Midnight Bike Ride

Somerset bridge

I couldn’t pass up the invitation to Friday night’s Midnight Bike Ride, so I showed up at Ottawa’s Somerset Bridge just shortly after 11:30. A handful of people were already there, and we chatted for a bit.

Some of us has brought snacks. Jesse was waving about a bottle of a homemade concoction he called “Mana Potion”.

“What’s in it?” I asked.

“Spinach, mint and white grape juice, all blended together,” he said with a smile.

“Ugh. Count me out,” I said.

By about ten minutes after midnight, we’d decided that everyone who was going to show up had arrived. We pointed our bikes on the path running alongside the canal and started making our way towards the locks at the end of the Rideau Canal.


About three blocks into the trip — I heard some funny noises coming from my pannier, which was strapped onto the rack over my bike’s rear wheel. I reached back to make sure it was properly anchored when I heard a snapping sound. The next thing I knew, the pannier had sprung loose from its position and jammed itself into my rear wheel. I found myself going over the handlebars, and the next thing I knew was hitting the ground…hard.

I landed on the asphalt of the bikepath, but without skidding. It was as if I’d fallen from a height rather than a moving vehicle. I was in the air for a moment, and the next thing I knew, I was sprawled on terra maxima firma. My fellow cyclists surrounded me, and one of them put out his hand and pulled me up.

The wind had been knocked out me for a moment, after which I said “Whoa.”

I held up my hands and did a quick check. Nothing felt broken. It was a five-point landing: left elbow, right palm, both knees, and my chin. It took me a moment to realize that the knock on the back of my head was my accordion, which I was wearing like a backpack. My helmet took that impact quite well. My beard had grown a little scruffy and made a nice cushion, which is why I don’t have a scar on my chin right now (in some senses, a pity: chicks dig scars). I have a small scrape on my left elbow and since I was wearing jeans, not much damage to the skin on my knees.

“How can you even be standing?” someone asked.

“I dunno. Guess I landed right,” I said.

“Mana potion?” asked Jesse, proferring his bottle. “It’ll help.”

“Sure,” I said, “at this point, why not?”

I took a swig and discovered I liked it. I was expecting a spinach drink to taste terrible, but it was pretty nice. Perhaps I’d been knocked harder than I thought.

I gave myself another check. “Holy shit, I think I’m in one piece.”

I took a look at my bike. Aside from my bell, which had been flattened in the impact, no damage I could see aside from a few “battle scars”. I’m not one of those people who freaks out if his bike isn’t pristine.

“Oh, better check this — it’s like a part of me,” I said, reaching around for my accordion. I played a few notes and checked the keys and buttons. No apparent damage.

After a couple of minutes, I said to my companions “Look, I don’t really hurt. If I could borrow some of James’ tape to secure my panniers, I’m still good for this ride.”

And off we went into the night.

Parliament ottawa river night

Creative Commons photo by Endlisnis.

Ottawa is in the middle of a big river valley, so it’s delightfully flat. The bike paths along the Rideau Canal and Ottawa River make for nice leisurely rides, which this one was. None of us were trying to win a race; we were just in it for a nice right in the night. That’s a good thing: the paths aren’t too well lit at night, so you can’t go too quickly, or you’ll find yourself barrelling headlong into the woods, a tree or even the river.

James has strapped a Bluetooth speaker unit to the seat of his bike, which was being fed tunes from his phone: some Zeppelin, then Hendrix, Gnarls Barkley and even a string quartet. Between the surprising power of his speakers and the quiet of the bike path at night, the sound carried very well. It was like having our very own soundtrack. With the music around us the the shadowy shapes of trees whizzing past to the left and right, coupled with the fact that I’d “endo’d” just a few minutes before, it seemed a little unreal. Perhaps “cinematic” is a better word.

We crossed the Ottawa River at the Chaudiere Bridge and continued eastward along the river on the Quebec side. Across the river stood Parliament Hill and its buildings, all aglow and looking stunning. From this side of the river, you could be forgiven for thinking that you were in a European city: perhaps Prague, looking across the Vltava.

Lake leamy

A few more kilometres and a couple of bike paths later, we ended up at Lac Leamy, an artificial lake and our destination. A minute’s quick change in the shadows later, we were all chilling out, neck-deep in the lake. I do a lot of swimming, but it’s been ages since I swam in something that wasn’t a pool.

When we returned to shore and put some clothes on, the snacks came out. Cherries, raspberries, grapes, raisins, pistachios, baby-cut carrots and jellybeans. I had a little more mana potion, still amazed that it tasted good. I’m going to have to hit Jesse up for the recipe.

It felt like a camping trip; the only thing missing was a campfire.

Someone finally suggested that we make our way back, so we hopped on our bikes and started on our way home. A couple of kilometres into the ride, one of the girls had to take a pee break. We stopped, and while she ran into the woods, I played Plush on the accordion. The acoustics in the spot where we stopped were fantastic; it was like a concert hall!

We crossed back to the Ontario side on the Alexandra Bridge and parted ways, after which I made my way back to the Swank Tank, tired, sleepy and happy.

I’d be up for another midnight ride.

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