Few things are as magical as riding your bike when fall rolls around. The temperatures begin cooling off, the colors of the landscape begin to shift, and there’s a palpable freshness to the air. Chances are, you and your riding buddies have put in a lot of training and racing miles throughout the year, and with the off-season’s arrival, you’re excited to focus on your riding’s fun factor more than anything else. But the autumn season is not without its unique challenges. Cyclists must bid adieu to the warm weather and extra daylight of summertime, and also adjust their riding routine around seasonal changes that occur off the bike. Here are some tips to make sure you’re maximizing your ride time and enjoyment when the fall season kicks into gear.
Experienced cyclists often say that there is no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothing. This means that any ride can be enjoyable, so long as you’re prepared to ward off the chill of autumn’s falling temperatures. Whereas in the warm months of summer you most likely only needed a jersey and bib shorts—and possibly a vest or gilet—in the fall you’ll need to make sure you’re properly warm when you head off for a ride. The best way to do that is with layers. Seek out lightweight, removable pieces of gear that can be easily stowed into a jersey or jacket pocket. Consider a base layer that can be worn under your jersey to instantly add a bit of warmth to your ensemble.
Your wardrobe should also include staples like arm warmers, knee or leg warmers, a vest or gilet, and a long-sleeve wind jacket. If your cycling shoes are especially well-ventilated, consider getting a set of toe covers or full shoe covers in order to keep your feet warm during chilly rides. It’s a delicate balance to put together an outfit that keeps you warm but not overheated, particularly in the fall when temperature changes can often swing from frigid to sweltering over the course of a ride. Experiment with different articles of clothing and accessories to find out what works best for your comfort level and the weather in your region.
The fall season often brings with it some extra rain clouds and precipitation, so make sure you’re prepared to ward off water during your ride. Staying dry is paramount to having a comfortable and safe ride if the skies open up. If you anticipate riding in the rain often, invest in a high-quality rain jacket that’s both waterproof and breathable (to ensure that you won’t overheat). Likewise, if your area is prone to short, sporadic bursts of rainfall, consider a rain jacket that’s lightweight and packable, so it can be easily removed and put back on accordingly over the course of your ride. Make sure you’re considering your feet, too, by getting some waterproof shoe covers. Few things will sap the fun out of a ride quicker than soggy toes.
In addition to clothing, there are some other accessories you should consider to help maximize your safety and comfort in the rain. Fenders are a great option to help keep yourself dry, as they’ll prevent excess water from kicking up from your tires and spraying your legs and backside. There are plenty of great aftermarket fender options available, so look for a set that can be easily attached to your bike’s frame or other components. And if you often ride with a group, consider a set of full fenders—ones that wrap around as much of the tire as possible—to help mitigate water spraying into the folks riding behind you. Finally, get yourself a pair of glasses with clear lenses, or lightly tinted lenses designed to improve clarity in wet weather. These will not only keep your eyes protected from the elements, they will also enhance your vision in low-light or grey conditions.
Because fall riding typically involves more time spent in wet weather and low-light conditions, make sure you’re as visible as possible to your fellow motorists. It’s really a good tip for riding anytime, anywhere. Choose clothing that features bright colors and bold patterns as opposed to solid black numbers. We also recommend riding with lights, especially a rear taillight, which will dramatically increase your visibility to motorists behind you.
With cooler temperatures, windy conditions, and precipitation all increasing in the fall, it’s important to take care of your bike. First and foremost, make sure you’re cleaning your bike often. We recommend giving your bike a quick wipe down or light cleaning after each ride. You needn’t invest too much time, either—just spend 3-5 minutes removing dirt and grime with a soft cloth and possibly some specially formulated bike cleaner. Beyond that, give your bike a more thorough cleaning once a week, as well as a deep clean once a month, paying particular attention to degreasing your drivetrain components to maximize their lifespan.
Consider swapping out your tires in the fall for a wider, more robust pair. In most areas, road conditions will deteriorate slightly after summertime due to increased rainfall, slippery leaves that have fallen from trees, early morning frost, and more general grit and grime. Ditching your high-performance summer tires in favor of a set with added puncture resistance will help reduce your number of flats, while a wider set of rubber will increase both your bike’s traction and overall compliance for better handling and greater comfort.
No, we don’t mean that you’ll need to ramp up your yoga routine (of course, there’s no harm in that). What we mean is that with the changing of the seasons comes the necessary changing of one’s mindset, perspective, and goals. We’ve touched upon this in previous sections, but it’s important to remember that things outside of riding your bike—such as the cooling weather, reduced daylight, kids going back to school, or perhaps seasonal shiftings of your professional obligations—require your attention. So be flexible with your riding time, and use the seasonal change to take some time to reflect on your racing, training, or exercise goals. It’s a great opportunity to re-evaluate what’s been working for you, what hasn’t, and how you can approach the upcoming new year with a plan and added motivation.
Likewise, make sure you’re flexible with your actual riding routine. The cooling weather of fall demands that you ease more steadily into your regular ride or workout. Give yourself extra time to warm up your muscles before starting your intervals, for example. Consider your training workload and determine what nutritional needs you may need to adjust based on your body’s caloric or metabolic needs—and remember, pay attention to your hydration on the bike, because the cooler weather of fall may trick you into not drinking enough compared to the hot days of summer. And if the fall weather in your region is especially foul, consider spending more time on an indoor trainer to help achieve your desired workout goals. Just as with everything involved in maximizing your cycling enjoyment, a positive mindset and some planning will go a long way.
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