo trainers or dodgy rollers. You could go Spinning but this will do nothing for your bike handling skills and its much trickier to hold a conversation!
If 25 miles without stopping is your cycling goal, then the night rides are not for you.
Some group riding experience would be useful but not essential. There are always enough experienced riders to give you a few pointers along the way. It’s important to know that no-one gets left behind. If you have a mechanical issue (usually punctures) then the group will stop to assist and make sure you get back to HQ.
Do I need any special kit?
A helmet is a must. This is probably the only hard and fast rule on any ride with Mickey Cranks Cycling Club. No helmet. No ride.
Obviously you will need a road worthy bike. Road bikes are the most popular choice but we do get the occasional mountain bike or hybrid too.
Lights (white at the front and red at the rear of the bike by law). For those who may not have ridden in the dark before, there are two types of bike lights; those you use to be seen and those you use to see. Spending a pound on cycle lights at the Pound Shop (other cheap outlets are available) may get you a pair of bike lights but these will only give you the minimum requirement of being seen.
As a rough guide, anything over 200 Lumens is adequate for the NNR rides. If you don’t own a flash pair of lights and don’t want to splash out in case you don’t enjoy riding at night (I can almost guarantee you will enjoy it) then come along and sit in the middle of the group where less powerful lights will be less of an issue.
Mudguards. Although not a requirement, you will win friends quickly by riding with mudguards, at least at the rear. Riding along in a group, tasting the stuff flung up off the road by the rider in front is never a pleasurable experience and, at worst, can lead to illness if the rider behind is fool enough to ride along with their mouth open.
Clothing. This is a personal choice. Warm, dry gear with reflective bits is advisable but again, not essential. There were some rides last year that were warm enough for shorts and short sleeves in December. Hi-vis kit helps but again, is not essential in a group ride as there will be so many lights on show, the chances of not being seen by other road users is minimal.
Glasses. Riding at night in dark glasses is clearly a bad idea. Riding at night without glasses is a personal choice but spray from other riders, bugs and flying pebbles etc. are much easier to deal with when wearing protection over your eyes. The choice is yours.
Isn’t riding at night dangerous?
Riding in a group at night does require a little more concentration than daytime riding and, I won’t pretend that crashes don’t happen. Although I don’t have actual facts and figures to quote, I would say that we have had less crashes on the night rides than evening rides in the daylight, maybe because people tend to concentrate more when it’s dark.
When do the NNR begin?
Officially the NNR rides start after the clocks go back (30th October in 2016) however, there are still evening rides being run at present (Sept 2016) which start in the daylight and finish in the dark so if you want to dip your toe in the water come along on Tuesday night (Thursdays tend to be a bit more ‘hit or miss’ throughout the year) and have a go.
How do I find out more?
If you have any further questions about Night Riding, you can post a question on the club Facebook page or the web site and someone will reply with all the information you need. If you don’t use Facebook then you could always just turn up at the shop at 6.15 p.m. on Tuesday evening and ask any questions of those attending.
There is something really special about riding through dark country lanes on a chilly Winter’s evening. Your senses are so much more tuned in with the sounds and smells of the countryside. The sensation of speed is heightened and you will feel like you are flying along. You may find it’s much more enjoyable than a solo training session on a turbo and, come Spring, you will be fitter and faster than those that hibernate throughout the Winter months.
To sum up, come along and give it a try. What have you got to lose?
If your looking for more advice on Lights for night riding or commuting then please call the shop or better still call in and have a chat you never know you might even get a brew.
Written by Mark Cameron