The dog days of summer are now behind us, and autumn is here at last. With it comes shorter days, cooler temperatures, crisp air, and the changing colors of the leaves. Is there a better way to enjoy the season than on the back of a bicycle? But the fall presents some new challenges that cyclists should be aware of before hitting the road. Here are some tips to help you get the most out of those fall bike rides.
The cool air of autumn may be a refreshing change from those hot summer days, but lower temperatures become even more noticeable when zipping along at higher speeds on your bike. It is always a good idea to carry a jacket with you on a fall ride, and if there is the potential for rain in the forecast, make sure it is waterproof as well. As the season rolls along, temperatures might even drop far enough to add a pair of cycling tights to your wardrobe. They will help keep your legs warm when the cold weather truly sets in.
Wear Warmer Gloves
Many cyclists wear gloves all year long, but during the fall it is important to have a pair that can provide a bit of extra warmth. Cold winds whipping past your handlebars can numb the fingers, making them less responsive. That isn’t good when you need to quickly reach for your brakes or maneuver the bike around obstacles. By keeping your hands warm you’ll also stay safer out on the road.
Allow More Time to Warm Up
The cooler temperatures of fall will feel great during your ride, but be sure to allow yourself a bit more time to warm up before attacking those big hills or cranking up the speed dramatically. Ramping up too quickly can lead to muscle strains or pulls, so be sure to give yourself a bit of extra time to truly get the blood flowing. Once you’ve got a mile or two under your belt your legs will start to loosen up, giving you the green light to increase the intensity.
Stay as Visible as Possible
With the days continuing to get shorter throughout the fall, it is important to note when the sun goes down prior to setting out on a ride. It you aren’t careful, it can be easy to get caught out after dark, creating a potentially dangerous situation. If you routinely find yourself riding later in the day, be sure your bike is equipped with lights both on the front and back. You’ll not only be able to see the road better, you’ll be more visible to traffic as well. It doesn’t hurt to wear bright, reflective clothing either, as that can make you stand out more too.
Keep Your Bike Clean
During the fall the roads can be filled with plenty of dirt, debris, and moisture. Those materials can get stuck in your chain and derailleur, causing your bike to not perform as well as it should, and potentially leading to costly repairs. Keep your chain well lubed, and don’t forget to clean your bike and its components thoroughly after each ride.
Monitor Your Tire Pressure
Before heading out on a ride be sure to check the pressure in your tires. The cooler temperatures will cause the air inside to contract, reduce the pressure substantially. This not only lowers your efficiency while riding, it can even affect the level of control you have over your bike too. Fully inflate them every time you are about to hit the road.
Watch for Obstacles on the Road
Branches, twigs, and fallen leaves are common obstacles that are routinely found on the road throughout the fall. Riders need to be aware of their surroundings at all times, and avoid running over these objects that could result in a crash. Wet leaves can be surprisingly slippery for instance, while larger branches can even cause damage to your bike. These obstacles become even more difficult to spot in low light conditions.
Despite these challenges, fall can be one of the most rewarding times of the year to go for a bike ride. Keep these tips in mind before heading out on the road, and you’ll not only stay safe, you’ll enjoy the experience that much more.