11 Tips For Cycling in Autumn

11 tips that will keep you out on your bike through wind or rain.

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Autumn is a time of change. Some of it great – the leaves changing color, a new season for new endeavors, and a welcome relief from the heat. But that change also brings with it some new challenges for those who get around by bike. The rain can be a big deterrent for a lot of people to continue using their bike as a means of transportation. We also get shorter days, cooler mornings and evenings, and cloudiness. But the new conditions need not be a deterrent, just another opportunity to find your footing on two wheels. Here are some tips for cycling in autumn to keep you enjoying your commute through the cooling season.

1. Stay dry

First and foremost, one of the biggest obstacles when it comes to fall cycling is the rain. But rain doesn’t have to stop us from biking. Good rain gear can keep you dry and warm and on your bike in even the most torrential of downpours. The Cleverhood rain cape, a cape designed specifically for urban cyclists, protects not just your upper body but your legs as well. Or check out any number of raincoats designed for commuters such as the Shower Pass Metric Jacket and the Ligne 8 Vienna.

Want more clothing ideas for riding in the rain? Check out the Biking In the Rain article and scroll to the section titled Rain Gear for Biking.

2. Wear waterproof shoes

Our feet will inevitably feel whatever the weather of the day is. Make sure to have waterproof shoes to keep your feet dry; wet feet all day long is no cakewalk. And if it’s cold as well as wet – a warm pair of socks to make sure you don’t get tingly toes.

3. Be wary of slick spots on the roads

Railroad tracks, manhole covers, or any form of metal are all going to be much much more slippery during those rainy fall days. Similarly, piles of leaves that become matted in wet weather and painted lines will be a bit slick, as will anywhere you see gasoline on the concrete as the new rain brings up oil and gas left from cars.

4. Don’t ride through puddles on roads you’re unfamiliar with

Although riding through puddles seems like a great idea at first, it won’t be quite as much fun when it sends you flying over your handlebars. The reflection on the water can easily disguise potholes or dips in the road, so your puddle jumping (wheeling?) is best left for streets where you’re certain of the contours.

5. Feather those brakes

If you’re riding through the rain and your bike uses rim brakes (brakes that rub again the rim to stop you) you’ve probably experienced a worrying moment where you can’t stop fast enough no matter how hard you squeeze the brake lever. The best way to overcome this is by continually feathering the brakes on and off until you feel them begin to grip. By feathering the brakes you help remove the water and dirt that keeps the brake pads from effectively gripping to rim. You’ll be surprised at how well this works! I was.

6. Layers!

With the changing season, we never know what to expect from morning to night. Raining and cold in the morning, warm and dry by afternoon then cold again by evening. Wearing layers makes you adaptable to whatever the day brings and keeps you comfortable commuting in any conditions. Pack extra layers in your bag on warm mornings in case an unexpected chill moves in while you’re out and about.

7. Waterproof panniers and bags 

There’s no sense packing extra layers if they’re just going to get wet in your bag, not to mention your laptop or any other valuables you have packed away in there.  Waterproof or weather-resistant panniers and bags will ensure that your change of clothes and essential electronics and other possessions don’t get ruined. The Two Wheel Gear Garment Pannier, the YNOT Portage Pannier, and Chrome Industries Rostov are all great options.

8. Maintain your chain, and clean your bike!

Wet and dirty roads tend to kick up a lot of dirt which makes your chain and bike all grimy. Make sure to clean your chain more often and keep your bike as clean as possible. A dirty bike will mean more trips to the bike repair shop as well as to the laundry machine.

9. Stay visible

With shorter and shorter days creeping up on us, we need to remember to be visible more than ever. Shorter days mean earlier, darker evenings. Get yourself good lights for the front and rear of your bike. And with all the great clothing options with subtle reflective striping cropping up, it’s never been easier to add a little a little reflective strip to your wardrobe as well.

10. Wear gloves

We do everything with our hands, so it’s the least we can do to try and keep them warm. Whipping winds and cool rain can leave our hands dry, numb, and cold, after a ride. Rather than an afterthought, gloves should be a staple component of your fall cycling wardrobe. Leather gloves like the N. Bidlake Snap Back Ropers are a great, stylish option for dry, cold days, as is anything merino wool. Quick-drying neoprene gloves such as the Giro Neo Blaze keep your hands toasty warm in wet weather, then dry off while you’re in your morning meeting. For a considerably less-attractive but affordable alternative on wet days, take any old pair of gloves you have laying around the house, and put them inside a loose-fitting pair of dishgloves. It’s not pretty, but it works!

11. Keep your vision clear

Rain can get in our eyes and obscure our vision, not to mention it’s annoying! To keep the rain out of your eyes, consider glasses with clear or light lenses such as the Endura Benitas. If you’re not into glasses or find that the droplets on the lenses are more distracting than the rain itself, try a helmet with a visor such as the Bern Allston, or try a good-old-fashioned baseball hat.

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11 Comments

  • Nicola

    MEC Crosstown: this product is no longer available

  • jim

    During the day the temperature changes quite a bit in the fall, and the wind can have a significant chilling effect. You may have to start out with more clothing and then remove it after noon. To facilitate this, have a bigger seat bag or use a lightweight backpack to carry extra clothes such as warmer gloves, leg warmers and under-helmet head coverings, night riding glasses, as well as lights you may need for the ride home when it is darker. I also find it useful to have a second, skate-style helmet for cold weather use, where the holes are blocked with foam padding, in order to provide warmth.

  • Jim

    Sure wish someone would re-start production of the Burley Raincape and foot/leggings. Stay dry examples in the article seemed lacking.

  • Paul

    I love it when an adult feel obliged to give another adult advice, here i am being advised to stay dry and wear gloves. I have no idea how I managed to work around the world and raise a family without Geffen being there to remind me to wear waterproof shoes in the Autumn.

  • Alison

    Another thing to keep in mind is that when it’s raining it’s very difficult for drivers to see out their side windows. So be extra careful at intersections: a car coming from the right or left might not see you coming.

  • Jack Doe

    And the increased likelihood of punctures, as the rain washes the litter out where you ride. Don’t ride to close to the curb.

  • Joe

    How about an actual tip, such as: be wary of matts of leaves, which can be super slick (especially after rain), and even on a slight curve may fling your bicycle out from under you.

    • I was thinking the same thing about wet matted leaves, Joe. Also beware the small branches that often fall with leaves or get torn down on blustery fall days. Get one of those in your derailleur or spokes and it can lead to a fall.

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