Darkness

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Yesterday, Seattle was dark for 15 hours 34 minutes and 37 seconds. Let us not count how much it was light– it is of no use to us. I rode to work in the black, and in the black I rode home.

The darkness is good to me. It shields my filthy chain from those who would judge it. It casts anonymity over the creaking of my bottom bracket. It erases your matching kit to shear black, pretty socks and all. It calls you to simply pedal. And, on the best of days, it gives me the jump on a fellow commuter just asking to be dropped like a pedal wrench in a two-year-old’s hands.

Today will only be one second less dark. Come feel the power of the darkside.

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91 Replies to “Darkness”

  1. We can beat that here in Aberdeen with 17 hours and 20 minutes of darkness today. No wonder some medics are arguing in favour of dosing the entire Scottish population with vitamin D (like fluoride in the drinking water)!

    Don’t you just hate it when some fellow commuter decides he’s going to race you, just because you passed him as he was dawdling along? What is the appropriate response to the guy who suddenly speeds up and either sits on your wheel or overtakes you in return?

  2. Yesterday here in Waco Texas we had 13 hours and 55 minutes of darkness. While I ride in the dark, I’m still excited that now we move inexorably towards the summer solstice.

  3. Everyday from now on its going to get lighter, this thought keeps me going through our miserable english winters.

  4. Yeah, good thought. Its usually the 6-8 inches of snow covering the potholes and sub-zero temperatures here that, combined with the pitch blackness, keeps us from embracing the darkside.

  5. I snuck out of work a bit early yesterday (I went back in the evening) to get a ride in. Temps were in the mid 30s and the roads basically just damp. Although I was slightly underdressed, it was worth it to get a ride in on the shortest day of the year. Did just shy of 50 kms. Woke up this morning to a thin covering of snow and ice on the roads. Quite possibly the last ride of the year (I head to deep, dark Scotland for the holidays and won’t be riding there) but take comfort in the knowledge that upon my return there are only two months until daylight savings time begins and I get out after work.

  6. as one who suffers from the cyclical seasonal affective syndrome, i celebrate winter soltice passing. I hate the darkness. Its cold. Its dark as you mention, and whereas jim, your optimistic even in it, I languish in my hatred of the dark. I hate it. It is the polar opposing force to my summers, long days, short nights, long rides, short reprieves. I have to don lights to ride, and that is not in any way shape or form in abidance to any of the Rules, in fact, if any of the Cognoscentia were to find out of my riding habits with these dangley thingies from my seat rails, from the stem… I would be scourged with 39 lashings.

    So, I have put this day behind, looking for longer days, days that will bring atonement for my sins of the holidays, eating my wifes cream cheese topped shortbread cookies, peanut butter balls dipped in her homeade chocolate, my daily capo’s, and my lesser riding due to this season.

    for that atonement, i actually look forward to it. i pray it comes soon, i will delve headfirst into it, i will bath daily in it, i will pay pentance that is due

    Merckx father: please passover my darkness, please send me the light

    and thanks jim for the good thoughts

  7. Green Bay was dark for 15:07, still my intentions were for a first day of winter commute. Woke up to an inch of snow. After weighing Rule #9 against the possiblity of sliding under the set of SUV tires, I cancelled the ride.

  8. By the way, before I forget, I’d like to wish all the Velominati a safe and happy holiday season. May Santa bring you all manner of shiny bits and clothing you wouldn’t wear in polite company. Get a ride in if you can (northern hemisphere velominati, I’m talking to you; Southern hemisphere guys, you have no excuses) and here’s to another great, fun, enjoyable 12 months of whatever you’d describe the content of this blog to be!

  9. It has been colder here than usual(how could that be, its Tucson) but waking up at 7am its about 2 degrees celcius. thats cold even for me. I need to invest in a gillet

  10. Night rides are part and parcel of winter riding over here in blighty and I have to say I love them. Riding along on your very own bubble of light is quite special.

  11. Also, I’m now convinced that Jim doesn’t exist, but is just Frank’s alter ego. He breaks the rules and doesn’t care.

    I think I saw a Felt in his basement one time.

  12. @G’rilla

    Also, I’m now convinced that Jim doesn’t exist, but is just Frank’s alter ego. He breaks the rules and doesn’t care.
    I think I saw a Felt in his basement one time.

