When the clocks go back at the end of October, many cyclists use that as a signal to put away their bikes for the winter, but not the eight of us that gathered at Dock Park on Sunday on a crisp and sunny afternoon.
Having checked that everyone had lights (and gloves!), we set off along the Maxwelltown Path, and headed up the Glen where we picked up another rider who happened to be out anyway and decided to tag along. With a clear night and a moon that was more than half full, it took a while for it to get properly dark, but as we cut through from the Terregles Road to Shawhead, dusk had fallen and it was certainly dark enough to appreciate a couple of Jack O’Lanterns waiting at the turn. By the time we had climbed up to the reservoir it was fully dark. We stopped to check for bats, but they had all sensibly gone into hibernation, and fortified ourselves with some gingerbread for the final climb.
The Speddoch loop – up past the reservoir and then down again past Speddoch and on to the Routin Brig – is a lovely ride day or night. We may not have enjoyed the same views as you get in daylight but away from the lights of Dumfries – and with no traffic about to speak of – there was a real atmosphere of quiet and isolation. The descent back down is a magic carpet ride, where you barely need to turn a pedal, just steer, brake, and follow the curves of the road. With nine of us by this time, all lit up with excellent lights, we made quite a spectacle – in fact the only car we encountered once we were back down on the road to Dumfries, just stopped dead and waited until the cavalcade was safely past. They must have thought it was an alien invasion, not just a bike ride.
By this time the cold was making itself felt – indeed there were overnight frosts – so people were glad to be pedalling again to warm up somewhat for the ride back into town (or straight home for those who stay further west). The feedback we got was that it had been a bit mad, but great fun, like all the best bike rides.
Dumfries and Galloway is blessed with dark skies and many such quiet rural roads, and if you’ve got the right lights, it’s wonderful to get out and experience them for yourself. However, our next winter ride will be in full daylight – up to Ae and back, on quiet roads and cycle paths. More details coming soon.