Cycling From Dusk ’till Dawn

What is the best night to attempt cycling through all the hours of the night.? On the shortest night of the year, of course. If one wanted to be really tough they could try it on the longest night – but it’s cold in December and I ain’t that ambitious.

Friday night, as one of the many Bike Month activities,  the Edmonton Bicycle Commuters’ Society organized a Midnight Mystery Ride. At Bikeworks South, more than a score of cyclists assembled  in a flashing,blinking, strobing pack of nocturnal, urban explorers. The plan was to was to cruise the streets into the wee hours of the night. My own personal goal    was to ride until sunrise – a sort of solstice cycling vigil. The weather was ideal for the expedition. A thunderstorm had rolled through earlier in the evening leaving behind rain-swept streets, cool air  and clearing skies.

Midnight Mystery RideMidnight Mystery RideMidnight Mystery Ride

We started our ride by travelling down Whyte Ave, Edmonton’s main strip of bars and nightlife. One of our fearless leaders was pedaling his fantastical light bike and towing a trailer equipped with a music blasting boom box providing a soundtrack for the ride. He’d  also hooked up a laser effects-box that beamed a light show on the road behind him. There’s no doubt that we were a head-turning, attention-grabbing spectacle and throughout the ride there were many shouts of encouragement from drivers and pedestrians. We traveled down through Mill Creek ravine, past the Muttart Conservatory where we paused for some photos, and onward to the pedestrian bridge where we stopped for more photos and some refreshments. You can see one of the group photos here. I took very few photos while actually riding as I was simply not up to the challenge of trying to capture unblurred night pictures while also controlling my bike in a largish group.

Most of my riding photos turned out like this.

Most of my riding photos turned out like this.

Midnight Mystrey RideMidnight Mystrey RideMidnight Mystrey Ride

Next we headed up the serpentine path through the Chinese garden in a sinuous glowing line. We cruised through downtown and up to the top of one of the parkades looking down over the city center.Swooping along under the low ceiling was a blast but I’m glad I wasn’t the one pedaling the heavily laden trailer through all this climbing. After the parkade we visited the “Tron” building and the Legislature grounds.

Midnight Mystrey Ride

Fun to ride up. Even more  fun to ride down. There is a picture of the descent here.

Fun to ride up. Even more fun to ride down. There is an excellent picture of the descent here.

The nearly full moon rising over downtown.

The nearly full moon rising over downtown.

As far as I know the Legislature grounds are open to the public all night. I don't think I've ever been there when it was completely deserted

As far as I know the Legislature grounds are open to the public all night. I don’t think I’ve ever been there when it was completely deserted

Dancing with sparklers.

Dancing with sparklers.

A number of people called it quits after the stop at the legislature grounds. A few more said goodnight  after we crossed south over the High Level Bridge, leaving just five of us to wend our way through the University grounds to a location where we could see the lightening sky, distant lightning flashes and a perplexing a meteorological phenomenon. After this we gradually headed to our respective homes.

Midnight Mystery Ride

Drenched with laser light.

Drenched with laser light.

Once I was on own, I headed back towards my own neighbourhood. I plotted a routed through the quiet old residential neighbourhoods before cutting up to speed down 118th Ave. Even at this late hour a few businesses were open, with music floating out and light spilling from doorways onto patrons gathered outside smoking. Scattered pedestrians wandered the Ave.

I pushed on towards my favourite local park to watch the sunrise. I am rarely out and about during these late hours and I savored the peaceful and unusually quiet sleeping city. The singing of wakening songbirds rang out in the absence of the normal human made cacophony. It’s been many years since I’ve stayed up all night; I’d been doubtful that at my age I still had it in me. However by sunrise, though my  mind was getting foggy, my body was still willing to ride more, leading me to an unsurprising conclusion: bicycles – an ideal stimulant.

