Wednesday Night Lights defies the norms of mountain biking by embarking on rides in complete darkness. Every Wednesday night during winter, weather permitting, members of Bellingham’s mountain biking community gather on Galbraith Mountain for a ride they’ll never forget.
Tighe Burke, the organizer of the event, said he wanted to get people out on the trails during the cold and wet months when there isn’t much opportunity for riding.
“I really like riding bikes, and I'm all about mountain biking,” Burke said. “So I was like, ‘Let's try to get a few folks out and ride.’ Just get out on the trail, in the middle of the week.”
Burke is a bike mechanic at Trek Bicycles in downtown Bellingham. With most of his coworkers and close friends being avid mountain bikers, it wasn’t tough getting the word out and starting Wednesday Night Lights.
“It was easy to remind them every week. It's like, ‘Hey, bring your lights tomorrow, we’re going riding,’” Burke said.
What started as an idea in November 2022 quickly became something bigger, growing into a Wednesday night ritual that drew a steady crowd of people.
“There were a few here and there where it was good weather and people didn't have much work to do. And, you know, usually those nights we get pretty big,” Burke said. “So we definitely had a few good turnouts of 20-[year-old] people or high teens. That was always super rad.”
Head of the Western Mountain Bike Club at Western Washington University, Andy Ford, is Burke’s good friend, and helped in promoting Wednesday Night Lights and introducing more Western students to the event.
“Mountain bikers are a pretty unorganized group,” Ford said. “So the fact that we've organized anything is kind of a miracle in and of itself. The main goal of it was to kind of get a community together.”
Justin Daniels, who worked with Burke at Trek Bicycles, joined several of the rides.
“Every week it seemed like we had new people joining and the groups got bigger,” Daniels said. “Everyone is welcome and invited. It’s very inclusive and you can find a group of riders that meets your fitness and skill level.”
Sydney Papritz, who frequented the rides, said the toughest part is motivating yourself to make it there, but everything that follows makes it worthwhile.
“I leave with a smile on my face every time, and although we ride in the dark, I feel like it's my vitamin D in the winter. That’s what keeps me coming back,” Papritz said.
Apart from bringing a lively energy, there are other essentials that are needed for Wednesday Night Lights. This includes a two light system, with both a handlebar light and a headlight, some extra layers and for some, a beer to crack at the top.
“If we stop at the top, usually some folks are drinking a beer up there. We're doing a little hangout, checking out the views if there are any,” Burke said. “So it's usually good to bring an extra layer. It’s gonna be cold out there, so be prepared for that.”
Burke said to also be ready for a time commitment.
“You meet at 7:30 p.m. So you aren't getting back [until] at the earliest, maybe 10 o'clock, so it runs a little late,” Burke said. “The rides are reasonable, out in the woods for an hour and a half. Usually an hour ride time, a half hour of waiting at the stops, hanging out.”
Given that one's sense of surroundings is going to be impeded in the dark, and adrenaline takes over, there are bound to be a few wipeouts on the trail. But Burke said there haven't been any serious injuries.
“Thankfully, you know, no broken bones, no concussions that we've clocked out there,” Burke said. “There's been a few mechanicals, we've had a couple of broken wheels, just from folks going a little fast and not necessarily knowing where they're going.”
With Burke being a bike mechanic, he’s usually able to pinpoint minor issues that occur on the trail and get people up and riding again.
Marcus Mckee frequented the Wednesday Night Lights rides.
“Wednesday Night Lights speaks to what I would consider to be the actual true spirit of bike culture and Bellingham.” Mckee said. “People willing to be free spirited on their bikes and take whatever is given and love the heck out of it.”
Burke plans on getting the event up and rolling again in November. They will include any further updates on their Instagram page.
Evan Riley (he/him) is a city news reporter for The Front this quarter. He is a third-year student at Western working towards his major in News/Editorial journalism. He has dreams of becoming a travel writer and is continually thinking about where he'll go next.
You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org