Nightriders

A small dark shape floated in front of her face. She took a step backwards and the shape followed. It was early evening, dinner was over and the night warm. It was ideal for a slow bike ride to soak in whatever cool breeze the night air might offer.

The free feeling of riding a bike is amplified at night. Pace and place have a different relationship. Under the beam of a bike light and the intermittent glow of streetlights, the wheels roll, seemingly faster than in the day, and all attention turns to the path immediately ahead. The night makes black the fences and houses and trees and people that the day brings into clear relief. Now they are shadows, sometimes silhouettes, some moving, some still, one floating in front of her face.

We stopped between two paperbark trees beside the creek near the Pelican sculptures that some years ago were exhibits in the Swell Sculpture Festival. In the twilight sky, the creek water glowed with soft ripples and a pair of Oyster Catchers called – kleep! kleep! – as they flew inland. At first I thought it was a beetle, this suspended shape. But it didn’t have the buzz of a beetle. It floated and it moved when she moved like the two were connected in some way.

‘Don’t move’ I said, seeing the shape that had floated in front of her face had landed on the leg of her hibiscus-patterned shorts. In the faint glow of a streetlight, I could see it was a huntsman spider (about 5-6cms across) and swiftly brushed it from the shorts and out of sight. After sighs of relief and a thorough checking over to see the spider wasn’t still clinging to our clothes, we rode towards home, excitedly recalling how the spider encounter had unfolded.

We neared the tennis courts where four men were playing a game of doubles under a flood of lights. I don’t know why I looked down at the bike pouch that sits near my handlebars, but I did. There was a squeal, and then hands squeezing the brakes before flying off the handlebars, followed by the quickest exit I’ve ever made off my bike. It crashed to the ground and I stumbled onto the grass beside the concrete path; my remote control key for the front gate and two Mentos mints left there from my last visit to the local Japanese café, fell out of my bike pouch, but not the spider that had taken refuge in it and popped out while I was riding past the tennis courts.

It seems that when I brushed the huntsman out of sight at the paperbark trees, I’d swept it onto my bike and ridden with it for about 500 metres. We searched the bike and the poor spider was tucked up under the gear lever, making itself as small as it could. I think it just wanted to disappear and get back to its comfy web between the paperbark trees. I certainly was ready to be home too. I flicked the spider gently off the bike with a piece of bark, had a good look at it, wished it well and we rolled on home… only to find that we couldn’t open the gate. In all the kerfuffle, I’d forgotten to pick up the remote control key.

We raced back, finding the key and the Mentos mints still on the grass by the tennis court and thankfully no signs of the nightrider spider. However, I did find strands of spider web around my handlebars for days afterwards!

20160121 kirra bike pouch IMG_1450

The bike pouch that harboured the spider on the night ride. Due to a broken zip, the pouch is always open.

18 Comments on “Nightriders

    • The huntsman spiders look quite scary Dan and they carry a venom but thankfully they’re not dangerous to humans. They’re quite common around here.

      I love riding at night too 🙂 it’s such a different feeling to the daytime.

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    • Yeah I was glad too! 🙂 They’re a common spider, carry venom and can bite but aren’t deadly to humans. They usually do their best to run away! They’re just big, hairy and scary 😀

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  1. I agree with your comments about riding at night. In my commuting, I ride about 50% at night. I am always amazed at how my town shuts down at night and everything seems to be so calm. As to the spider, you were very compassionate to it. It might have lost it’s life if it had landed on my bike.

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    • You’re right, there is a quietness on the streets at night time. Sometimes it feels like I’m visiting another town because it’s such a different experience from the day.

      It sounds like you do a lot of riding at night, Mae. What sort of trips take you out on your bike at night time? Is it work commuting, dinner, visiting friends…?

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      • Gail, I get off of work at my day job at 5:30pm and it is dark. I have another job that I go to work at midnight. So I do a lot of commuting, but I also run errands and pretty much anytime time I can take the bike, I do.

        Liked by 1 person

      • That’s wonderful! I find riding a bike is such a great way to turn up to work – and the ride home is a good de-stressor. I imagine that would be even moreso in a nighttime commute. Are there good bicycle lanes in your town Mae?

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      • There are actually no bike lanes in my small town. I have had to learn to ride with traffic. That was scary at first, but I learned to be aggressive and very attentive to my surroundings. I also ride a motorcycle, so I learned a little of that before I started bicycle commuting.

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  2. I had to laugh at this story. Gail you built suspense and conveyed the very same panic I’ve had in close encounters of the eight-legged kind. How lovely it must be to cycle in the dark though, notwithstanding the reluctant ‘night-rider’.

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    • 🙂 I’ve ridden a lot at night time Robyn and this is the first time a spider has hitched a ride. It made me laugh too… after the panic subsided. Glad you enjoyed the story, thanks 🙂

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  3. What a delightful and amusing cycling tale. I loved the way you told it. I was intrigued by the first couple of sentences and had to read on. I’m a fan of most spiders but I may not be particularly calm if one crawled on me during a night ride! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’m glad the intrigue kept you reading Jane 🙂
      Despite their creepy, scary reputation, I find spiders quite fascinating too. Such remarkable feats of web-weaving deserve absolute admiration!

      Liked by 1 person

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