UPDATE on 21 May: The ride IS going ahead tonight. Some drizzle is expected, but no torrential downpours.
Right, the date for the Dark Side Ride is (enter drum-roll here) 21/22 May 2011!
What’s that? What’s a Dark Side Ride, you ask? Well, a Dark Side Ride is a leisurely bicycle ride on Dartmoor, at midnight, of course! We’ll meet in Princetown, at the car park behind the High Moorlands Visitor Centre, from 23h00 onwards, and we’ll set off at exactly 23h30.
The ride will follow the dismantled railway path all the way around Kings Tor, and we’ll stop for a midnight picnic outside Swell Tor quarry before making our way back again. The route we’ll follow is pretty much as detailed here: http://www.richkni.co.uk/dartmoor/railway.htm (except of course they walked it, during daylight hours). A map of the route may be found here: http://www.bikemap.net/route/895873
You will need to have lights on your bike that are capable of lasting at least one hour.
Now with bicycle lights there are two kinds: those that allow you to be seen (typically little LED blinky lights) and those that allow you to see. Blinky lights will be of no use cycling as you will need light to see where you’re cycling. However, blinkies may come in handy when stopping for a picnic.
If you don’t have decent lights for your bike, please don’t go spend hundreds of Pounds, but rather simply tape a decent-ish torch to your handlebars. Yes, I am actually serious!
Cycling in the dark is a completely different experience, and being on Dartmoor in the dark is very different to what you’re probably used to. Combined, it promises an experience that you’ll probably not forget for a while. I go cycle in the dark very regularly, and I find it amazing, especially when cycling along the Plym Valley path late at night.
With regards to your safety, as I’ve mentioned, we’ll be cycling along a disused railway track, so the gradients are very gentle. The track is mostly quite smooth, but it isn’t tarred and there are pot holes, ruts and large stones to look out for. It is quite bumpy in places and not really suitable for skinny-wheeled racing bikes.
We’re not racing, though, and even children capable of cycling at least six miles should be able to comfortable do the ride. The focus will be on enjoying the experience, and not how quickly any one of us can ride.
Now the legal stuff (sad but true): I’m organising this ride for me and me alone. Having said that, you are most welcome to join me, provided you accept full responsibility for anything that may or may not happen to you.
You will also benefit from a thermos with a hot drink, possibly a coat of some sort to keep you warm while we’re having our picnic, and snacks.
Remember, there are houses near the car park, so at the start, and especially on your return to your car, please keep the noise levels down – others will be fast asleep! Also, Dartmoor is a wild and beautiful place, but it does need protecting. Please do not leave the path while on your bike.
While we’re at it, please go have a good look at the photos on the link further above: sometimes there are steep drops down either side of the path, so don’t crowd in, but give each other lots of space.
There are lots of animals on Dartmoor, and we may encounter sheep, ponies or cattle. In each case, please slow down or stop, so we don’t frighten the animals. Especially with sheep this will be important as the Dark Side Ride will take place during the lambing season. For this same reason, please do not bring your dog along, however well trained it may be.
The Dark Side Ride will go ahead, except if it’s raining, in which case we’ll simply bump it over by one week.
So, go get your bike out of the shed, wash it down, pump the tyres, buy new batteries for your torch. Then tell your friends to do the same, and I’ll see you there on the 21st of May!