Saturday, February 20, 2016

Cycling All-Nighter Is No Edge Of Darkness

After bicycling 69 miles, my friend Jared and I were famished as we pulled into a Maverick convenience store on Fort Apache Avenue in the western suburban wasteland of Las Vegas. We wolfed down halves of a Roberto's chicken burrito that Jared had packed and joked with Andre the store clerk who couldn't be happier to play host to some guests.

When it's 3:45 a.m. and you see two cheery bicyclists enter the store instead of buzzed or drunk early-morning partiers in search of munchies, you're a happy store clerk.

Pulling a cycling all-nighter under the cloak of darkness is not for everyone. But if it's done right -- the right streets and trails, the right lights and reflector equipment -- it's not only perfectly safe but downright exhilarating to bike at night. Or more specifically, in the very early morning.

Jared is my fellow crazy bike route crafter, concocting amazing routes that defy conventional wisdom but work in practice.

He quilted together a stunning string of wide, well-lit boulevards and regional trails that were a pleasure to bike on.

The kicker -- the ride started from his home in Blue Diamond outside Las Vegas at 10 p.m. and we biked through midnight and the early-morning hours.

I got home at 4:45 a.m. after 80 miles, while Jared finished up his century and got home closer to 6 a.m.

Here are the myths and what's actually out there:

1. Cars Will Run You Over

Not true.

I'm sure the average bicyclist thinks biking at those hours is a ticket to getting crushed by cars. But we bicycled in the suburbs of the south Vegas area, Henderson and Summerlin and the fact is they don't call these places bedroom communities for nothing. There were very few cars on the roads, which were super wide and very well lit for many of the miles.

In fact, because the city of Henderson has built so many trails, we probably biked 25 miles or so of the route on trails. Most of the trails were also well-lit.

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2. Nobody will see you on the road because it's so dark.

Also not true.

In fact, visibility was excellent. The clarity was wonderful.

Jared and I biked under a clear, star-filled sky and near full moon and the lighting on many of the roads was excellent. The expensive suburbs of Southern Highlands and Summerlin like their street lights. There were very few sections when it was pitch black and we couldn't actually see the road surface. Biking at night creates defined images of light and darkness and I found the contrasts made for an easy bike experience compared to biking in the middle of the day when it's very bright out and glare will sometimes muddy the surroundings.

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3. Weather conditions will be rough.

So not true. Actually, biking at night provides cooler relief.

In my bike settings of Las Vegas and Florida, biking at night can be a tremendous haven from the intense heat during the daylight hours in the summer. This was not an issue when biking in February in Las Vegas but it will be in June. Jared and I biked with temperatures from the mid 40s to 52 degrees in Henderson.

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4. Boring at night will be boring.

Just the opposite.

One of the inspiring views was cycling on a segment of the River Mountains Trail in Henderson and looking down on the sea of lights in the valley at 1:45 a.m.

Seeing roads, neighborhoods, trails and mountains at night provides a whole new insight to understanding those things.

Jared's wife, Heather, also biked with us for the first two hours, before one of their kids drove and picked her up at a Jack in the Box off 215 in Henderson.

We met the funniest store clerk at Maverick, where Andre invited me in to re-heat a burrito in the store's microwave. He proceeded to show me on his iPad his daughter receiving an award and joined Jared and I for a selfie.

He wished us well. But the time I rolled in at 4:45 a.m., Pugsy my dog was ready for a walk and breakfast.

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