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Pink skies, moonlit lochs, easy trails… and no joggers! The joys of night riding

© Shutterstock / chaloemsak seesaiSilhouetted cyclists enjoy a peaceful run-out at sunset
Silhouetted cyclists enjoy a peaceful run-out at sunset

I have mountain-biked at Mugdock Country Park, just north of Glasgow, more times than I can recall, but never has it seemed so magical.

Although I can see only 20 metres ahead and to the sides, my front headlamp lights the winding trail and woodland as if I am cycling through the setting of a fantastic fairytale.

The scenery, so familiar in daylight, appears more vivid at night.

Wet rocks shimmer, mossy tree roots glow and as I pass a loch, the still water reflects the landscape in moonlit, sunset pink-tinted perfection.

This is night-time mountain bike riding and it’s one of my favourite winter activities. There is no need to plan an extravagant route because, even with the brightest lights, a familiar trail will be the safest choice.

Night-time in a Scottish winter is usually much chillier than in summer, too, which means a shorter outing is the most enjoyable.

My favourite night ride is rarely more than 10 miles and I usually leave from my home, north of Glasgow, for a short road trip to Scotland’s original long-distance path, the West Highland Way.

Joining the quiet trail – another advantage of going in the dark – I follow route signposts north to reach beautiful Mugdock.

The choice of routes in the park are plentiful although at some stage I need to ride uphill, whether on a short but steep rocky incline, or a longer but steadier ascent.

The rewards of the climb are the views from on high, especially the twinkling lights of people’s homes in surrounding villages below, and then the descent. While a GPS recording of the wee adventure shows I travel much slower than normal on a downhill section of bumps and berms, somehow the headlamp in the dark makes me feel as if I am flying.

Before retracing my route home, I usually relish a flatteringly flat and fast cycle around Milngavie Reservoirs, which provide the drinking water for much of Greater Glasgow.

At night, with few dog walkers or runners to be cautious of, it’s a gloriously peaceful location and usually provides further stunning vistas.

The only drawback of a winter’s night ride is that as soon as you stop, you get cold, so I have to rush to clean the mud from my bike at the back door and then jump into a hot shower.

Due to the Covid-19 situation, you should check official travel advice before planning any adventures


Kit list

  • Mountain bike with grippy tyres
  • Fully charged front and back lights
  • Paper map & compass
  • Helmet
  • Warm cycling clothing, including gloves
  • Mobile phone with map app
  • Rucksack with tools and spare clothes
  • Water and a snack
  • Waterproofs