Evening rides come in two kinds. First, there’s the frantic assembly on lycra pulled on after a stressful day; a ride sandwiched closely between the commute and darkness. These rides are the bread and butter of Spring and Autumn. They are what keeps the wheels turning when there isn’t another time to ride. The second kind of evening ride is the rare adventure; the carefully planned escape from work before the clock strikes five. Friends organised, riding kit ready, tyres pre-pumped and chains well oiled. You drive away from the bustle of rush hour – the opposite direction from normal. Your stomach grumbles a little as it realises it won’t be getting any post-work cake and a cup of tea. This is what makes the summertime: The Magic Hour.
You get to the trails as all the other cars are leaving. The sun at this point has sped up on its descent to the west. Motivation is high, no time to check maps. This is two important for faffing around. Within minutes the gravelly trail is biting under your tyres, the coarse evening air clawing at your throat; complaining that there wasn’t a warm up.
We take the short route to the top. The maze of trails has so many options, but we cut out the filler today; this is mountain biking concentrated. Steep and loose after a summer without enough rain, we take the ‘up’ option at every fork.
Soon, the rush ends. The top has a view. The light is pure. The view is empty. Everyone else is home from work, eating cake.
The time for photos is done now. Muscle memory takes over. You are relieved from decision making, your body and bike ride the trail together while you sit back and enjoy the view. No-one is coming up; no-one else is enjoying the magic hour. The trail is yours, you’re totally immersed in the experience.
It ends so soon. The magic hour fading into the half-light. The roots now are vague, waiting in the darkness. The light fades to nothing as you return to the car. Bikes are loaded at the orange horizon looses it’s colour, the day is done, and done well.