7 Tips for Fall Cycling
If you are like me, fall in New England is the best time of year. Warm(ish) during the day, crisp and cool at night, and foliage that makes us the envy of the country. It is also one of the best times of the year for long bike rides. You don’t have to deal with sweltering heat, so your rides aren’t restricted to early mornings or late afternoons. With that said, fall cycling does present some unique challenges that with minimal effort can be managed so that the season can be enjoyable and safe. Below are a few common-sense tips to help you stay safe and ride well into the season.
1. “I’ll Follow the Sun”
There are many things we love about fall here in New England, but less sunlight isn’t one of them. For those of us who like to ride, checking sunrise and sunset times is a big deal especially if we have no intention or are not equipped to ride in the dark. So be sure you plan out your rights accordingly.
2. “The Long and Winding Road” (Conditions)
Nothing beats a beautiful ride on a fall day, taking in the spectacular foliage that we here in New England look forward to each autumn. But as we ride and enjoy the scenery we need to be aware that falling leaves present a very real and dangerous hazard. My suggestion is to plan your stops before getting too mesmerized by the colors so that your focus is always on the road in front of you. Always look ahead for leaf piles and if you must ride over leaves, maintain a steady speed, and avoid braking if possible. For you, early morning riders, be aware that morning dew in the fall evaporates much slower and can make the roads slick. Speaking of slick, the white road lines that are our constant companions become like a sheet of ice when they are wet so avoid them as much as possible.
3. Be More Visible
This piece of advice can and should be included in any cycling tips article. But in the dwindling light of fall, it is especially important to heed. Front and rear frame lights and neon and reflective clothing are a must. There are even removable and USB-chargeable lights that are available if theft is a concern. Remember, cycling comes with inherent risks but simple and available visibility options can greatly reduce many of these risks.
4. Stay Warm and Dry
Cold and wet rides are no fun. During the few months, the difference between daytime and nighttime temperatures is dramatic and precipitation (rain or snow) is more likely. Make sure you have proper clothing prior to venturing out on early morning or late afternoon rides. Arm and leg warmers, gloves, and windproof jackets are basics. Nothing will turn a beautiful fall ride into an uncomfortable slog more than being cold, wet or both during your ride. When you're finished with your ride be sure to dry off all your gear to prevent rust and buildup of road grime.
5. Check Your Tires
Your bike tires that are great in the summer may not be your best choice in the fall here in New England. I would seriously consider changing your tires to a more durable, season-specific tire which will improve your grip on slippery surfaces and make you less likely to get a flat. For some of the top 2020 tire options check out The Geeky Cyclist recommendations for several good options as well a great guide on how to choose the best tires for your riding conditions.
6. Drink Up! (Water That Is!!)
In the summer we get hot, then we get thirsty, then we drink. It’s a pretty unconscious process. In the colder weather, due to constricted blood vessels our thirst response is reduced. Therefore, we need to be thoughtful about staying hydrated and drinking enough water on our rides.
7. Tune Up Your Bike
It's always a good idea before the beginning of every riding season to check and clean your brakes, gears, and other moving parts of your bike to ensure they are in good working order. Cleaning and lubricating a chain will increase the life of chainrings, cassette, and gear shifting mechanisms which will help you enjoy a quieter and smoother ride. And oh yeah, braking is pretty important in the Fall too.
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