I had decided to try riding at the Glow Ride in London, Ontario last weekend. The ride is organised by local cycling enthusiasts the night of Nuit Blanche, a night time festival of art and performance in the downtown core. It is one of my favourite festivals that marks the end of Fringe Festival and it always makes London feel a bit more cosmopolitan to me.
My partner Michel and I set off from the house at 8:30 pm to get to the meeting site by 9 pm, the start time on the poster. Michel had put these fun glow lights on our tires and as we set out we realized we both thought the other really wanted to go. Michel offered we not go if I wasn’t enthusiastic but I thought I should give it a try and see what happened.
The ride down was lovely as the sky was clear and warm. We flew down the bike paths and got to the Covent Garden Market with plenty of time to spare. There was a small gathering of cyclists with various set ups of glow sticks and lights.
More folks trickled in as the time crept to 9:30. Sunset was around 9:45 and a few folks assured us we would be starting out soon. It wasn’t clear, who, if anyone was taking the lead and unlike a more formally organised event there wasn’t a safety briefing or route promulgated. I was trying to go with the flow. Michel wondered aloud how long the ride would be and where we would be going but no one seemed to know.
We set out with the gang on a loop through the core taking up the whole lane which at first felt like a really good idea. There were quite a few bike and the inevitable stop and go of any large group moving. Thing is I’m not terribly steady on my bike and as I got more nervous the wobblier I got. I stopped having fun when the group rolled though an intersection against the lights and cars started honking and edging into the group.
We turned into the street festival and met a wall of pedestrian traffic and as that got sorted out i got cut off from the rest of the riders as I hesitated getting back on my bike. We looped through the market area, sometimes obeying the lights, other times not when I looked at Michel and said “This isn’t working for me, lets go home.”
It was too many bikes in a tight space with no plan on when we were changing lanes, which way we were turning and I was starting to have a panic attack. The group got separated and a guy told us we needed to catch up. The rear group connected with the rest in a parking lot to regroup and continue on. I caught up with Michel and burst into tears, I was officially having no fun. Children were doing this and here I was, a 40 year old somewhat capable cyclist and I could not keep going.
We rode home along a familiar route but night riding,even with street lights and glowing stuff is a very different experience.
I learned a lot about what I need to feel safe in a large group ride:
-a start and estimated end time, I want to know what I’m in for
-a pre-determined route
-a review of expected conduct (obey traffic lights/not, stay in bike lane or occupy the whole lane, those kinds of things)
-identified nerd herders/safety marshals like the Safety Sisters at Take Back the Night
-an exit strategy in case I change my mind
The ride was clearly fun for lots of folks but it wasn’t for me and that’s ok too. Unless a lot changes for me and what I need I don’t see me going for it again or even any large group ad hoc type rides, there’s just too much for me to learn before that feels somewhat safe.
The big bummer is I had wanted to stay to explore Nuit Blanche but ended up crying at home and that totally sucked.
I often get complimented on the things I try and blog about and, honestly, most times new things are a bit of a mixed bag for me. I don’t let the less fun things prevent me from trying new tings or trying again but I’m putting Glow Ride pretty far down the list of things I want to do again. Maybe just above rock climbing. GAH.