Midnight Misadventures

This weekend marked the end of “winter” for me as it was the first time I went on some longer rides out of the city. The first one started when a 2 mile trip to run some errands which somehow became me power-biking 20 miles.

I got home tired, but not satisfied. So I hastily installed new pedals on my bike, grabbed some sushi, and beelined for South Station for the Midnight Marathon Ride where a crowd of cyclists was gathering to board an 11pm MBTA train to the start of the Boston Marathon to bike 26.2 miles back into the city.

There I met up with friends including Emily from Hub Bicycle. This was my first midnight marathon ride and wasn’t sure what to expect. But we were ready for anything.


What took everyone by surprise was that 604 cyclists got on that train. (Well trains. The MBTA had to add on another one to accommodate everybody.) Seemed the whole city had taken their bikes out of winter-hibernation at the idea of a midnight bike adventure.

We all got off the train and set out into total darkness illuminated only by flashing bike lights. The very dense and wobbly crowd of cyclists started up the hill toward the start line. And then it started raining.


As we floated through pitch black darkness and rolling up and down hills towards Boston clumps of cyclists started pulling off to the side to attend to their neglected bikes. And while I felt bad, I suddenly realized I’ve moved up the beginner biker scale:


I’m moving off the chart. I’m very close to actually knowing something about bicycles. And kind of scared of turning into an asshole.

Saddened by my loss of bike-innocence (and also that I could not help any of the struggling cyclists as none of them had pedal problems) I thought I would take a moment to give a little visual guide to equipment & maintenance:

Quick Guide to Bike Equipment & Maintenance

I also advise starting out with a bike ride to the park or for ice cream before biking the Boston Marathon at midnight. However, after 26.2 miles struggling in the dark, biking 2 miles in civilization may seem like cake. Keep pedaling!

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  • AnomaLily April 19, 2012   Reply →

    This reminds me a little of the midnight mystery ride, which has been going on in Portland every month for close to 10 years. At midnight, riders meet up at a location set just a few days earlier. A little after midnight, everyone rides, but only the leader (which changes each month) knows where things are going. Sometimes, the rides are 10, 15 miles in the dark through the woods. Sometimes they’re 2 miles down the road through the city. Then we hang out and drink beer, have campfires, and maybe even dance (depending on how wet it is.) In the winter (which is rainy and gross in Portland), maybe only 20-50 people show up. In the summer, 500-600 can show up. You get a lot of mechanical issues with that many people rolling. Usually the more bike-saavy are kind and help people fix up on the side of the road. A good mechanic comes prepared with a STRONG headlamp. :-)

    • Dan K April 19, 2012  

      That sounds like a lot of fun – when do these usually happen (in case I find myself planning vacation time in Portland)?

    • el timito April 20, 2012  

      2nd Friday of the month. By tradition the start location isn’t announced til noon that day.
      Click link for info. And have fun in Portland!

    • adventure! April 23, 2012  

      And generally it’s meet up at 11pm, depart at midnight, ride 3-5 (or so) miles to a secret destination. Bring warm-enough clothes and beverages of your choice.

    • Gerg Hum April 20, 2012  

      This is an excellent idea, we are going to make this happen in Boston.

      We have a midnight architecture tour which has just as many people, but I think this year more people came on midnight marathon.

    • @teeheehee April 20, 2012  

      Whoa, wait, what’s this about a midnight architecture ride? What have I been missing?

    • FWBS May 25, 2012  

      It’s called Boston By Bike At Night. It happens in August. Usually announced in random places like this. http://bostonbiker.org/tag/back-bay-midnight-pedalers/

    • SaddleAmericana May 2, 2012  

      Nice—especially at 500-600 cyclists?! That’s got to be some seriously joyous cycling raucousness and madness! Some of my friends do “all night” runs in Tempe, AZ that last from about 1-2, maybe 230 am. Last time, they tried adding some pull ups into the mix, but ended up breaking both their asses and the street sign they were dangling from! Stick with 2 wheels fellas!

  • Dan K April 19, 2012   Reply →

    It was a ridiculously large wrench.
    Here’s to hoping it will be warm and dry next year.
    And to anyone who rode one of the Hubway bikes, as they say: “mad respect”.

  • John April 19, 2012   Reply →

    I wish I saw you on the ride, I would have loved to say hi to you, considering I’ve been reading weekly since you came to this address. I finished my first midight marathon this year too, I did it in 1hour 15 mins. Did you time yourself?

  • anniebikes April 20, 2012   Reply →

    Midnight rides sound like fun. I don’t think we have one here in Burlington. I think I’d prefer a daylight one with lots of women and we end at a coffee shop or go for creemees.

