Sussex by cycle: night rider
PUBLISHED: 10:24 01 April 2011 | UPDATED: 19:07 20 February 2013
Si Beales discovers the thrills and spills of hurtling down hills in the pitch black at Stanmer Park. Luckily, he had a £450 bike light with him to show him the way
I thinkit would be fair to describe myself as a bit of a weekend wobbler when it comes to cycling. I pootle about a bit, enjoying our fantastic Sussex countryside occasionally pushing myself a little harder with a particularly steep hill but then rewarding myself with a pork pie afterwards. Danger is most certainly not my middle name. So it was with some trepidation that I met up with Jim Barrow from Quest Adventure. Jim is what is known as a Night Rider. Not content with hurtling down hills and jumping over logs during the daylight, he likes to do it at night as well. When it is dark and you cant see anything.
Luckily, as a qualified trainer with over 20 years mountain biking experience, Jim has had plenty of practice in helping relative novices like me. Plus his bike shop is a stockist for Exposure lights, probably the finest night riding lights that money can buy, and he was able to lend me a demo so we were at least confident that we would be able to see where we were falling.
Middle of nowhere
So it was that a group of eight of us met up in Falmer village on a crisp but dry Tuesday night a few weeks ago, and headed up through the University of Sussex to Stanmer Park and then on up to the Downs. Of course the thing about mountain biking is that you have to spend a lot of time doing the least enjoyable bit cycling uphill to do the really fun bit hurtling downhill. So for the first 40 minutes we ground our way uphill towards Ditchling Road. It gave me a chance to take a good look around me and enjoy the woods at night, something Ive never done before. It really does feel like youre in the middle of nowhere even though youre just a few miles from Brighton and I found it tremendously liberating. Soon though we were at the top and ready to head downwards. Jim warned me that the muddy conditions would make for a difficult descent and that gear selection was important. I decided to take my time. You really do have to concentrate intently as trees come up pretty quickly and you have to make sure to look ahead and judge your speed whilst ducking your head to avoid low hanging branches. I asked Jim how fast we were going and he estimated about seven miles an hour. He sometimes does twenty the madman. As we reached the bottom you could see the exhilaration on each riders face. We soon decided to head back up again for another go.
I have to say that the Exposure lights were exceptional. Not once did I feel that I couldnt see where I was going, which gives you a great sense of confidence. The company is actually based in Petworth, West Sussex, and has grown into a 2,500,000 business as a result of their British made, patented LED technology. Its great to see a global success story on our doorstep.
Seeing the light
Finally, as we pedalled wearily back towards Falmer, I asked Jim why he loves night riding so much. You have to concentrate, so you cant think about anything else for a while and the rest of the world goes away, he said. I realised that he was right. During those few hours I hadnt thought about anything else but riding my bike and how great it is to be out in the wilds at this time of night. It might be a little scary but Id definitely recommend it. Once youve tried it youll definitely see the light. Happy Cycling.