    Frank’s fluid writing style is unmistakable. Plus, “Jim” (wink-wink) gave it away when he mentioned Seattle.

  13. Great post. I, too, have found a sense of inner peace pedaling along after dark … in the cold, and sometimes wet. Of course, having two headlights and three tail lights for safety’s sake helps.

  14. This article is a metaphor for life and for The Rules.

    Yesterday, Seattle was dark for 15 hours 34 minutes and 37 seconds.

    The author mentions a specific amount of time, but “yesterday” refers to the author’s entire life up to this point. It could be 15 years, it could be 55 years.

    I rode to work in the black, and in the black I rode home.

    Wherever you go, there you are. The author is surrounded by blackness not because of the environment, but because of himself.

    “Black” symbolizes The Rules that the author has broken. He feels guilt. It is inescapable.

    The darkness is good to me.

    Sometimes, breaking The Rules benefits us. Insulated MTB boots warm our smallest toes. Winter tights keep our bits and pieces from permanently shrinking in the frozen wind. Fitting a softride post to our mountain bike tells other mountain bikers that they should avoid us, thus keeping us true to road cycling.

    It shields my filthy chain from those who would judge it.

    We are afraid to meet other Velominati because we fear that they will judge us.

    It casts anonymity over the creaking of my bottom bracket.

    The author is more concerned with the uses of nipple lube than other kinds of lube.

    It erases your matching kit to shear black, pretty socks and all.

    We leave the house with appropriate white socks, but the darkness turns them to black. Even when we try to Obey the Rules, we later find that we have not.

    It calls you to simply pedal.

    The author finds redemption. Colors, measurements, and bubble levels are outward signs that any hipster could adhere to. The true Rules are inside you.

    One may grasp the noodles of death yet still exhibit the V. Even those who wear both the polka dot jersey and polka dot bib shorts are allowed to stand on the podium.

    Why? Because they pedal.

    And, on the best of days, it gives me the jump on a fellow commuter.

    The “fellow commuter” is also the author. He has transcended not only The Rules, but also himself.

    Come feel the power of the darkside.

    The author has been transformed and no longer uses the darkness to hide or deny. He has found strength inside himself. He can obey the rules or make his own.

  15. Hoping this may bring some light to your darkness… Cav just voted BBC Sports Personality of the Year 2011… he said in his speech that it was not just a win for him, but a win for his teammates and a win for cycling itself. Am beginning to really, REALLY like this guy (see my post yesterday on his comments in the Times on the rainbow jersey)… and, hell, I liked him loads already. Go Cav!

  16. Awesome result but hope he’s not judged on his victory speech. The boy was completely speechless.

    @Dr C where’ve you been hiding, thought you’d lost it on your cobbled commute and gone into the canal?!

  17. @Dr C I’m with you… I didn’t believe he could beat the golfers, but I think my twitter campaign may have swung it for him… I got as many of my seventeen followers as possible to vote for him, which is what must have made the difference.

    Cycling as a mainstream sport in the UK?… Golly… them trolls come blinking into the sunlight…

  18. @Chris
    I really like that he always seems to go out of his way to credit his team-mates – I know that he’s been guilty of youthful hubris in the past but I think he’s turning into a great ambassador for British cycling. Also, I’m claiming this as a scouse victory. I know he’s not actually from Liverpool but he sounds a little bit scouse and, well, the ferry goes from here so that’s all the evidence I need…

  19. @heinous

    I’m relatively new to the whole road cycling thing but I’ve only ever really heard him talk about his team mates and his love of the sport. If he had an ego a while ago, he’s done a good job of reining it in.

  20. @heinous
    I think Cav has lived in Manchester so no, it is clearly a Mancunian victory. He has certainly raced here which is good enough….

  21. Glad he won, but it was one of the most painful TV shows i’ve ever sat through.

  22. @McTyke

    Don’t you just hate it when some fellow commuter decides he’s going to race you, just because you passed him as he was dawdling along? What is the appropriate response to the guy who suddenly speeds up and either sits on your wheel or overtakes you in return?

