“OH MAH GAWD! Riding your bike at night is so dangerous!”
This is the most common reaction people have when I tell them I've started bicycling at night to avoid the blistering heat of the day.
However, the assumption that bicycle riding at night is somehow more dangerous than bicycling riding during the day typically comes to people who haven't stopped to consider a couple of facts:
- Dehydration and sunstroke, two of the Outback's deadliest killers (that aren't snakes or spiders), are far less common occurrences at night.
- Most people driving the Outback's Stuart Highway are not doing so at night (either because they're Grey Nomads who stopped to camp at noon, or because they're in rental cars and are contractually banned from driving between dusk and dawn – true story).
So it's cooler, the sun isn't going to give me cancer, and there are far fewer cars on the road at night (except the occasional road train). Why exactly is riding at night a bad idea? Because I'm not going to see the sights?
I've found riding before ten in the morning to be comfortable; after ten, the world outside turns into a blistering inferno commanded by the fire god in the sky.
Over the past couple of days I've adopted the following routine:
- 5:30 AM: Wake up (have to beat the flies)
- 6:30 AM: Begin riding (and absorbing podcasts)
- 10:00 AM: Stop riding and take shelter (ideally indoors)
- 12:30 PM: Find a power outlet (within sight of my bicycle)
- 2:30 PM: Eat a bag of candy (usually M&M's)
- 5:00 PM: Begin riding again (more podcasts)
- 9:00 PM: Make camp (and possibly scare some Grey Nomads)
How many cars have I seen on the road whilst riding at night? Eleven (yes, I counted).
Apparently, hardly anyone drives around the Outback in the dark.
What's more is that I can see any cars coming (sometimes literally) for miles. The only difference now is that I get off the road for cars passing me at night (the dirt shoulder isn't too bad to ride in while I wait for traffic to pass).
The only problem is that it can be difficult to judge distances in the dark, and I've found myself pulling off the road way too early (sometimes minutes too early) for cars to pass.
With a headlight putting out 1,300 lumens (that's seven times more than my headlamp – which I'm also using), I can't complain about being able to see the road.
That being said, my light does have one unintended consequence: it attracts bugs – a lot of bugs.
Yes, I've traded in the burning sun in my face for a barrage of bugs in my face. The storm of horrifying insects prepared to assault my face and fight for a way into my mount, nose, and eyes – this should be what people use to call into question my decision to ride at night.
And after repeated and unsuccessful attempts at riding in complete darkness to evade the onslaught (the moonlight doesn't cut it), I've resorted to dressing like a bandit with a bandana over my face and my sunglasses on (yes, I wear my sunglasses at night).
Note to self: buy clear-lens glasses.
- START: King River, Northern Territory
- END: Katherine, Northern Territory
- DAY'S DISTANCE: 31.53 mi / 50.73 km
- TOTAL DISTANCE: 2,228.98 mi / 3,587.2 km