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3:30 AM start. Crazy or smart?

Old 08-06-19, 06:03 PM
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UniChris
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3:30 AM start. Crazy or smart?

So I discovered that the problem with accomplishing a long ride goal is that it then puts you in "and now what?" mode. For lack of a better idea, and total failure at getting myself to take shorter rides seriously and get out the door in time to actually do them, I figure I might as well repeat the long one.

Problem is, I need to squeeze a 16 hour ride into what is now a 14 hour day.

Unfortunately the near end of the viable route presents some real challenges of conditions in the pre-dawn or long-after-sunset dark, even with pretty serious lighting. When I first did this ride (a year ago today), it actually took me 18 hours, because once it got pitch dark I had to slow way down for safety. In contrast, in late June and early July of this summer I was able to do it in about 16 hours, starting just after dawn and ending not uncomfortably after dark. But the days are already shorter, so that would no longer be true.

Normally I ride out and back but I got to looking at the train schedule and realized that I could get on a 2am train that reaches the far end of my route around 3:30 am. That got me thinking that I could ride the train up, have a leisurely picnic breakfast, and maybe start riding around 4:30 or quarter of five, getting in a solid if moderately paced hour on path in fairly decent condition before the sun even started to come up. I'd then ride south towards home, hit some of the badly paved parts in early afternoon, turn around before the dirt mudpatch that is the obstacle of the usual start, and head back north, hopefully finishing on decent path right as dusk yields to true night.

Is starting a ride at 3:30 or 4:30 am in the middle of nowhere a good idea or a bad one?

I'm persistently bad at getting real sleep before long rides, so I figure trying to zone out between 7pm and midnight isn't really any worse that what's happened in the past when I tried to sleep from 11-3am (if anything, I'm more tired mid-evening than at bedtime), and the train ride itself present some time to relax.

Dark is dark, but while the far end of the route is less populated, I keep thinking that any riding mishap in the early morning happens in conditions which only get lighter and more travelled as the sun comes up, vs one in the evening happens in conditions which only get darker and more isolated.

(By way of explanatory context, my er, "bike" only has one wheel. I've now ridden three centuries on said giant unicycle, and while others could do that faster, realistically experience says I have to plan on the fact that it's going to take me 16 hours and not much less)

Last edited by UniChris; 08-06-19 at 06:15 PM.
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Old 08-06-19, 06:14 PM
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I managed to finally get on the bike and riding by 3am. It's awesome, a truly magic hour of silence and peace.
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Old 08-06-19, 06:19 PM
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.... There is a little pic of the unicycle in your sig. Is there a larger picture? You only have this one bike? Salute!!

:mesearchingforunicyclegif: :drat!!:
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Old 08-06-19, 06:33 PM
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Early morning rides are great...Go for it and enjoy.
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Old 08-06-19, 06:43 PM
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You are crazy!
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Old 08-06-19, 07:12 PM
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Originally Posted by wolfchild View Post
early morning rides are great...go for it and enjoy.
+1
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Old 08-06-19, 07:12 PM
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Impressive to say the least

light up like a Christmas tree if you decide to ride this early in the morning

how many miles do you plan on riding on this day?
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Old 08-06-19, 07:19 PM
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Might be able to start at 2:30am. It'd put you in a prime finish time.
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Old 08-06-19, 07:21 PM
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I've started a couple dozen rides between 4-4:30am. It's a great hour around here since it gives enough time to take the shortest routes out of town on state highways and trunk roads that are unrideable even at 7-8am. So I don't see any issue, your logic is sound and the earlier start time sounds like it'll work great for what you want to do.
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Old 08-06-19, 07:52 PM
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Originally Posted by UniChris View Post
Unfortunately the near end of the viable route presents some real challenges of conditions in the pre-dawn or long-after-sunset dark, even with pretty serious lighting.
I don't understand this.

With sufficient lighting I'm able to ride just as fast in the dark. Modern LED lighting has revolutionized my riding.

What are the challenges that require slowing down?

I'm not trying to challenge your statement but sincerely want to understand.


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Old 08-06-19, 08:12 PM
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Well, he's on a unicycle for one thing, which I'm guessing has some different issues than say a regular diamond frame. And we have no idea where he's riding it, could be singletrack in the forest.

