Ride Report: Children of the Night
by Robert Leone (Los Angeles, August 2006)

In San Diego the local Optimists do a charity fund raiser (this year for YMCA children's programs) called "Midnight Madness." This year was the first year I went.

The ride was capped at 2,500 official entrants, but I doubt we were anywhere near that cap, as I registered at the event and was bib number 1496. However, it was my first experience being in a mass start event (I don't "race" officially). From 8 PM on we were regaled with events such as a drawing, a costume contest, and an illumination contest. At midnight (duh!) we were released onto the road in groups of approximately one hundred.

"I guess this is what the start of Paris-Brest-Paris is like!" I thought, after about two miles of riding. My initial thoughts, of course, were "Don't crash don't crash hold the line watch your back signal signal don't crash." The route was 20 miles, mostly flat, and included three or four liquor stores around which folks who didn't have bib numbers on seemed to cluster. "So this is what RAGBRAI is like!" I thought.

Odd bike report:

Way, way, way beyond iBOB were the two reenactor types (who were wearing you-know-whats on the tops of their heads as concessions to the rules of the ride), on "Ordinaries" (highwheelers)--one of them period, one a reproduction, neither with pneumatic tires. Nice knickers, though! The adding-insult-to-injury department was fully occupied by the two guys who had gotten an old French tandem (cottered cranks), stretched out the frame (by adding tubing), mounted an electric sign in the expanded frame, and taken the illumination prize. They powered the thing with a generator in a Burley-type trailer!

In functional odd bikes, the winner among the vehicles I saw would have to be custom--very custom--titanium-tubed Davidson with 20" wheels and construction that more resembled an old-fashioned kick-scooter than anything else, with three frame elements sloping down from the short headtube and then level to the seat. This sort of modified step-though frame design made sense when you saw the owner was under three feet in height, with legs about a third of his body length.

Then there was the middle-aged couple on carbon-fiber-tubed, aluminum-lugged BMX bikes. And Dorothy and the Wicked Witch from "The Wizard of Oz" on a Chicago Schwinn tandem whose green paint matched the Witch's makeup. Also in the tandem story was the couple on a Burley towing a Beast of Burden Yak-type trailer with a big Rubbermaid type cargo box and a plastic-laminated pennon declaring they were "REI Mobile Service." I didn't see them leap into action, but they sure asked a lot of people if they were all right.

I had a user-error LED headlight failure on the way over to the ride. I'd changed the batteries in my Cateye EL300 before setting out, but I must not have slid it all the way back onto the bracket. It made a leap for freedom on the Pacific Coast Highway and flew into four pieces, batteries not included. Fortunately, the traffic light deities were with me, and I was able to recover all the separate chunks (batteries included) and use the light of the rear LED to reassemble them into functional order. Alas, I found the contacts tended to jostle out of alignment when riding over big bumps. A quick "love tap" brought back the light, but I was extremely happy to see an REI kiosk at the ride: I picked up one of those new little quick-clamping handlebar LED headlights as a backup I could quickly switch between bikes. I may scope out the battery-operated headlight and taillight market again; I'd like to see if I could take the complete system into either AA or AAA, so I'd have to pack only one type of battery. I had tried to standardize on AA, but then the little, inexpensive LED rear lights I'd get for backups (from yatching stores--it appears the sea kayakers use them!) use AAA, and then I found they also come in green so I just had to have a front-mounted green flasher....

I wouldn't consider it an optimal lighting strategy, but I can understand the thought behind one BMX-riding teen's array of five of the little coin-battery Pyramid rubber-band-attached single LED element headlights, three in steady state, the outer left and outer right flashing. At that, his approach was far more conventional than that of the young lady in the grass skirt who had two tiki torches strapped to the back of her beach cruiser.

In the extempraneous cargo carrying solutions department, I have nothing but praise for my Lone Peak Packs rear rack trunk. When it came to post ride grab bag stuff, the grocery store coupons and zinnia seed packets went just fine in the trunk, but the kite kit and plastic ball and bat were a different story. The Lone Peak rack trunks secure with adjustable straps and plastic buckles instead of velcro or snaps. So I just had to loosen two straps, slide in the long objects, and tighten them back up again. I am not sure I'd use this solution for tent poles, though.

I had thought the ride might be a bit on the scary crash-prone slow speed side at the start, so I'd intended to ride the old hybrid, but it turns out I'd bent the rear wheel out of true (darn those potholes while riding with groceries), so I was on a Trek 520--not a speedwagon by any means, but a trifle less stable when crawling about. Still plenty of fun!

© 2006 Robert Leone, used with permission of the author. This report originally appeared in the Internet-bob mailing list.

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