Sunday, November 24, 2013

Alive At Night I'm Riding

Glowing lot

I glance in my newly-mounted helmet mirror to verify the sound of a Phoenix City bus coming up behind me at the stoplight. It's a new sensation for me, this mirror thing, seeing back without turning my head around to look, actually the first night I've tried it. I see the flashing turn signal of the bus driver intending to turn right. I'm OK if he goes by me since I'm very near the curb waiting for the light to turn green, but for the second time this night, a driver behind me decides not to squeeze past me the cyclist, and I appreciate that.

Perhaps it's my slightly upright position due to the slightly swept back bars I'm trying out. Maybe it's my flashing rear light commanding attention. Maybe my bike-specific black jacket with the white reflective piping makes me look like a guy from the movie Tron in his headlights. I glance in the mirror again and he's still not coming around me. Guess we're all just waiting for the green.

Bip with saddle bag mounted in the not-really bag loops

A thousand scattered thoughts are quieted and gathered up as I ride through the night. Darkness requires attention, the new mirror draws focus in a new dimension: back, behind, to the oncoming lights which appear with surprising clarity in the small rectangle dangling before my left eye. It's best when I can judge if it's going to be safe to merge left or not without craning my neck around like an owl. Just for that, the mirror earns a longer trial period. The mirror like everything else on two wheels feels like a skill to acquire with practice until it becomes second nature. Tonight though, it's novel, it's not natural, it works yet does not flow with the rest of the ride like other actions: shifting, braking, steering, signalling, spinning, turning, braking, listening to the night, watching crossing and entering vehicles, these are all going on with me and around me without thinking.

Off the bike there's so much to do. The list is long and the time is short. On the bike there's only to ride, though, and in the night my attention seems to center even more by the singleness of purpose involved in pedaling through the dark.

Sackville saddle bag mounted in the sorta-loops on the Specialized Sonoma Gel

The saddle I picked up at the GABA swap, a Specialized Sonoma gel, in case someone in the house wanted to try a different and potentially more comfy saddle, landed on Bip as part of the contact point redux when I noticed these holes in the back that would definitely do for bag loops. They are, I think, theoretical bouncy shock-absorber things which appear to serve best as a receptacle for leather straps attached to cotton duck bags. The saddle is not too squishy, nice and firm actually, and feels significantly better than Bip's stock Trek saddle which has probably made a good showing by lasting and being used this long.

The Sackville has a rear tail light mount which points the light perfectly rearward, and for that I love it deeply. Many are the bags which I've tried which send red flashes every direction but straight back. At night, you see, it's all about the focus and the flow, and if I can ride in peace knowing that the machine is working well and silently, the bag is holding it's own, I'm learning about the mirror, and the lights are both helping me to see and to be seen, then my attention and my scattered thoughts can pull into the one-point singularity of purpose of my own motion. Alive at night I'm riding.



  1. Helmet mirrors are the bees knees!

    I've used them for years, and often look up to the left to see who's behind me when I'm off the bike as well.

    In the midwest, Chuck Harris of Ultra-Light Mirrors is where many got theirs. He would fabricate mirrors out of old spokes and reused PET bottles (some he found on the side of the road). He usually put whimsical pictures under the plastic. Chuck was common at big rides in Ohio, Michigan and the area. He drove an ancient VW microbus, and had fabricated a pedal powered sander out of an old bike frame. He was great to talk with. Chuck passed away last year.

    Luckily, I've got a collection of his mirrors that should last me the rest of my life. It's the people as much as the things, I realize. Or maybe both. The people who MAKE the things.

  2. It's fun to see what your're doing with BIP. I love that it's an old Trek too.


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