Some months ago I registered for Ride The Night, a public event organised by Bicycle Network held on the last Saturday in January, where participants decorate their bicycles (and sometimes themselves) as brightly as possible with lights, glow sticks, glow in the dark paint, sometimes funny costumes, and ride a set course around Melbourne from midnight Saturday to the wee hours of Sunday morning. The event is run in a few of our capital cities; in Melbourne, the charity participants are encouraged to fundraise for is Youth Support + Advocacy Service (YSAS).
With a fine and warm weather forecast, it looked like an awesome weekend… but the fly in the ointment came in the form of the dregs of a recent cold, and accompanying cough. Urgh. It would probably have been sensible not to have a late night out, but a commitment had been made, and donations paid, so off I went to ride the night away – or at least as much as I could manage!
Was this year’s good weather simply “third time lucky” for Ride The Night’s organisers? It’ll be a long time before I forget the thunderstorm that passed over the start line last year, our group huddling and shivering together over our bikes – along with hundreds of others – using my cape to try to shield my chain from having all it’s lube washed off, and praying no one got struck by lightning. No, thankfully this year was dry!
There were a few changes from last year; Albert Park was the only start/finish point this year and the start time had been brought forward from midnight to 11pm, which caught myself and a quite a few others out. This wasn’t a bad thing, as it meant riders weren’t as bunched up along the route, the queues at the rest stops were shorter, and I think we felt more comfortable riding at our own pace.
Fund raising and ‘novelty’ events such as Ride The Night attract many people with a wide variety of experience, who ride all manner of bicycles. Not all participants are used to either night riding or riding in groups, but thankfully the roads are generally quieter in the middle of the night and there was also plenty of support in the form of WARBY’s (the “We Are Right Behind You” volunteers dispersed along the ride), mechanics at rest points, and emergency services for people who came off their bikes.
While I have reasonably regular practice with both night and group riding, my plan was to pace myself (to keep my coughing in check), and try to last the distance. Although I’d headed out on this ride alone, I was hoping to see one or two others I knew who were also riding. I was doing well in keeping to my plan until I reached the turn around point at Luna Park, St Kilda – that’s where Jane, another member of Melbourne Brompton Club, and her friends caught up with me. Coughing be damned! I traded longevity for company and increased pace… and enjoyed myself immensely.
Despite being part of a small group, despite the ride being strung out this year, we still managed to lose someone at the first rest stop – they kept going, we thought they were behind… you know how it goes. On the up side, in our race to catch-up and re-group I guess we showed a few people that small wheels aren’t at all limiting. Quite the opposite, as we proved to a group of riders who were grumbling about the “hill start” on Southbank Boulevard, turning onto St Kilda Road. “Blimey” was the comment I heard from somewhere behind as we shot off the mark, but I guess we had an unfair advantage, what with our small wheels and all…
The next rest stop after Port Melbourne was at the Burnely Bouldering Wall (under the Citilink motorway). I’d always wanted to check out this place on our many rides past. Tonight it was dominated by bicycle riders and live music.
Pushing on, we rode back downriver to the CBD, and up to the Melbourne Museum. By this stage I knew I was reaching the end of my ride. Was Exhibition Street hill the final straw? Or was it just a steady burn out? We hadn’t ridden very many kilometres, but it was quite a few more than I’d managed recently and I was hoping to snatch a couple of hours sleep before my next ride – a Melbourne Brompton Club ride to Brighton and back!
As we glided to a halt at the rest stop beneath the sheltering wings of Melbourne Museum’s front entrance, I felt the love I always do for two of Melbourne’s most iconic buildings; the majestic UNESCO World Heritage listed Royal Exhibition Building, and the distinctly modern, glass and metal Melbourne Museum adjacent to it. Tonight the illuminated words #RIDETHENIGHT were there so that everyone with a camera (i.e. everyone) would be able to show their slumbering family and friends what fun they’d missed out on.
(And because I love these buildings so much, here’s a couple of them in daylight:)
As the ride continued north along Canning Street towards the Capital City Trail, it was time for me to turn off and make my way home. It had been fun, but I was too pooped to pop, as the expression goes.
My favourite moment of the night was probably hearing a grandma participant giving a sharp retort to someone on the side of the road. He was being a… twit, let’s say, and she wasn’t going to take any nonsense (to put it politely). Never mess with a granny! They know how to bite back! She was one of three or four grandma’s riding along in their pink tutu’s – undoubtedly putting others more than half their age to shame! #GoGranny!
A huge THANK YOU to everyone who donated to my ride. Without your donations I may not have ridden out. I stuck with it because the physical representation of the community’s support for assisting disaffected youth is just as important in some ways as the money we raised.