The leaves are turning, the air is crisp: Fall is officially here. But the beauty of fall also means cool temperatures, earlier sunsets and the onset of rain. For those of us who are fair-weather bike riders, the thought of braving cold-weather riding feels intimidating (perhaps miserable is a more honest assessment). How do you keep up your good summer bike habit when the season turns?
1. Quell your fears with cold-weather gear.
The right gear makes all the difference. Outfitting yourself with the items you need to stay warm, dry and comfortable while you ride will make commuting or training rides bearable, and — dare we say it — even enjoyable.
Consider the length of your ride and the conditions you expect to encounter to help you determine what gear to buy. Do you live in an area with high rainfall? A waterproof shell and water resistant shoes will keep you dry. Wearing a moisture-wicking base layer underneath waterproof gear will help regulate your body temperature. Gloves and ear protection also go a long way in mitigating wind-induced misery.
2. Weatherproof your bike.
If you haven’t yet experienced the joys of rain splatter all down your back, let us save you the trouble with this bit of advice: Invest in fenders. Depending on the type of bike you have, this might be as simple as purchasing a set of clip-on fenders. Talk to your local bike dealer to see what style of the fender will work best for your bike.
You should already be in the habit of carrying a flat repair kit; if you’re not, now is the time to start! It’s never fun to get stuck with a flat, but it’s really not fun to find yourself stranded with a flat in the middle of a downpour.
3. Bring your street skills.
When moisture hits the road, conditions get dicey. Stick to the routes you’ve gotten comfortable with over the summer, avoid riding through puddles (it’s hard to gauge depth, and the water may be covering hazards like potholes or sharp debris), and feather your brakes. In wet conditions, water and dirt can prevent rim brakes (brakes that squeeze the rim of your tire) from engaging. Feathering your brakes — squeezing them on and off until you feel them begin to grip — will help avoid scary moments where your brakes don’t grip.
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4. Light it up.
Daylight hours in summer are long and forgiving — the same can’t be said for fall and winter months. Always carry front and rear lights to avoid getting caught riding in the dark. Even the most basic set of lights increases your visibility to other traffic (cars, bikes, scooters, pedestrians) and helps illuminate your path.
5. Phone a friend.
Cold weather can make us fickle, even when we have the best intentions. Biking with a buddy helps keep you both accountable and makes the ride more fun.
6. Treat yourself.
Let’s be honest: Even with all the right gear and an awesome riding buddy, commuting in the cold isn’t always fun or appealing. Don’t kick yourself if you can’t ride every day; instead, give yourself a goal of riding a set number of times each week, or shoot for an overall number of rides for the season. When you reach your goal, reward yourself with some new bike gear or that jacket you’ve been eyeing in a shop window.
Cold-weather biking requires more planning, but when you make the effort, fall rides are rich with rewards: beautiful colors, rosy cheeks and the satisfaction of getting out on your bike. Grab warm layers, fender up and enjoy the refreshingly cool breeze of an autumn ride.