Went for my first night ride of the fall on Saturday, armed with LEDs front and rear. Was struck by how unusual my usual rail-trail could seem simply because of the darkness: Strange noises in the woods, pockets of especially warm or cold air, odd intrusions of light ("What's that green glow? Oh, a Mountain Dew vending machine on the golf course. Is that lightning? No, strobe lights from the airport.")
As I cleared the light pollution of the city, I clicked off all but the bare minimum candlepower to enjoy the stars. Whizzing along, I started to feel like I'd make a pretty bad-ass nocturnal predator... practically silent, fast, able to navigate on sound, instinct and the faint glow of a couple LEDs. That is, until I happened upon a family of five raccoons on the trail.
There was a narrow line between the ringed tails and black masks, and just enough reaction time for me to pick it out. Unfortunately, no sooner did I see it and commit myself than my furry friends saw me and scattered. I'm more than a little glad that I couldn't see what happened... between the angry chattering, the feeling of something being struck hard by my left pedal, something else hitting the right side of my back wheel hard enough to knock it off line, and my little-girl shriek (so much for the bad-ass nocturnal predator), I'm sure it was an ugly scene. I flashed briefly on an image of me going down and being swarmed by pissed-off raccoons, but managed to keep everything upright. By the time I skidded to a halt, turned around, and fired up all my lights, they were gone. No sign of blood, which, combined with the fact that they were all able to skeedaddle, I took as a good sign that I didn't inflict a mortal wound.
Moral: Just because you can ride fast in the dark doesn't mean you should. And maybe one of those wheel-driven bells that runs all the time would be a good idea...