There are multiple ways to spend an evening. Spring days herald the first long rides into the dimming light. A summer’s night is spent riding late, eking out the hours of cooling temperatures as the sun drops below the mountains to the west. The Autumn gets overlooked. The light is fading; by 5pm the sun has recessed from shining over Boulder, leaving a blue shadow and plummeting temperatures. It seems stupid to use this time to ride bikes. But it’s the best time. The 4:40 bus from Boulder up to Nederland is the last chance – the last shot at a singletrack fix on a Wednesday. Each week could be the last time before the snow permanently sticks to our trails.
Arriving in Nederland is always a shock. The chilly breeze from Boulder is replaced with a bitter gale blowing off the indian peaks. The sun is all but forgotten, slowly turning the clouds a shade of pink, then orange, before it’s just alpenglow keeping the sky alive.
We ride out of town – any direction will do: there’s singletrack everywhere. The ride plan is pretty simple, and involves making a straightish line back to Boulder, whilst hitting all the local favourites. Commuters pass us on their way home, and we quickly dive off the road and on to trail.
The light goes quickly. The residual glow from above is blocked by the trees, depth perception suffers, and sooner than you thought, lights are needed.
The late evening, in the late Autumn. The hills are empty. You skirt neighbourhoods; brief voyeuristic glimpses through the huge windows of mountain homes dotted about in the forest. As we make our way back towards Boulder, suddenly the Front Range becomes visible on the plains below. The lights are dazzling and scary. The lines of cars exiting Boulder back towards Denver makes a bright yellow and red cut across the landscape. The end of the horizon is filled with light – the clouds have lost their warm sunset glow and it’s now replaced with the permanent burn of human light. An eery dark purple hue to something that should, needs to be black.
The bigger picture is lost in the task at hand. We descend on a mix of old mining roads and more modern singletrack. The most mundane and well ridden trail becomes new again – refreshed by the light on my bars. Speed has no relation to velocity, but it’s more akin to the blur at the edge of your eyes; foliage, trees and dirt rushing past faster as it exits the narrow beam of your light. It’s awakening.