As Gavin, Tony and I met up at 8 PM on a Friday night for a long session of night biking, we all looked at each other and pointed fingers. "This was your crazy idea!" "No way, it was yours". Tony was lamenting all the pubs he had passed on the way up to Settle, Gavin was missing another night with his new baby, and I was hoping it wouldn't rain and totally ruin what could only be classified as one long night.
We fortified ourselves with supper at the local fish and chippie shop, under the assumption that we would work all those calories off climbing the first hill. These are the hilly Dales after all. We started off with half of a famous MTB trail called the Settle Loop, then diverted off of it to add some more miles. Our goal was 50 miles but we knew that the night might have other plans for us. Malham Cove came and went, unnoticed in the night except for the steep hills we sweated up. Yup, at that point it was warm and muggy and we were down to minimal layers.
I had planned the route and had been wanting to ride the trail from Weet's Top down to Airton, as I had run the trail and thought it would be really nice. Sure enough, it was gently curving downhill singletrack, elevated to keep us out of the surrounding bogs. Even better than I had hoped. Well, there WERE still a few bogs near the end.
After a short snack stop and a stretch of road, we were back on bridleways with the air turning wet. So much for dodging the rain showers. On went a few layers and we warmed up on the long climb to Malham Moor. More rain and fog descended, along with Tony's derailleur getting stuck into his spokes. No idea how that happened. His gears never worked quite right after that. My brightest bike light suddenly stopped working at about the same time. I was afraid it was the rain and hence put it into a dry pocket, but actually it may have overheated during one of our stops (in the rain, no less) as superbright lights have a tendency to do.
So after another lengthy stop to get my headlamp batteries swapped to compensate for the dead light, we packed it in and headed home. By that time we were wearing almost every stitch of clothing we had brought, the wind had picked up, and we still had 8 miles of headwind on the high moors to get back to our cars. A few miles of muddy sheep pasture tracks were included there, and mentally I had almost clicked out of the game. The cold and wet made eating, thinking, stopping, changing batteries, map reading, and navigation much harder than usual. Taking off my soaked gloves to open a ziploc with wet fingers to eat something seemed like unnessary trouble, and we all just suffered until we were finished. Luckily the tarmac road appeared with easy riding back to Settle, and a final few miles of downhill.
I think I have run faster than 30 miles in 6 hours, but darkness and fog can drastically slow down progress and the trails were pretty tough riding in the best of conditions. It was a good test of my equipment, I'll make a few adjustments to my kit before I head out again at night. Starting with riding on a night when no rain is expected!