Riding out the path on Saturday night I was pondering how I (or anyone) could shoot a video that really presents the essence of a night ride.
It's hard enough in daylight. A ride appears linear, but travels through four perceptible dimensions on its apparently forward course.
Exceptionally talented fixed-gear riders might proceed an impressive distance on a backward course, but such riders are rare and even they usually have better things to do.
At night the most visible field narrows to the areas shown by whatever you are using for lights. When I was in my twenties, if my corrective prescription was absolutely up to date I might be able to ride at a foolish clip at night without any lights, but now I rely on powerful technology to make sure I see and am seen. With light comes shadows. But the world still exists in the darkness all around you.
The temperature was 27 degrees F when I started out. Some frost was starting to form. Stars glittered alongside half a moon. Things tend to glitter on winter nights even before snow spreads a luminous blanket over everything. The sky, if it's clear at all, seems exceptionally clear in the cold months. The bright stars quiver as if the frigid breeze reached them. Crystals form instead of dew as the night's chill settles. Reaching beams from a cyclist's light strike these minuscule reflectors that sparkle back.
As noted many times, the path I ride requires frequent zigzags to go between the rails or exit from them. The rhythm of the ride includes the sudden slowing, the well-practiced angulation, the sprint away. Each of these maneuvers swings the light. My comparatively weak helmet light probes for the course I plan to take while the powerful dynamo light splashes its radiance where the bike is actually pointing. Each pass through the rails is a tricky bit of peering to find the built-up crossing outside the brightest patch and get the bike lined up with it. When the fallen leaves are deep the crossings can disappear. I've over-run them a few times, jolting humorously down the uncovered railroad ties beyond the filled-in travel way.
Riding often leads to reverie. The rhythm provokes a meditative state that becomes even stronger at night. It can be nicely dreamlike.
On the road, a rider needs to be careful of motor traffic. Some roads are quite nicely desolate. Others are annoyingly busy. Off road it can be weird and lonely. But what you feel comes from inside you, so you can control it. If you are fortunate enough to have one or more compatible companions for the night ride that can hold any creepy feelings at bay. Remember, of course that in scary movies they often pick off members of a group one by one. The progressive disappearances add to the fear. So just because you have someone with you doesn't mean you won't be abducted by aliens or successively slashed and/or devoured by someone or something. So hey, you might as well go alone.