Sparky darts in and out of our lights, leaping and crunching through the dry leaves as he revels in his superior night vision. It's cold enough to see your breath, and Dave and I concentrate on gearing up. A quick light check and we're ready to go.
Night riding is an interesting beast; the darkness swallows your landmarks and the lights flatten the terrain. There's little to no contrast and the 3rd dimension is inferred through color alone. Trails your know like the back of your hand become strange and unfamiliar creatures under the glow of your headlamp.
We hit the first climb with enthusiasm and make the top faster than usual. The singletrack descent is a bit slower going. We're more careful on jumps and cautious on blind switchbacks and gnarly rock gardens. No contrast means picking your line more carefully while, at the same time, keeping loose and letting your bike feel the way. The flipside of not seeing things is not worrying about them.
We bleed our altitude like a bad brake job, twisting and turning, pressing farther into the darkness.
Afterwards, Dave and I have a little chat about our first and only night training ride, as well as our predictions for team Google Earthlings: