Ever wondered why people do bike rides overnight?
I shall attempt to elucidate.
I've done several, too many perhaps, and certainly so many that I can't sort the memories into appropriate piles any more. Like laundry in a tumble dryer they are all mixed up. I've not done many this year, one only I think, but I'm confident I'll be back for more when I've sorted my priorities laundry.
Firstly, I do them because they are absurd. I love the absurdity of getting a train from home to central London, riding somewhere in the dark, often passing a mere few km's, or much less, from my front door and bed, and rocking up at the coast to drink beer at eight o'clock. If the absurdity levels aren't high enough I'll go and do a parkrun, or ride home again. Though I've not yet reached the heights of a Friday Night Ride, a parkrun and a ride home. And that probably won't ever happen.
Then there is the group. I'm an extroverted, or outgoing, introvert. I like being alone with others. I like riding on my own in the middle of a group strung out over several hundreds of metres, with no one to talk to. I'm happy to stand and be a human-finger post in the pitch dark near Newdigate for 45 minutes in the small hours. Because I like to be a small part of something bigger.
Then there are the individuals. Friendship is born of trust born of shared experience. I'm not going to name names. Back in my pomp I forged a few life-long friendships with guys on the rugby pitch; they watched my back and I watched theirs, and blood was sometimes spilt and mixed in a common endeavour. So it is awheel with The Fridays. We avoid the spilling of blood, generally, but we watch each others backs, the tecs tec, the waymarkers waymark, those with spare working lights dole them out to those without, we sup in halls with strangers, and groupsave with strangers on the train, and we make friends. We apply our mutually complimentary skills and gifts and tools to those in need of complimentary repairs and fettling, and we make friends. The content of one hip flask is exchanged with knowing nod for the content of another and comparisons are made, and horizons broadened, and we make friends. We blow up in the middle of Yorkshire and those who have known us from of old take us to one side, and with just precisely the right words, and a comforting arm on weary shoulders, we find our second wind, and we deepen our friendship.
Then there are the destinations. I live in Sussex. Bognor, Brighton and Shoreham are on my doorstep. Yet I can rarely be arsed to ride to any of them. But riding to them through the night these oh so humdrum seaside towns and cities become magical places to be savoured and revelled in, whilst most others are still in bed. York as a starting point - a grand day out, who cannot but love the juxtaposition of it being a destination that is also a starting point, and what man of a certain age and outlook can resist the National Railway Museum by day and the Minster by night? Whitstable, it becomes more gentrified each time I visit, and in visiting it I make it more gentrified. But it's blooming lovely whether I go there by bike, by train or by car, but always at its best when raced to across the marsh. Sarfend. In a kilt. On a Brompton. Well, frankly, why not? A milkshake on Mumbles Pier is meet reward for a night well spent.
Then there are the lights and the nights and the sights. The sight of all those little red lights, some going blinky-blinky, strung out as the group climbs some hill. The Cathedral in Rochester. The drunks in whichever Essex town we pass through when the night-club closes. Riding at night, no nobbers in cars squeezing past with millimetres to spare. Safe to take the racing line along Lonesome Lane, clipping the apex of the bend on the wrong side of the road. The smiles on policemen's faces when they learn what we are up to, and no it isn't for charidee just for fun. Looking up and seeing lights in the sky and thinking "Shoot, I've got to get up there!"
I'll never ride LEL or PBP, but I have ridden from London to John O'Groats, something which I never thought I could do and could not have done without The Fridays. The same Fridays who taught me not only what it is possible for me to do on a bike but also who proved to me that I can enjoy doing it. The same Fridays some of whom have gone on to do ASTOUNDING things on a bicycle thus forcing me to concede that "never" is one heck of a long time.
So there we are. My unreasoned reasonings. For me the question to be answered will always be not so much "Why?" but rather "Why ever not?"
Love you all, ride safe.
Greg (the grumpy one)
If you're wondering about the practicalities of night riding, Mat Wills' Facebook post should bring a tear to your eye. Many of our riders capture the experience on their cameras. You can see some of these in our photo gallery.