  • Cycler April 20, 2012   Reply →

    One of the reasons I didn’t go, other than the getting up and going to work thing, was that I was worried it would all be go-fast bikers, and I’d be left as the last one all alone. Sound like that wouldn’t have been a problem.

  • Emily April 20, 2012   Reply →

    So fun! I can’t wait to see what tools you pull out of your bag next year. Headset press? Bottom bracket facing tool?

    I’d recommend that anyone and everyone go on the midnight ride. There was a really, really wide range of bikes and their riders that showed up- race ready fast folks, single speeds, Hubways (mad respect, indeed), 10 speeds just pulled from apartment building basements, at least one tandem- it was great to see all kinds of people having fun. In the rain. In the middle of the night.

  • Shebicycles April 20, 2012   Reply →

    Love the Beginner Bike Scale. :)

  • William Furr April 20, 2012   Reply →

    I must still be at that “hardcore newbie” step. I keep trying to do things to fix on my own bike and failing. Last time it was brake pads. The frickin’ frackin’ razzle-mutter grumble brake arms wouldn’t center no matter what I did. Took it to the shop and the guy had it fixed and the pads installed and correctly aligned in 10 minutes. Oh well. Next time.

    PS – It was the little tab thingy behind the spring on the brake arm that had gotten out of place.

    PPS – Another good note for beginner cyclists would be that the chain is supposed to be quiet, not squeaky. If it’s squeaky that means it needs oil.

  • Ailish April 20, 2012   Reply →

    It was a fun ride! Occasionally, I’d come across people stopped by the side of the road. I’d usually ask if they were all set. Most said they were fine, though I did end up holding a light for a few minutes while someone worked out what was wrong with their bike. One group, oddly, said they were fine, unless I had a floor pump. I allowed as how I didn’t, and wished them luck, thinking “Who’d bring a floor pump on a ride?” Now I know. :)

  • Eric April 20, 2012   Reply →

    Yes, listen to your bike – when you hear that squeaky chain, its really saying ‘oil me, oil me’! :-)

    • Karl April 21, 2012  

      However don’t generalise. Squeaky brakes aren’t saying, “Oil me!”. 😉

  • Anna R. April 20, 2012   Reply →

    It’s funny, here in Idaho it almost feel safer to ride at night. :) we just started up moonlight rides (on full moon nights). But it was cloudy, so it felt a lot like your night pic.
    the bike scale is spot on.

  • Branden April 20, 2012   Reply →

    I was tempted by the midnight ride. I’m a runner and love the Boston Marathon, but I’m not fast enough to qualify. What a cool way to experience the course!

    FWIW, I’m at “Casual” on your newbie scale. I’m digging Hubway, though. Today I brought my helmet just so I could skip the Green Line and bike over to the Red. Maybe by next month I’ll be confident enough for Bike to Work Week.

  • Sarah April 20, 2012   Reply →

    Oh, you so nailed it as always! I was on the sunset ride so missed the rain, but yeah–how ’bout that manure-y stretch? And the peepers?? I was like–we are in the country now, boy!

  • Megan April 20, 2012   Reply →

    Love the progression chart! Will you be coming to the Ladies Who Bike brunch tomorrow at Area Four (linked from my comment profile).

  • john April 20, 2012   Reply →

    so cool, i wish i was still in boston, and could have gone on this ride. i have cool lights on my spokes that i rarely get to use since i’m not bike commuting these days

  • GRJim April 20, 2012   Reply →

    uys who know a little something about bikes can be assholish, true. Put them on the internet and it becomes a Assholey War.

    Whatever – beats being all nicey-nice all the time.

  • Joseph April 22, 2012   Reply →

    Thanks for paying attention to the snob/asshole question. I think your concern about becoming one is a good sign that you won’t! Clearly any progress is good, and it’s unrealistic and unproductive to expect everyone to leap instantly to complete geeky devotion and expertise. I am a newbie somewhere in the liquid nails/sunny day range. The literal sneers I have received from spandex-clad jocks cruising at 20+mph, as I tootle along in my day clothes on my rusty mountain bike on my 1.5-mile work commute, have been the opposite of motivational.

  • Ry April 22, 2012   Reply →

    Grrrrl if you have a pedal wrench you are no longer a nube 😉

  • James Holland April 22, 2012   Reply →

    I am very high on your scale somewhere between casual snob to class of my own.I like your bike guide since i ride two at one time…:)

  • pocky April 22, 2012   Reply →

    Not all guys who know something about bikes are assholes! I was one of the guys who stopped many times to help people I found stuck at the side of the road. Don’t worry about turning into an asshole — it’s who you were *before* you learned bike mechanics that determines how you act afterward, so you’ll be one of the nice ones!

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