I've gotten on the road by 4am a few times. It's awesome. There's pretty much no one out there for the first 90 minutes-- just me, the owls and the coyotes. I've ridden 4+ hours before seeing another person on a bicycle.
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Old 08-06-19, 08:13 PM
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I get up to ride almost every morning at 5 AM. I have gotten up as early as 4 and been on the road by 4:30 AM. It works great as there’s less traffic.

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Old 08-06-19, 08:48 PM
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Could only be in the USA, were in trouble.
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Old 08-06-19, 08:58 PM
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Originally Posted by TimothyH View Post
I don't understand this.

With sufficient lighting I'm able to ride just as fast in the dark. Modern LED lighting has revolutionized my riding.

What are the challenges that require slowing down?
I'll ride something like the Hudson River Greenway well past 10pm and at a decent pace in the reasonable sections, but rural dark and bad surfaces are different.

First challenge just in from the near end is a mile and half of dirt through wetlands. Experience shows that under a headlamp I can't tell mud in which I'd spin out from rideable dirt (and I've come home wearing half that trail before after guessing wrong), with the tree cover the result is that if I hit that before 6am I'll end up having to walk at least a mile of it. When I've done the route as a round trip, on the evening return I left the trail before the dirt section and diverted to a commuter rail station, but there are no pre-dawn trains that I could use to bypass that and be spinning real miles before the sun comes up.

Next is that miles 7-13 or so are have notoriously failing pavement with lots of tree roots and chuck holes - legend has it they paved over the railroad ties without removing them, and after years of settling it shows. During the day these require attention, at night I just can't see enough detail with the lights and end up having to correct after the fact, which really chops my speed down. A few days after the solstice in June I managed to get though there in twilight but the day is now too short - hitting that long after dark this time last summer was just too slow. Contrastingly even last summer once through the bad part and able to feel the end I was really able to sprint the last few miles around 11 pm because I knew there were only a few specific spots I needed to be cautious of.

In contrast to all of that the far end of the trail is in much better shape; I don't like hitting it in the dark dark, but I've set out later than planned on one-way rides to catch the train back enough times that I have a lot of experience riding it in the real dark. And if I got enough distance done in the pre-dawn hours, then I'd probably manage to finish in evening twilight.

Last edited by UniChris; 08-06-19 at 09:03 PM.
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Old 08-07-19, 12:01 AM
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Brevets often start in the wee hours of the morning, to give riders the chance of finishing in the daylight. The night riding is done when you're fresh, allowing you to deal with tiredness in the daylight.

I personally don't like the 2-3AM time, because the bars are closing, but by 4:00 things quiet down.
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Old 08-07-19, 12:14 AM
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I'd say that if you've assessed that you're ok riding in the dark at that end, go for it. Also makes sense that you would want to be dealing with more difficult riding conditions at the beginning rather than at the end, tiredness is not the friend of adaptability.

You're riding a unicycle 100 miles in a day. In my mind, you went past crazy a while back, but in a good way. Now is the fun part--variations on a crazy theme.
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Old 08-07-19, 01:11 AM
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ANYTIME between 12 and 12 is a great time to start a ride, PERIOD. The important question is, IS IT SAFE TO START AT THE SELECTED STARTING POINT AT THE TIME CHOSEN TO START?
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Old 08-07-19, 03:59 AM
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In the few times I've needed to ride longer than there is daylight, I always chose to ride in the dark at the beginning of the ride. I'm more alert, not fatigued and by the time the sun comes up have a psychological head start on the miles.
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Old 08-07-19, 04:08 AM
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Originally Posted by downtube42 View Post
Brevets often start in the wee hours of the morning, to give riders the chance of finishing in the daylight. The night riding is done when you're fresh, allowing you to deal with tiredness in the daylight.