Midnight Mystery Ride

Midnight Mystery Ride

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Night Ride

Night Ride with Instruments

On Sunday night I pedaled off to play music at a friend’s Solstice party. The temperature was a pleasant -5Celsius, so I didn’t have to worry too much about the cold affecting the instruments. There had been a fresh fall of snow to cover the ice but I rode cautiously nonetheless as a fall would have been unwelcome. There were fiddles, recorders, guitars and some singing .  I contributed mandolin, cittern and bodhran. One musician brought a bass recorder, which is a beast I hadn’t seen before. I had a very nice solitary ride home through the silent, empty ravine. I spotted a hare but didn’t succeed in getting a good photo.

Foggy Morning Commute

On my way to work this morning there were some great lighting effects as the early morning fog burned off in the sunrise. The angle of sunlight was just right to make for some interesting illuminating reflections off the downtown high rises. I really have to carry a better camera with me than the lousy one in my cell phone.

Midnight Photoshoot: 1965 CCM Continental

On Thursday night the sky was clear, the moon was full and the mosquitoes were swarming. A perfect night for a midnight bike ride. Well, almost perfect. I took my 46 year old CCM bike, my 20 year old thrift store tripod and my 5 year old 6MP digital camera. Of those three items the camera is the most obsolete. I also brought mosquito  repellant.  Did I mention the mosquitoes?

I struck out along the vacant residential streets towards a local park that is my favourite for taking photos. It sits atop a high bluff overlooking the river valley and the skyline of downtown Edmonton. Riding the CCM at night is a lot of fun, silent and smooth, with the faint ticking of the SA hub when coasting. The bike has a hub generator and lights but as I’ve never taken the time to get them working I was limited to my helmet lights. I played the beam from my headlamp over the rows of quiet upscale houses fronting on the river valley as I glided past.

The street reaches a dead-end at the park entrance. I hoisted my bike over the shin-level rusty chain, catching a pedal as I did so, and cringing a little at the noise it made. There are a couple of orange street lights near the entrance casting  dingy pools of light. I headed past them to the deeper, darker end of the park.

I stopped near a bench alongside the the edge of the bluff. The moonlight shone brightly over the river  casting stark shadows into the field behind me. Looking over the edge I could see the path of moonlight illuminating the flowing river far below and I stood for moment in silent appreciation. Then the mosquitoes engulfed me. Gahhh!

I rapidly applied some mosquito repellant and got to work.  I have no knowledge of photography and my point-and-shoot camera reflects that.  It has a couple of night-time preset modes that I thought might be useful. After a few quick test shots I settled on using the Fireworks mode. It has a longish exposure but didn’t make the resulting pictures look like daylight. A few other technical problems immediately presented themselves. The screen on my camera didn’t show any detail in the dark and I couldn’t tell if I was framing the shots correctly. Holding my helmet in my hand I used it to illuminate the bike enough that I could see an image on the camera screen. Each time I did this I also illuminated the teeming hordes of mosquitoes around me. That was a little scary. Pressing on with the photoshoot, I took some photos just by moonlight and some by the light of my headlamp. Occasionally I ran about ten feet way from the camera to provide a more diffuse light.

When I was finally done and was  packing away the tripod, two cyclists with their lights ablaze with rolled past on the riverside trail hundreds of feet below me.  Yes, it was a nice night for riding and time to be on my way.

Over the next couple of days I played with my rather limited software (appropriate to my rather limited camera) resulting in a handful of what I think are decent photos. Some of them look more like dusk than midnight but I like them anyway. It almost makes me want to get a decent camera and learn to use it.

1983 Nishiki Continental Photoshoot.

I needed a new header image for my blog as the winter picture was feeling unseasonal. Since I hadn’t yet taken any pictures of my favourite bicycle Nishiki-san I took a quick spin (the first of the year on this bike!) over to the top of the river valley and accomplished both tasks at once. I finished just as the sun was setting.  Here are a few shots of a pretty river valley and a pretty bike.