The clocks going back is often a signal for cyclists to put away their bikes for the season, but this year we decided to embrace the darkness and celebrate the season with an after dark winter ride. We’ve done one night ride before, but that was in the height of summer, so we weren’t sure how many people would be up for joining us for a somewhat challenging hilly route out to the Glenkiln Reservoir and around Speddoch – a fair bit of climbing and a long descent on unlit roads for a total distance of about 26 miles.
In the end seven (and a half – one cyclist joined us for part of the ride) were game – and we even had a few Halloween touches (including fantastic spider biscuits from Rhian, which were very welcome). The evening was mild and still, which added greatly to the enjoyment of the ride – inevitably we got a bit strung out on the climbs (and the descents) but it was no hardship to wait for folk to catch up, just a chance to chat and catch one’s breath
We headed out via the Maxwelltown Path and the Glen Road, and then cross country to the reservoir (the route is here if you want to replicate it – it’s a great ride, day or night). Apart from a half-visible gate across the road at one farm where they were moving the sheep (fortunately we had decent lights), there was no problem riding out in the gathering dusk. By the time we’d got to the reservoir it was all but dark, and Rhian’s bat detector picked out a few pipistrelles (and possibly some other species) feeding above us – in fact we’d already seen a few bats darting around in the dusk as we rode.
Then it was up to the top of the climb, which never feels quite as bad in the dark! We encountered only a couple of cars (which gave us plenty of room – we must have made quite a sight on the road with all our lights. It was pretty much dark by then – sadly too cloudy to get a glimpse of any northern lights.
The descent in the dark was exhilarating – enlivened by a sleepy bird panicking and crashing out of a tree, and Rhian’s bell ringing on every pothole. On quiet country roads, there was no traffic at all by then, just us in the dark. Magic
The ride ended in the pub, although your correspondent had peeled off by then so you’ll just have to imagine that part. All in all a fantastic way to welcome in the shorter days, and prove that there’s no need to be afraid of the dark
We’ll have four more winter rides this season – all of them with a celebratory theme, so don’t put the bike away just yet – and make a note to join us (in the day this time)