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Cyclocross bike in the woods after dark

Knight Riders, a structured evening training ride in the woods.

You want to get fit this Spring but it’s cold, wet and dark outside, why face the mud and freeze your nuts off in the woods when there’s a plethora of carefully designed indoor turbo training plans, each promising to transform you into the toned athletic God you imagine yourself to be.

Obvious answer is it’s just great fun, less controlled for sure, but far more interesting than creeping past those bar charts or exploring the mythological world of Watopia. Don’t get me wrong, Zwift, Trainer Road and others have their place but oh, after a while, aren’t they so dull?

Riding in the woods at night is an unforgettable experience, at first, I’ll admit, slightly daunting as you cannot really see what’s coming along, some bumps cast massive shadows looking well scary while there are others you just don’t see.  However, with time you get used to it, relax, take things in your stride, you begin to understand what the bike can do, as your bike handling skills will blossom as will your confidence.

The Knight Rides are training rides, designed to accommodate riders at various levels of fitness. They are loosely structured as a series of training intervals with frequent regrouping. Ride an interval at your pace, regroup, recover, repeat. As your riding over different terrain, you’ll be using your legs and your core, routines that over time increases your overall cardio fitness, strength and bike handling skills and you have a shedload of fun at the same time – win win.

You’ll need a decent off-road bike, whether it’s a mountain, gravel or CX bike is a personal choice, but it’s important that it’s in good condition as fixing anything but the most basic mechanical in the middle of the dark wood is damn near impossible.  

Don’t forget, a decent front light! If you are buying yourself a new headlight, please don’t skimp, ideally look for a light that with an output of at least 600 lumens with a 3 hour battery life at this power. Avoid the cheaper options as they tend to have a disappointing battery life and aren’t durable.

There are many views on the number of lights needed, some people swear that a helmet light and handlebar set up is vital. I have a single powerful handlebar lamp for the woods, backed up with standard front light for the journey to and from.

So, if you’re a keen off-road rider looking to gain or maintain skills and fitness, consider trying a Knight Ride, apart from being a laugh, they are a useful addition to anyone’s training program and make a welcome change to staring at the screen.

Interested in joining?  The rides start at 7.30 pm every Thursday, meeting at Elmer’s End Green BR3 4AJ and you’ll be back in South London around 10pm.  You need to book them in advance here and they cost £10 per rider.

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