    Be patient and see if it a velominati about to compliment your frame or a velominata about to praise your guns. If neither happens, ignore them, as anything else would validate their actions (IMHO).

    Merckxy Xmerckx to all.

  23. @frank

    We’ve had amazing weather here. Cold, but dry. Amazing Fall, and while I’ve had to ride Bike #3 the most, I have gotten out on the TSX and R3 regularly.

    Full Screen

    Damn son, your hubs are gleaming. It looks too dry and bright in Seattle, what gives? My Bianchi is looking very buff these days too. And that is a strong vote for 3T stem and bars too, I’m almost sold.

  24. @frank
    Wow, how do you possibly get your bike so clean – I haven’t ridden my new bike and it looks filthy by comparison

    @Chris
    not sure where I’ve been, but I think mostly at work, or pretty drunk somewhere, which I could do without. Volvooceanracegame.org absorbing much of my life – hatelful addiction
    I’m still surprised Cav won, as anyone I know has just about heard of him, let alone know how amazing he is – this might be quite the boost UK Cycling deserves – just need Twiggo not to fall off in France next year…..

  25. @frank

    I lust after those Rotundo bars (or the ones that G’phant says are 50g lighter), but I guess that means I need to buy a matching stem too, eh?

  26. @Dr C

    Volvooceanracegame.org, I’ve managed to steer clear of that, needs way more bandwidth than my 256k. Love the footage of the boats barrelling across the southern ocean. YOu need to be a hardman to go down there. Been fascinated by it since the Drum days

  27. @frank

    We’ve had amazing weather here. Cold, but dry. Amazing Fall, and while I’ve had to ride Bike #3 the most, I have gotten out on the TSX and R3 regularly.

    Full Screen

    I’m hanging my head in shame looking at how clean your bike is! Unreal.

  28. @mcsqueak

    @frank
    I lust after those Rotundo bars (or the ones that G’phant says are 50g lighter), but I guess that means I need to buy a matching stem too, eh?

    Is that the “if it gets any longer it’ll be a tandem” stem?

  29. Nice one jim. Thankfully we don’t have that length of darkness down here in Sydney. At the moment it’s unseasonably cold and wet with a high humidity while the sun’s shining thrown into to boot. Four seasons in one day; not sure if I’m in Melbourne at times…

    and frank, you have shiny bits

  30. @Frank – what tyres are you running on Bike No. 3? Love the retro tan side walls – Vittorias? Veloflex? Glad to see you pay as much attention to that bike as No. 1 and No. 2… sweet, old skool wheels

  31. @Chris
    It’s scary stuff indeed

    I’ll link to the vids when they get into some gnarly stuff – it’s basically just insane, bordering on suicidal

    Good to respect hardmen from other sports (just can’t include golfers and cricketers in that (no matter how hard getting a full toss on the hand may appear to them))

  32. Brutal commute on the south coast of England this morning, by far the worst of the year. Riding into a 35kmh rainy headwind. I started laughing at one point because it was so ridiculous, then I saw that the surfers were in at the marina break so I figured the weather couldn’t be too bad for cycling. What this does mean is that I’ve got a massive tailwind waiting for the dark ride home, should be great.

    A small point about the sounds a bike makes when its dark. To me it always sounds noisier than in daylight, I assume its because you aren’t using the full range of your sense of sight and so your ears are working harder.

  33. @Dr C
    Plenty of hardmen in cricket. I will Open the batting with Rick McCosker – or should I say I will put him in at 10?

  34. Just like to add my congratulations to Mark Cavendish who won BBC’s SPOTY 2011 with almost 50% of the vote. Only the third cyclist to have done so, after Tom Simpson and Chris Hoy.

    Cav has matured from boy-racer into a true champion. Although his victory speech wasn’t his most eloquent, as always he paid a big tribute to all his team mates. Not only that, he saluted everyone who goes out to ride including the humble cycle-commuter. Top man!

  35. @motor city
    Bloody surfers, do they never do any work!!

    One thing I would do if I could do it all again, is live upwind (prevailing) of my work

    My commute is like yours – frigging headwind all the way in, just what you need on a cold morning with a full belly of Crunchy Oats and Golden Graham’s (breakfast cereal!)

    Much rather take my anger out on the headwind on the way home

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