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.
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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