Monday, November 17, 2014
By P. L. Thomas, produced in cooperation with the HubCity Writers Project.
If you are visiting Spartanburg and happen to be driving at night in the city or country during those increasingly cooler months after the end of daylight savings time, you may see an unusual sight: small, white and blinking red lights approaching you slowly and seemingly unconnected along the road.
No, Spartanburg is not home to close encounters with aliens. What you may see is one of our many night rides because cycling Spartanburg occurs 52 weeks a year, including day and night rides.
As a 30-year cyclist in the area, I recall when October signaled a significant shift in our cycling—most day rides ended and some of us eventually shifted to mountain biking due to the colder temperatures. But Richard White, who leads two to three rides a week year round, was one of the first night riders when Interstate 85 was being rerouted through Spartanburg County.
White, in fact, believes night rides “are safer and sometimes more fun than day rides.” He explains: “With the improvements in lights and clothing, it is now possible to ride safely and comfortably during the winter months at night. I know many consider the idea of riding at night dangerous but it probably works the other way.”
Winter and night riding in Spartanburg also offers cyclists a wide variety of cycling options, including road cycling, mountain biking, and cyclo-cross.
Kevin Hames, who often mountain-bikes at night on Croft State Park trails, said, “Night riding is definitely an experience that I think all mountain bikers should have.” He added, “The trails seem totally different at night. It’s very different only being able to see a small section of the trail in front of you where your light is shining versus being able to see pretty far down the trail ahead of you. This causes you to rely much more on your instincts while riding because unexpected trail debris cause you to have to react much faster than during daylight when you can see further ahead on the trail.”
Winter and night rides in Spartanburg continue the well-organized cycling offered throughout spring and summer. Cyclists can count on organized roads being posted Monday through Thursday and then on Saturday and Sunday with veteran ride leaders guiding each ride.
While many rides have recurring ride leaders, such as White, the key to knowing where and when winter and night rides are available is email. Yahoo Groups eRide is the main source of ride postings, but the Spartanburg Freewheelers and globalbike Spartanburg chapter also post rides.
Winter and night rides include weekday rides starting at 6 p.m. from the Anderson Farm in Moore, Bicycle Time in Boiling Springs, Bowen’s Landing in Inman, and Bronco Mexican Restaurant in Spartanburg (see Spartanburg Freewheelers ride listing) throughout the work week. And as you may notice, we often include a social element as well—food and beverages at local restaurants.
Saturday rides starting locations move around the area, but the same group organization and social options are included. When Saturday rides leave from downtown, for example, such as from the parking lot at the intersection of West Broad Street and South Daniel Morgan Avenue downtown, we often enjoy RJ Rockers tastings, downtown food such as Cribbs or Delaney’s.
Winter and night rides in Spartanburg tend to be somewhat shorter rides (two hours or less on weekday night rides and about two to three hours on weekends), and certainly the pace is reduced, primarily so packs remain together for visibility and safety.
Cyclists must be prepared for colder temperatures during winter and night rides, and weather and temperatures may change drastically during rides as well. This requires cycling-specific winter clothing, typically layers and clothing that can be easily removed or put on as the conditions change.
Of course, winter and night riding also makes proper cycling equipment even more important than usual, with the addition of the need for proper head and tail lights.
Whether you are visiting, new to Spartanburg, or new to cycling, one of the revolutionary aspects of our community is that cycling is now year round, day and night.
Photos credits: Karl Johnson, Rob Hrubala, Brian Edwards
P. L. Thomas, Produced in cooperation with the HubCity Writers Project.
Dr. P.L. Thomas teaches in the education department at Furman University and has written commentaries for the Washington Post, The New York Times, The Guardian and Education Week, among other journals. He is the 2013 winner of the George Orwell Award for Distinguished Contribution to Honesty and Clarity in Public Language by the National Council of Teachers of English.