I personally don't like the 2-3AM time, because the bars are closing, but by 4:00 things quiet down.
All the morning news people are getting up at 2 am to report on the day's new mayhem, guess that works out. Seeing the sun rising as you hit the finish line isn't as good as the Who at Woodstock though.
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Old 08-07-19, 04:43 AM
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Definitely! I have found if I donít get out and do it in the morning, it wonít always get done. Work or family will get in the way. Plus cooler and dryer (avoid riding in the rain) in the morning as well.
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Old 08-07-19, 05:07 AM
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I love the silence and solitude of an early start. Around here though, the quietest time is 11pm-2am. I start to see work trucks (pickup truck with a rack full of gear in the bed, ladders, and maybe a trailer of more gear) around 3am/4am.
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Old 08-07-19, 05:23 AM
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Originally Posted by DrIsotope View Post
Well, he's on a unicycle for one thing, which I'm guessing has some different issues than say a regular diamond frame. And we have no idea where he's riding it, could be singletrack in the forest.

I've gotten on the road by 4am a few times. It's awesome. There's pretty much no one out there for the first 90 minutes-- just me, the owls and the coyotes. I've ridden 4+ hours before seeing another person on a bicycle.
Kinda why this entire thread is silly.
Kudos to the OP for being a one-wheeled beast but where does he expect to find advice on how to manage 16 hour unicycle rides in the middle of the night.
Other people simply stating obvious sentiments like ĎI love to go on quiet, peaceful rides at 3amí isnít exactly advice.

Last edited by downhillmaster; 08-07-19 at 05:27 AM.
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Old 08-07-19, 05:35 AM
  #23  
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Early morning rides are great. Later in the year, my commutes in the morning are well before it gets light. The only things to keep in mind.
  • Critters. Skunks, possums, deer, rabbits and dogs that people let run free at night.
  • Drunks coming home.
  • People not yet awake going to work.
  • People getting off of work.
  • Lights. I use lots of lights.
Then there was the time that I got spooked by something coping along side at 25 mph one morning. It was light leakage off to the side of my headlight hitting a rock wall through one of the valleys that I ride.
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Old 08-07-19, 06:17 AM
  #24  
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Originally Posted by UniChris View Post
I'll ride something like the Hudson River Greenway well past 10pm and at a decent pace in the reasonable sections, but rural dark and bad surfaces are different.

First challenge just in from the near end is a mile and half of dirt through wetlands. Experience shows that under a headlamp I can't tell mud in which I'd spin out from rideable dirt (and I've come home wearing half that trail before after guessing wrong), with the tree cover the result is that if I hit that before 6am I'll end up having to walk at least a mile of it. When I've done the route as a round trip, on the evening return I left the trail before the dirt section and diverted to a commuter rail station, but there are no pre-dawn trains that I could use to bypass that and be spinning real miles before the sun comes up.

Next is that miles 7-13 or so are have notoriously failing pavement with lots of tree roots and chuck holes - legend has it they paved over the railroad ties without removing them, and after years of settling it shows. During the day these require attention, at night I just can't see enough detail with the lights and end up having to correct after the fact, which really chops my speed down. A few days after the solstice in June I managed to get though there in twilight but the day is now too short - hitting that long after dark this time last summer was just too slow. Contrastingly even last summer once through the bad part and able to feel the end I was really able to sprint the last few miles around 11 pm because I knew there were only a few specific spots I needed to be cautious of.

In contrast to all of that the far end of the trail is in much better shape; I don't like hitting it in the dark dark, but I've set out later than planned on one-way rides to catch the train back enough times that I have a lot of experience riding it in the real dark. And if I got enough distance done in the pre-dawn hours, then I'd probably manage to finish in evening twilight.
OK. Thank you. Sounds like poor surfaces. At the risk of trivializing, which I'm not trying to do, have you considered better lighting?

A unicycle probably limits light choices but as one who runs 1850 lumens front facing with both helmet and bar lights on max, I'd urge the brightest lights possible.

There are helmet lamps well over 1500 lumen - not inexpensive but certainly an investment. Lupine Lights come to mind. I'd love to test ride the Piko R7 Smartcore.

If it helps, this is a photo of 1850 lumens, intentionlly pointed up for max illumination on roads with no motor vehicle traffic.




-Tim-
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Old 08-07-19, 07:09 AM
  #25  
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Don't do it if it will be unreasonably dangerous. Otherwise, it's a great time. During my 2017 tour across PA I started out in complete darkness. After a couple of miles I started riding a trail. A couple of miles into the trail I saw something coming straight towards me. A first I thought it was a small bear. Turned out to be a giant porcupine.
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