Why We Ride Dusk to Dawn: Evening Sounds

"Shhhh.  You hear that?"

It didn't need to be said; we hear it.  The frogs.  They're making a racket.  They always seem to after the sun goes down.  They're in the distance so we can hear non-frog communications, too.

We just rolled out of the wooded trail into an unkempt grassy field.  We four, on the Dusk to Dawn ride.  We've stopped to take in the visual.  A partial moon low in the sky, the moonbeams show the rough treeline in the distance.  The sky is cloudy and that makes the landscape glow.  But what's most consuming, right now, are the sounds.

The tall grass whispers to us that there's a slight breeze tonight.  The air feels good and smells of summer.  This all calms the scene.

It's so quiet we can hear critters slowly eating the fallen leaves.  So much life, hidden from our eyes -- but not our ears.

A teammate's slightly labored breathing rises in the soundscape.  We had been picking up the pace because the Dutodari dinner-breakfast is calling to us.  It's only about four miles away; we can almost smell the burgers.  The growling of someone's stomach gets our group to chuckle, breaking the evening trance.

We stop ourselves, and listen to the almost silence once more.  The call of promised food is too strong.  It's time to roll through the next dirt sector.  Onward to the Dusk to Dawn meal.

We look forward to seeing everyone there.

This is why we ride.

Is Night Riding The Best Riding?

Why is mixed-terrain night riding so good?  The list is long and probably personal.  Here are some of the reasons we search for the night rides:

  1. You have all the trails to yourself.  No hikers, no dogs, no horses.  It's you and the trail.  Probably a lot of bunnies.  And maybe a co-rider or two.
  2. The trails are quiet and meditative.  Everything feels more peaceful at night.  Everything is calmer.  You can hear your breath.  It's unlike any day ride.  
  3. The trails you've ridden 100 times feel completely new.  The stream next to the trail speaks a lot louder; that drop-off feels a lot steeper; the slalom through the trees feels a lot tighter.
  4. Focus.  While life is quieter, there's a lot more need for rider focus.  Depth of field, shadow play, and tunnel vision all require heightened attention compared to a sunshine ride.  It's a good kind of focus.
  5. You have the roads to yourself.  Not only do you get the trails to yourself, the paved roads are deserted.  Rarely will you see a motorized vehicle.
  6. Cooler temperatures.  In New England, in the summer, the temperature can drop by 10-15 degrees when the sun goes down.  That's almost the perfect temperature for any ride.
  7. You are highly visible.  Motorized vehicles will see you really easily and give you wider berth that daytime riding.
  8. No blind intersections.  You can see cars before you might hear them; headlights are hard to miss. 
  9. You can easily keep track of your co-riders.  You're unlikely to lose anyone because visibility is so high.
  10. Bonding time with your co-riders.  We rarely ride the night solo.  It's always wise to have a partner or two; just like on any offroad ride -- the world is not predictable and that's part of the point.  We bond even without speaking.  There's something about riding trails, light behind light behind light, that brings riders together.
  11. Fewer insects.  It's bedtime for most mammals so the flies aren't looking for food.  Wondrous.

We could go on and on.  Why do you ride the night?

Sunset - Twilight - Dusk - Night

The Dusk to Dawn Ride begins at sunset.  This is just the beginning of a long procession to the dark. 

The passage from day to night is a process - not an event.  Nothing is ever simple about the transition from light to dark.  It’s never black and white.

These are the four most common aspects of the transition from light to night are:

  • Sunset is the moment when the top most surface of the sun dips under the horizon.
  • Twilight is the time between sunset and dusk.
  • Dusk is the moment when the sun reaches 18 degrees below the horizon.
  • Night begins when twilight ends.

And of course there are three layers of dusk.  More on this later.