Nightriding deserves a quiet night

Cycling Fintry HillsI was just abut to ride a post about commitment, but I am not fully committed to that, so I will finish that tomorrow. Due to the lack of commitment this weekend was a right mess of decision making, changing my mind every five minutes and so forth, but there was also a really good side to it – the first ride with lights since summer started (or at least what we call summer in Scotland).

Instead of riding 300k a day on the weekend I woke up with sore legs yesterday morning, which did make the decision to press the snooze button on the phone another time easy. Too easy, as the decision to scrap my initial plans wasn’t the right thing to do. I had committed to do something, and I usually don’t scrap plans easily (as most of them are thought through beforehand for good reasons). Long thing cut short, I didn’t really know what to do instead, but the original plans were out of reach due to the lack of daylight when I finally hurled myself out of bed. So the first attempt was packing the gear in my beloved saddle bag and head off, not sure where though. That ended with a puncture in Edinburgh, which killed all my (not existing) enthusiasm in one go and back to the flat I was. Standing there I came up with plan B, to go by train to Dunblane (after putting the proper pressure on the tyre) and then cycling to Rannoch Station or Bridge of Orchy and head for Loch Ossian with the train. Next mistake. I had left myself two choices, which led to deliberately skipping the harder option over Rannoch. When I got to the station I missed the train to Dunblane by two minutes, so the whole plan B was again up in the air, as 3o minutes can mean a lot sometimes. However, I found myself sitting on the train to Dunblane, so at least that decision was taken. Fresh off the train and a few miles in I had another puncture, which then again made me forget all motivation, and come up with plan C. As I hadn’t booked either train or hostel, I spontaneously decided to head back to Edinburgh, and this time I was committed!

With the commitment came the fun, and I had a lovely evening exploring the beauty of the Fintry Hills, which had been on my list of places to cycle for a long time, but somehow I had ignored them, despite the fact that they are so close to Stirling. It was a beautiful late afternoon to do so, and I took enough time to take pictures and to enjoy myself. I needed something to ease my mind after all the turns I had taken in the hours before, and this was a wonderful choice to do so. I was away from stress and hectic, and the fact that I had had a busy week contributed to he lack of motivation I had suffered from so far for the day. After 40k in the saddle I had rediscovered my fascination for the unknown roads, and a bit of sunshine made the end of the day enjoyable. After heading past Kippen and Fintry I passed Carron Reservoir, and remembered when we rode past here five years ago on mountain bikes. I could still picture myself waking up there shouting ‘I hate camping’, as that was exactly what I did when I first camped here with Yoda, my friend who is partly to blame for my current lifestyle. However, I had a great time this time and managed to get to Falkirk before darkness fell, from here it was off-road, with the train alternative running right next to me.

I was playing with the thought of riding the Union Canal back to Edinburgh at night, and here I was with no alternative left if I wanted to stay true to myself. And it was magic. I was the only person on a stretch of 35 miles, which even in Scotland means a lot. The path was as muddy as the day before, even worse, but fortunately the darkness covers the fact that you are getting rather dirty quite well. My Lupine Piko did a great job lighting up the trail, only in some sections a bit more light would have been a more beneficial. Cycling through two tunnels at the start near Falkirk made memories of Homer Tunnel come back to me, with water running down from the ceiling right onto the path through the tunnel. Only this time I was on my own, not followed by cars as back in the days in NZ. The more I ride though tunnels the more my lack of orientation disappears; I can still remember blacking out in the Rimutaka railway tunnel near Wellington, which resulted in a lot of pain and a broken helmet. This time I enjoyed the magic and scariness simultaneously, as I did the rest of the ride. My initial reservation towards riding in the dark was replaced by an unbeaten calmness that surrounded me, it was just me, the bike and nobody else. I passed a few lit up boats and houses, and chased heaps of rabbits that were surprised about my speed and presence. Next to me was the full moon guiding me back to Edinburgh and the lights of the big city, which illuminated the sky. Even the industrial madness of Grangemouth lay calm in the distance; all the hectic of the day was gone. With every kilometre I was calming down, and I was just purely enjoying the ride. In my head there was one tune, REM’s ‘Nightswimming‘. I didn’t listen to anything, just the sounds that surrounded me. The song was playing in my head, as was Shapeshifter’s ‘The Ride’.

Even another puncture couldn’t ruin the night. Coming into Edinburgh was a fascinating feeling, riding through all the boozed up crowds with truly muddy legs, looking ready for a shower rather than a drink. I felt proud that I had not given up, and I was hungry for more. Half of the Union Canal path got washed down in the shower, but the great feeling stayed!

See all pictures from the day & night here (low res mobile phone art) and here